The time between Thanksgiving and Christmas is often riddled with shopping, cooking, chores, parties, and general busy-ness that pulls us away from focusing on the real reason we do any of those things to begin with. Obviously, it’s hard to avoid those things in general, but there is a way families can come together every day to refocus on the important things: Advent and the coming of our Lord. Celebrating the season of Advent is a precious and traditional way to prepare ourselves for the birth of Jesus, teach children about the real reason we celebrate Christmas, and bring your family together to refocus on what matters most.
To do this, many families put together Advent calendars. I’m sure you’ve seen the many different varieties of Advent calendars in stores and online. But we wanted to share 5 easy, DIY Advent calendars that are perfect for the whole family and keep the reason for the season alive in your home.
Book Advent Calendar
This is one of the most unique and versatile versions of the traditional Advent calendar. Whether you use new books, or simply recycle old books that have been taken out of the rotation on your child’s bookshelf, you can easily create this Advent calendar with just books and a little bit of wrapping paper. It’s also great for older kids and a perfect way to “pick” a book for the whole family to read together every night leading up to Christmas.
Choose 25 books that suit your child’s reading age, interests, and the Christmas season, wrap them, number them, and place them on a bookshelf, the mantel piece, around the tree, or in a basket. To learn more about how to create a book Advent calendar visit the Sycamore and Slate blog post that inspired this idea.
Some books you can include are:
- Christmas in the Manger by Nola Buck
- The Berenstain Bears and the Joy of Giving by Jan Berenstain & Mike Berenstain
- Christmas in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder
- A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
- All Creature Great and Small by James Herriot
Paper Bag Houses
With a little bit of artistic talent (or a good stamp or stencil) it’s really easy to make your own paper bag house gift bags! All you need is 24 or 25 paper lunch bags, some ribbon, string, or twine, white or silver markers, and the little items that go in each bag. Decorate the bags with line drawings of wintery houses, fill them with the goodies, fold them shut, punch a hole at the top and tie them shut. Hang the bags in a row along a brand or the fireplace mantel, sit them on a shelf, around the Christmas tree, or string them from the stair railing.
Learn more about putting together a paper bag house Advent calendar on the J. Sorelle blog.
Some items you can include in the bags:
- Individual pieces of a Nativity set (so the set is complete by Christmas Eve)
- Small toys
- Coloring/craft supplies
- Activity ideas (make cookies, read a book together, build a snowman, etc.)
- Grow-Your-Own kits (chia seeds starters, grow your own Christmas tree kits, etc.)
Envelope Advent Calendar
This one can take many different forms: envelope garland, box of envelopes, an envelope for each kid, a wall of envelopes, etc. But the essentials are pretty straight forward. Create or buy some pretty envelopes, number stickers, and string if you’re hanging them, then fill them with little things like candy, activity suggestions, or Bible verses to read out loud.
Reverse Advent Calendar
The essential principle of the Advent calendar is that there is some sort of gift for each day. But what if you reversed that idea and gave something each day? There are a few great ideas out there, but some of our favorites are the Food Bank Reverse Advent Calendar, the Pet Shelter Reverse Advent Calendar, and the Women Center Reverse Advent Calendar.
The basic idea is that each day you purchase an item that goes into a box that is then donated at the end of the 25 days. For the food bank one you might collect some canned goods, pastas, and household essentials. For the pet shelter you might collect dog food and toys, and for the women’s center you might purchase baby clothes, toys, and diapers.
This is a great option to do with larger groups like church groups, homeschool groups, classrooms, and neighbors.
With a simple shoe organizer, some craft supplies, and an empty wall, you can create an easy and reusable Advent calendar. Most canvas shoe organizers have exactly 24 (or just a few more) pockets that you can number with paint, fabric markers, or iron-on numbers. String some fairy lights around it, add some hot-glued faux holly and evergreen branches, and hang it on an empty wall where everyone can easily reach it.
Some things to include in the pockets:
- Hot chocolate packets or tea
- Craft kits
- Cookie cutters
Learn more about making your own shoe organizer Advent calendar from the Pretty Life Girls blog.
Celebrating Advent and counting down the days until Christ’s birth can be fun for the whole family and bring everyone together without the “gimme” mindset. Try one of these Advent calendars and start a new tradition!
Does your family use an Advent calendar every year? Share your ideas and Christmas traditions with your fellow American moms by tagging us (@weareamericanmom) in your Instagram Stories or comment below!