Best Non-Chocolate Advent Calendars for 2016

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I know. I knowww it’s too early for holiday stuff, especially before Thanksgiving, but advent calendars get a pass because you need ’em by December 1. Which is in a few weeks. And this year, I was looking for non-chocolate advent calendars for a few reasons: one, kids + chocolate before breakfast = no; two, toddler is woke to whatever big sis is eating and I don’t want to be painstakingly bisecting tiny candies before my eyes are even open,  and three, the chocolate isn’t even good. There are so many fun options on the market, from pre-filled toy versions to gorgeous personalized – ones you can use year after year.

Our top pick in this house is the playmobil advent calendar – perfect for a toddler + kindergartener, but I found all kinds of cool, modern options for all ages & stages.  We’re talking Star Wars to hand-embroidered heirloom pieces you can incorporate into your existing holiday traditions and fill with whatever you want. My absolute favorite idea, especially in light of recent events, is tucking a note with an act of kindness for each day of the month into the fill-it-yourself versions.

My Pick – Playmobil 123 (For The Littlest Ones)


Both girls really like playing with their dad’s playmobil stuff from the 70s but it has a million tiny parts that end up in the toddler’s mouth or stabbing my bare feet. (And I’m pretty sure BPA wasn’t a concern then.) I love that this playmobil 123 version is for younger kids but I know my older one will have fun with it too, and it’s a pretty open-ended theme so they can incorporate it into playing with the OG playmobil knights and farm stuff we have. (This guy likes it, too! He reviews the playmobil police & Barbie versions too, maybe more entertaining after some wine. I think he’s had some.)


An Advent Calendar Based on Books?



(photo credit: The Modern Mrs. Darcy)

Cam found this amazingly simple but awesome book advent calendar at The Modern Mrs. Darcy, totally customizable to your family since you choose the books. Raising two little bookworms, this is right up our alley. Totally doing this next year! Can you guys recommend any holiday kids book favorites or new ones that might be under the radar? (This Night Before Christmas pop-up book is simply amazing).  Love that you don’t necessarily need to buy new books for this one, too.


The Best Non-Chocolate Advent Calendars

And finally, here are some ready-made, DIY-ish or toy-filled calendar versions that caught my eye this year:




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Dyed-in-the-wool New Englander, wife of a superhero and mum to 2 curly carrot-topped girls. Passionate about creating kid-friendly, beautiful interior designs that won't break the bank.

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  1. I got the star wars lego one for my son and a tsum tsum one for my daughter. These are so fun and the kids love them!
    I did the book one 2 years in a row but it’s a lot of work! If you are planning on doing it next year, hit up barnes and noble after Christmas when their Christmas stuff is 50% off. Then just put it with your x-mas decorations or put a note in your calendar to remind yourself 🙂

  2. “The Mitten” by Jan Brett is a favorite winter book. We also have the Christmas Madeline, Curious George, Babar, etc. We have a ridiculous number of holiday books (Christmas + Hanukkah= LOTS of books). Also, on the Advent front: we have one with drawers from Land’s End. We take turns writing something we’re thankful to have, date the slip, and put it in the drawer. We have slips going back to when our kids were babies. It’s fun to read them every year.

  3. Advent books are one of our favourite and most-anticipated traditions. So fun and has thr fun of gift opening without the consumerism.
    I made a pinterest board with some of our favourite books last year. Some are harder to find because a lot of ours are from when we were kids. If your kids are little you can cheat and start later in December for a few years while you collect books.

  4. I bought the regular Lego Advent calendar, not the Star Wars version (although I did see that one at Target). We’ve had the Lego one for the last few years and the kids love it. I agree avoiding chocolate is helpful because you’re right, this is something the kids want to open first thing each morning before breakfast!

    • Hi Jem! Do you re-use the same lego one, or get a new one each year? My little one is small enough i could probably get away with taking the figures out of regular play rotation & re-filling the playmobil one next year…

  5. I LOVE ADVENT CALENDARS! Thanks for this post!
    A few other great ones: For little steamies, I found a Thomas the Tank Engine Minis advent calendar on Amazon. Sure to be a huge hit! The regular Lego holiday advent calendar is great, too. For chocolate ones, can’t beat Trader Joe’s. (For grown up chocolate ones, Vosges is an amazing indulgence.) And at Costco the other day I saw a German beers advent calendar. Seriously.

    • Thanks, Heidi! Books (or Amazon gift cards) are such an easy present idea for grandparents & other relatives that live far away and they don’t take up as much room as huge plastic toys or stuffed animals. Love it.

  6. We follow Ann Voskamp’s family Advent book which follows the Jesse Tree, but so far use it as only a guide with our younger children’s bible. This year we’ll decorate the night before advent and each night read the story of the day and add a themed ornament. Eventually I want to collect real (not paper) ornaments for each. If I could I’d also buy this calendar

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