DIY Advent Calendar (For The Busy Mom Who Wants To Make Amazing Memories)

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The holidays are coming right up and its time to make some Christmas memories! Advent Calendars are a fantastic way to bring in the Christmas cheer while getting your children involved in a wonderful new tradition.

What is Advent?

Advent is the four weeks before Christmas however due to different turns in religious history it marked different symbolic periods (baptism and the birth of Christ). Gerhard Lang began to commercialize the first paper Advent calendar in a German newspaper. The United States began following the tradition of the paper Advent calendar after Dwight D. Eisenhower was photographed with his grandchildren opening one. (Scott Allen, Mental Floss Blog,

How To Create An Advent Calendar?

I started our first DIY Advent calendar when my son was two and made it out of cardboard and Christmas wrapping paper. All I basically did was take a small piece of cardboard and fold it over and then wrapped the outside. I put the cardboard pieces on a mini clothesline and attached it to a bulletin board. This method with a two-year-old didn’t last long. One day my son snuck into the calendar without my knowledge, and took off all the clothespins and ate the rest of the chocolates (from day 15 to 1!). There was wrappers and little packages everywhere with chocolate drool. I figured at that point I needed to upgrade my Advent calendar for the following year.

I found my wooden set at Ben Franklin Crafts (big craft store in Hawaii) for $20.00. I looked online at Amazon and Michael’s Craft Stores and both sell sets under $20 for unfinished wooden sets like the one below. If you don’t have Amazon Prime check out the discounted rate right here:Prime Discounted Monthly Offering. At Christmas time its defiantly worth it to get and your packages in two days!


How I Designed My Advent Calendar

I went with simple acrylic paints to paint all the boxes and the tray. I picked out red and dark green for the colors and was able to purchase a small 8-ounce bottle of both colors and had enough to paint all of it. It took me two days to paint all of the set due to it taking a while to dry and I needed to flip the boxes over in order to paint all areas.

Advent Calendar

After all the boxes and the tray were painted, I set out to put fancy numbers on each box (24-1) and placed a snowflake sticker on each box. This was super easy and took me less than half an hour. Every year, I then write out on piece of paper first, 1-24 and write something we will physically do (go see Christmas lights in the neighborhood for example) or make something (salt dough ornaments with the kids). I correspond the number to the day of the week and try to put the easy activities during the week and more intricate activities or places to visit on the weekend. Check out my post on The Ultimate Christmas Tradition List To Build New Memories for ideas to add to your Advent calendar or try out during the holiday season.

Add in your family traditions in the calendar and don’t forget to take pictures! Add in a small piece of candy for each of your children in the box. The boxes are perfect sized to fit a Hershey’s mini chocolate bar or a Hershey kiss and a piece of paper with the activity on it. You can also put Christmas quotes or bible verses, puzzle pieces for the kids to collect over the days to make a big puzzle at the end, and small gifts that fit in the small boxes as well. You can really make it your own and put whatever you like in the boxes. The kids will love it with whatever you decide!

son opening Advent Calendar

Storage and Use of Your Advent Calendar

The finished product turned out awesome. This will be the third year I use it and the Advent calendar is still going strong. There are no paint chips, the numbers and stickers are still all on, and the kids don’t try to get into this set since I put it up high every year (I learned my lesson!). This year I have learned all about Mod Podge, so I think I’m going to put a layer over the stickers this year to help it stay together for even more years to come! I keep it new by putting the individual boxes in a large Ziploc bag (when the kids open a box every day I put it in the bag throughout the month to keep them together) and place the tray in a giant grocery bag to keep it all together and safe. My Christmas storage is down stairs in my basement. It gets cold but doesn’t get to a freezing temperature.

Why Should You Make An Advent Calendar?

For an organized person like myself, I love the calendar because it keeps me organized and I don’t feel like I missed out on any Christmas cheer because I already have an activity to do every day up until Christmas. Print out a list of your 1-24 activities (I type out the activities on my computer, so the writing is neat and I can make two copies) and put the other list on the refrigerator so you will know which activity is for each day. You can prepare for the day and week in advance. If you need ideas/activities for the Advent calendar check out my list right here!

I hope you have a fun time making your own Advent calendar and have some extra Christmas spirit when completing the activities with your kids! This is an igloo we made for one of our Advent calendar activities a few years ago! You can start on December 1 for the calendar or whatever day you are able to finish (the kids will not notice is there are some missing!)

igloo Advent Calendar activity

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