I love Advent calendars but never had one for our children. Always too busy at Christmas time with our dough ornament business Calliope Designs.
Here’s another great post by Stephanie Brown of About.com about how to make your own advent calendar. Showing your toddler that not all things come from stores, that some of the best are made at home, is a great lesson in self-reliance!
Make an Advent Calendar with Your Children
There are several ways your toddler can participate in this activity: by making it, using it or both. Personally, I like the calendar to be something that I make first and the children use to count down to Christmas, but depending on the type of calendar you make, your toddler can lend a hand as well. This activity is a great way to start a family tradition, instill the values of your religious community and illustrate the passage of time.
Here are some ideas to get you started:
Easy Advent Calendars for Kids
Barbara Crews of about.com writes about the history of advent calendars:
Some form of the Advent Calendar has been used for more than 150 years and becomes increasingly popular every year. From traditional calendar to calendars that feature popular collectibles and themes, there is a calendar for everyone.
The origin of the calendar, like so many of our Christmas traditions, started in Germany in the 19th century. Different methods of counting down the days to the celebration of Christmas were used.
Drawing a chalk line to mark off the days, later lighting a candle every night or putting up small religious pictures marked each day until Christmas. The first printed calendar was produced by Gerhard Lang in Germany. When he was a child, his mother attached little candies to a piece of cardboard and each day Gerhard would take one off. His first (printed) calendar consisted of miniature colored pictures that would be attached to a piece of cardboard each day in December. Later Advent calendars were made with little doors to open on each day. The child might find a small piece of candy, a Christmas picture, a religious picture or a bible verse.
The German calendars were sold until World War II, at which time production was stopped due to the war shortages. After the war, the production of calendars resumed in 1946 by Richard Selmer. Selmer credits President Eisenhower with helping the tradition grow in the United States during his term of office. A newspaper article at the time showed the Eisenhower grandchildren with The Little Town Advent calendar. His company still produces calendars today and can be ordered online. Check out the online museum to see some of their early designs.
The first Advent calendars were based on 24 days with Christmas Eve as the last night to either put up a picture or take a candy. Today, the traditional German calendars still show 24 days, but in the United States, it’s not uncommon to also find ones with 25 days — the last opening to occur on Christmas Day.
Advent Calendars can be found everywhere Christmas is celebrated and have been made with many different themes. There are permanent ones with little drawers that are opened every day, felt pieces to decorate a tree, religious icons behind the different doors and lots of pop-culture/character Advent calendars. The traditional ones are still a paper/cardboard piece with a small treasure behind the doors. The treasures can range from a beautiful miniature religious picture, perhaps a little wooden toy or even a piece of candy (sure to cause problems when there is more than one child in the household).
In our family, we have a tradition that dates back to 1969, when I found a wooden tree Advent Calendar. There are painted wooden ornaments and each day another ornament is chosen to be added to the tree. On Christmas day, the star tree topper is finally added. The tree has grown a little shabby and the ornaments are getting tattered, but it’s still a tradition looked forward to every December.
It’s not too late to start a tradition like this for your family, one that will become a real treasure in the years to come.
Jennifer Wolf of Single Parents Guide suggests some Easy Advent Calendars for Kids:
Advent calendars are a fun way to help your kids count down the days until Christmas or any other holiday or special event. Traditionally, Advent begins on the fourth Sunday before Christmas, so in 2011, Advent begins on Sunday, November 27; but you can also start your countdown on December 1 or any time before the holiday begins. All of the simple Advent calendars shown here can be made from scratch using items you already have sitting around the house.
Hershey Kisses Advent Calendar
Help your kids count down the days until Christmas with this yummy homemade Advent calendar. Simply fold Hershey kisses (or any other festive chocolates) into plastic Saran wrap. Then tie each treat off with a piece of ribbon. You can even put notes inside each section so that the Advent calendar includes 25 reasons why you love your kids or 25 reasons why you’re proud of them. In this way, the calendar serves two purposes – counting down to Christmas Day, and reinforcing to your kids how much you love and care about them!
Good Deed Advent Jar
Fill a simple Mason Jar with good deeds you can do together between now and Christmas. Make sure to tailor the jobs to your kids’ ages, and make a different jar for each child. Alternatively, fill a jar with good deeds you can to together for the community.
Paper Chain Advent Calendar
This is another easy Advent calendar for children. Simply make a paper chain out of 25 strips of red or green construction paper. (Or consider using strips of old wrapping paper!)
Inside each link, you could even write a verse that tells part of the Christmas story. Or, to encourage your children to think beyond themselves, consider writing an idea inside each link for a mini-service project. For example, one day’s project might be making a Christmas card for someone in a nursing home. Another day’s project might be clearing off the snow from your neighbor’s car.
Be creative and see what ideas you come up with for supplementing this simple children’s Advent calendar
Santa’s Beard Advent Calendar
When I was a kid, we used to make these using paper plates to support Santa’s beard. But now you can simply print out a picture of Santa and have your kids glue one cotton ball onto the image for each day in December. When Santa’s beard is full, Christmas will be upon us!
•Advent Calendar – Countdown to Christmas
Sherri Osborne of Family Crafts Guide has some Easy Crafts Advent Calendars for Kids:
These instructions will teach you how to make an advent calendar or two. Choose from a large selection of patterns! You can make fabric advent calendars, paper advent calendars, and so many others using these free craft projects.
Waiting for Christmas Day to arrive can be tough. The anticipation of Santa’s visit, family gatherings, and special gifts can make each day seem like an eternity, especially for kids.
Something we have always used to help make the wait for Christmas a bit easier to handle is an advent calendar. The word advent originated from a Latin word meaning ‘arrival’. With an advent calendar, you countdown each day until Christmas in a special way. You usually start the countdown on December 1st, but you can design your advent calendar to start on any day you like.
Here are some advent calendars you can make to help you with the countdown to that special day.
• Advent Candy Tree and Poem
Follow these instructions and you can make a special advent craft along with a poem that goes along with it.
• Advent Collage Craft
Made with printable templates and magazine pictures, this advent craft is simple enough for the youngest crafter.
• Advent Handprint Wreath
This fun advent wreath is made with paper handprints.
• Good Deed Advent Jar
Decorate a plain jar and fill it with good deads. Pull out one good dead (or more) to do every day before Christmas.
• Advent Christmas Tree
Print out a Christmas tree template and Christmas tree ornaments and use them to count down the days until Christmas.
• Days until Christmas Activity Calendar
This calendar will not only help you count down the days until Christmas but also gives you fun activity options for every day.
• Felt Advent Christmas Tree
These instructions include a printable pattern for a Christmas tree.
• Advent Santa Beard
Create an advent calendar that looks like Santa and his beard is made of advent rings.
• Advent TP Christmas Tree
Recycle toilet tissue rolls into a fun Christmas tree decoration that doubles as an advent calendar.
I hope you enjoy all of these advent calendar crafts and activities. If you make any of these crafts, make sure you send in a photo. You can also get your crafts published. If you want to be one of the first to know when new craft projects are posted, take a few moments to sign up for the Family Crafts Newsletter and you can also chat about Christmas with others in the Family Crafts Forum.