Last year when I made an advent calendar to track our countdown until Christmas, I wanted a fun tool that would guide our activities through the holiday season. I wasn’t thrilled about the idea of giving my daughter Hazel candy each day, so I came up with other gift ideas — small festive presents like ornaments for our tree, stickers and stamps, and more importantly, gifts of experiences. I also wanted to make an advent calendar that we could reuse each year because we love family traditions in our household.
Now that Hazel is almost three years old I think she will really understand the calendar and look forward to it. She liked it last year, and would remember it when she saw it, but I think she’s old enough now to grasp the connection of the countdown until Santa visits.
What’s Inside the Advent Calendar?
For the little gifts, I used ornaments, holiday stamps and stickers, and a couple of small toys (like a hat or pair of slippers for her favorite doll). The gifts had to be small to fit in the tiny boxes. The envelopes worked really well for the stickers. However, the gifts of experience, or activities, were my favorite part. I’m really looking forward to doing them this year.
Hazel is a generous and sweet person, I know she will embrace these activities and be happy to share in them with her baby sister, Lola. Some of my favorite activities include: baking cookies, surprising daddy with something fun, making a gift for a friend, doing a good deed, making someone smile, donating a toy, singing Christmas carols, etc.
By giving her these activities each day I wanted her to learn that the true meaning of the holiday season is to give and experience the joys of spending time with friends and family. I simply wrote these activities on tiny slips of paper and placed them inside the envelopes. I made sure we had the supplies on hand for the activities and made them our priority for the day.
Having the advent calendar made our whole month festive (and it gave me some direction too). I was able to keep track of all the fun crafts we could do and it allowed us to give back to our community. Teaching kindness and empat
hy are so important to us, and it’s easy to find ways to incorporate acts of generosity into simple activities like this if you plan ahead.
How to Make the Advent Calendar
For our advent calendar I found all of my supplies at a craft store. I chose a few little brown paper boxes, small squares of thick holiday paper in a variety of designs for the background (which can be used for other crafts too), brown paper envelopes, glitter frosted number stickers, silver glitter washi tape (plain and with snowflakes), thumbtacks, glue, and a small cork board to use as my base to hang on the wall.
I started by selecting the pattern of the background and blocking it out on the cork board. I placed the envelopes and boxes on top of the paper and I counted everything out to make sure it would fit. Then once I felt satisfied with how it looked, I glued the holiday paper down. While the cork board backdrop was drying, I began decorating the envelopes and small boxes.
When my festive background was dry, I taped the envelopes onto the holiday paper after checking the layout of the boxes and envelopes again. I used thumbtacks to secure the boxes to the cork board.
Finally, I added the numbers to the envelopes and boxes. As I was laying them out, I realized I had ran out of “2s” in my pack of stickers. Since they were pricey (and I wasn’t going back to the craft store), I decided that I could trim a couple of “5s” and a “?” to make them into more “2s.” I could have also just made all of the numbers out of construction paper, but at the time, I really liked these number stickers so I made it work. I think they look great, even though they required a little ingenuity.
Once our advent calendar was completed, I filled it with the gifts and notes. Then, I hung it in our kitchen next to our regular calendar. Throughout December, my husband and I would take turns helping Hazel open each day’s little surprise. It was such a sweet way to share a family moment together during the busy weeks before Christmas. And now we get to do it again this year.
Does your family use an advent calendar? What do you like to put in it?