Thursday, December 1, 2011

Easy DIY Advent Calendar with Stuff You Already Have {#Craft}

Every year, I make plans to make my own Advent Calendar... I always wind up picking one up at Walgreen's for $2 around December 5th. I also make a list of fun family activities that we can do together for the holiday season... and it ends up just sitting there because I don't plan ahead. Not this year!

I saw a really easy Advent calendar idea where you use muffin tins as the base. It's perfect - the little candy holders are already there! And, the next day, guess what hubby came home with... Yes, 6 aluminum mini muffin tins. It seems that someone he knew was going to just throw them out (I KNOW!) Knowing me, he figured if I couldn't use them, I'd recycle them. Two of them are now part of our Advent calendar, and I'll be able to use them again next year!

Another idea I saw was to make an Advent calendar that contained a surprise family activity for each of the 24 days leading to Christmas. If I put an activity on little pieces of paper for each day, I'd kind of have to do the stuff, right? You can't have the kids opening each section, read the paper, then say, "Eh... I don't feel like it!"

So, here's my little Advent calendar idea. It took me a total of one hour to make it, including the portions that the kids helped me with. I mostly used things I have around the house. I bought candy and some nice scrapbooking stickers that were on sale at 2/$2.

The mini muffin tins that I have hold one dozen muffins each, so I needed to figure out how to make them stick together. I don't keep glue that works on metal laying around the house, so I figured out a different way: bread ties. Yeah... I never throw them away. I even have other people save them for me! You can use those suckers for everything, even sticking two aluminum pans together! I had the kids help me peel the paper off of about 6 ties. Then, I used a pin to poke holes in both of the tins and threaded one end of each wire into the holes. I loosely twisted each wire before I flipped the tins over and tightened it all up.

*TIP: See the picture on the right up there? 
That paper clip saved me lots of trouble. 
I stuck it on there to remind me which cup
was Day 1. The tins got turned around so 
many times that I had to take all of the candy
out and read the activities so I knew which
one the calendar was supposed to start on.
Next, I had the kids help me. First, we had to agree on some activities. I found a wonderful list of over 30 ideas at Code Name: Mama that I borrowed from. Some of the things we chose will take effort, others are very easy: Make paper snowflakes, Take a family walk at night to look at the decorated houses, bake and decorate cookies (I have four days set aside for that!), family holiday movie night, write to Santa... The very next thing I did - and you shouldn't skip this step! - is to plan out what we;ll be doing on what day, then wrote it down in my planner. This is so important! You don't want to: 1) be surprised that today is the day you're supposed to go to the zoo, and 2) have something major planned for a bust night and something that takes 10 minutes planned for a day when you have lots of time to spare. I wrote all of the activities down on a piece of paper and we put them into the bottoms of the muffin cups.  The kids each got to pick out a bag of candy to fill each day's section with. So, they each took turns placing two of their candies into each cup.

While my oldest watched Little Guy, I got out the glue gun. I had to figure out how to cover each of the cups so they could be opened individually. I saw some great ideas on Pinterest that included cutting little circles from cardstock and covering each individually, making felt bags that contain the day's prize that had a glue dot holding them into the cups... I had two options with what I had on hand: wrapping paper or newsprint. They're both pretty easy to tear open. If I used one sticker for each day, when the kids puled on the sticker, the paper would rip and reveal the contents of the cup underneath. Although wrapping paper is a little more decorative, I went with newsprint. I've been carefully folding each piece of packing paper that I get and squirreling it away for projects just like this - not using it would have been insane, you know?

Now, I had to figure out how to make the paper stick to the aluminum well enough that the kids wouldn't end up ripping the entire sheet off on the first day. I came up with this nifty idea: I used a nail to poke holes in key areas of the tins. Then, I used the glue gun to glue the paper over each section - one at a time. I made sure to let the glue pool a little wherever I had poked holes. After I had the entire paper glued down, I carefully flipped the tins over and put extra dollops of glue over each hole. I also reinforced the bread ties by laying down a line of glue over the two edges of the tins they were holding together.

Then it was time for Little Guy's VERY IMPORTANT job. He had to put the stickers onto the Advent calendar! I had him leave Day 24 empty because I wanted to add a picture of Santa for Christmas Eve.

*TIP: If you have little ones helping, put dots where the center of each cup is.
Our last step was to fancy it up a little bit. I has all kids of ideas: the old tissue paper squares on the end of a pencil thing (too frustrating when it sticks to the pencil), glitter (and look like I ran into a pixie until February?!), paint (too easy for Little Guy to puncture the paper with the brush. AHA! We have tons of ribbon, so we simply glued a little in the spaces between the stickers.
The photo above is our almost-finished product (you can see some of the white glue's not even dry yet!) I plan on putting bows on each corner and then attaching a ribbon to hang the calendar on the wall. Where to put this posed a problem until I was downloading the pictures of our Christmas tree**.  When I saw the photo, I saw the perfect spot - just  left of the tree, up high. There's no way (short of using a long stick or throwing something heavy at it) for Little Guy to get that calendar down. He's is a candy freak and it doesn't agree with his disposition, so one piece a day is enough! He knows there's a whole lot of candy in those tins, so I have to be extra careful.
Don't you just love the thermostat? I think I'll put a big bow on top of it so it looks like an ornament. As we add our own ornaments to the tree, it should blend in... right?
**Now, we don't have a real or plastic tree for a variety of reasons. So, each year, I go out and look for the "perfect tree wrapping paper". In an hour or so, I cover the wall with wrapping paper , then cut out a tree shape from the tree paper. This year's was a quickie job - Little Guy was cranky and I was trying to hurry up and get it done so I could put him to bed. It's not even or anything, but that's how they come in real life, right? As we get closer to Christmas, we'll be making little crafts here and there and adding them to our tree as ornaments (we already have a beaded candy cane on there!)

This post has been added to the following crafty linkies:

The Crafty Nest
Classified: Mom


Christy said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

CUTE! I love all of the different creative ideas for Advent and Christmas countdowns. I will have to remember this one for next year :) We are already doing 3 this year haha.

Katie said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

My family never did anything with Advent when I was a kid. I'd love to star the tradition with my kiddos. This looks like a ton of fun (for mama and kiddo)

Thanks for stopping by and participating in my recent review/giveaway. I'm a new follower

Paula Wethington said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

This took some thought!

Countdown calendar is a good name if the phrase Advent doesn't click with your family. I am far more familiar with counting down the 4 Sundays than the 25 days. But I noticed in recent years people asking where to find the day-to-day calendars with candies. It's an old school tradition that seems to be making a comeback.