I really like the idea of Advent--the idea of building excitement for Christmas. Growing up, we had the simple cardboard advent calendars... just the plain cardboard with picture windows. I was envious of friends who had the sort with little chocolates already packaged in the calendar. Sure, I knew it really was lame chocolate that tasted like wax, but that wasn't the point.
I was further green not with holiday spirit, but true envy when I saw that my best friend had an advent elf holding 25 little boxes. Her mother lovingly selected some candies, toys and other cute little trinkets to fill 25 little gift boxes. I was sure I wanted something like this for my kids.
I searched high and low, and never really found the advent elf of my dreams (for the price I was willing to pay). I decided I would make my own.
Initially, I saw a pinterest post using envelopes--that could be cute, but I'd have to remake each year. Next, I saw these cute little magnetic tins--but there would be expense in 25 little favor tins, magnets, etc. Next, I was going to use holiday fabric scraps and sew 25 little dated pouches for treats. But the more I thought about 25 little treats, the more I realized that my son didn't need extra sugar each night when I was attempting to put him to bed. Based on the clutter in his room, he doesn't need 25 small toy trinkets that won't be played with that much either. But I still LOVE advent calendars. If the idea of Advent is to prepare for Christmas, then why not make a calendar of activities we do to get ready.
My solution, which as you can probably guess, went through several phases of development. The finished calendar is a line of twine tied across the double doors in in our kitchen eating area. My son and I decorated enough clothes pins. We've added numbered "Countdown" tags. Using lots of fonts, I made various colored circle shapes in Word, each containing a different Christmas prep activity. I used a craft punch to cut out the circles--though I was a little disappointed in how this turned out---with the large circles you have to be close enough to get the whole circle punched, but if you cut away too much excess before punching, the cut doesn't come out clean. I backed my computer prints with another circle from patterned scrapbook paper to add a little stiffness, but you could likely start with card stock in the first place and skip this step. The very crafty could probably do stickers and all sorts of embellishments to make this idea super cute. I even thought we could set up a second smaller tree and add the tags to the tree each day. As the tree filled up, we would be closer and closer to Christmas.
Each day, we do one Christmas prep activity, then hang that circle on our line. Some activities are more involved--like decorate the Christmas tree, make various holiday treats, etc. Others I intentionally kept simple--like color a Christmas picture, or sing a Christmas Carol, so on busy days we can "do" something, even when the day is already pretty full. I also have tried to get "giving" in the mind of my 4 year old, which really has not been the easiest task--but I keep trying and maybe some day it will register.
The activity circles are premade and waiting in a basket. They are in a random order, so we will do what we can when we can--I didn't want to "lock in" the order by hanging them up in advance (with our family, sometimes you just have to do what you can, when you can). I made plenty of extra blank circles so I could write in random activities that fit the bill, but weren't planned. I also made more than we needed so we always had some options.
We've just recently started, but I find that the calendar is helping me pace myself a little. We don't have to do every Christmas thing at once, but we can space it out and enjoy the holiday season.
If you'd like to make your own DIY Advent Activity Calendar, here are some of the activities I used.