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Our Favorite DIY Advent Calendars

By Melissa Summers

If your kids are anything like mine, Christmas officially starts on the day after Thanksgiving. That’s an awfully long time to be “celebrating” Christmas (i.e., making lists of things they want from the Sunday toy circulars). If you’re trying to keep everyone’s holiday spirit high but not lose your mind answering questions like HOW MANY DAYS UNTIL SANTA COMES?!? an Advent calendar may be exactly what you need.

Advent calendars were originally used by German Lutherans in the 19th century to count the days of Advent, which is the time of preparation for the birth of the baby Jesus. These days, though, most Advent calendars start on December 1 and count down to Christmas Eve. You can buy various types of Advent calendars, everything from simple paper options with little doors that open each day to seasonal LEGO sets — or you can make your own, which burns daylight and distracts your kids from thinking of more things Santa can bring them.

Guess which option I’m choosing.

Make Your Own Advent Calendar

Speaking of making things and burning daylight, Thanksgiving weekend is a great time to put your Advent calendar together. Your kids are home, they’re probably bored, and you’ll have five weeks to display your craft before everyone is over it.

Flower pot calendar. TAdvent Calendarshis flower pot and frame version (left) from the Crafty Chica would be fun and easy to do with kids. She painted a shadow box frame and 24 small terra cotta flower pots. Glue the pots inside the frame, fill with little treats, coupons and baubles, and seal with numbered craft paper. If the pots seem too fragile, you could do the same thing with these watchmaker cases, fitting the fronts with numbers printed on label stock from your computer. You can hang the finished product from a wall or lay it flat on a table.

Advent magnets. If you’re short on space, a simple magnetic calendar for the fridge is a nice option. Sheri Landry at This Bird’s Day made a really simple one, using magnetic spice canisters and leftover wrapping paper. She replaced the lid liners of the canisters with festive paper, filled them with treats and hung them on the side of the fridge. Super cute and super easy.

Advent CalendarsMatchbox chest of drawers. This matchbook calendar (right) from Martha Stewart looks like it would be a little more time consuming, but it’s so lovely. You glue two dozen matchboxes together to make a little chest of drawers. On one side, you number the drawers; on the other, you paint a Christmas tree (or star or whatever you like). Each day you take the treat from the numbered drawer and turn the drawer around to reveal the design on the other side. Lovely. This would be a good craft for older kids, since it requires some patience and attention to detail.

Martha has quite a few great DIY Advent calendar ideas (surprise surprise!). My favorites are this cool wall display and this photo chain calendar, which would be perfect for far away grandparents or friends.

Candy Isn’t the Only Holiday Treat

Advent calendars from my youth were always filled with candy. Usually, chalky little pieces of chocolate that were always kind of a disappointment, honestly. Instead of cheap chocolates, what about filling your calendar with ideas for family activities? Kiddley has an excellent list of activities you can do with your kids as you count down to Christmas. They’re all easy things to do — make hot chocolate, dress up for dinner, write letters to Santa. Write each activity on a slip of paper and put it into a matchbox. Wrap the matchboxes in pretty paper, number the boxes and pile them in a beautiful bowl. This makes a nice centerpiece or accent on a hall table.

I really like this idea. Because we all know kids don’t need more candy but almost all families need more fun time together. And this might distract your kids from asking again how many days until Santa comes.

Do your family have an Advent calendar tradition?

More from Alpha Mom

Play Our Advent Calendar Printable Game
Milk Carton Christmas Village Craft
The Friendship is Really Over When You Stop Sending a Holiday Card

Photo source: The Crafty Chica, Martha Stewart

Melissa Summers
About the Author

Melissa Summers

Melissa Summers was a regular contributor writing Melissa’s Buzz Off.


Melissa Summers was a regular contributor writing Melissa’s Buzz Off.

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My grandmother buys us an advent calendar each year that has chocolates inside. They used to have edible chocolate but changed the formula at some point and now I end up throwing them away (imagine, inedible chocolate…I didn’t think it existed). I liked them when I was little though because the numbers were small and sort of hidden and so you had to really look for them. These are all really great ideas, which I’ll start as soon as my little one is old enough. I think I’d add some element like the calendars we had, where you have to… Read more »

Melanie at Beanpaste

When we were little, my mom made a wall-hanging advent calendar that featured a Christmas tree and little numbered pockets below, each with a tiny, needlepoint ornament inside. I can’t remember if they snapped onto the tree or tied with ribbon, maybe? Here are some (looooong) instructions for something similar:
I’m going to make one with a more modern, abstract tree, I think.


You can find Teresa McFayden’s tutorial here – We used to make paper chains with an activity written on each link to count down the days to Christmas.


This year I am stealing an idea from Pottery Barn…using oak tags on an old picture frame. We’re busy making ornaments (that I will combine with store-bought oranments)to hang on it. Hopefully ours will look as nice as the catalog version…or better!


Melissa – these are great! Did you find any more activities that you could list? I like Kiddley’s, but was wondering if you knew of others?


I LOVE you. Thank you. I have ben desperatly looking for something as a thanksgivng hostess gift and the kiddley advent will be pefect. I am canging a few to work with the MI cold, as in there will be no picnicing on the beach. Thank you. I have been saved from hours of stressful brainstorming.


Our kids love the advent calendar thing but we have always been lazy and bought the Playmobil or Lego ones. This year, though, I am making my own (using some of the ideas from Kiddley) and some of my own. I hope this isn’t one of those times when my vision exceeds my ability. There are just so damn many of those times…

pixie sticks

we did the empty match box version last year and it was great.[email protected]/315420215/
Thanks for the Kiddley link. Finding the activities was the hardest part!


I love this photo advent calendar. I’m hoping to put pictures of all of the cousins in the windows and send it out after the long weekend.

andrea from the fishbowl

I love the idea of advent calendars. I’ve been meaning to make an advent calendar for ages. And I finally did it! Yay me! I’m pretty pleased with the results. Check it out: