Contributed by Info Guru Lindsay Shugerman

With advent almost here, it’s time to think about advent calendars. You can keep it simple by buying a ready-filled calender, or a paper one with the little doors and messages.

But an old tradition of having a refillable one to use year after year is gaining popularity.

10. Chocolates

top 10 advent calendar gifts ghiradelli chocolates

You can never, ever go wrong with chocolate. Little squares of rich, smooth, dark, sweet…oh, sorry. I got distracted. Back to the calendars now.

Placing a wrapped chocolate or another favorite treat in each compartment or pocket in your advent calendar is a sweet way to count down to Christmas. Or if chocolate isn’t the right choice, any other sweet or treat that fits will work. Just make sure all sweets are wrapped or in containers, and that pets can’t get at them.

9. Legos

top 10 advent calendar gifts lego village

Legos are one of those toys where you can never have too many, because there are always new ways to use them. And filling an advent calendar is one more to add to the list. (Except on the floor. They are never fun when they’re on the floor! Pain! Agony!) This year, Lego is offering a Christmas Village playset so you could buy it and place small pieces in each day’s section. Then on Christmas eve or Christmas morning, the cottage itself could be waiting for your child to add the details and the people.

If you don’t have a ready-to-fill advent calendar, Lego can help with that too. This year they’re offering a Star Wars themed advent calendar with a Star Wars Lego toy behind each door.

8. Holy cards

top 10 advent calendar gifts holy cards and saints cards

Some people prefer to skip the sweets and treats and focus on the spiritual meaning of the season of Advent. If you’re looking for a way to bring more meaning to the countdown to Christmas, consider filling each pocket or compartment with things like holy cards, saint cards, small figurines of the Holy Family or other tokens of your spiritual practice.

7. Gift cards

top 10 advent calendar gifts real or homemade gift cards

Filling each section in your advent calendar with gift cards is another option. You can put small (or large) amounts on each card (anything from the price of a soda to enough for a new living room set…your choice!), or you can create your own gift cards.

Things like “One late bedtime”, “Dessert of your choice” or “One hour of time at the park” are all ideas — just match the “gifts” to your kids’ ages and interests. Oh, and you might want to put a one redemption per day limit on the cards, too. You wouldn’t want to have to redeem all 24 in one day!

6. Toy animals

top 10 advent calendar gifts toy animals

If you want to combine the countdown with learning, filling each pocket of your advent calendar with toy animals is one way to do so.

You can pick a category of animals, the animals from a certain part of the world, or just pick the cutest animal figures you can find and let it be all about play or filling a toy Noah’s ark or a zoo. (Just don’t forget the unicorns. Ever since Noah, they always get left out of the animal sets!)

5. Family activity cards

top 10 advent calendar gifts family activities

This is one of the most interactive ways to fill your calendar, and my favorite (well, except for the chocolate!) Come up with 24 fun family activities and put one on a card for each pocket. Then when your child opens each day, you all get to do something fun. Consider things like a walk to see the lights, a trip to the ice cream shop, or a family video night, then build from there.

4. Dolls or doll accessories

doll in pink dress

Dolls, doll clothes and doll accessories are a perennial favorite, and they’re a natural for advent calendar gifts, too. Depending on the age of your child, you might want to start the month with a new doll, then let her find doll clothes, shoes and accessories each day. Or a younger child might like furnishing a preschooler’s doll house with small furnishings and extras as the days pass.

3. Toy cars

top 10 advent calendar gifts cars

Toy cars are another great choice for advent calendar gifts. As with the animals, you can provide a toy garage or car case for your child to fill up as he waits for Christmas day, or you can make that larger treat the gift on the 24th.

2. Craft supplies

top 10 advent calendar gifts crafts

Craft supplies work very well as advent gifts. Try to arrange the choices to all you and your child use some of the materials to make Christmas ornaments, cards or homemade gifts, and you’ll add an extra level of fun to the wait.

1. Give them one to refill again and again

top 10 advent calendar gifts a calendar

One of the very best advent calendar gifts is to give a friend or family member one of their own, so they can enjoy the season for years to come. It can be as simple as a pocket organizer like this one from a blog called Vintage Mint, or as fancy as a handmade wooden piece. Either way, you’ll be sharing the joy of Advent with someone else, and that’s the very best gift of all.