*Revised from the original post in 2016.
I built my first Christmas advent a few years ago and I must admit it was fun to create as well as to watch the excitement glisten in the eyes of the recipients with each day's gift tucked into the advent.
Thankfully I was and will be able to reuse it because I laminated the numbers. I highly recommend doing that if you can. It's extra work but definitely worth the time and effort.
When I first built the advent I wasn't sure what to put in it so I went way overboard. The next year I was able to better narrow down the gifts and I also determined that it would be better to also educate the recipients on the real meaning of Christmas by alternating in almost every other day with a good deed to perform for others as well as placing Bible scriptures into each day for them to read.
I'd advise to aim for smaller gifts so it doesn't turn in to an expensive project that doubles your Christmas budget, or if the recipients are not your children then the gifts included in the advent can be their Christmas gifts. I included gifts or items to make the good deed assignments (like cookie mix, and Christmas baking gift boxes) that were too big to put into the advent so for those I included a card in the advent to tell them where to find their gift and had the gifts wrapped and numbered under the tree waiting to be opened.
Here's a couple of old photos of my advent calendar!
How to Build the Advent Calendar:
1. Start by purchasing the items you'll need to make the advent. You will need:
- An inexpensive over the door shoe rack like one of these two below. I found mine at Target. The main thing is to make sure it's either clear or white so the colors do not clash with your tissue paper, AND make sure it is a 24 count shoe rack. The countdown begins on December 1st so it will end right at Christmas!
- White, unlined index cards
- Laminate paper if you cannot laminate it in a machine with heat (watch for box count)
- 24 clothespins (watch for package count)
- Glue or a glue stick
- Christmas colored tissue paper - whatever you prefer to give the advent your personal touch
You can snag some of these items immediately below or check out the section I've added to my Amazon "store" that has all of these items for you to easily purchase.
2. Next, I used the free printable numbers shared on Pinterest by eighten25.blogspot.com. I do not have the paper crafting scissors nor dye-cutting machines to cut out pretty shapes so I went the old school route to cut the numbers as a square versus round. Then I glued them onto small white index cards (with no lines!) and laminated them. Once they were laminated I had to cut off the extra laminate paper. It was a mini project in itself with the cutting but worth the effort so you can re-use them year after year! A paper cutter is your friend if you have access to one versus scissors.
There are a ton of free Christmas advent calendar ideas that you can use the printable numbers from such as:
- This would be great for younger kids who are learning the alphabet.
- This one for smaller treats or you can just use the printable numbers.
- This one that is The Grinch themed.
If interested in a die-cutting machine for fancier crafting plus future projects, you can look at one like the below. I know there's a bunch of options, and I am not familiar with them.
3. Once the numbers are assembled you can begin to hang your advent on the door with the assigned numbers. I started top left with #1 and worked the days down one row at a time until the very bottom right showed #24. This allows them to open the advent on the numerical date versus working backwards with a countdown method. It seemed less confusing to me.
Ideas of What to Put Into the Advent Calendar:
I found that advent calendar gifts' costs can really add up if you're not careful, plus if you're adding 12 to 24 gifts to it, the costs may or may not cut into your Christmas gift budgeting. Separately I think it's important to teach children the real meaning behind Christmas as well as to gift them with experiences of HELPING others so that they see first hand that there are plenty of people in the world less fortunate than they are. It teaches them about Christ, the bible, kindness, and compassion. I said most of this above, but feel it's important enough to say again... Below are some ideas of things you can put into the advent:
- Scriptures tucked into all 24 pockets that relate to Jesus' birth like this advent reading plan or this one here.
- Scatter in some Christmas jokes, games, word scramble games, or trivia games like this.
- Give a Christmas movie with a Smore's kit with an invitation to build a fire and have a family movie night.
- "Snowman Soup" hot cocoa and marshmallow packets with an invitation to go look at Christmas lights
- A packet of M&M's for the M&M Christmas story (I loved this!)
- Reindeer noses made out of malt balls and a cherry sour or red gum ball.
- A little set of nail polish and nail file for their "Mistle-Toe's"
- Oreo pretzel white chocolate Christmas bark - because it is pretty and easy!
- Elf kisses, or Elf hugs & kisses
- Christmas scented bath bombs or bubble bath or shower gel (Bath and Body works is great for this)
- Christmas scented hand sanitizers with the portable holders that attach to backpacks (Bath and Body works is great for this too)
- Christmas jewelry or socks (Walmart, Target, the Dollar Store are great for these)
- Small cars, trains, or action figures for boys
- Christmas scented lip gloss
- Christmas books, movies, coloring books, etc.
- Christmas colored hats or mittens if weather permits
- Bake cookies for Santa and sing Christmas carols on Christmas Eve
Acts of Kindness ideas:
- Christmas pens, pencils, and stickers with stationary or Christmas cards to write to the soldiers overseas, veterans, and/or to the children's hospital
- Ask the kids to gather up gently used toys and books to donate to the children's hospital or churches
- Have the kids use their allowance to purchase a toy to donate to Toys for Tots or an Operation Christmas Child Shoebox
- bake cookies to take to grandparents, aunts & uncles
- bake cookies or pick up donuts to take the the fire station, police station, and/or to church
- take poinsettias to a nursing home, the veterans hospital, and to grandparents
There's a lot more you can look up to find ideas on activities to do or acts of kindness to perform. I like to mix it up so that just about every other day they received a small gift. Also, do not forget to add in plenty of candy canes all throughout the advent!
Here is the link that goes to my main Christmas Pinterest page where you'll find all of these links as well as a ton of other ideas on there.
How to Organize Your Advent Calendar:
Organization is important when spacing out which days to place the gifts in. I always worked off of a list that was undoubtedly edited multiple times.
Things to factor in: What days do the dates fall on and will the activities be possible on those days? Giving things like stickers and pens early in the month allows them to use their Christmas items for the full month, thus saving things like Christmas jewelry to be gifted closer to Christmas when they might actually wear it.
Make yourself a list and really review the calendar for practicality on when the gift makes the most sense. You get more bang for your buck this way. You can see my example below.
I think the advent itself is festive AND adds serious intrigue to their minds to wonder what treat is coming next... ;)
If you like this post please share with a friend. Enjoy!