DIY Advent Calendar (To Do With Kids)

Random thought: Have any of you seen the movie, “Courage Mountain?” Anybody else think of that movie when they hear the word¬†advent?

“Advent advent, a little light burns. First one, then two, then three, then four, then next, the little Christ-child at the door.”

Annnd, moving on . . .

I’ve always loved those adorable advent calendars that you can get for the month of December. When my 5-year old started asking me every day (back in November) if it was Christmas yet, I knew an advent calendar would help save me from having to repeat myself each day. But, I also wanted a fun Christmas craft to do with the kids and knew this would be great! When I told the boys about my idea, they were so excited!

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Isn’t it so cute? To make this Christmas tree advent calendar, you will need:

  • a large piece or corrugated cardboard
  • pencil or pen
  • x-acto knife
  • scissors
  • Elmer’s glue
  • hot glue gun
  • a couple pieces of cardstock (or thin cardboard, like a cereal box)
  • holiday stickers (preferably ones that are square)
  • craft paint and brushes
  • gold glitter star sticker
  • red beads

Grab your large piece of cardboard and let’s get started! (I just used a side from one of our moving boxes.) You first want to cut out one of your square holiday stickers to help you determine the advent calendar windows. Using one of the stickers as your guide makes it SO much easier!

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Start at the top with one square – this will be your 25th window. Just trace around three sides of the sticker (top, right side, and bottom). Then, leaving enough space around the top square, draw two more squares. Keep going, adding a square to each row, until you have four squares left to draw. Below and in the middle under your row of six squares, draw one square (this is the trunk of the tree). Then, do three squares surrounding that one square (this is the tree skirt). You’ll be able to see the whole square set-up in the next picture.

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This is probably the most difficult part of the whole project. Once your squares are in place, you’re going to free-hand a Christmas tree drawing around the squares. As you can see, I also added snow piles around the trunk and tree skirt.

Now it’s time to paint!

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This is where your kids start to have fun. My boys had an absolute blast! Go ahead and let them grab brushes and paint that tree. It’s okay if they go out of the edges of the drawing because you will be cutting out the tree.

Once the tree, trunk, skirt, and snow were painted, I had the boys add “ornaments” to the tree.

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The easiest way to do the ornaments was to give my boys q-tips to dunk in the paint and then dab on the tree. They had so much fun with that! To give a more “crisp” look to the whole project, I swiped a few wisps of white paint to the tree to make it look like there was snow on the tree.

You’re then going to cut out the project. This might take a little while, as corrugated cardboard is a bit difficult to cut through. So, try to use some good, heavy-duty scissors. I did the¬†unthinkable and used my kitchen sheers. *gasp!*

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Next, trace over your squares and write the numbers on them, with 25 at the top and moving backwards from there.

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Using your X-acto knife, cut through the carboard, along the traced sides. Remember, ONLY put cuts on the three sides! They’re supposed to be like little windows/doors.

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To make sure your cuts went all the way through, try to pop open the windows. Make any necessary adjustments to have adequately opening windows/doors.

Then, place your tree on top of your pieces of cardstock, ensuring there is cardstock under every window. Open each window and, using a pen, place a dot in the center (on the cardstock). This will tell you where to put the stickers. (Also, to be sure you end up putting the tree back in the right spot, you might want to trace along various sections of the tree to have something to line up with.)

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After you’ve placed all your dots, then you can have your kids pick out and put on the stickers. Just be sure to direct them to where they go. If they’re a bit crooked, it’s okay! It just makes it that much more of their own project!

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Now, you might need to take over for the rest of the project, unless you have older children who can handle it.

Put glue on the back of the tree, being sure to not get glue on the windows. Then place the tree on your sticker-covered cardstock, doing your best to line it up with the traces you made.

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Trim the excess paper off the edges. The x-acto knife works really well if you can’t seem to get close enough to the edges.

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My favorite part is next! Spruce up your numbers with a sparkly paint. I used gold, and it came out great. Then, hot glue a red bead to each window/door. Put the beads in random corners of each window so that they look more like ornaments when you’re finished.

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Top off your tree with a large star sticker, attach a loop of string to the back, and voila! You have your very own advent calendar!

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The boys were so excited when it was all finished! They couldn’t wait to start opening the windows.

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We were behind by eight days, so they got to open several windows. They loved seeing the sticker surprises behind each window. I overheard my oldest son trying to guess what tomorrow’s sticker is going to be. He can’t wait to open tomorrow’s window!

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*Tip: Open all the windows first and then close them again, to be sure they open easily. Otherwise, the red beads will pop off while your kids are trying to pull them open.

If you are an elementary school teacher, this is a great project to do for your students. Depending on how many students you have in your class, you could have a picture of each student behind the windows. (You could make a big or small tree and start the countdown from the number of students. So, if you have 30 students, start the countdown 30 days before Christmas break and so on. I hope that makes sense.) Then, let them open the window on their day. So that the kids don’t think you chose them based on bias or preference, you can first have each child pull a number out of a hat and that will be the number day that they are. Looking back to my elementary days, I know that this is something I would have gotten all giddy about! The anticipation of waiting for your own day is so much fun!

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Do you like doing advent countdown calendars?

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  • Bailey

    You are so crafty! We did chocolate advent calendars as a kid…. I loved it because we never got candy as a kid!

  • Bailey

    You are so crafty! We did chocolate advent calendars as a kid…. I loved it because we never got candy as a kid!

  • Shannon Roughgarden

    I hadn’t seen one like this to make! I really like it!!!