DIY Activity Advent Calendar

Make your own advent calendar

{This post was first shared in November, 2010…and we’ve updated it for 2013!}

When the winter holidays come around, our family gets into a deep DIY groove. How about you? In that spirit, making an advent calendar is a great way to introduce children to the less commercial side of Christmas through hands-on making.

Although my kids adore their chocolate-filled advent calendar, each envelope in this activity advent calendar holds a description of a holiday activity inside:

One day we’ll make our own ornaments and another day we’ll go ice skating. To keep my life simple, I only put things inside the calendar that are already on our agenda. No need to make the holidays more stressful than they already are!

For a full selection of ideas, scroll to the bottom of this post.

The Benefits of this Activity

I didn’t grow up with advent calendars, but my children adore them. This handmade calendar, made with the help of children, gives young people the opportunity to:

  • participate in a holiday tradition
  • exercise fine motor skills
  • generate enthusiasm for the festivities to come. 

And if you celebrate Hanukkah, you could make something similar for the eight nights of Hanukkah. I know that I would have loved that when I was a kid!

How to make an advent calendar with kids

DIY Advent Calendar Supplies

Making twenty-four envelopes takes a bit of time, but nothing insurmountable. The steps, however, are beyond simple.

I have a daughter who is thrilled by holidays and had a hunch that she would enjoy mkaing an activity-based advent calendar. When we were still going strong after an hour of folding and gluing, I silently patted myself on the back.

How to make an advent calendar with kids

 

How to make a Paper Advent Calendar

DIY Activity Advent Calendar

Step 1: Cut your paper  to the desired size and fold it in thirds. One side should overlap the other by about 1/2 inch.

Step 2: Fold the bottom up about 1/2 inch and crease the paper.

Step 3: Open everything up. Make two cuts (see photo).

Step 4: Fold the paper together and add glue to seal it up.

Step 5: Add some more glue and seal up the bottom.

Make 23 more, and you’re ready to go.

Step 6: Punch holes in the back of the envelopes, run string through them, and hang the calendar.

Decorate away! And don’t forget to add some numbers.

How this worked for us

This project is more crafty than our usual process-based happenings, but my little one was deeply engaged in the industry of selecting images and do-dads to glue onto the bags. The benefits that I witnessed were:  

  • developing fine motor skills
  • making aesthetic choices
  • practicing with a glue bottle
  • commitment to completing a fairly large project. 

I also think she really enjoyed the camaraderie of working side-by-side with me, and I must admit that she’s pretty good company. Oh, and did I mention that she was invested in this for a solid hour? Seriously!!

DIY Activity Advent Calendar

Activity Advent Calendar Ideas

Our calendar is filled with holiday activities, written on pieces of paper, but you could certainly put small treats in each envelope if you’d like. Here are some ideas for activities:

If you make an activity calendar like we did, my best advice is to keep it simple. The holiday can be a stressful time, full of so many activities, parties, and travel.  I like to put things in the calendar that we’re already planning to do, so that this doesn’t add more work to an already busy time of year.

Go easy on yourself and don’t overcommit with this project!

What activities do you have planned around the holidays?

Comments

    • rachelle says

      i’ve added a few activities that we wouldn’t normally do (like make gingerbread house), but it’s mostly things we’re already planning. We’re actually kicking it all off with “celebrate Hanukah”…not exactly your traditional advent calendar! Yay for building excitement while keeping things easy.

  1. says

    whoo hoo! an hour you say? worth mentioning *several* times :D
    i really like the style of your advent calendar. i’ve seen so many this year—of course the year i decided to take a break from a month of pocketed activities in our advent calendar (we’ll still do things, i just can’t handle planning anything). this one really caught my eye, maybe because it’s simple and pretty and… kept your little one busy for quite a while :)

    • rachelle says

      i can’t promise that others will get a full hour out of this, but it worked for us. i was surprised! i wonder if i’ll take a break next year too, once i experience how much work this actually is :)

  2. says

    Last year I made an Advent calendar with coin envelopes and filled each one with an activity–first looking at the calendar to see what we already had planned. Some envelopes also had stickers, and some had little chocolates. This year I cheated and bought the Lego Advent calendar, but all three of my kids, even the 2yo, adore Legos. December is always busy, with a birthday as well as Christmas, and this year my husband is away for a week in December as well. My goal is always to keep the month sane and as slow as possible, so we enjoy it. I always remind myself that I don’t want my children’s enduring Christmas memory to be of Mama weeping into the cookie dough. (And this year it has to be gluten-free, eggless cookie dough. Who needs the stress?!?!)

    • rachelle says

      lego advent calendar! i had no idea such a thing existed! as a parent of two girls, i wonder if that would have ever made it on to my radar? i like your thoughts on keeping things sane (we also have december birthdays). i think i’ll revisit my calendar to mix in a few treats and make sure the whole thing doesn’t have me spinning in circles. thanks for the reality check, amy :)

  3. Susie says

    thank you so much for this! we had great fun coming up with our activity list this afternoon. i have been working for several years to get my extended family into an activity mindset instead of only thinking about gifts. doing the advent calendar is a great way to frame the whole season with that in mind. as someone mentioned hugely important to look at the calendar for what is already on the books!

    my favorite activity which is now a tradition is our beach clean. we’re doing it saturday the 18th at shoreline harbor park in oakland if anyone wants to join! bagels, hot chocolate and a little “greening” of the holiday!

    • rachelle says

      Hooray! We’ve also been invested in keeping holiday “stuff” to a minimum, and I’ve found it to be a really hard pitch. Thanks for sharing the beach cleaning event — if you want to post it the Facebook page, it may get seen by more folks. It may be difficult for us to join you with the baby, but I’ll check the calendar. N would love it!

  4. says

    I love that your daughter helped create your festive and fun calendar. Our advent calendar has evolved over the years and I’ve learnt to make sure it is flexible. Our calendar is divided into different categories – traditions, giving, creating, reading and writing. If you have a chance and are interested, I wrote a blog post about it here: http://blog.creativeplaycentral.com.au/christmas-countdown-includes-25-christmas-activities/

  5. Sheau says

    This year I go back and forth between making advent or not having one. With two little ones do you put out one set of advent for each child? Do your children ever get disappointed that there is not a gift each day? How do you present the advent idea to them ahead of time? I am thinking to do story disc for each day. It was on our to do list for a while. My husband and I will paint or draw a story disc on wooden circle for each child each day. One side is number and the other side is a drawing. Maybe each disc will depict an interest/activity/gift. Good way to learn number and counting. Any thoughts on how to display it will be greatly appreciated! Happy holiday making!

    • rachelle says

      Hi Sheau,

      We have a chocolate-filled calendar and fit two small pieces of candy in it for each day. The activity calendar is great because everyone gets to join in. I have a friend who is one of seven children, and they would rotate through so she would only get a total of three gifts. There are so many ways to do this! I love your story disc idea and can see this becoming a treasured keepsake for many years to come. Perhaps you could wrap each disc and number them 1-24. You could mix them up on the first day and have your older child put them in the correct order, and then she could help you find a place to display them. i’d love to hear what you come up with!

      Rachelle

  6. Sheau says

    Hi Rachelle,

    Thanks for writing. I just finished making 24 paper roll advent tubes with fabric covers and stuffed them with small chocolates for each day. Inspired by Mayamade. http://mayamade.blogspot.com/2008/11/countdown-calendar.html

    Some day we have an activity/event, some days just chocolates. Each day we will have two story discs one for each child. I will take a pictures when they are up. It was fun to make. Thanks for all the tips! How is your advent coming? I

    • rachelle says

      Hi Sheau,
      I’m a huge fan of Mayamade, and love her idea. What a great way to upcycle those paper tubes! I look forward to seeing your story discs. Happy winter!
      Rachelle

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