I want to start this by saying – the Christmas just gone, my children had a 99p chocolate advent calendar and they loved it. I did not want to feel the pressure of the latest trend of expensive luxury advent calendars. However, I am aware that a chocolate advent calendar is not for everyone. My daughter used to struggle with dairy and dairy-free alternatives weren’t as readily available. So, here are my favourite chocolate-free advent calendar ideas (on a budget!).

There are so many DIY advent calendars to choose from, we bought ours from a Christmas market. But you could just wrap each one up in wrapping paper and write the number on with a pen.

When filling your calendar, a great place to start is to check out your local online selling sites, charity shops, and Ebay to keep costs small. Here are some ideas I have put together to fill your calendar.

1. Puzzle Pieces

I love the idea of putting a few pieces in each day so that by the 25th an entire puzzle scene has been created! Although, you will need to have a space in your house that you don’t mind a puzzle being in on the build up to Christmas day. Dividing the pieces between your children will mean teamwork is needed to create the final masterpiece!

2. Lego

Lego makes a great chocolate-free advent as it is small enough to fit in the sections of most DIY advent calendars. Lego do some great Christmas-themed sets, so you could give your child a few pieces each day and by the 25th they will have built a whole set!

3. Sweets

Hey, I said chocolate-free not sugar-free! When I was little my mum always used to fill my advent calendar with sweets from the pic’n’mix. It makes a nice difference from chocolate, and also is great if your child has a dairy allergy.

4. Books

These have become more popular in recent years, nicely wrapped to be opened each night for bedtime stories. The Works offer 10 books for £10, and Facebook Marketplace is another great place for picking up a bundle of books. I get books in our local charity shops for as little as 20p too so they are for sure worth a browse. You could also use colouring books and accessories to go with them like colouring pens (one a day!) and a pencil case.

5. Jokes and riddles

I am not that creative, but there are loads that come up from a quick online search. Fill each day with a joke or riddle that you know your child will enjoy. This makes this advent a completely free chocolate free advent idea!

6. A play set

There are loads of play sets that you could divide up into each day on an advent calendar. Think train tracks, a baking set, a play doh set – again many of these bundles could be picked up preloved.

7. Sensory play

Depending on the age of your little one, you could fill it with sensory items for play such as tinsel, bells, pine cones. We created a sensory basket last year when Harper was a year old and it was a hit.

8. A nativity scene

We have a nativity set that our kids love. I adore the idea of the children opening a character each day of advent to then add to their scene. This happy land set comes with 11 figures, so that only accounts for 11 days. I am still trying to consider something creative to bulk out the additional days, possibly some decorations for the stable (maybe Mary did have a few minutes to whack some tinsel around the manger before Jesus arrived!). Although Happy Land do also do a 25 piece set of Christmas themed figurines for £25.

9. Nick-Nacks

Why not fill it with items such as mini pencils, fun erasers, hair bobbles, clips, clip on Christmas themed earrings etc. You could pick these items up in packs and then split them, e.g. a set of three pencils could be split over 3 days.

10. Activities

We did a Christmas to-do list one year. I planned it from events we had coming up, such as going to a carol service or meeting Father Christmas. And then I filled in the other days with activities such as Christmas colouring, decorating the Christmas tree, making mince pies, having a Christmas movie night, reading a Christmas story, and decorating Christmas cards. You can really personalise this to your family and get creative!

If you create your own chocolate-free advent, I’d love to know what you did! Share with me in the comments.

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