How to Start a Reverse Advent Calendar Tradition

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  • You want to make your holiday season a little less commercial but you aren’t sure where to start.
  • You’re not too crazy about those Advent calendars with the cheap drugstore chocolates.
  • If your kids ask you one more time how many days till Christmas, you’ll scream.
 
​Sound familiar?  Check, check, and check!  We came across the idea of a reverse Advent calendar a few years ago, and it was an instant hit with the owlets, who were 4 and 6 at the time.  It gave them a way to experience unconditional giving in a way that definitely exceeded our expectations.  We’ve done it every year since, and it’s become one of our annual Christmas traditions.
 
Here’s the basic idea: instead of getting something every day leading up to Christmas (usually chocolate) they give something.  More specifically, each day you help your kids fill a basket/box/bag with non-perishable food donations that you deliver to your local food bank or food pantry at the end of the month. ❤
 
Sound awesome!  Uhh, yeah! 
 
How to start your own reverse Advent calendar tradition:
  • Make it fun!  Have the kids help you decorate the box with bows, holiday paper, crayons, etc.  Put it somewhere everyone will see it (and preferably close to your food storage)!
  • Hang a calendar near the box or tape a printable one onto the box.  You can download ours, or do a quick Google search for “printable Advent calendar”.
  • Don’t be afraid to talk about food insecurity – there are ways to talk about kindness and helping others without making it scary for younger kids.  “Everyone needs help sometimes.”  “If someone needs help, and we can help them, should we?”  If there’s someone in their life that you can use as an example, do so! (E.g. “Remember when Aunt Maggie had the baby/ the neighbor came home from the hospital/ we helped your cousin move to the new apartment . . . ?”)

 
Don’t forget the practical logistics! 
You’ll need to consider the Advent box when you plan your grocery shopping in order to have good choices on your shelves.  We may think that we have 28 healthy non-perishable items in the house, but no one wants your 25 cans of last year’s beets. 

If you have more than one owlet like we do, think about how they will fill the box.  The first year, we thought that they’d take turns on alternating days.  Hah!  They were so into it, they would've put every last bit of food in the house into the box if we’d have let them. A grocery bag partially filled with boxes of pasta and canned beans

Speaking of parental guidance, you will need to help them find good choices for the box.  Our oldest loves pickles and olives, so what did she want to fill the box with?  Pickles and olives, of course.  This is also a prime opportunity to talk about balanced diets and nutrition 😉
 
Last, but definitely not least:
Check into your local food bank as soon as you can.  The donation suggestions on our printable calendar are based on information from the Food Bank of South Jersey.  Different areas have different needs and may be able to accept foods that our food bank can’t. 

It is soooo important to plan when you are going to take the donations to the food bank.  Call to confirm hours, location, etc., especially if the kids are coming along.  We’ve put the reminder on the last Friday of our calendar because some food banks don’t have weekend hours.  (And nothing is more depressing than having the kids ask you on New Years when you’re going to take the Advent box to the food bank -- #beentheredonethat )
 
So, here’s your easy Reverse Advent Calendar checklist!
#1- Decorate a box or basket
#2- Print out our Reverse Advent Calendar
#3- Plan your grocery list around your food pantry’s needs
#4- Confirm the hours & location of your local food pantry

Resources!  (Links & downloads will open in a new window.)
Printable Reverse Advent Parent Tips 
Find your local food bank:  https://www.feedingamerica.org/find-your-local-foodbank
Learn more about hunger in your own community: http://map.feedingamerica.org/
Sample suggested donations list (confirm with your local bank): https://foodbanksj.org/donate-food/


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