An advent calendar is such a fun tradition but the idea of giving candy every day to my toddler doesn’t strike me as a good one. That's why this year I made a practical advent calendar for my 3-year-old daughter. It’s a mix of small gifts/ winter crafts / Christmas activities. I'm so excited to do it with her all December and would love it if you joined us in this fun ride as well.
Since my daughter can’t read yet, I’m planning to put a picture of what we will do in the advent and where she can find it. So instead of just taking out what’s inside, we can make it a fun game - a treasure hunt of sorts. It also planned as every day she’d get a small gift and we would do an activity with it later in the day. Sometimes the gifts coordinate with activity, sometimes it’s not. I try to wrap it around the winter theme but it’s not always the case. Some of them we do together, some of them buy me some time. And you know me, I love a good uninterrupted 30 minutes to myself. Well, who doesn’t?
Things to mentions before we start
Fill the advent as you go. There is no need to fill up all the windows at once. Some activities require more time and if you know you will be super busy that day, switch it up. Also, some require snow, for example, and if you happened not to have snow yet, skip it and go to the next one.
Advent calendar filler ideas for a 3-year-old toddler
PJ’s. This has become a tradition that everyone in this house gets a set of matching PJs first day of December. I usually get ours in Old Navy since they have a lot of fun designs and are quite cheap if you get them with coupons.
Activity: salt dough handprint ornament
Bows and hair ties. Simply because we have never enough in this house. If you are planning this early and have about 3 weeks to wait, you can always order it from AliExpress. It's mostly the same products as on Amazon, just at a fraction of a cost. See for yourself
Activity: Record Christmas videos for grandmothers. Last year we made a postcard. This year we are going to up our game and record a funny Christmas video for both our grannies.
Dinosaur cookie cutters for my little Dino obsessed girl
Activity: To bake Christmas cookies, obviously! We always make a bunch and then freeze some dough for later. Then when we have to visit some friends, we can pop the dough into the oven quickly and make a fresh batch in minutes.
If you need some recipes, check out this book with fun recipes that kids will love to make.
Blue aqua beads and a figure of a polar bear. We actually have them already but they are stored away so my little one can’t see them every day.
Activity: Antarctica sensory bin. Polar bears, penguins, polar foxes, all those figurines can come in handy to imaginary play with your little one.
Fun band-aids. Since we have only regular ones and I feel terrible dealing with tears and boo without some fun band-aids on hand. It makes one of the perfect practical advent calendar filler ideas for a toddler. Who would continue crying when they have such a cute bandaid on their little finger?
Activity: Washi tape resist trees craft. You make a tree with washi tape on a piece of paper and make your kid paint around and on top of it. Then see the face of a surprise when you lift up the washi tape and reveal their creations.
Fingerprint activities dinosaurs. Last year we got a book from the same series about Christmas and let me tell you, it was such a hit! I absolutely love that it’s a relatively mess-free, great fine motor skill activity!
Activity: finger paint a snowman, Christmas tree with your fingers, and hide behind the tree dinosaur, because why not.
Water wow pads by Melissa & Doug. They are so cool and completely mess-free. They’ve been a source of entertainment for quite some time now. I also love to take them traveling as pens filled with just water and don't make any mess.
Activity: Draw a winter scene of a snowman and snowflakes
Bath blocks. Winter chilly nights call for more fun in the bathtub. I absolutely love these ones and had them on our list for a while.
Activity: play with bath blocks
Play road tape. Who doesn’t like duck tape? Especially if it comes in the form of a road that can magically appear on your floors.
Activity: Build a winter city with building blocks and road tape.
You can also play a tape rescue game. You can tell that all winter animals got stuck in a snowstorm and need rescue now. Smaller siblings can get involved too.
Play silks. They are so great for imaginative play and dancing and our kid loves music. She also doesn’t know yet but her sister is getting a musical set for Christmas so they can really dance their souls away. To be honest, Sarah's silks are a bit expensive and I'm thinking of DIY playing silks. Hmm.. probably won't finish it any time soon, but will keep you in a loop.
Activity: dance party. You can pretend to play that you are wind and snow that dancing around in a snowstorm. I think the “snowflake” song would be a perfect accompaniment for this
Dinosaurs cupcake liners. Our little girl is quite obsessed with cupcakes. And the dinosaurs as I already mentioned. Sasha will have a 3-year-old party in January, so you can already guess what the theme will be. These cupcake liners will come in handy then. It fits perfectly fits with my advent calendar filler ideas for a toddler.
Activity: Make cupcakes together. Here is the recipe that we will try that day.
Mittens. I love this set of 12 pairs since I'm ready for them to be lost quite frequently.
Activity: paint the snow. This obviously depends if there is snow or not. If there is no snow where you live, simply move the activity to another day. Make sure to have a washcloth ready for those mittens to get dirty. I’ll use good old washable Crayola paint and hope it will come off easily.
If you don’t want to go to paint outside, you can always bring the snow inside in a container.
More gift guides
- 2021 Gift guide: for woodworkers
- 2021 Gift guide: for DIYers
- Small gifts advent calendar for a 2-year-old
- Gift guide for bankers
- Advent calendar ideas for adults
- Practical advent calendar for a 3-year-old
A toothbrush. And you guessed it right, with a dinosaur. I have to be honest with you, we need to up our game with teeth brushing, so I’ll use any chance to do it, even if that means to get one of them to her advent calendar. Plus, this particular one is very cute!
Activity: feed the snowman. Simply get a bottle, draw a snowman on it, and a set of pom-poms. Guaranteed quiet time for 30 minutes. You can tell the story about snowman teeth but it’s clearly not related. I just couldn’t come up with any other fun toothpaste or teeth-related activity. Maybe you have some ideas? Comment below!
New fun socks. I'm quite boring and we have all white plain socks. The idea of laundry is already hard enough, to find a matching pair for socks while folding could be a real nightmare. So for Christmas, my kids get fun socks 😉
Activity: Make a snowman from an old sock, filling it with rice.
Hide the animals in the snow aka baking soda. I’ve noticed Sasha’s obsession with hiding things lately and having fun looking for them, so I hope it will be a hit.
Playdough tools set. Every kid loves playdough and this could take their game to a whole new level.
Activity: make a white snow play dough and let your child decide how to play with it.
Water bottles. I don’t know about your house, but here water bottles have the ability to magically disappear with the speed of the lighting. So it’s always in business. I haven't tried this sippy cups brand yet, but they are made out of recycled milk jars. We have the dividing plates from the same company and they are amazing!
Activity: water and ice sensory bin. Scoop the ice from one container to the other and pretend it’s global warming and you need to save the animals. Or paint the ice cubes, also tons of fun!
Stickers. It just never gets old and we always need them. Get the huge set so it lasts you for a long time
Activity: a dot sticker snowflake. On a large piece of paper, taped to the wall, draw a snowflake and let your kid put stickers on it. It makes for one great fine motor winter activity.
Bath crayons. Yes, you’ve heard me right. We will try to attempt this fun activity. I hope my walls will survive. I'll have a magic eraser ready for action! 😀
Activity: play with crayons in a bathtub
Activity: making a snow globe. We did it last year and it turned out so pretty. Isn’t it a great activity to do with your toddler?
A winter hat. What kid doesn’t like a new item? Plus this one also has a great purpose and will keep your little one’s head warm.
Activity: Making an Arctic fort. Use your bedsheets, chairs and build a survival expedition stay in. Imaginative play that can take you places. You can be chased by a huge white bear that can’t get to your expedition center, or read a book about winter.
Activity: To make your very own personalized marble stationery thank you notes.
Jumbo crayons. Because there never enough art supplies.
Activity: ask your kid to draw what they want to get for Christmas as a present
Burt’s Bees Baby Kissable Cheeks Balm. They make a great practical advent calendar filler idea for a toddler and are also super useful during cold winter months.
Activity: make a pinecones decoration
Activity: tape a large piece of paper on the floor and let your kid stamp away. Guaranteed 15 minutes break so you can drink your cacao and enjoy your Christmas tree.
That's it for today. I hope you enjoyed our advent calendar filler ideas for a toddler. I really hope we will manage to make most of the crafts. For more ideas, check out my advent from last year.
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Till next time!