It’s December 1st and despite pulling together some of the very best printable advent calendars out there, we’re out of ink. And I’m out of time if my back-up plan was to purchase something great online.

Thankfully, like a Christmas miracle, there are loads of techy options out there, and they are are so much fun, your kids may not even miss the little bit of chocolate behind the doors. –Christina

Using their experience in developing augmented-reality entertainment products, Zappar’s Magical Advent Calendar for iPad is already so much fun, I can tell the kids will be running down the stairs each day to see what is in store for them. Just download the free Zappar app to your mobile device, and either print out or save the colorful calendar to your desktop–then watch what happens when you hold your device up to the calendar.

Since we’d downloaded the app a few days ago, I loved seeing a be-patient wrapped gift image with “Do Not Open Until December 1” appearing on my phone. But this morning, when we opened the app and held it in front of the calendar, a scroll-reading bird welcomed us to the calendar with a quick message. Neat, though I may use my iPad instead of the iPhone after today to give the images a bigger screen.¬†(free calendar to download or print, app is also free for both iOS and Android)

Christmas Calendar Caper

Like a traditional advent calendar, developer Michael Devereux’s Christmas Calendar Caper app lets you open a new door every day on your iOS device, with each opening revealing playful graphics that make up the overall scene. I’d recommend using an iPad that you can see more of the big picture, though it is still looks good on my iPhone. Nice touch: the app locks up tight in January so that you can play it again when next December rolls around. ($.99 for iOS)

Minecraft Advent Calendar

My kids are a wee bit obsessed with all things Minecraft–and I know they have plenty of company. The Advent Calendar for Minecraft¬†allows them to “unwrap” a new Christmas themed skin from now until the 25th.¬†Since my kids play Minecraft on their iPad and not socially on a server, these new skins are just fun for them to look at on my iPhone. But for kids who play the full version, the daily skins can be applied to your Minecraft PC account, or even emailed to a friend. Merry Christmas! Here’s a Santa Creeper for you! Boom!¬†($.99 for iOS)

Liverpool Museums Advent Calendar

If you’d rather not have to download anything, the National Museums Liverpool online advent calendar is good, quick fun from now until the 24th. Just visit the Liverpool Museums website and click on the door to match the date. This feels very much like the advent calendars I remember (without the chocolate), where behind the door is a little image (today, two sheep). But click on the image and you’ll be brought to a full version of the artwork, along with a little information about the piece. Great for art lovers.

And I like how parts of the full version of the calendar are animated so that the lights twinkle on the Christmas tree (in the accessible version, there is no animation), and you can decide if you’d like the scene to snow or not. (free)

Shape Christmas Advent Calendar

What do you get when you ask 25 illustrators to each come up with a picture based on the shape they are given for an online advent calendar? Yeah, I don’t really know either though this kitty “sneak peek” of the Online Christmas advent calendar from Shape Design Studios is sure cute. And today’s triangle shape is transformed into a sweet birdhouse with a pretty, subdued color scheme.

It's a Shape Online Advent Calendar

All pictures are available to download, plus there looks to be a fun social media tie-in, when you use the #shapechristmas hashtag or follow them at @shapechristmas.

Expect a little bit of anything and everything sprinkled throughout this collaborative calendar that’s housed on their website, from cutesy to abstract. Just like those gifts your kids will unwrap on the big day, they’ll never really know what’s in store for them until they open the door. Which is more than half of the fun.

NFB advent calendar app

A last minute addition: The National Film Board of Canada Advent Calendar app¬†for iPad which is perfect for all you indie film loving parents. It unlocks a new short, family-friendly film every day (we’ve always loved their classic The Cat Came Back), each one perfect for the holidays. It’s recommended for older kids 9+, but we’d imagine with you the whole family watching together you’ll be in great shape, in more ways than one. ($.99, from iTunes)

Want more advent calendar ideas? Visit Cool Mom Picks and search our archives for loads of options.

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