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?

Easy Valentine Bookmarks

easy valentine bookmark 3

Today I’m joined by my real-life friend Susan, amazing mom to a 2-year old and a 4-year old, who I’ve known since our blanket baby days. She made this simple Valentine Bookmark with her 4-year old last week and I invited her to share it as a last-minute Valentine’s Day gift.

Welcome, Susan!

easy valentine bookmark 2

My daughter’s preschool loves to celebrate Valentine’s Day with homemade Valentines.

I wanted to do a project that was quick, where my daughter could handle most of the work, and that could be used beyond just Valentine’s Day.


  • 8 ½ x 11 Cardstock or any heavyweight paper
  • Scissors, regular or the fancy-edged kind
  • Glue – any kind (Elmer’s, glue stick, glue gun)
  • Hole Punch
  • Ribbon cut in pieces around 12 inches long
  • Embellishments (optional)
  • Large sheets of paper for protecting your table (optional)

How we made this

  1. I taped large sheets of paper to our dining room table so I don’t get nervous when glue starts going everywhere.
  2. Pick two sheets of paper that will be glued back to back. Our local craft shop was having a sale on different cardstock with hearts and cupcakes so I picked up a couple of patterns that I thought would look cute together.  My daughter had her own idea of combinations, so we went with that.
  3. Hold the sheets together and cut it in half, lengthwise. You should now have four pieces that are 4.25″ x 11″.
  4. Then take one half (sheets together) and cut width-wise in to 5 equal sections (approximately 2.25″ x 4.25″). This gives you your basic bookmark. Repeat with the other half.
  5. Take each pair of cut bookmark halves and glue them together.
  6. After the glue dries a bit, take each bookmark, punch a hole at the top, slide a piece of ribbon through and tie it off.
  7. You can be done, or you can decorate! We used a glue gun to attach puffy felt hearts I bought at the craft store.

easy valentine bookmark tall text

Helpful hints about the project

  • Precise Edges: We used fancy-edged scissors, which turned out looking great but meant that gluing the two sheets together precisely is difficult. Ours are not at all “precise.”
  • Wet and warped bookmarks: My daughter really loved squeezing the glue on all of these so they were quite wet, resulting in warped shapes that give the bookmarks “character.” A glue stick may be the way to go if you don’t like that look.
  • Help your child cut the ribbon: I made two marks on our big sheet of paper that indicated the length of ribbon that we needed, so that it was easy for my daughter to measure and cut.

My husband was very enthusiastic when my daughter shared our finished project with him.  However, he later remarked to me in private that he thought the puffy hearts made the valentines not-so-good as bookmarks since they wouldn’t lie flat in their books. I still don’t know if that is the case since neither my daughter nor my son have used them.

Final note: At my daughter’s Waldorf preschool, her symbol is a mother hen, hence (ahem), the chicken stickers on our bookmarks.

Thanks for sharing this easy Valentine’s Day gift with us, Susan!

More Valentine’s Day Projects for Kids

Our Valentine’s Day board on Pinterest

Make an All-in-one Valentine Envelope

30 Valentine Activities for Kids


Handmade Valentine Cards: The Amazing All-in-one Envelope

Handmade Valentine Cards: The Amazing All-in-one Envelope

If you like to make your own Valentines but you’re pressed for time (or have a small and impatient child like me), all-in-one Envelope Valentines could be the way to go. Turning a heart-shape into both a Valentine and an envelope is a delightful way to surprise the card’s recipient.

This handmade Valentine card is made from a giant cut-out heart that’s then folded into an envelope. Simply draw your message on the heart, fold it up, seal it, and your Valentine is ready to go!

Since we started making Valentines in January, we’ve had plenty of time to iterate on the Valentine theme and recently whipped up these easy all-in-one cards that would be perfect to make for a group of classmates.

Because 2-year old N couldn’t wait to give all of these out for Valentines Day, they became Chinese New Year/Valentine Cards. My child lives quite happily in a post-modern world.

Handmade Valentine Cards: The Amazing All-in-one Envelope

Handmade Valentine Cards Supplies

  • Paper
  • Stickers
  • Scissors

Handmade Valentine Cards: The Amazing All-in-one Envelope

Step 1

Cut out a heart, turn it upside down, and fold. If you’d like a tutorial on cutting hearts, this tutorial will make it easy.

Handmade Valentine Cards: The Amazing All-in-one Envelope

Step 2

Fold the “top” (or bottom!) of the heart up so that the folded edges line up. Crease.

Handmade Valentine Cards: The Amazing All-in-one Envelope

Step 3

Fold the “bottom” (top!) down, so that it looks like an envelope. I had to make a few of these before getting the location of the creases just right.

Handmade Valentine Cards: The Amazing All-in-one Envelope

Step 4

Open it up and flip it over.

Handmade Valentine Cards: The Amazing All-in-one Envelope

Write a message.

Handmade Valentine Cards: The Amazing All-in-one Envelope

And seal it up!

While my daughter is thrilled to cut paper and build sculptures, she hasn’t been the least bit interested in writing or drawing lately. So you can imagine my surprise when she actually had the stamina to make more than one of these!

When we sat down, I cut and folded a bunch of hearts and we got to work! Well, she folded, too…

Handmade Valentine Cards: The Amazing All-in-one Envelope

We plowed through and made about ten of these before she had enough.

Handmade Valentine Cards: Making window decoration from our scraps

And when we were done, I recycled the cut-out Valentine scraps into window decor. Want more handmade Valentine cards ideas? Here you go…

More Valentine’s Day Inspiration

30 Valentine Activities for Kids

How to set up a self-serve card-making station

6 Valentine’s Day Activities for Preschoolers

Deconstructed Valentines


Happy Valentine’s Day!

Kids Valentine Ideas – How to Set up a Self-serve Card Station

Self Serve Kids Valentine Cards - Tinkerlab

There are some adorable store-bought Valentine Card options for kids, but there’s nothing quite like making your own Valentine’s Day cards. One of my strongest Valentine’s Day memories is of cutting and pasting doilies with hand-cut hearts, and this is a tradition that I’m excited to pass along to my own children.

One of the most successful strategies for encouraging art-making and creativity in my home is to set up self-serve areas filled with a buffet-style selection of materials for my kids to choose from.

I first introduced this self-serve kids Valentine card station on my blog last year, and with Valentine’s Day right around the corner, this seemed like a good time to share it again.

How to set up a self-serve Kids Valentine Card Station

How to set up a Self-serve Kids Valentine Card Station

  1. Start a thoughtfully selected smorgasbord of wrapping paper, scrapbooking paper, construction paper, paper cut into heart shapes, flowers, silk flower petals, shiny paper, doilies, and stickers
  2. Fill clear containers or bowls with these materials
  3. Add a bottle of glue or a small jar filled with glue, and a paintbrush.
  4. Invite your child to make, play, and create. Invitations can be accepted or ignored. I always try to pay attention to how these things play out because, of course, I want my invitations to be accepted!! If it’s ignored, it could be that the timing wasn’t right, your child isn’t yet ready for this invitation (maybe it’s too challenging or not of interest), the materials are too familiar, or the set-up wasn’t appealing enough.

5. Be open to riffs. While you may have a clear idea of how the invitation will play out in your mind, your child will probably have a very different idea. If you can accept this, you’ll both be happy!

Mailboxes are always nice to have for Valentine’s Day. We’re fans of all-things-handmade and actually made our own mailbox last year, but the hand-made Valentine box truly couldn’t compete with this light-up Hello Kitty mailbox.

More Valentine’s Day Mailboxes

Click an image to find the product on Amazon.


More Valentine’s Day Activities

Deconstructed Valentines

All-in-one Valentine Envelope

Valentine’s Day Ideas Pinterest Board

Organize a self-serve Creativity Area for Kids

Do you have any favorite tips for setting up a successful self-serve art experience?

Note: I’m an Amazon affiliate, but only share links to products that I love or that I think you’ll find useful.

30 Valentine Activities for Kids

This mother-lode of Valentine activities for kids (toddlers, preschoolers, and any other hands-on kids) covers everything from cards to treats. With 30 Valentine activities for kids here, this should keep us all busy until St. Patrick’s Day!

30 simple, cool, and fun Valentine Activities for Kids |

If you’re so inclined to roll up your sleeves and make something for Valentine’s Day, here are thirty Valentine activities for kids to get you started…

Valentine Cards

30 simple, cool, and fun Valentine Activities for Kids |

Deconstructed Valentines, Tinkerlab

Self-serve Valentines Station, Tinkerlab

Cards from the Heart: Cut heart shapes from your child’s artwork, The Golden Gleam

Stained Glass Valentines: Peephole cards and tissue paper, Creative Family Fun

5 ways to make Valentines Cards, Mama Pea Pod

Set up a Valentine Writing Center, Growing Book by Book

Valentine Gifts

30 simple, cool, and fun Valentine Activities for Kids |

Heart Blotto T-shirt, The Chocolate Muffin Tree (photo above)

How to Make a Heart Doily T-shirt, The Artful Parent

Make a Jar of Hearts for Dad, The Outlaw Mom

DIY Valentine Heart Puzzle, Allyou

Valentine Heart Gift Bag, Nurturestore

Child-sewn Felt Hearts, MamaSmiles

Heart-shaped Birdseed Cakes, Little Wonders’ Days

Heart Mobile, Rainy Day Mum

Homemade Heart Soaps, Sunhats and Wellie Boots

Magazine Tree of Hearts, Putti’s World

Valentine Crafts and Decorations

30 simple, cool, and fun Valentine Activities for Kids |

Valentine’s Day Garland, Kiwi Crate

Heart Snowflakes, Let Kids Create

Child-made String of Hearts Garland, Hands on as we Grow

Owl-shaped Valentine Craft, This Simple Home

Valentine Activities for Kids

30 simple, cool, and fun Valentine Activities for Kids |

Valentine Play Dough Station, Tinkerlab

Valentine Sensory Bin, The Iowa Farmer’s Wife

Lacing Valentine Card, The Outlaw Mom

Valentine’s Art Journal, Mommy Labs

Heart-shaped Pizza: toddler-style, Growing a Jeweled Rose

Valentine’s Day Sensory Box with pink rice, Pink and Green Mama

Simple Word-matching Game, The Homeschool Den

Valentine Treats

30 simple, cool, and fun Valentine Activities for Kids |

Valentine Snack with Toast, cream cheese, and sprinkles. Looks just like a cookie!, Tinkerlab

Sweetheart S’mores with heart marshmallows, graham crackers, peanut butter, and strawberries. A Mom with a Lesson Plan

Stained-glass Cookies: So pretty!, The Outlaw Mom

Do you have a favorite Valentine’s Day craft, treat, homemade card, or gift idea?

If so, feel free to share it in a comment. I’d love to hear about it!