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Realistic Advent Calendar Gifts for Toddler and Teens

Photograph by Getty Images

Using an Advent Calendar to count down the days of December is a long-standing holiday tradition that, along with putting a wreath on my front door and threatening my children with the Elf on the Shelf, is one more thing I'll probably forget to do until it's nearly Christmas Eve.

Originally, the purpose of Advent was to highlight a period of pious reflection on the birth of Christ, which was achieved by revealing different Bible verses or religious pictures each day of the holiday. However, the modern Advent Calendar serves primarily to—note by note, gift by gift, sugary treat by sugary treat—remind our kids that NO, IT ISN'T CHRISTMAS YET BUT LOOK IT'S GETTING CLOSER SO PLEASE STOP ASKING.

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These days, the most important part of the tradition, aside from ensuring that you've lovingly crafted the calendar itself from an impossible-to-replicate picture you saw on Pinterest, is selecting the gifts to go inside. I've noticed that many Advent Calendar inspiration lists lean either toward the overly extravagant (sorry kids, but you're not getting diamond-encrusted charm bracelets for 24 days in a row) or toward the overly antiquated (even a tragically un-hip mom such as myself knows that no real-life child is going to play with a top in the 21st century).

That's why I've put together these lists of realistic Advent items for kids of different ages—gifts that won't break the bank and that your children will actually appreciate! Tuck one of these goodies behind each door of your Advent Calendar and watch the beautiful magic of the season get dragged out over the course of the entire month of December (much to your children's delight).

Realistic Advent Calendar Gifts for Toddlers

1. Mommy's lipstick

2. A Sharpie

3. Permission to wear diapers for life

4. Loose change found in a parking lot (to be swallowed)

5. 24-hour Dora marathon

6. Your smartphone

7. Candy

8. Candy

9. Candy

10. Candy

11. Chocolate candy

12. Tissues that haven't been wadded up in Mom's purse

13. A handful of pebbles (for inserting into nose)

14. Something to throw

15. Something to flush


17. A sucker from the bank

18. Their favorite shirt, which you heartlessly took away because it was size 6-12 months and cut off the circulation to their arms

19. Magical plastic fork that never dares to be the wrong color

20. Random Goldfish crackers found in the couch

21. A magazine to tear into tiny pieces

22. Worldwide ban on crusts

23. An envelope full of glitter

24. Santa's home phone number

RELATED: 10 Tips for Surviving the Holidays

Realistic Advent Calendar Gifts for Teens

1. A "get out of family game night free" card

2. Potato chips

3. Cash

4. Car keys

5. 2 a.m. curfew

6. Movie Night! (at the theater) (you're not invited)

7. Drive around looking at Christmas lights (with their friends) (you're not invited)

8. Miscellaneous piercings

9. Large ironic glasses, for some reason, even though they've refused to wear their prescription glasses since fourth grade

10. More cash

11. Hot Topic gift card (you may drop them off at the mall; you may not come in or acknowledge that you know each other)

12. A ban on chores

13. Lock for bedroom door

14. No more questions about dates, friends, school or their black fingernail polish

15. One entire day with no parental texts

16. To generally be left alone because ugh, they can't even

17. Some more cash

18. Permission to un-friend you on Facebook


20. A promise that you'll stop trying to use slang

21. A promise that you'll never try to use Snapchat

22. A promise that you'll never try to tell a joke in front of their friends

23. Everything you bought the last time you went to the grocery store

24. Did we mention cash?

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