In our house, advent calendars apply all year round. In other words, we count down to everything! I started doing it when my oldest was 4, just to give him some reading practice. Every holiday has a completely different style of countdown calendar; so no two look alike. Typically I put in a joke or factoid for each day, plus a small treat or fun activity. Sometimes I use puzzle pieces, or scavenger hunt clues, tiny toys, etc (the drawers are 1 1/2″ square).
For Halloween, we use this 25-drawer box; therefore we have to start the countdown on day 7. (Unfortunately it stays hot here until long after October 1st, so I usually don’t think to unpack the Fall stuff until the second week of October anyway).
And here is my 6 year old, reading his joke. I put in one joke per kid in each drawer, and one treat per person (in this drawer it was a single candy corn).
The added benefit is that it is helping him understand humor, puns, plays on words, etc. He re-tells the jokes to his dad, his friends, the neighbors, and strangers in the supermarket.
And this last one I call, “Because he’s six. And a goofball…!!”
I have also been thinking of using one of these (with generic decorations) as a chore rewarder. Finish your chores (or pick up an extra one) and you get to pick a drawer. Turn the drawers around once they’re empty, until you refill them.
The drawers are called a ‘3-D Countdown Calendar’, and you can find out where to buy them locally (for $16-20) here (click on ‘Store Locator’ in the upper right corner). If you can’t find them in local stores, you can buy them from Amazon for $22. They are white, and you then cover them with appropriate scrapbook paper (if you have a 1/2″ circle punch, it will be your BFF on this project).
By the way, because there are 25 drawers, these work great for actual Christmas Advent calendars! I use a Christmas advent that my mother sewed when I was little, so I didn’t need one for that holiday. But there are examples all over of how to decorate it for Christmas, for instance, here, and here.