I love a good advent calendar. My kids, for the most part, love a chocolate advent calendar. Each year I fill little cardboard drawers with little bites of chocolatey goodness, coins, Santas, other assorted shapes. I have learned many lessons over the years. Not one of them wants nuts or crisped rice in their advent chocolate. In day to day candy, sure thing, but for advent they are purists. Many years ago I tried running every third day as a Lego minifig. This was delightful for me, but a nightmare in practice, as my little angels turned into demonic elves when faced with plastic instead of candy. For the past few years my teenager has brought himself a Funko advent calendar for the month of December. He loves the figures, he does not however want to give up his chocolate from mom. When presented with the first of his Funko calendars, he opted to spend his own money and acquire 24 Pokemon, rather than give up what mom put together.
This year, my eight year old is the wild card. At a midsummer visit to the Build-a-Bear Workshop she came upon an advent calendar and it became the sole thing she wanted out of life. Prices in that store being what they are, I was not prepared to do both, and she was not willing to spend her own money. So we approach December in full knowledge that she has opted to build several tiny bears and not have a piece of chocolate every morning. It remains to be seen whether she saves any of her Halloween candy to compensate for this. I doubt any will survive.
These days, there are such a wide variety of advent calendars available, and I am loving it. For myself this year, a friend has started a local cookie business and I have preordered one. And no, mom does not share advent goodies! In January I usually manage to snag a couple of sock advent calendars at a highly discounted price. But these I break up for other gifts or just to wear, and they don’t serve as a herald for anything but warm feet.
We recently had the chance to test out a couple more types of advent calendars that we’ve never experienced before, and I’ve got to say, I am loving how this advent phenomenon keeps getting more creative each year.
Our first foray into a more immersive advent experience was with EXIT: Advent Calendar – The Silent Storm from Thames & Kosmos. This company is responsible for a lot of our current favorite gadgets, with my 11 year old consuming most of them, so we were pretty excited.
The scene is set in the Christmas workshop. As one of the chief toy-makers you have never been busier. While testing out a rocking horse the room begins to tremble and a violent storm sweeps through the building, through every crack and cranny. After dashing around to close up the shop, you realize that something is not right. A silence falls, broken only by the clicking of the locking doors. You need to find Santa, and soon. But first, you need to escape the workshop…
Combining both the idea of an escape room, and the narratives of so many of our favorite adventure story based games, this calendar presents you daily with a new riddle to bring you closer to freedom, and Santa. This “game” is rated for ages 10 and up, which two out of my three munchkins are these days, but when playing as a family you can easily bring the younger kids in on the fun. It also has a really high rating on Boardgamegeek.com. We had some arguments and frustrations along the way, but no more than usual for our household. It was a nice way to bring everyone together once a day, and for that reason alone I would highly recommend this one as a family advent practice. It certainly has me more inclined to do a group advent activity next year as well, as I really enjoyed watching the kids work together over each day’s puzzle, rather than just gorging on their chocolate. I only had to break up a few fights, if there’s a teenager in your group, patience will be severely tested!
EXIT: Advent Calendar – The Silent Storm is completely card-based and 100% unplugged. The instructions, which you should definitely read thoroughly, say that each day’s puzzle takes approximately 10-15 minutes to solve. Our team worked on day 1 for about 45 minutes, before looking at the hint, and then the problem was solved very quickly. So my hint would be to always take the hint! You start with day one, but then don’t proceed to days two, then three etc, as each door in the calendar houses a new riddle that determines which door to open the next day. You also have to look into the box itself for parts of the clue, it really is completely immersive, we used a flashlight almost immediately.
It is on the pricier side, at close to $50, but if you are looking for something to do together, it’s a really nice alternative to bring the family together a little each day during the holiday season.
Despite my painful history with Lego advents, we also took a risk this year on the Plus-Plus advent calendar, as we are all on-again/off-again addicted to these very satisfying and fidgetable building blocks. This one was a big hit with my kids, and with me…very much with me! There are 25 unique builds included, all blocks and instructions, and at the end of the month you have 600 pieces, and a wonderful wintry scene to add to your building supplies. I did take a sneak peak at the guts of this one before we started, and I have to say that it was very satisfying.
I love the scene that this creates, and I am going to do my hardest to keep all the pieces together, unlike all our other building sets! This would be a good one to put together each year, just replace the box it comes in with one of the craftable ones you can find online or from a craft store.
It is also a great gateway to the Plus-Plus world if you are looking for a gift that you can keep adding to. There’s certainly plenty of options available, and these kits are bite size and fun so won’t overwhelm someone not used to the tactile experience that is Plus-Plus. We generally add a tube to every stocking or Easter basket, and have fun whenever we find a cache of them somewhere around our house.
Over the years we at GeekMom have embraced the idea of advent with gusto, so make sure you search for “advent” on our site to fully experience our annual countdown obsession.
GeekMom received samples of advent calendars for review purposes.