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This amazing DIY advent calendar idea is a ton of fun for toddlers

During the holiday season, is anyone more excited than the toddler in your life? Truth: kids of all ages get super excited for the holidays and don’t let teens fool you. They do too. When the calendar turns to December, the anticipation is definitely on overload, which is why an advent calendar is a wonderful idea to help kids count down the days until Santa stops by. Advent calendars date back to the 19th century with the holiday tradition of a Christmas countdown using chalk lines. People converting to Christianity prepared for baptism during the four weeks leading up to Jesus’ birthday on December 25th.

Gerhard Lang began selling what we recognize as the advent calendars of today in Germany in the 1930s until WWII caused cardboard to become scarce. Advent calendars became commercialized in 1946 thanks to Richard Sellmer and found their way to the United States in the 1950s. Chocolate popped into the advent calendar at this time when the popular chocolate company Cadbury made a chocolate advent calendar sold in the United Kingdom. The popularity of advent calendars ebbed and flowed until the early 1990s when they became extremely popular. Today, you can still get a Sellmer advent calendar and many other advent calendars designed for adults and kids that feature everything from toys to candy.

If you’re looking for something a bit simpler, making your own DIY advent calendar for toddlers isn’t that difficult. Creating your own advent calendar can also be a great way to get the older kids more involved in the holiday preparations.

Advent calendar craft

The first thing you need as you set out to make your own advent calendar is a theme. Chocolate may have been a component of early advent calendars, but many parents aren’t happy about giving kids a daily sweet treat. That’s fine because there are a lot of cute ideas you can use to create the gifts that go inside that don’t include sugar. Don’t worry if you’re not crafty either. A do-it-yourself advent calendar can be simple. The holidays are stressful enough, and parents don’t need to add more to their already full plates.

a DIY hanging advent calendar
Image used with permission by copyright holder

How to make a simple advent calendar

Head to the dollar store or online and order 25 small gift boxes. Number each box consecutively from 1 to 25 with a paint marker. For something quicker, use adhesive numbers. Decorate the top of the box with a fun pom pom or a small bow. Use a glue gun to attach the pom pom or bow for better adherence. Once you have the boxes ready it’s time to decide what you want to put inside.

Arrange the boxes in order within a larger decorative box and keep this box in a spot that toddlers can easily access. If the kids can’t wait, put it out of reach and take it down at a designated special time each day. That will give the kids something to look forward to.

If the boxes seem too cumbersome and you don’t have a lot of space, you can use bags instead. Start by numbering small gift bags. Try to get bags with a handle that you can easily string. Hang two strings on a wall and place 13 numbered (and filled) bags on the top string and 12 on the bottom. Place just out of the reach of little hands to avoid early opening. This style DIY advent calendar can be a real space saver if you don’t have room to put out 25 small gift boxes.

little girl reaching for a hanging advent calendar
Image used with permission by copyright holder

What to put inside

Kids love the anticipation of opening the advent calendar each day because they can’t wait to see what’s inside. Of course, small treats like wrapped chocolates or lollipops are an option as is money, but if you want something different, include puzzle pieces (along with a small toy or treat). Take a holiday puzzle that’s age-appropriate and divide up the puzzle pieces into the 25 boxes or bags. If possible, try and put related pieces in each bag. Set aside a heavy poster board or flat piece of cardboard set for the kids to put the pieces together upon. On Christmas Day, the last pieces get popped into the puzzle. Look for puzzles between 30 and 50 pieces. Toddlers may need a little help, but an advent calendar with puzzle pieces can also become a family activity.

Another fun idea for an advent calendar is to put Lego Duplo bricks or building blocks inside. As kids open each day’s box or bag, they get to add to whatever they’re building or knock it down and start again. By December 25, they will have a complete set. Or, build your toddler’s library by putting together an advent calendar filled with board or bath books.

Advent calendars are a fun way to help toddlers countdown to Christmas. While the tradition of advent calendars dates back to the 19th century with its roots in religion, any family of any faith or holiday tradition can enjoy the activity. You can certainly find an array of different advent calendars online, but it’s not too difficult to create and personalize your own DIY advent calendar for your toddler. If you have multiple kids, you can individualize a DIY advent calendar for each child or do a family one. Advent calendars are easy to make and don’t have to include chocolate unless you wish!

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Dawn Miller
Dawn Miller began her professional life as an elementary school teacher before returning to her first love, writing. In…
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