07/11/2009 08:42 GMT | Updated 22/05/2015 10:12 BST

7 Chocolate-Free Advent Calendars

Come on, no resisting at the back. You have to be entertaining just the tiniest thought of Christmas by now. Advent calendars start on the 1st December, so now is the time to get yours sorted.

I can't bear the chocolate ones, but not for the obvious reasons. I don't mind my children having a little bit of chocolate every day. It's just..well...have you ever tried the choc that goes into those things? Talk about rank!

The trouble with your average children's advent calendar is that, not only is the chocolate fairly nasty, the themes are about as un-Christmassy as you can get. Deck the Halls with High School Musical? Merry Bart Simpson? I don't think so.

But once you start looking at the non-choccie versions, then you'll find some seriously lovely options that your family can re-use year after year.

  • For a traditional card backed calendar with windows that open up into sweet little Yuletide scenes, check out your local card shop. Both independent and national chains still stock them. Unicef also do a beautiful card advent calendar here which folds out into a box shape and can be filled with treats if you want to. It also folds flat to be posted.
  • Toy manufacturers Playmobil and Lego both do their own calendars - the idea is that you open a box and get a little toy to add to the scene each day. If you're organised you can put the toys back and re-use t hem the next year, or you can let them join the great big playhouse that used to be your living room. You can even get a Lego Pirates Advent Calendar. OK, I know that's not terribly festive, but next to the Playmobil Police Chase Advent Calendar it's practically traditional. This year, Lego has also teamed up with the National Autistic Society to produce a calendar to raise money for the charity.
  • Lakeland Limited have a lovely wooden train calendar in stock new this year and pictured here. It's not cheap at £50, but it's the sort of classic heirloom piece you'll one day be passing on to your grandchildren.
  • If cute veering on to strange is more your style, check out this Pixie Advent Calendar as recommended by the Great Toy Guide.
  • And if it's got to 1st December and you forgot to buy anything, check out this lovely online advent calendar produced by a school in Kent.