There are so many fun activities during the Christmas season, but advent calendars bring a little fun into the everyday. No matter when you choose to open them morning, afternoon or evening these little surprises are full of festive fun and excitement.
If you’re looking for a non-candy or toy option you might want to consider a Christmas countdown calendar instead of an advent. See our can’t miss 20 Christmas Countdown Calendars 2021.
Advent calendars come in three main types: Pre-assembled, Calendar Only or completely DIY. When it comes to advent calendars there is something for everyone. We’ve collected a list of the best of the best for each type here. Don’t miss our Buyer’s Guide at the end of even more advent calendar tips!
If you’re short on time this is the option for you! The beauty of pre-assembled advent calendars is that they are ready to go. The calendar plus the trinkets or candy are already inside…easy peasy. Another great bonus about pre-assembled advent calendars is they are based on specific interests or characters so you can grab one perfect for the child in your life. Check it out!
NEW for 2021! The 2020 version of this calendar was very popular at my house last year (3 and 5 year old). Each day the child gets to unwrap a mini paperback book featuring a holiday story with their favorite Disney characters.
The packaging is sturdy and well done and the books can go right back in their holders to keep the set all together. Easy storage is appreciated. We’ve pulled ours out a few times this year to re-read some favorites and everything has held up with lots of use by excited little hands.
Pixar Cars fans will love this calendar. Each day children will discover one of 5 die-cast character cars, or mini play accessories including flags, traffic cones and a trophy. Everything to make a fun Cars playset. Their imagination can run wild with this one. This one is manufactured by Mattel so you can be assured of quality.
Bring the North Pole fun home with this fun Little People advent calendar. Little People toys have been around for years and are made to withstand lots of activity from little ones.
Made by high-quality toy brand Fisher-Price, you will not be disappointed. This set features 10 character pieces, and 14 accessories including a Christmas tree, chairs, snowboard, presents etc.
Get ready for all the imaginative play with Santa, three figurines, the sleigh, reindeer, several animals and lots of other accessories. Playmobil is another high-quality children’s toy manufacturer that won’t leave you disappointed. This set will have them occupied for hours of fun.
VTech is one of the leaders of well made interactive toys for kids. This advent calendar really hits the mark and provides a lot of bang for your buck. The 24 surprise items include a SmartPoint Train (which works with Go! Go! Smart Wheels playsets) and has working lights and sound.
Other items include a gingerbread man and other figures, road signs and even a playmat for lots of imaginative play. *Adds to cart*
Another winner from high quality manufacturer Playmobil. This calendar features pieces ideal for Christmas at Santa’s workshop. Daily surprises include four figurines, Santa’s sleigh, toy shop toys, workbench and accessories. A really fun set for ages 3-5!
For all the little speed racers out there! This calendar features 8 cars and 16 accessories. Officially licensed by Hot Wheels you can be guaranteed of a high quality experience for your child. Bonus-the front of the box folds down to create a race track for the new cars!
An official Barbie advent calendar that cannot be replicated. This one comes with one Dreamtopia Barbie doll and each day your child will find additional pieces of clothing, and accessories that can be used again and again.
All the pieces are standard Barbie size so they can be mixed and matched with other pieces. This one has small pieces so it would not be a good choice for little ones who still put things in their mouth.
Another festive and fun piece from Fisher-Price! This calendar features everything your child needs to set-up their own unique nativity scene. Discover 25 unique pieces as you countdown to Christmas. The pieces are the perfect size for little hands!
A fun fire and rescue set ideal for little play enthusiasts. 24 pieces are included with this calendar to help children prepare to save the city. Playmobil will give you no questions about quality. This one is recommended for ages 4 and up.
If your child is a fan of Super Wings, they need this advent calendar! Filled with 24 mini figurines, one with an exclusive Christmas design, for hours of play. The nights will fly by with this festive calendar!
If the child in your life loves all things dinosaurs this is the calendar you need! Each day a surprise plastic dinosaur figure will be revealed. Fun to integrate with other dinosaur pieces your little one may already have or to start a new set. The pieces are less cartoonish and look more realistic. Lots of fun to be had again and again.
Calling all Thomas & Friends fans! Your little one will be delighted with this calendar as they countdown to Christmas. The calendar includes 24 mini train engines each at about 2 inches in size. 6 of the engines have holiday designs too.
Loads of fun for train lovers and Thomas enthusiasts alike! This set is made by high-quality manufacturer Fisher-Price so these toys will stand up to hours and hours of play.
Playmobil sets a festive winter scene with this Christmas Ball advent calendar. Your child will be surprised each day with a new figurine, tree, or accessory to set the perfect royal scene. Made by reputable Playmobil, these pieces can withstand lots of wear and tear.
Another super fun option from high quality toy maker Playmobil. This time your child will be all set for an exciting pirate adventure. Each day there will be a new surprise piece to discover from a functioning cannon to a color-changing octopus. This set will have them swashbuckling in no time!
You can never go wrong giving a book! This advent calendar features 24 mini paperback books featuring stories from beloved Nickelodeon characters. A great way to build anticipation for Christmas and get kids engaged with reading!
A little DIY crafters delight! This calendar is tons of fun for little play-doh fans. So much fun that older play-doh fans (aka Mom or Dad) may want to get in on the action too!
Kids can expect to find the following surprises; 2 small cans of sparkle Play-Doh, 3 small cans of regular Play-Doh, and 19 accessories including cookie cutters, molds, rolling pin, etc. Made by quality kids craft maker Play-Doh. Kids will have countless hours of fun with this one.
A great choice for young Disney fans. This calendar comes with 11 figurines, assorted stickers and card decorations. The figurines feature classic Disney friends Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Daisy, Goofy, Pluto, Chip, Dale and Cuckoo Loca.
This one is a stand out because the figurines are in festive red and green attire and the stickers have a Christmas theme.
Another can’t miss option for Disney fans is the Disney Jr. calendar. This one is different from the Disney Classic option above as it features a few newer characters from the Disney Jr. channel.
This calendar includes 11 mini figurines, assorted stickers and card decorations. The 11 figurines include characters from hit programs like T.O.T.S., Mickey Mouse Clubhouse Adventures, and Puppy Dog Pals. Your little one will love counting down to Saint Nick’s arrival with this one.
Stop your search! This is the set for all colorful little creatives. This calendar features well made craft supplies from high quality manufacturer Crayola. Kids will be surprised with modeling clay, crayons, markers, paints and much more. Let their creativity shine with this advent calendar.
No job is too big, no job is too small! This advent calendar can handle it all! An exciting calendar for all Paw Patrol fans. Kids will feel like they’re in Adventure Bay with surprises including 7 character figurines, 2 friend figurines, and 15 accessories. Get ready for hours of imaginative play with this one.
If you want to customize your calendar without making it 100% on your own then you’re in the right place!
This is a semi-DIY option with only two steps. Step one, choose a calendar. Step two: choose some trinkets and/or candy to go inside and fill.
There are no rules but a good guideline is 10 small items like toys or figurines, 10 small candies, 4 miscellaneous items like stickers or stamps. If you want suggestions for filler items check out The Perfect Filler Items For Your DIY Advent Calendar-by Age.
There are a variety of empty calendars on the market perfect for any style. We’ve featured some of our favorites perfect for excited little hands below. Bonus- most of these are reusable which means next year all you need to grab are filler items and you’re done. Yes to less stress and less mess-am I right?!
Before you choose, keep the following in mind. What size filler items will be used? Where will the calendar live in your home? Will the calendar be easy for little hands to use?
This calendar is stunning! Kids will love the bright colors and the detailed scene. Parents will like the medium sized pockets. A hit all the way around!
A minimalist dream! This simple yet modern house shaped calendar is a real winner. Deeper pockets than most fabric calendars so you have flexibility in filler items. Kids will love the oversized look! There’s also a red option.
The grey, red, and white color scheme make this a simple and modern option. It comes with a candy cane to move from pocket to pocket as a countdown to Christmas. A good option if you don’t want to use filler items. You could also add any candy or any small trinket items you like. You could even scrap the candy cane element all together and simply fill the pockets.
Could this handmade wooden fire truck be any more adorable? Available in red or green. Customization available to add your child’s name too. Bonus-reviewers mention its durability! Now the hard part…red or green?
Love the personalization and the large pocket size. This is a classic yet modern option. Handmade of cotton.
This one could be used on its own or with small pieces of candy. Children can remove a fabric doll from one pocket each day and then attach to the above scene. Each piece has velcro to hold the pieces in place. A great way to discuss the nativity a little each day.
Such a versatile option because of the generous daily pocket size. Use it with the adorable fabric ornaments included and attach one piece to the tree each day. Add a small candy to each day.
Or you could swap out the ornaments all together and add small trinkets or candy. If you go this last route, let the kids decorate the tree with the ornaments before you fill it with other items to avoid sneaky peeks! You could do it differently each year. Love this one!
I love the non-traditional color scheme and the whimsical feel. I think kids would love it too! Nice pocket size and won’t take up too much on a wall or door.
This route is not for the faint of heart, but definitely worth it for a one-of-a kind calendar. You’re only limited here by your creativity- there are endless options. Before you begin, consider these questions.
Do you want something reusable or just for this year? How much time do you have to make and assemble? What size filler items will you be using? Where will the calendar be located in your home? Once you have the answers to these questions you’re ready for step one.
Step one: select a calendar. Some of my favorites are mini stockings, mini drawstring bags, or paper lunch sacks or treat bags. Step two is to decorate and number the calendar. I like to write directly on the paper bags or you can add festive stickers. Step three, purchase your filler items and place them inside the calendar.
There are no rules but a good guideline is 10 small items like toys or figurines, 10 small candies, 4 miscellaneous items like stickers or stamps. Step four, hang or display your calendar.
If you need help brainstorming and selecting filler items consider The Perfect Filler Items For Your DIY Advent Calendar-by Age.
Here are some of our favorite calendar making options from permanent to budget friendly one-time-use. Happy crafting!
Wow! These will look so great in a playroom, family room or kids room. The rainbow colors are non-traditional but oh so much fun! You can easily add wooden numbers or small tags (see below) to make this a one-of-a-kind set.
You could even split the set and make two 12 Days of Christmas Advent Calendars- two for the price of one! Bonus-the stocking size is perfect for small to medium size filler items.
These are so festive. They can double as beautiful decor. Add wooden tags to really up the wow factor. Not that your child will care, but hey you have to look at them all month-might as well make them pretty! Bonus-these are reusable.
These are a great budget friendly option. However, it will likely not be reusable as excited little hands will likely rip some of the bags. Option to bundle in string and clothespins makes this DIY super easy! You wouldn’t have to hang these either. You could use a festive box or basket instead.
Label with a marker, add some festive art or stickers and this is one quick and easy option. You could even poke a hole in the top and tie with a festive ribbon for an extra special touch!
Who says treat bags are only for Christmas cookies? These would work great as a one time use option. Each bag is festive and comes with a twist tie to close. All you need to add are the filler items and number each bag.
These are oh so cute! Use the top hole to attach to your bag or stocking. String a festive ribbon through the bottom hole and tie in a bow!
12 stars and 12 trees included with clips. Clips can be used for hanging or to attach to bags. Up the festive look by adding a patterned ribbon. Very versatile. Super cute!
Use these with a set of brown paper lunch bags or envelopes. You can make almost anything an advent calendar with these!
Wouldn’t these look great on the red lunch sacks above? Bright and festive to keep little ones excited.
Advent Calendar Buyer’s Guide
There are a few key things to keep in mind when purchasing an advent calendar for a little one. This Buyer’s Guide will cover them all and get you one step closer to the cheery holiday season that brings out the kid in all of us.
Keep budget top of mind when looking for a calendar. There are plenty of options out there at several price points, although those for children tend to be in the lower ranges. It’s when they move up in age that the calendar prices seem to increase as well.
There are three main types of advent calendars; pre-assembled, calendar only and DIY. Pre-assembled is ready to go and takes the least amount of time to prepare. Calendar only is next in terms of time commitment.
It also offers you the chance to customize the filler items. DIY will take the longest amount of time to prepare and assemble as you have to create the entire calendar.
Consider how much time you have to prepare the calendar before you begin. There are really fun options for each type. Your child will love them all.
Food V. No-food
There are two main types of pre-assembled advent calendars, food and non-food.
Most calendars with food include only candy. Especially children’s options.
You can find chocolate calendars at grocery stores, local shops or online during the festive season. These are generally light weight cardboard calendars with small pieces of chocolate for each day. Who doesn’t want a little piece of chocolate every day? Maybe buy one for yourself and join in the fun as well!
Other calendars are focused around one candy manufacturer or type of specific candy. For example M&Ms, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, gummies, etc. If you want to go the candy route, consider your little one’s favorites and start there.
Non-food calendars are just that, advent calendars that include only non-food items. These can be anything from trinkets, figurines, play-doh, or books.
Don’t forget to consider theme as well. Themes are the characters, tv shows, films, or interests. Does your child love all things Disney? If so, there are several different types of calendars for fans. Does your child have an interest in cars, Barbie, dinosaurs or crafting? There are calendars for these interests as well.
If you don’t know where to start, consider their favorite things and start with theme.
You will definitely want to keep size in mind if you plan to ship your calendar. Does the child in your life live far away? Enjoy the season together by sending them an advent calendar. Smaller and lighter items are the most inexpensive to ship.
Keep this in mind if you plan to send one in the mail. Some online retailers also offer the option to ship directly after purchase which can be a cost effective choice.
No matter how you choose or where you start, you can’t go wrong with an advent calendar to make the celebrations extra festive for your little one this year!
Still a bit undecided or confused about advent calendars? Not sure to start with day 1 or day 24? Wondering if you should choose an advent calendar or a countdown calendar? If you answered yes to any of these questions make sure to check out our 14 Advent Calendar FAQs.