As December approaches the lure of the chocolate advent calendar looms large. When I was a kid we had to share one calendar between 4 of us and weren’t allowed the chocolate until the end of the day (how mean was that!). I didn’t realise then what a big favour our Mum was doing us. Today it’s quite normal for children to start the day with chocolatey sugary cereal so what difference does one little piece of chocolate make?
Well, in that situation it just compounds potential problems such as lack of concentration at school, poor behaviour because the sugar in the morning spikes blood sugar levels making children hungry quickly, but without an adult ability to get topped up between meals. Although glucose is essential to us for energy, too much is toxic so our body tries very hard to control levels. When we have high levels from sugary foods the body reacts to balance levels, which can lead to a rapid drop in blood sugar levels leaving all of us tired, lacking energy, difficulty concentrating and reaching for the next sugary snack available.
So for all those of you who would like to reduce the amount of sugar in your child’s diet, particularly in the run up to Christmas here are some suggestions for alternatives to the (now commonplace) chocolate advent calendar.
Below are just a few of the different alternatives to chocolate advent calendars, priced between £3 and £40. You could also make something if you are feeling crafty. Many of these will last years, so although they may seem expensive now, that cost will be spread over a long period.
What to put in your non-chocolate advent calendar
I have looked around at what people generally put in the self-fillable calendars and have picked out the following ideas. Some require items to be bought and some cost virtually nothing. You can also create your own Christmas traditions around the gifts.
- A piece of lego towards a Christmas kit
- Activity coupons for fun activities in the run up to Christmas such as making decorations, baking, a visit to Santa, a New Year trip, making and putting out reindeer food
- Money, so they can save up to buy their own gift (50p or £1 per day)
- A special tree ornament
- Finger puppets
- Hair clips, bows or other hair decorations
- Small toy cars
- Puzzle pieces for a puzzle that can be made at Christmas time
- A poem or special thought for older children & teenagers
- Rub on tattoos
- A Christmas story – put one piece of the story in each day so you have the whole story on Christmas Eve. Perhaps provide a small book to paste the pieces into and drawings can be added by the children, so you will have something to keep for future
- A Christmas joke
- A Treasure Hunt clue to be solved each day, which leads to a prize on Christmas Eve
- Tickets to a pantomime
- A random act of kindness
- Lipstick/lip balm/nail polish
- A chocolate on Christmas Eve!
These are some of my favourite ideas, but I’m sure there are many more that you can think of. What would you put in?
A traditional Advent Candle
For a low cost alternative to the advent calendar how about a beautiful traditional advent candle to bring light to the darkest part of the year. Each child takes turns lighting the candle each evening
Scratch Card Advent Calendar
A card calendar with a scratch circle each day, bringing you either an activity, challenge or craft to do on your countdown to Christmas.
Balloon Advent countdown
If you’re feeling brave, put a gift in each of the balloons, which are then popped to get the gift!
Wooden Reindeer Countdown calendar
Countdown the days to Christmas with this lovely wooden Reindeer block and start a new tradition.
Nordic house gift calendar
Fill the drawers with your selection of gifts, one per day. This calendar will last for years
This last one I heard about recently and is great for a community. If you fancy bringing your community together at Christmas why not get everyone together and create a Living Advent Calendar. Based on an original idea from Stockholm a different window or door in the community is opened at 6:15pm promptly each evening and a 30 minute performance is given to the audience assembled. This can include songs, carols, music, poetry, book excerpts, notes from local history or folklore, sketches, dance etc, all with a Christmas or winter focus to them. This living advent calendar takes place in Henley-on-Thames.