If you're looking for a brand new Christmas tradition (opens in new tab) for you and your family, we've got an idea that is not only fun to do, but will teach your little ones some special lessons over the festive season.
Everyone loves advent calendars (opens in new tab) to count them down to Christmas Day. Most children adore receiving one at the beginning of December because it gets them excited for Santa coming, and every surprise that they open on the way is a promise of what's to come.
But if you want to try something a little different this year, you can create an advent calendar that you and your children put something into every day instead of taking something out. Read on to find out more about reverse advent calendars, and how to make one yourself!
What is a reverse advent calendar?
Reverse advent calendars work by you filling them every day with with items of food or clothing that can then be taken to a food bank or charity in order to help those less fortunate that are struggling at Christmas time.
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After gathering helpful items all month, you can take everything you've saved to your local help scheme, homeless shelter, church, charity, etc. on Christmas Eve and know that you've given a Christmas present to someone that really needed it.
Not only is this a fun thing for the whole family to do together, from creating the advent calendar structure itself to picking the goodies to go in it, it more importantly teaches your kids the importance of helping others and seeing the bigger picture at Christmas.
What to collect for your reverse advent calendar
Different charities will ask for different kinds of contributions, but generally speaking you should be collecting either clothes and toiletries, toys and entertainment or food. Here are some suggestions to fill your reverse advent calendar with:
- Dolls, teddy bears, figurines
- Pencils, crayons, paper, colouring books
- CD's, DVD's, books
- Hats, gloves, scarves
- Make up, toiletries
- Baby clothes
- T shirts, jumpers
- Arts and crafts, jigsaws
- Bath towels, hand towels, blankets
- Tinned goods such as fruit, tuna, baked beans, copped tomatoes and rice pudding
- Cans or (plastic) bottles of fizzy or still drinks
- Chocolate and sweets
- Biscuits and crackers
- Crisps and savoury snacks
How to make your own reverse advent calendar
Making your own reverse advent calendar is really easy, and fun for the children. Our Kids Kitchen (opens in new tab) blogger Sarah Barnes explains in our video exactly what she did with her little ones to make theirs, simply using a basket and their own food cupboard.
Follow these five simple steps to start this sweet tradition with your children.
Start either 24 or 12 days before Christmas and decide whether you're going to collect food, clothes or presents.
Pick something to collect your advent calendar gifts in. This can be something really easy like a basket or cardboard box, or alternatively you could make individual pockets for each day using strips of cardboard and even add some paint and glitter to jazz it up.
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Every day choose something from your own supplies or from a store with your family to donate to your reverse advent calendar.
A few days before Christmas when you can make some time, take your offerings down to your local food bank or charity and donate them.
Spend some time with your little ones imagining who you might have helped by starting this special tradition and ask everyone to pick a reason why they are lucky this Christmas.
Where to take your reverse advent calender
There are loads of charities that accept gifts at Christmas time and organise for them to be delivered to those who need them most. Make sure you get in touch with your local branch of these charities to check that they will take your items:
- Crisis.org (opens in new tab) for food and clothes
- FareShare (opens in new tab) for food
- Salvation Army (opens in new tab) for Christmas toys and gifts
- Great Ormond Street Hospital (opens in new tab) for games and entertainment gifts
- The Trussell Trust (opens in new tab) for food
- Samaritans (opens in new tab) for toys and toiletries
- Barnardo's (opens in new tab) for toys, toiletries
- The British Heart Foundation (opens in new tab) for toys and clothing
Are you trying the reverse advent calendar tradition this year? Tell us all about it on our Facebook page!