A minimalist and zero waste advent calendar for kids (with gifts)

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Anticipating Christmas is one of the most exciting times of the year in a child's life. Did you grow up with an Advent calendar, celebrating each day of December up until Christmas?

This took many forms for me as a kid: opening a mini story book each day about the Christian religious story, popping out a mini chocolate from a premade Advent calendar, and also opening a mini present each day.

Now that Beans is almost 3, I want to bring some of the tradition of the Advent calendar to his childhood, and I imagine if you're reading this, you also want to incorporate daily December celebrations into your kids' lives as well.

But, how do you do this if you want to instill minimalism with your kids and not overburden them with a brand new toy every day?

I saw a few great minimalist Advent calendar ideas when searching online:

  • Make each day about a promise to spend quality time together

  • Give a redeemable "ticket" for a cool adventure in the following year

  • Offer daily goodies like chocolates or candy

  • Show an illustrated story

  • Share inspiring quotes and lessons

All of these are great ideas, but because Beans is 3, he might not fully grasp the excitement of a promise to go to the zoo sometime in 2019. Plus, even though we believe in minimalism and conscious consumerism, we still recognize the unabashed excitement for kiddos that comes with opening a present.

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Minimalist and Zero Waste Advent Calendar | Hello Brio

A Minimalist Advent Calendar for Kids: The Gifts

Like many kids, Beans already has a ton of toys, despite my best efforts to keep his belongings to a minimum. But of course, throughout the year I've had my eye on a a few toys I know he would enjoy.

My solution: buy him a multi-piece gift I already planned to purchase him for Christmas, and divide it up over 24 days.

I got him a set of magnetic wooden train cars and a set of wooden train tracks. The other night I opened everything and dumped the goodies onto the floor, dividing the gifts into a rhythm of train cars vs tracks vs accessories. I know he'll love the daily gifts, and once he has the full set he'll be able to play with them all on a play table that our previous homeowners generously left for him when they moved out.

Advent Calendar: Keeping it Nearo Waste (Near Zero Waste)

In an effort to save lots of wrapping paper and tape waste, I used a collection of second-use brown paper bags from takeout and liquor store purchases over the past year, hand painting numbers for each day onto them with a Pentel Aquash Waterbrush filled with ink.

Minimalist and zero waste advent calendar | Hello Brio

I combined the brown paper bags with some twine, fastened everything together with staples (for times sake), and hung them all from a branch. Next year I'll try to find a biodegradable solution for the staples.

Minimalist and zero waste advent calendar | Hello Brio

You can recreate a minimalist and nearo waste Advent calendar for your kids easily simply by dividing a gift or gifts into 24 parts.

If you're worried about taking from the pile under the tree, I assure you that grandparents, aunties, uncles, and friends will more than make up for that on Christmas Day. Plus, if you have any leftover goodies from your gift, you can wrap those up and stick them under the tree to be opened on Christmas Day.

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Minimalist and Zero Waste Advent Calendar | Hello Brio

Side note: Beans (2) is very interested in photography (“pictures!”) so he helped me with this blog post.

Minimalist and Zero Waste Advent Calendar | Hello Brio
Minimalist and Zero Waste Advent Calendar | Hello Brio

Do you do an Advent calendar for your children? How do you keep it minimal and zero waste?