The Advent of Advent

All Images: Sarah Pinault

While my Christmas music has been playing since September, and I am generally the exception not the rule, it is not too early to start thinking about Advent. I have had dubious success in the past with filling my children’s advent boxes with anything but chocolate. However last year, my nine year old requested some Lego, and this year he has made the same request. We do not buy the nice, shiny, Lego advent calendars, instead we fill our own little boxes each year. But while our focus will remain on the chocolate tradition, with a bit of extra fun added in here and there, there are a wide variety of things to fill those boxes with, if like us you aren’t going for one of the pre-filled kind.

  1. Quarter machine stores. Outside of every supermarket, there are at least a half dozen machines that dispense toys and gum. For 25 to 50 cents you can purchase a little egg containing a plastic ring, a wobbling man, a key chain, a rubber ball. Cheap and tacky, yes, but for some reason always greatly appealing to my children.
  2. Office Supplies. My kids go nuts every time they come to my office. Self inking stamps, post it notes, erasers, stickers from my label maker, they love everything they can get their hands on. Fortunately a lot of these things will also fit into an advent box!
  3. Lego. This would be one of the most obvious alternatives to chocolate. A minifig a day, a couple of interesting pieces maybe. Or you could go the whole hog and buy a full kit, to be distributed incrementally over 24 days. Make sure you check the piece count and size before making this commitment.
  4. Meccano. Like the Lego, you could buy a small, complete set and distribute it evenly over 24 days. With multiple kids, you could even distribute it over multiple calendars and drive them crazy. It’s a team building exercise of course.
  5. A board game. This one could be tricky, but I can see it going one of two ways. In the first scenario, you simply portion out game pieces over 24 days, the game to be played on Christmas Eve. A new edition of Carcassonne perhaps, or a new chess set. The Wizard Always Wins has some nice small pieces. In the second scenario, you could play a board game over 24 days, with each drawer containing the next move. This might be suited to something like Munchkin or Scrabble, with new cards/tiles given on the daily. An adjusted game of Trivial Pursuit could be killer if played daily over 24 days.
  6. Mini Squishies. Over the past year this fad has blossomed and subsequently withered at my local elementary school. However anything in miniature is usually a hit, and these miniature squishables available on Amazon seem like they would fit the bill quite nicely. Amazon of course can be raided for a wide variety of Pokemon/Hatchimal/Polly Pocket sized goodies too.
  7. Miniature Playdoh. We generally give this out at Halloween, so my kids wouldn’t be too excited by this, but you can get nice little tubs and then by the end of the season, you’l have quite the assortment of colors.
  8. Leftover Christmas cracker toys. If you have any leftover goodies from last Christmas, just throw them in on a few random days, no one will mind another set of nail clippers, or a miniature deck of cards.
  9. Rubber duckies. This would depend greatly on the size of your advent boxes. My local party store occasionally has tiny ones which would work, otherwise most arcades have a “prize every time” ducky machine where you can stock up on duck needs.
  10. Jokes. I have a ten year old and a seven year old, right now, jokes rule. Knock Knock jokes. Limericks. Butt jokes generally score big. A joke a day for 24 days, with a notebook to stick them all in. Let the hilarity begin.
  11. Party store goodies. The party store is Advent box nirvana. It is the holiest of holies. The real McCoy. The place where all boxes may be filled to overflowing in mere minutes. In all seriousness, your local party store is a fantastic place to score 24 days of miscellany, deliciousness, and fun. For a couple of bucks you can put together the craziest Advent boxes this side of the 1942 Vorgon poetry countdown.

 For our house this year, we will stick with chocolate for the most part, albeit with a wider variety on offer this year than in year’s past. No longer having access to the tiny Dairy Milk bars of my English childhood, we rely mostly on chocolate coins and Hershey Kisses to give my kids a boost of sugar first thing in the morning.

If you have time, and want to do something special, you might consider this Sensory Advent Calendar by GeekMom Jackie. If you’ve left it too late, and are scrambling in the days after Thanksgiving, GeekMom Ruth has some tips on putting together an eleventh hour Advent countdown.

What’s in your boxes?

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