Photo Credit: Oh Happy Day
Even if you're not ready for Christmas, you can bet your kids are. Help them channel their excitement with a DIY Advent calendar. Pony up for a candy treat every day, try a small toy (think Lego minifigures, Polly Pockets, stickers or crayons) or just help them count down with a note or a kid coupon ("Go to sleep a half-hour later!"). Regardless of which route you take to Christmas Day, one of these adorable DIY Advent calendars is bound to get the job done.
Brown Bag It
Most Lovely ThingsFrom: Most Lovely Things
What You’ll Need: Brown paper bags, string, sturdy rope, clothespins
How to Do It: Pop a treat into each sack, fold it over and then tie up the package with string (you could also use ribbon or raffia). These are hung in front of a chalk wall with numbers, but you can use a stamp or pen to label the bags instead. Attach bags to the rope with the clothespins and suspend the calendar under a mantle or along a railing.
Why We Love It: There’s no shopping involved—every mom has a stash of lunch bags in her messy drawer—and this plain paper design has a simple, yet charming, look.
Oh Christmas Tree
Oh Happy DayFrom: Oh Happy Day
What You’ll Need: 2 yard of Christmas tree fabric, 3-inch circles of wool felt in various colors, white wool felt numbers, 1-24 (or a permanent magic marker), thread, needle, scissors, two 62-inch wooden dowels, pushpins or small nails
How to Do It: Sew a 1-inch pocket along both edges of the tree fabric. Stitch the pre-made digits to the felt circles or use the marker to number them. Sew a second circle to each numbered one, leaving a small opening at the top. Stitch circles to the tree in random order and insert the dowels into each pocket. Hang the tree on a wall with pushpins or nails and then fill the pockets with stickers or lollipops.
Why We Love It: Any Christmas-y fabric will do here—you could choose a design with many small trees or one large one as shown. This calendar can also be made ‘no-sew’ by using fabric glue.
Hey LookFrom: Hey Look
What You’ll Need: Card stock, printer, black ink, scissors, glue
How to Do It: Print the templates on card stock, cut them out and then fold each into a box. Glue the side folds to secure and fill with little surprises. Fold over the top and attach with a small sticker. Glue or hang the box calendar onto a piece of plywood or a pin board.
Why We Love It: The cool black and white designs will definitely suit a modern mama. Make it even easier by buying small foldable boxes and letting the kids decorate them.
Simple DetailsFrom: Simple Details
What You’ll Need: Tree branches—real ones or from a craft store—or a premade tree in a pot, heavy planter, rocks, craft grass or shredded paper, tiny gift boxes, ribbon
How to Do It: Place branches in the planter and fill with rocks to stabilize. Cover the top of the rocks with grass or shredded paper. Fill the boxes, tie ribbon to each and then hang from the tree.
Why We Love It: We like that this tree can go high/low: just buy one if you’re short on time (or energy), or go all out and collect branches from the yard and arrange them yourself. Tiny Chinese take-out boxes would also look sweet.
Mini Advent Forest
Cush and NooksFrom: Cush and Nooks
What You’ll Need: Mini pine trees, 2-inch brown paper boxes, white paper, black marker, scissors, glue
How to Do It: Glue a tree onto each box top and then cut small flag shapes from the paper. Number the flags and glue them to the trees (or insert them between the branches if they’ll stay put). Fill the boxes—and you’re done!
Why We Love It: In a word—it’s adorable. You might even go the recycled route and dig up old Playmobil, Lego or Polly Pocket trees for each box.
Just a GirlFrom: Just a Girl
What You’ll Need: Large glass jar, matchboxes, scrap paper, tape, ribbon
How to Do It: Pick up a carton of mini matchboxes and remove the matches from 24 of them. Wrap the empty boxes with bits of leftover scrap or wrapping paper and number them. Pace a slip of paper inside each with the ‘treat’ written on it and then fill the jar.
Why We Love It: Any candy jar or glass urn will work for this calendar, plus the small box size will likely prohibit sweets and random toys. Instead, write down an outing, game idea or activity that you can do together (bowling, a movie, cutting out snowflakes or baking cookies).
Pom Pom Countdown
What You’ll Need: Large glass jar, felt balls or pompoms, embroidery floss, needle, pen, scissors, glue, strips of paper
How to Do It: Write a ‘treat’ on each strip of paper that will get kids excited, like "Get out of chores" or "Extra hour of TV tonight." Come up with 25 and then number it them. Attach a pompom with a bit of glue to the end of the paper. Once they’ve dried, place these designs in the jar. When the number is pulled from the jar, tear off the pompom and string it onto a long piece of embroidery thread with the needle. When Advent has ended, you’ll have a pretty garland to hang on your tree!
Why We Love It: It’s two-for-one—Advent in a jar and a craft project, too. Download the template to label the jar or create your own design.
Mini PiccoliniFrom: Mini Piccolini
What You’ll Need: Construction paper in different colors, black marker, scissors, tape
How to Do It: Gather some inspiration from this woodland scene as you create your own paper designs. Cut and fold each color to make clouds, mountains, trees and animals and then number each one. Write the ‘treat’ on the back of some; hide actual gifts under the cone shapes or inside tubes. (If peeking is a concern for big kids, place it out of reach on a shelf.)
Why We Love It: This is endlessly customizable! Set up a barn scene with pigs and cows, or create a garden with tiny animals and flowers.
What You’ll Need: Wooden craft circle, 24 round metal tins, scrapbook paper, tape, black marker, Velcro squares, ribbon
How to Do It: Cut the scrapbook paper into circles to fit the tins’ lids and then tape them on. Number the tins with the marker and attach them to the craft circle with the Velcro squares. Fill tins with messages or tiny candies, tie the ribbon to the top and hang.
Why We Love It: This Advent calendar does double duty as a wreath—and you can go green by using up leftover wrapping paper to decorate the tins.
Studio DIYFrom: Studio DIY
What You’ll Need: 24 white envelopes, red bows, string
How to Do It: These rows of Advent envelopes contain Stickygram photo magnets from Instagram, but you could fill yours with all kinds of prizes—stickers, bookmarks, hair bows, gift cards and more. Number the envelopes, thread them through the string, and then seal each with a red bow.
Why We Love It: Thrifty moms will dig this craft—these bows are usually $1.99 for a big bag and simple white envelopes are also inexpensive.
Famille SummerbelleFrom: Famille Summerbelle
What You’ll Need: Gold paper, black marker, painter's tape, a string of Christmas lights
How to Do It: Design and fold a variety of house shapes, sealing them most of the way with tape (you’re creating a pocket). Decorate the houses and number them with the black marker. Insert tiny treats and then tape to secure - make sure they're not too heavy! Use painter's tape attach the houses to the wall in the shape of a tree and then outline the tree with the lights.
Why We Love It: The gold and black design really pops when it’s backlit with Christmas lights. Plus you can make tiny houses for small treats (gum, hair clips) and larger ones to accommodate bigger items like coloring books.
Writer Jennifer Kelly Geddes is a mom of two girls and a new dog named Django in New York City. Find her on Google+.