Saturday, September 13, 2008

Advent Countdown Calendar Ideas

Countdown calendars are a fun way for little ones to learn about traditions, and they can also be semi-educational with regards to number recognition, counting, and learning about how we organize time into days, weeks, and months. Plus, they're just really cute!

In case you don't know, here's how they work: each day, kids get to poke their hand into a small pocket for a treat (or maybe a trick!) Besides just candy (which, fyi, can melt if you live in sunny socal...) try tucking in tiny non-edible things like:

stickers, stickers, stickers!
rubber stamps
rub-on tattoos
matchbox cars
lego men (and women!)
little farm or zoo animal figures
bracelets or rings
charms or key chains
hair clips & barrettes
a coin purse
lip balm
fancy shoelaces
polished stones or crystals
a magnifying glass
a rock buddy (paint a silly face on a small river rock)
precious ittybitty pinecones
shells or starfish
seeds for planting
a fresh flower
window prisms
finger puppets
tiny plush stuffed animals
bouncy balls
jump rope
playing cards
pencil sharpeners
crayons or smallish markers
silly putty
tiny books
special little notes
riddles/silly jokes
funny face photos
homemade coupons ("good for one extra bedtime story" etc.)
wacky fake mustaches
whoopee cushions
kazoos (if you dare!)
squirt guns (also if you dare!)
finger puppets
small holiday ornaments
gift cards
collars, tags, chew toys, (pets are family, too!)

Etsy is a great place to shop for unique, handmade giftlets, and The dollar store is a supergreat resource for tons of fantastic cheapy gifties (as is your junk drawer, backyard, &... your imagination!) Remember to choose treats that are age appropriate; older kids will appreciate different tokens than the itsy bitsy kids (and as always, preschoolers will need your supervision and guidance when dealing with all things smallish.) If you have a large family, just be creative in how to divvy things up (one child gets even numbered days, the other odd... maybe Kate gets Saturdays, Matt Sundays, Dad Mondays, Mom Tuesdays, Fido gets Wednesdays, etc....)

If you don't want to fill each pocket with a gift, you can also just count the days off by moving a symbolic marker (like a tiny stuffed plush snowman) from pocket to pocket as the days go by. Trust me when I say that this less materialistic routine is still fun for the kidlets (most don't realize they're missing out on anything in the first place.)

And did you know that countdown calendars aren't just for Christmas anymore? The Land of Nod and Pottery Barn Kids also make the cutest calendars for Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Hanukkah. They're made of fabric (mostly felt) and have all sorts of darling holiday-related applique details like spooktacular bats, turkey friends, etc. PBK will even embroider these calendars with your family (or child's) name (an instant, homespun-feeling heirloom for the noncrafty!) The PBK Thanksgiving calendar last year came with these wonderful cards to write down what you're thankful for on. So instead of filling the pockets with gifts, you can fill each pocket with words of thankfulness. What a fantastic way to share (and build up great sentimental tidbits for your scrapbook, too!)

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