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The best wooden advent calendars for a more sustainable Christmas countdown

Helping make the festive period less wasteful, these can be reused year-on-year

Sarah Dawson
Monday 11 October 2021 11:05
<p>We looked for timeless designs that didn’t scrimp on quality  </p>

We looked for timeless designs that didn’t scrimp on quality

If you’re looking for ways to make Christmas more sustainable this year, a wooden advent calendar is a great place to start.

Counting down the days until Christmas is a sure-fire way to get the kids even more excited in the run-up to the big day, but with so many advent calendars made of cardboard and plastic, the amount of waste created by 25 December doesn’t particularly fill us with seasonal joy. A wooden advent calendar means you still get all of the excitement, without the huge pile of recycling at the end of the month. Win, win!

Wooden advent calendars are designed to be brought out year after year, for you to fill with little gifts for the kids as they count down to Christmas Day. In our round-up, we’ve included advent calendars that are made from wood, as well as those that contain wooden treats inside – with reusability as a key factor.

How we tested

When compiling our selection we paid close attention to the quality (you want an advent calendar that is built to last), how easy our little testers managed to open the doors and how much space there was to stash the daily treats. We tested all of these advent calendars with our two-year-old and five-year-old, looking at how easy it was to fit treats inside, how well our eager helpers could open the doors on their own, the quality and finish of each calendar and how excited the children were to open them each morning.

Your advent calendar is likely to become a centrepiece at home, so we looked for timeless designs that capture the magic of Christmas and have that all-important kid-appeal, while still being something you’d want to have on display yourself.

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The best wooden advent calendars for 2021 are:

  • Best overall – Fortnum & Mason Christmas tree advent calendar: £99,
  • Best light-up design – Wooden LED village advent calendar: £29.99,
  • Best for make-believe fun – JoJo Maman Bebe toy workshop advent calendar: £35,
  • Best interactive advent calendar – Melissa & Doug countdown to Christmas wooden advent calendar: £16.99,
  • Best for Scandi-style – Gisela Graham red reindeer advent calendar: £33,
  • Best quirky advent calendar – Meri Meri dog advent calendar suitcase: £36,
  • Best personalised advent calendar – Personalised wooden vintage advent calendar: £52,
  • Best alternative advent calendar – The Inspire kindness advent tree: £45,

Fortnum & Mason Christmas tree advent calendar

Best: Overall

Score: 10/10

Quite honestly, there’s nothing we don’t love about this richly festive offering from luxury London store Fortnum & Mason. Standing at 38cm high and 47cm wide, it’s a centerpiece-worthy investment that’s destined to become a family heirloom.

The traditional Christmas tree design is covered with details our little testers loved pointing out – there’s everything from candy canes and gingerbread figures, to a steam train and teddy tucked up in a sleigh. For the grown-ups, there’s monogrammed hampers and a Piccadilly shopfront – a nod to Fortnum & Mason’s heritage.

Made entirely from wood, it’s a weighty advent calendar that won’t topple over, no matter how many treats you hide inside. Each numbered door is hinged and has its own decorative handle, making it incredibly easy for little hands to open – even when very excited! What we really appreciated was just how much space was given to each door. There’s plenty of room for multiple treats, so it’s ideal if you have more than one child. It’s just so classically festive and exceptional quality – we feel it’s worth every penny.

Sue Ryder wooden LED village advent calendar

Best: Light-up design

Score: 9/10

Carol singers, fir trees, reindeer and a snowy landscape; this charming winter scene ticks a lot of festive boxes. But it’s when the advent calendar is all lit up, that it feels really magical. Pop three AAA batteries in the back, switch it on and watch the Christmassy scene come to life as the village hall, and trees light up in a warm glow. Our little testers thought this was amazing and insisted we turn the lights off regularly to look at it properly.

The numbered doors have small round handles to help slide out, which our youngest tester struggled with a little, but our five-year-old managed fine. Although not huge, there’s plenty of room for a sweet or chocolate inside. It manages to be stylish and have that all important kid-appeal at the same time, plus it’s sold in aid of Sue Ryder, with 100 per cent of the profits going towards providing palliative, neurological and bereavement support.

JoJo Maman Bebe toy workshop advent calendar

Best: For make-believe fun

Score: 8/10

Behind each door of this cheery Toy Workshop advent calendar is a wooden figure you can use to create a festive North Pole scene. Along with the usual suspects – Father Christmas, reindeer and Christmas trees – there are some more unexpected figures included. Our testers thought the little red bus, loaded with presents and with moving wheels, was fantastic and they loved whizzing it around to deliver gifts to the penguins (also included).

The calendar itself is made of sturdy cardboard – the kind to keep and reuse each year – so you can either gather up the toys at the end of December and save for next year, or refill with other surprises when the Christmas countdown rolls around again.

The boxes, which contain the figures, are easy to pull out and the wooden toys are perfectly sized for little hands to play with. Our testers were really taken with it and had a great time coming up with lot of sweet festive stories as they played. Available from 13 October.

Melissa & Doug countdown to Christmas wooden advent calendar

Best: Interactive advent calendar

Score: 8/10

Get the kids involved with the actual “counting” part of the countdown, with this clever take on an advent calendar. The wooden magnetic Christmas tree comes with 24 wooden baubles and a wooden star to decorate day-by-day. Each of the decorations has a magnet at the back, so you can let your little ones pick which bauble to add to the tree each day, then top it all off with the gold star on Christmas Day.

The idea is so simple, but Melissa & Doug really knows what it’s doing – our testers have been obsessed with this since we unboxed it, and it’s already been decorated countless times. They love having the freedom to decide which bauble goes where and it’s a great way to get them working on their number recognition without any pressure. There’s a built-in box at the base of the tree, to store all the baubles, and the glitter detail on the tree and decorations really adds to the festive cheer. An excellent addition to a child’s bedroom or playroom this December – and for years to come.

Gisela Graham red reindeer advent calendar

Best: For Scandi-style

Score: 7/10

This festive reindeer advent calendar from designer Gisela Graham, will appeal to kids and grown-ups alike thanks to its cheery red and white colour-scheme (perfect it you’re fans of Scandi-style Christmas décor) and sweet design. The drawers slide out using the small, white, ball handle – a little tricky for our younger testers – and can be filled with all manner of goodies. It’s worth bearing in mind some of the drawers are quite small (randomly, day 16 is huge), so you will have to put some thought into what you hide inside them. Standing at 40cm tall, it makes a statement without overwhelming a room, and got the thumbs up from us for how sturdy and well made it felt. It’s got the right amount of Christmas cheer without feeling babyish, so could be a good choice for older kids and young teens – after all, you’re never too old for an advent calendar, right?

Meri Meri dog advent calendar suitcase

Best: Quirky advent calendar

Rating: 8/10

Our five-year-old and two-year-old testers had the best fun opening up the 24 numbered doors to discover the cutest wooden dogs and accessories inside. All housed in an adorable doggy suitcase, complete with felt ears, leather handle and metal clasp, it’s not your typical advent calendar, but we absolutely loved it.

Inside the suitcase are three layers of cardboard trays (which are easily recyclable), numbered from one to 24 and with little ribbon tabs to easily lift each one out. Little fingers had no problems opening the doors on their own and we all get excited to see what kind of dog was waiting for us each morning. The dogs figures are so well made, with sweet painted designs that make them instantly recognisable – from French bulldogs (complete with studded collar) to a corgi wearing a crown, there were so many characters to discover.

As well as the wooden dogs, the calendar includes a Christmas tree, wooden kennel, paper dog beds, rugs and balls – plenty to inspire year-round play. And the suitcase is already the handbag of choice for our 2-year-old, so that’s value for money in our book. Available to buy from 24 October.

Lisa Angel personalised wooden vintage advent calendar

Best: Personalised advent calendar

Score: 8/10

With a rustic, burnt wood aesthetic, this is a dream come true for fans of cottagecore. Kids, on the other hand, will be more into the fact they get their very own advent calendar emblazoned with their name across the front. Our testers loved watching this advent calendar twinkle when lit up – you just need to add two AA batteries for the name and swirly detail to glow with a warm, festive light.

It’s a decent size – 32 x 32cm – and all of the boxes are big enough to store a treat or two inside. In fact, we’d say the drawers are bigger than they look, so you won’t be struggling for room or limited to what you choose to fill it with. Each numbered drawer has a chunky ball handle, which our testers found a lot easier to hold onto and open than some of the others we tried. It’s beautifully made and has a gorgeous vintage finish. Obviously, with it being personalised you won’t be able to pass this from sibling to sibling, however, it would make a thoughtful first Christmas gift – and that way, you’re guaranteed to get plenty of use out of it.

The Inspire kindness advent tree

Best: Alternative advent calendar

Score: 7/10

Instead of filling an advent calendar with goodies and treats to count down to Christmas, the Inspire advent tree is all about encouraging children to take part in acts of kindness throughout December. Inside the cloth drawstring bag, you’ll find a wooden magnetic Christmas tree, a stand to fit it together and a mini cloth bag containing 24 magnetic numbered festive shapes. Each shape (from a snowman to a stocking) has an action on the reverse. The idea is that you find the right number for that day, then read the act of kindness on the back and go out and do your good deed. Suggestions include “Help with the house work” (err, yes please!), “Donate a toy to charity” and “Learn to say ‘thank you’ in sign language.”

Aimed at age three and up, our five-year-old liked the idea and did many of the suggestions, but some were perhaps a little old for him. For seven sand up, we think it’s ideal. It’s a really useful and effective way of opening up conversations about kindness and helping others with your children – especially at Christmas – and we love the sentiment, as well as the fact all profits are going Best Beginnings, a charity that supports parents, co-parents and caregivers to give their child the best start in life.

This has all the makings of becoming a meaningful Christmas family tradition, although if we’re completely honest, we may need to use it alongside an advent calendar full of chocolate treats too, unless we want a mini-revolt on our hands!

The verdict: Kids’ wooden advent calendars

The Fortnum & Mason christmas tree advent calendar is in a league of its own. Yes, it’s by far the most expensive, but this is family heirloom territory and if you want a wooden advent calendar to last for decades, this is the one. If you are looking for a more affordable option, the wooden LED village advent calendar from Sue Ryder is an excellent choice, plus all profits go to charity.

Voucher codes

For the latest offers on kids’ toys and other essentials, try the links below:

Little creative in the family? These are the best Lego advent calendars for 2021

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