The Christmas tradition of Advent calendars looks different in different families. If you’re running out of ideas for Advent calendar fillers, just take a few ideas from the list below and create a fun tradition for your whole family.
We’ll take a short look at the history of Advent and Advent calendars and then share LOTS of ideas, edible and non-edible, to fill your calendars.
Scroll down to see the entire list of physical gifts AND gifts of time!
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Just in case this is a new idea for you, let’s go over the basics first.
What is Advent?
Advent is a season of the liturgical year celebrated in most Christian churches. It begins four Sundays before Christmas and ends on Christmas Day. Many people today just simplify this and begin on December 1.
It’s not known exactly when this observation began but the first mention I could find was in 480 AD.
Traditionally, Advent is celebrated with an Advent calendar, an Advent wreath, daily prayers, Scripture reading, putting up a Christmas tree or other decorations, “hanging of the greens”, fasting, or other Christmas time traditions more specific to certain locations.
Today, most people just call this time of year the Christmas season.
What is an Advent Calendar?
An Advent calendar is a special calendar that counts the days in Advent. These special calendars were first used by the German Lutherans in the 19th century.
Traditional Advent calendars featured manger scenes, Saint Nicholas, or more general winter scenes. There are many pre-made Advent calendars that range in themes, from cartoons to sports, to hobbies or more. Just a few themes I found in a simple search included wine, Lego Advent calendars, chocolate, cookies, toys, and more.
Reusable Advent calendars often have a small pocket or drawer for sweet treats or a tiny gift each day. Those calendars are a great way to include Scriptures or fun holiday activities on little pieces of paper. Each day pull one out to read and do. One year I even made an Advent calendar out of matchboxes!
The list below shares LOTS of ideas for little gifts that will fit in these little pockets or drawers.
You can also find paper, cardboard, or a wooden Advent calendar with a simple window to open each day. Behind the window may be a Bible verse, poem, prayer, song, part of the Christmas story to read, a game, puzzle, or other Christmas activities.
I’ve also seen people wrap larger boxes or gifts and number them to be opened each day of December. This is a great idea to do with Christmas books for Children but you could also include any of the larger gifts from the list below.
Simplify this idea even further and stick each gift in a numbered paper bag. We have even more ideas for handmade Advent calendars on the blog.
List of Advent Calendar Filler Ideas
Edible Advent Calendar Fillers
Candy is one of the more traditional Advent calendar fillers. You could use the same candy every day, a variety of the same type of yummy treat, or a completely different candy each day for fun way to spread the Christmas spirit.
- chocolate kisses
- mint-flavored kisses
- starlight mints
- cinnamon hard candies
- peppermint bark
- butterscotch hard candies
- caramel hard candies
- Milk Maid Royals
- candy canes
- Christmas nougats
- Dum-Dum holiday pops
- chocolate Santas
- old fashioned hard candies
- ribbon candy
- hot chocolate packets
- Christmas cookies
- peppermint bark tea bags
- other sweet treats or tiny chocolates
- make your own treats
If for some reason someone in your family can’t or shouldn’t have that much candy, don’t let that stop you from using an Advent calendar. There are so many other small items that would be the perfect size. Here are just a few great gift ideas.
- glow sticks
- wind up toys
- Lego sets, minifigs, or Playmobil figures
- doll accessories
- dollhouse furniture
- Matchbox cars
- yo yo
- mini playing cards
- temporary tattoos – LOVE the Grinch tattoos!
- mini piece puzzle
- 3-D puzzle
- mini Rubix cube
- deck of cards – Christmas-themed, of course!
- travel games
- Harry Potter or other themed toy with small parts — Whatever your child is a big fan of!
- other tiny toys
Use your imagination and come up with your own fun ideas for older kids or young kids.
If you’re putting together an Advent calendar for someone specific, it’s fun to use more unique gifts. We’ve included a few lists below specific to certain hobbies or collectors. Use your imagination… anything that is the right size to fit into your calendar.
Advent Calendar Ideas for Crafters
Of course, these are my favorite Advent calendar gift ideas!
- rubber stamps
- mini craft kits
- washi tape
- pens – These are my new favorites.
- colored pencils
- novelty erasers
- tiny journal
- E6000 glue
- twine / jute / bakers twine
- gift cards to Hobby Lobby, JoAnn, or Michaels
- other craft supplies
Advent Calendar Fillers for Bakers
Advent Calendar Fillers for Young Ladies – Tweens & Teens
- sample size perfume or makeup
- candy cane ChapStick
- sugar cookie ChapStick
- lip balm or lip gloss – Lip Smackers are my favorite!
- nail polish
- nail art stickers
- manicure set
- pedicure set
- hand lotion
- fancy soaps
- bath bomb
- bath salts
- essential oils
- facial mask or other beauty products
- hair accessories
- charms for a charm bracelet or necklace
Advent Calendar Fillers for Those with a Green Thumb
- tiny succulents
- seeds or bulbs
- air plants
- fairy garden furniture
Advent Calendar fillers don’t have to cost you any money. They could be an activity or something to read. Don’t go broke filling your Advent calendar spaces! Here are a few ideas for more thoughtful gifts.
Advent Calendar Activity Ideas
Write one fun Christmas activity to do on each slip of paper, put one in each day of your Advent calendar, do one activity each day with your family. These are a perfect opportunity to spend quality time with family members.
- make chains out of red and green construction paper — We always numbered these and took one off every day so that it would get shorter and shorter closer to Christmas.
- decorate the Christmas tree
- put up the Christmas lights
- put up other Christmas decor
- bake Christmas cookies
- go caroling
- watch a Christmas movie
- go shopping with Mom
- go shopping with Dad
- make Christmas ornaments
- take cookies to your neighbors
- take Christmas cards to a nursing home
- put together a gingerbread house kit
- put up the stockings
- draw a picture of Santa
- write a letter to Santa
- visit Santa Claus at the mall
- read The Elf on the Shelf
- have a picnic in front of the fireplace
- roast s’mores
- drink hot cocoa
- make breakfast in bed
- a workout/trip to the gym
- go snow sledding
- go skating
- walk in the snow
- have a snowball fight
- build a snow fort
- family game night
- have a family craft night
Sentimental Advent Calendar Fillers
- a handwritten note or love letter — a simple compliment or a long letter
- small photos — framed or unframed
- small photo album of memories from the year
- memorabilia from the year (ticket stubs, etc)
- handmade friendship bracelet
- a recording of yourself — singing a song, reading a poem, etc.
- a drawing
Other Random Ideas
Small gifts for adult or child’s Advent calendar.
- pop-its fidget toy
- party popper
- USB stick
- key chain
- Christmas socks or underwear – Pick a different colour for every family member.
- Christmas ornaments
- scented candle
- sticky note pad
- tiny picture frame
- mini flashlight
- silly bands
- trading cards
- jokes — Write Christmas-themed jokes on slips of paper to be read every day.
- sprig of mistletoe — Maybe include a note that says “kiss”.
- concert tickets
- movie tickets
- a gift card to a favorite restaurant
- coupons for time together
- silver dollar
- $2.00 bill
- foreign money
- money — paper or coin
What are your favorite Advent calendar fillers? There is no such thing as a perfect Advent calendar filler idea. Just adjust these ideas to fit the age group of your family members.
Make Your Own DIY Advent Calendar
If you’d like to make your own Advent calendar this holiday season, check out these added bonus ideas:
- Homemade Advent Calendar — We used this one last year.
- Vintage Frame with Little Bags
- Christmas Countdown — This was the first of my family’s Advent calendars.
- 11 Unique Advent Calendars
- Matchbox Christmas Advent Calendar — tiny fillable Advent calendars, perfect for a Scripture written on a piece of paper.
- Solo Cup Calendar — I want to try this simple way next year.
And if you don’t want to make your own here are the best Advent calendars I found on Amazon.
The True Meaning of Christmas
I hope you have so much fun with all these holiday ideas. These ideas are a lot of fun but please don’t let them distract you from the TRUE meaning of Christmas. Make sure you spend TIME with your friends and family and don’t just give them more stuff.
Our family members always pause on Christmas Eve to read the complete Christmas story from Luke. I highly recommend that, too. That’s the whole reason we’re celebrating, right? The best part! Reading the Scriptures on Christmas morning is the perfect way to start off Christmas Day.
4 Now Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, 5 in order to register along with Mary, who was betrothed to him, and was pregnant. 6 While they were there, the time came for her to give birth. 7 And she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no [g]room for them in the inn.
8 In the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock at night. 9 And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood near them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. 10 And so the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; 11 for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly [j]army of angels praising God and saying,
14 “Glory to God in the highest,
And on earth peace among people with whom He is pleased.”
15 When the angels had departed from them into heaven, the shepherds began saying to one another, “Let’s go straight to Bethlehem, then, and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 And they came in a hurry and found their way to Mary and Joseph, and the baby as He lay in the manger. 17 When they had seen Him, they made known the statement which had been told them about this Child. 18 And all who heard it were amazed about the things which were told them by the shepherds. 19 But Mary treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart. 20 And the shepherds went back, glorifying and praising God for all that they had heard and seen, just as had been told them.
Luke 2:4-20 NASB
I’d love to know if you have any other unique ideas to fill an empty Advent calendar. Leave a comment and let me know which of these creative ideas you used to make some Christmas magic at your house.
‘Til the next project,