Gift Edit 2023

117 Creative Ways to Fill Up Your Advent Calendar

updated Dec 1, 2023
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This feature is part of Apartment Therapy's Gift Edit, our editor-curated collection of gift ideas. Need more inspiration? Check out all our guides here.

Advent calendars have morphed into many different things over the years, from wall hangings with 24 tiny cardboard doors that open to reveal a piece of chocolate each day, to daily affirmations or hidden surprises, but the message is still the same: The countdown to Christmas (or whichever holiday you can’t wait to celebrate) is on!

While the holiday season is still a while away, it’s never too early to start prepping, especially if you’re someone who likes to make your own Advent calendar. Figuring out what to stuff it with is the hardest part so if you’re filling a DIY calendar for your kids or loved ones and find yourself bored with the basics, we rounded up a slew of options you’ll love, many of which aren’t just “stuff.” Check out our list below — and let us know what you’ll be putting in your Advent calendars this year!

Printable Coupons

Zero budget for your Advent calendar? Coupons are the perfect gift. You can really go any direction with these: Thoughtful, sweet, saucy — you name it! Try making your coupons extra colorful by adding some glitter or stickers to each one. Here are some of our favorite personalized love coupon ideas:

  • Backyard or patio campout
  • Trip to the beach
  • Fancy picnic in the park
  • Stargazing night
  • Night drive to look at festive lights
  • Decorating the Christmas tree
  • Takeout from your favorite restaurant
  • A trip to the zoo or aquarium
  • Family movie night
  • Baking together
  • Craft day for DIY holiday decorations
  • Homemade pancakes for breakfast
  • Making a gingerbread house
  • Volunteering together as a family
  • S’mores over a campfire
  • Stay up past your bedtime
  • Creating a popcorn garland together
  • Caroling
  • Making snow angels
  • Ice skating
  • Breakfast in bed

Gift items

If you’ve got some cash to spend and are looking for lots of fun little surprises to fill your calendar with, we’ve got you covered. Just remember, you’ll need 24 gifts so you might want to pick a few from our other lists that won’t cost you anything.

  • Crystals or rocks ($7.99, Amazon) — This kit comes with a variety of stones, all of which are the perfect size to stick in an Advent calendar!
  • Mini candle ($3.75, Etsy) — Choose a scent that signifies the holiday season or one you know your pal will love, then personalize it with some glitter, sprinkles, or crystals.
  • Luxe Gummies ($8.95, Sugarfina) — Inspired by champagne, this is the adult version of a kid favorite.
  • Ring holder ($22.99, Amazon) — This cute ring holder is in the shape of pup for the dog lover in your life.
  • Fancy marshmallows ($16, Etsy) — Upgrade their seasonal hot cocoa with a few large and fluffy gourmet marshmallows.
  • Small jewelry ($10.60, Etsy) — These tiny celestial studs are the perfect choice for anyone with pierced ears.
  • Pocket board games ($28.57, Amazon) — Amazon has a wide range of tiny board games, like miniature Scrabble, that can be taken on the go.
  • Embroidered lavender sachets ($9.50, Etsy) — Not only are these pretty, but they smell great too!
  • Note Pad ($10.89, Amazon) — Streamline their holiday to-dos in style.
  • Gift cards — Coffee? A favorite restaurant? The options here are limitless.
  • Personalized Stamp ($9.99, Etsy) — Make all those holiday cards just a bit easier.
  • Fortune cookies ($27.99, Amazon) — Each of these vanilla-flavored cookies comes complete with a funny fortune inside.
  • Photographs — Print out some of your favorite family memories!
  • Mini highlighters ($4.99, Amazon) — For all your emergency highlighting needs (and they’re cute, too).
  • Fancy deck of cards ($7.99, Amazon) — Why play Old Maid with a plain deck of cards when you can use a festive gold one?
  • Novelty pins ($7, Etsy) — Think: Pins with cute sayings, fandoms, pride flags, and more!
  • Spice blends ($14.99, Etsy) — Perhaps it will inspire a new recipe for dinner!
  • Mini journal ($24.49, Etsy) — For all those impromptu brainstorming sessions.
  • Tweezers ($8.99, Amazon) — A classic staple, but always helpful to have around.
  • Old fashioned candy ($21.99, Amazon) — Dots? Fruit Stripe Gum? Let nostalgia be your guide.
  • Office supplies ($12.89, Amazon) — Because colorful paper clips are always appreciated.
  • Temporary tattoos ($8.88, Amazon) — Matching (faux) ink with your whole fam? Why not!
  • Mini condiments ($19.99, Amazon) — These travel-sized hot sauce bottles are tiny and cute, so you can always make sure you have sriracha on the go.
  • Travel size hand sanitizer ($8, Bath & Body Works) — Obviously having hand sanitizer is imperative everywhere these days, so you might as well get some mini ones that smell like warm vanilla sugar.
  • Dryer balls ($33.95, Amazon) — These animal-shaped dryer balls are sustainable and cute.
  • Personalized keychain ($13.20, Etsy) — Carve any message you want on these keychains, like notes of love or reminders to “drive safe.”
  • Fun socks ($16.98, Amazon) — Nothing says holiday season like festive (and a little ridiculous) socks.
  • Flash drive ($11.97, Amazon) — For an extra personal touch, pre-load it with special photos or a mix tape.
  • Lego Minifigures ($16.99, Amazon) — These come with one iconic little Lego figure, but it’s a mystery bag, so you’ll never know which you’ve received until you open it.
  • Dollhouse furniture ($35.99, Amazon) — The tiny beds and chairs are the perfect size for your Advent, and will inspire plenty of creative play.
  • Air plants ($14.95, Amazon) — These air plants are cute and easy to care for. A total bargain.
  • Personalized pencils ($7.99, Etsy) — Get these pencils to say anything you want with this custom Etsy kit!
  • Hot chocolate spoons ($16.50, Etsy) — These festive chocolate-dipped spoons are great for stirring up some hot chocolate during the holiday season.
  • Laptop stickers ($4.25, Etsy) — Because laptops deserve to look cute too.
  • Mini messages in a bottle ($10.95, Etsy) — Send a love note in the tiniest little glass bottle.

Craft items

If your family dreams of glitter and glue, we made this list especially for you.

  • Mini canvas ($20.99, Amazon) — Perfect for those tiny little paintings.
  • Sun Printing Kit ($15.93, Etsy) — Encourage them to preserve their favorite plants or foliage with this time-honored technique.
  • Rubber stamps ($5.99, Amazon) — This pack contains butterflies, stars, and more!
  • Glitter ($4.99, Amazon) — Because let’s be honest: EVERYTHING is better with glitter.
  • Mod Podge ($4.88, Amazon) — A classic staple in any craft project.
  • Mini balls of yarn ($44.62, Etsy) — These yarn balls are great for embroidery but also for friendship bracelets and keychains.
  • Felt kit ($17.15, Etsy) — You can make a tiny little bee with this easy felt kit.
  • Modeling clay ($17.59, Amazon) — There’s just something relaxing about playing with clay, even if your sculpting skills are not artist-level.
  • Paper punch ($9.99, Amazon) — You can make tiny shapes with these little paper punches, from elephants to butterflies and more! 
  • Photo corners ($10.99, Amazon) — This scrapbook accessory is a great way to jazz up all your memories!
  • Glue pen ($11.99, Amazon) — Forget the stickiness of a glue bottle — this pen will satisfy all your gluing needs without the mess.
  • Fringe scissors ($10.99, Amazon) — Because every good craft project needs a set of scissors. 
  • Thimble ($7.99, Amazon) — Thimbles are just all-around cute, and these rainbow metallic ones are sure to stand out. 
  • Embroidery floss ($9.99, Amazon) — Calling all friendship bracelet-makers! This floss will have your fam making the most colorful bracelets this holiday season.
  • Origami paper ($6.29 Amazon) — Cranes! Fish! Hearts! Let your creativity fly with this colorful origami kit. 
  • Pom Pom Maker ($14, Etsy) — These pom pom makers are endlessly adorable and easy to use for beginners and pro-crafters alike.
  • Rainbow crayons ($19.95, Amazon) — These creative crayons are basically every color in a crayon box all rolled into one.
  • Washi tape ($7.99, Amazon) — This colorful tape adds a bit of pizazz to any craft project. 
  • Acrylic paints ($16.98, Amazon) — A perfect sidekick to that mini canvas.
  • Scissors sharpener ($8.99, Amazon) — Because nobody likes a dull pair of scissors!
  • Letter stencils ($8.99, Amazon) — Not great at calligraphy? No problem! These stencils will help you craft the most beautiful lettering no matter what.
  • Puffy paint ($10.99, Amazon) — Stuck inside during the snow? Decorate some old t-shirts or hats with this cute and colorful puffy paint.
  • Tie-dye kit ($10.52, Amazon) — Tie-dye doesn’t have to just be for the summer, and this kit makes tie-dyeing anything a breeze.
  • Play-Doh ($7.99, Amazon) — Adults and kids alike can enjoy the fun of playing with Play-Doh… or you make your own at home with

Beauty Gifts

If you have one or more beauty lovers in your family, look no further than these mini and travel-sized products for the perfect addition to any Advent calendar.

  • Bath bomb ($14.99, Amazon) — A perfect way to encourage a little relaxation amid the holiday chaos.
  • Handmade Soap ($6.59, Etsy) — Encourage a little R&R.
  • Nail Decals ($8.39, Amazon) — The perfect way to put cheer at their fingertips.
  • Mini perfume ($11.95, Amazon) — Help them sample a new signature scent with a mini perfume that’s perfect for grab-and-go wear.
  • Lip balm ($3.98, Amazon) — These little Eos lip balm balls are just the right size for an Advent calendar. 
  • Eye patches ($9.99, Ulta) — A chaotic holiday calendar is no match for these soothing under-eye patches.
  • Makeup sponges ($7.59, Amazon) — These sponges get dirty quickly, so people who live for a good contour are almost always in need of more.
  • Nail polish ($11.49, Amazon) — Inspire a quick manicure with one of these festive OPI shades.
  • Single makeup remover wipes ($6.16, Amazon) — These individual wipes are perfect for the person that’s always traveling!
  • Nail buffer ($3.99, Amazon) — Keep nails trim and shiny with a cube buffer.
  • Nail press-ons ($25, Etsy) — Press on nails let them skip the salon.
  • Mini hair brush ($7.99, Amazon) — This little hair brush folds up, making it easy to stash in your purse or car. 
  • Mini eyeshadow palette ($8.18, Amazon) — This Revlon eyeshadow palette has an array of neutral shades and is the perfect size for traveling.
  • Travel-sized lotion ($7.95, Bath & Body Works) —Who doesn’t want soft, sweet-smelling hands on the go? 
  • Lashes ($7.69, Amazon) — The perfect accompaniment to any bold beauty look!
  • Eyebrow pencil ($8.53, Amazon) — Nothing says you’re ready to take on the day like tamed brows. Gift a dual-ended brush like this Maybelline one for all-day grooming and shaping. 
  • Compact mirror ($8.49, Amazon) — A bag essential! This one even includes little LED lights for checking your makeup at night.
  • Mini makeup brushes ($8.99, Amazon) — These little brushes are the perfect hand-held size for traveling or throwing in your purse.
  • Nail clipper ($6.99, Amazon) — Because you never know when a broken nail will hit and you need a quick fix.
  • Scrunchies ($5.69, Amazon) — It may not be the ‘90s anymore, but scrunchies are back. Pick up a variety pack with a ton of colors to stash in a few gifts — and keep some for yourself.
  • Claw clips ($11.77, Etsy) — A claw clip is the ultimate cool accessory these days, whether it’s being used to hold up your hair or just chilling on the edge of your shirt. 
  • Face and body glitter ($11.99, Amazon) — It is the holidays after all. When New Year’s Eve rolls around, this glitter will definitely come in handy.

Meaningful Gifts

Some of the best gifts can’t be put into a box. Here are a few ideas that are focused more on the reason for the season, from donating and volunteering, to sharing love and cheer.

  • Gift certificate to take an online class
  • IOU movie theater tickets
  • A compliment or love note
  • Love tokens (hugs and kisses)
  • A joke or riddle
  • Donation token (gather up items to take to your local charity)
  • Pick out a gift for someone in need
  • A donation to a cause you know your loved one cares about
  • Donate to your local radio or public broadcasting station
  • Pay it forward in the coffee line
  • Write letters to voters to encourage civic participation
  • Go on a walk and pick up litter
  • Family bake-a-thon (bake goodies and give them away to neighbors)
  • Outreach day: Bring dinner and blankets to a housing shelter
  • Volunteer at a local animal shelter
  • Visit a nursing or retirement home and spend time with residents