We have done a few different advent calendars with gifts and chocolates and things. They were fun but I would often forget about them which really did not help in the whole counting down thing that they were supposed to do when we would end up doing 4 days at once. This time of year particularly we have a ton of baked goods and candy that needs to be eaten and then they get more in the calendar so it was not really all that exciting for The Husband and I. It really lacked anything other than sugar to look forward to. So I was really excited when I read about some families who were doing advent differently, each day you got a piece of paper with a fun holiday themed event to do. That was something we could do, make all the things that we want to do as a family part of a fun count down, that also helped The Husband and I to lay out what things we wanted to do as a family and pick days to put them on so we could be sure they happened rather then getting to Christmas Eve and remembering the things we wanted to do didn't get to.
So we made a list, looked for fun things to do in our area, planed out the little things we wanted to do at home I printed it out and went to put the paper slips into our advent calendar and i could not find it. I looked through every box that was remotely related to or stored near our seasonal decorations, it was gone so while I was trying to come up with a way to do this without needed to create a whole new advent calendar I found an old cat toy. its a little gray mouse with a scarf and Santa hat, he has a hook and look strip closure on his back to stick cat nip in but our cats never had much interest in it and it got packed away with other Christmas things.
So our advent calendar is now combined with "The Elf on the Shelf". If you are not familiar with that, as its something I only recently learned about its a book and toy elf. The story goes that Santa sends every family an elf that will sit still on the shelf all day and watch the family and then at night he come alive and goes to report on the behavior of the family, this is how Santa knows who has been bad or good. but the elf tends to get into things when he comes back from the north pole and every morning the children go and look for him and he can be in some weird places. I think we will have a lot of fun with this.