As a kid I always remember receiving an Advent calendar so I could start the countdown to Christmas on December 1st. My daughter was old enough to have one of her own last year, and this year I decided I wanted to try my hand at making one for her. I’m actually making two, one for my son as well. He’s only five months so he’s got a long way to go before he can use it, but it’ll be ready when he is.
The great part about this Advent calendar is that you can reuse it year after year, you just have to replace the little treats and gifts. This project is super easy, it doesn’t require any sewing, and it doesn’t require any previous crafty experience. The tools and supplies needed are listed below and can be found at your local craft store.
I found this to be a great project to work on in the evenings, with my trusty glass of red wine by my side, just far enough away that I didn’t run the risk of spilling on my supplies ;). None of these steps require huge attention to detail really, so I found it really relaxing and enjoyed my Mommy time. WARNING: Once you get into the crafty zone there may be no coming back!
I think I might be more excited about this than my daughter is! So without further ado, let’s get started!
- Green felt – a large piece (the package I bought was a piece 36×36 and I cut it in half for one calendar. I also chose dark green but the photos make it appear even darker)
- 25 clothes pegs ( I bought some fancy pre-stained short stubby ones that I thought were very cute. Just make sure they are big enough to hold onto a little present)
- A roll of skinny red ribbon
- A roll of skinny white ribbon
- 25 small bells (you could substitute these for some other kind of small ornament if you like)
- A star for the top of the tree (I bought a package of sparkly foam stars, or you could make one out of felt!)
- One package of red embroidery thread or string
- A piece of cardboard roughly 18 inches long by 4 inches wide
- A hot glue gun and some extra glue
- 25 little gifts/treats that your kid(s) will like
- Some tissue, wrapping paper or little sacs to package the gifts in
You will need a fairly large working surface for this project; the dining room table worked perfectly for me. Start by spreading out your large piece of green felt and cut it exactly in half (assuming yours is the same size as mine 36×36). Lay your now smaller piece of felt on the table so it is tall and skinny, it should be 36 inches tall and 18 inches wide. Fold the top 3 inches over and under so it is tucked in behind, this will create the loop to hold the cardboard.
We’re going to prepare some of the details before we start laying out and assembling the pieces. Grab your roll of red ribbon and cut 25 pieces that are about 4-5 inches long, just measure one and then use that as your guide for the rest of them. Now you’re going to tie each piece into a little bow, I found that it worked well to tie a little knot in the middle and use that as a guide when tying the bow. These little bows will be glued onto the top of each clothes peg. I’m a little crazy for details so I cut each end on an angle after I had tied the bows.
The next detail is the bells, we are going to string each bell with a short piece of embroidery thread/string and loop one over each clothes peg. Think of the bows and the bells as Christmas tree decorations. Now, once you’ve refilled your glass of wine (or beverage of choice), grab your embroidery thread and cut 25 pieces that are 3-4 inches in length. You won’t need most of this length but it is much easier to tie a knot with a bit of extra thread to work with. Feed the piece of thread through the bell and loop the two ends together into a knot that leaves the bell hanging at a length of ½ – ¾ of an inch. Do one and test it by hanging it on the clothes peg to make sure that you are happy with the length that it hangs at, now use that one as your guide and tie up the other 24. Once each loop is tied you can cut off the excess thread and just leave a little piece remaining.
OK, we are ready to start some of the assembly! Remember that loop that we created at the top of the green felt? We need to glue that down to make it permanent. Plug in your hot glue gun and run some glue along the edge to hold it in place, when doing so make sure you are leaving a big loop. Just a quick word to the wise: If you have never used a hot glue gun before you should know that the glue dries very quickly, so you need to work fast for this part. Once that glue has set take your piece of cardboard, fold it in half length ways, and slide it into the loop. The cardboard will create some structure so the Advent calendar hangs properly.
Once your loop is secured, and you’ve got the cardboard in place, flip your felt back over so you can work with the front of it. We’re going to attach the star now. Place it at the top of the green felt, with one spike sticking up above the edge. Find it’s place and then use some hot glue to secure it.
Working from the top down we are going to place the clothes pegs in position. The clothes pegs are going to create a Christmas tree shape once they are all in place. You will have 6 rows of clothes pegs and the single one at the top should be right below the star. Below the single one you will have a row of 3, and then a row of 4, followed by a row of 5, then 6, and another row of 6. Space them all out so that it gives you the shape you need and so that you also have room to clip a small treat to each one without them interfering too much with each other. Once you are happy with your placement run a strip of hot glue down the back of each clothes peg and secure it in place.
Time for the decorations! Plug in your glue gun to heat up (if it’s not already) and while it’s doing that hang one bell on each clothes peg. To secure the little red bows in place squirt a little dollop of hot glue at the top of the clothes peg and then stick the bow onto it. Make sure you hang the bells on the clothes peg before gluing the bows in place, otherwise it’ll be tricky if not impossible to get the bells on there.
We need something to hang this awesome project with so let’s get our white ribbon out. Double it up for strength and thread it through the cardboard loop at the top of the Advent calendar, leaving it hanging at whatever length you please (mine has about a 5 inch drop from where it hangs). Tie a couple of strong knots to secure it and then thread that knot inside of the cardboard loop, so it’s hidden.
Did you manage to find some small gifts and treats to wrap up? I went to the dollar store and found some Frozen themed items (stickers, costume jewelry, chocolate lollipops), some little dinosaurs (my daughter loves dinosaurs), some gold chocolate coins, some matchbox cars, a tiny stuffed cow that clips onto a zipper, and a few other items. I spent a total of $15 on everything, and for about half of the days I doubled up on items, just because I had enough stuff to do so. So for example on one day I did a mini dino and a gold chocolate coin. Of course you can choose any gifts you like, I just wanted to give you some ideas of small items that kids will enjoy. If you have bigger children this can definitely work for them as well, you just need to adjust the gifts accordingly. Maybe some unique candies from a specialty store and some coupons for fun things like one extra TV show, or a day free of chores, or a special dessert after dinner. I also numbered each little gift on the back just in case some sneaky little hands decide to attack. As long as they’re still wrapped up I can find their proper place on the calendar. I placed the gifts in numerical order so it was more of a visual countdown with day 25 at the very top, but if you wanted to mix them up and number them with a label you could do that as well. Oh! I almost forgot, the item on day 25 (Christmas day) is a special one, I used a kinder surprise chocolate Santa with a toy inside.
Here is my final result with the little packages in place:
I’m really looking forward to the excitement that this will bring and I know each day will start with a smile when she gets to open her little treat. I hope this project brings as much joy to your family as I know it will bring to mine!