Advent Calendar

Candy Free Advent Calendar

A candy free advent calendar is a great way to focus our minds and hearts on what truly matters this holiday season. In the Schneider house, the month of December is also the Month of Kindness and Service. We spend the month focusing on ways we can be kind to one another and serve our community.

Before you think I am taking the fun out of the Christmas Countdown by removing candy, hear me out!! I LOVE food and feel food should be celebrated! There is something truly special about slowing down and appreciating the role food has in our lives, gratitude to those who cultivate and harvest ingredients so that we may nourish ourselves, and the sheer joy and pleasure that bubbles up when we enjoy real, wholesome foods… especially when in community with the people we love. Just thinking about it makes my heart feel so full. At meal time we NEED to focus on the food we are eating and truly celebrate the meaning it has in our lives.

Focusing on the right stuff

And yet, with that being said, we need to evaluate times in our lives when we unintentionally focus on food when our focus and attention should be on the activity or event. Let me explain…

My 7 year old took an interest in playing soccer a few years ago and I volunteered to be “Team Mom”. Part of my official duties included setting up the signup sheet for snacks. Each Saturday the girls played a 45 minute game and parents would sign up to bring snacks to one of the games each season. Here’s the kicker. Pun very much intended! 😉 Each game, the girls would be given fruit at half-time and then some sort of sugary drink and processed food snack at the end of the game. The girls were more concerned about when snack time was than where the ball was on the field. And seriously, it was a 45 minute game; they were not nutritionally depleted! I even reminded my daughter after one of the games that her dance class and gymnastics class were both 45 minutes long, she drank only water… and SURVIVED! 😉 Soccer should have been the focus, not the food.


See where I am going with this?

Advent calendars have a special history. Advent has a Latin origin meaning ‘the coming,’ or more accurately, ‘coming towards”. Christians view Advent as a time to celebrate the “coming” of Jesus. Centuries ago, the importance of this event inspired many Christians to not only celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ on Christmas day but also in the weeks leading up to Christmas. It was and remains a time where Christians could prepare themselves and their families for the significance of Christmas. Before the production of Advent calendars, Christians would mark strokes on their doors with chalk or hang little pictures each day on the wall to simply remind themselves of the importance of Christmas, the importance of what was to come.

As much as I love food and feel food should be celebrated, I don’t think a piece of chocolate captures the true meaning of Advent. In fact, I think the addition of chocolate devalues the spirit of Christmas. Kids become more excited and fixated on the chocolate and lose sight of what really matters. So for that reason, I made this Candy Free Advent Calendar and our family really ENJOYS it!

And for those of you who don’t identify with the Christian faith but are interested in spreading a little kindness throughout the month of December, this is for you too! The world could use more joy and kindness regardless of religious affiliation. So please, keep reading!


This is a great idea, but….

You already bought the chocolate calendar? Don’t have the time to pull this together this year? Your kids will never go for this whole non candy advent thing? I get it! I have totally been there. The great thing about life is that it’s NOT all or nothing. There’s a huge messy middle where you can find what works best for you and your family with what you have going on!

So… You already bought the chocolate Advent calendar? OR Your kids are pretty much set on candy advent calendars?

Keep the chocolate! At least for this year… 😉 Here are some ideas that you can include with the chocolate. Then perhaps next year, you can ditch the chocolate and focus only on the activities rooted in the true Christmas spirit. Oh and before the kids gobble down that chocolate mindlessly, remind them to savor and enjoy each little nibble!

  • Do the Schneider Candy Free Advent Calendar in addition to the candy! I’ve included a calendar with all the activities below. And if you are feeling EXTRA crafty, I included an easy way to make a great Advent calendar that you can use year after year.
  • Take turns saying one kind thing each of you did for someone else that day. I held the elevator door for someone, I picked up a paper that someone dropped, I told a friend she looked beautiful… you get it!
  • Print off a kids advent devotional and read it as a family while eating the chocolate. Here’s a free one. Click here. 
Don’t have the time? Just can’t take on another thing right now?
  • Work in a few acts of service on the weekends when you do have a little time. Donate food to the local food bank. Donate toys to Toys for Tots. Sponsor a child at your church and have your kids help shop for them.
  • Commit to one activity a week. Just one! Well, that’s actually ends up being four… but who’s counting.
  • And if you just don’t have it in you to do an Advent calendar, that’s fine too! Christmas will STILL come!! The magic of Christmas will still be there come December 25th!
  • File this idea away for next year… or better yet sign up for my newsletter and I will send you this next year and you don’t have to remember a thing! But for this year… remember the holiday season is supposed to be enjoyable and if skipping an advent calendar limits stress in your home, than do that.
IF you DO have the time this year and are on board with this Candy Free Advent Calendar, KEEP READING!!


 The Schneider Candy free Advent Calendar

My girls LOVE our advent calendar because they get to look forward to doing something really special EVERY. SINGLE. DAY until Christmas. AND it’s FUN! There are three categories of “activities”: service to others, random acts of kindness, and family fun… and yes there are some treats included. It IS the Christmas Season!!

So… here’s our 2016 Advent Calendar. (shhh… each day is a surprise so the kids haven’t seen these yet!). Feel free to print this calendar image out and use it OR create your own.

I have to say the most fun we had last year was Candy Bombing the local Kroger parking lot. I wasn’t so sure about this one but it was a blast. I picked up 4 boxes of candy canes at the Dollar Store and attached little notes on them that said Merry Christmas- You Have Been Candy Bombed! It was so much fun and that was the first memory that flooded back for Miss 7 when we dusted off the Advent Calendar this year. Great family memories!!


Candy Free Advent Calendar

Click here to print.


A few tips for making this work!

  • Every year when I have a little extra time over the Thanksgiving holiday, I pull out our family calendar and then decide which day we will do each one. Activities that require more time are saved for the weekends and days we are strapped for time like “dance night”, I schedule something that can be done throughout the day at school. It’s all about reducing and limiting stress during the holiday season. This is supposed to be fun!!
  • If you don’t start on December 1, you can STILL DO THIS!!! Start on December 3rd, December 10th, December 22nd… Just make family memories and enjoy the holiday season by spreading joy!

make it special, make it your own

I am NOT crafty! My Mom and twin sister are the crafters of the family, BUT I did manage to pull this off myself. Big pat on the back for Sarah! haha This is super easy even for the craft deficient. I found this cute box that looks like a book and these tins at Michael’s.

Candy Free Advent Calendar







I printed these super cute numbers for FREE (click the images to print) from Marla Meridith, cut them and glued them on with regular ol’ Elmer’s school glue. And the best part…they fit the tins perfectly!! I liked the idea of using a heartier container so they hold up year after year. I’m all for doing projects ONCE. Remember I am NOT a crafter! 😉

DIY: Freebie Christmas Advent Calendar on             DIY: Freebie Christmas Advent Calendar on

And voila! This is what The Schneider Advent “Calendar” looks like! The girls joyfully anticipate opening up a new tin each day to discover the fun activity of the day. Oh and I type up the “activities” on a word document and cut them out. Nothing fancy. In fact, I have a snack size ziplock bag where I keep adding to them so I don’t have to reprint each year. Lazy, maybe? I would like to refer to that as “resourceful”.








I hope your family has a WONDERFUL Christmas and ENJOYS this Candy Free Advent Calendar!

Always with you, Sarah

Comment Below! Let me know what you think about a Candy Free Advent Calendar. Better yet, let me know what your kids think!!


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