DIY Christmas Advent Calendar and Activity Ideas

Today is December 1st and that means…yep, advent is upon us!

Growing up, advent was never a tradition in our family. I knew of other families who had different advent traditions and it was always something I looked forward to starting with my own family one day. Needless to say the past few years haven’t lent much Christmas cheer, but this year I am finally back into the Christmas spirit. Little Man is old enough now to really get into the spirit of the holidays, so it was perfect timing to begin our new family traditions. Starting with our advent calendar!

I’ve seen many variations on the advent calendar and decided that the best fit for our family would be an ‘activity-based’ advent: one that focuses on things we will do together as a family and for others during the holiday season.

Because I have an obsession love for garland, pennants, and banners, I decided to go with that theme and make a calendar for our mantle. There are many versions of this floating around in DIY-blog-land, but here is what I came up with.

You’ll need:

  • Twine, rope, or string
  • Mini clothespins
  • Small favor/candy bags
  • Colored and/or patterned cardstock
  • Scissors and/or punches
  • Glue
  • Markers/paint pens

The whole thing is pretty easy and you can do many different things with it, but since I love to take pictures and be annoyingly thorough here is a detailed tutorial on the process:

Choose two colors or patterns of coordinating but contrasting cardstock to layer. These will create the base for the numbers on your envelopes. Using scissors or a craft punch, create two sets of circles, one larger than the other. I used a larger (2-inch I think?) smooth-edge circle punch for the solid circles and a smaller (1.5 inch maybe?) scalloped-edge circle punch for the patterned circles.

You should end up with four piles of circles. I decided to alternate colors, both on the individual circle sets and on the envelopes themselves. Once you decide on your pattern, glue the circles together. (I really shouldn’t do crafts on my coffee table…dents and scratches, ahh!)

Voila! Now glue them down onto your envelopes and then, using your markers or paint pens (ooh puffy paint would be cute too), label them 1-24, being sure to alternate colors according to your pattern.

Now, cut 24 rectangles of cardstock to the appropriate size to fit inside your envelopes/favor bags. Write one activity on each of your cards. (Side note, now would be a good time to stuff those cards into the bags, don’t wait until after the banner is hanging to stuff them — especially first thing in the morning before your coffee —  or they may end up thrown across the room.)

Now just hang your rope/twine/string across your mantle and start pinning away. I started in the middle to ensure an even layout and then worked my way outward. The result: a cute, functional, fun but not too flashy activity based advent calendar!


I hope you enjoyed this tutorial and have fun making your own activity-based advent calendar. If you make your own, please come back and share it! I love seeing everyone’s ideas. And if you need some activity ideas for your calendar, here are the ones I used for this year:

1. Put up Christmas village
2. Cut down tree and decorate it
3. Send holiday cards to wounded soldiers
4. Watch a Christmas movie with popcorn
5. Color surprise pictures and send to friends/family
6. Decorate a gingerbread house
7. Have a picnic by the Christmas tree
8. Donate food to Bread of the Mighty
9. Go out for a dress-up dinner date
10. Christmas Parade
11. Visit Santa and take pictures
12. Make fun ornaments
13. Do a special Christmas craft
14. Donate toys to Toys for Tots
15. Make a special Christmas decoration and take it out to Daddy
16. Go see ‘The Nutcracker’ ballet
17. Drive around to see Christmas lights in our jammies
18. Enjoy a hot chocolate ‘bar’
19. Read a special Christmas book
20. Visit Winter Wonderland in St. Augustine
21. Make cookies
22. Read the story of the birth of Jesus
23. Go see Live Nativity
24. Make a birthday cake for Jesus *AND* Christmas Eve service at church

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