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Advent calendars are a fun way to countdown to Christmas. (The history of advent dates back to the early 1900s!)

If you’re looking for unique and creative advent calendar ideas this year, have you considered making your own advent calendar? It’s a great holiday project to do with the kids (and, of course, you have to fill it when they’re not looking!).


How to Make an Advent Calendar

1. Christmas Crackers Advent Calendar

DIY Advent Crackers

Who doesn’t love Christmas crackers? (I don’t even know if that’s the “official” name, but that’s what we call them.) They are fun to open (with a POP!) and then have tiny toys and trinkets in them. Just buy Christmas crackers and then number them one to 24. Then, hang them with some festive twine from the mantel or Christmas tree.

Be aware, though, that most Christmas crackers in a package come with the same things in them. If you want to vary the contents of your crackers for each day of advent, try making your own Christmas crackers and then packing them with your own advent fillers.

2. Train Advent Calendar

Tiny Train Advent Calendar

If you have a train lover in your family, then this is the perfect advent calendar idea! (Bonus points for being a super cute addition to your mantel!)

Get some unpainted train cars and have fun decorating (don’t forget to add the countdown numbers!). Then, fill them with advent goodies (or tie them to the top or sit them behind the car). It’s an adorable advent calendar you can use every year. (Be sure to paint the year you made it on the bottom so it can be a family hand-me-down!)

3. Mini Stocking Advent Calendar

Mini Stocking Advent Calendar

This is a simple but functional DIY advent calendar: get mini felt stockings and felt stick-on numbers. Place the numbers (1-24) on the stockings and fill them with toys, chocolates, or favors. You can string the stockings on a ribbon to hang up or use them as tree decorations.

4. Jar Advent Calendar

DIY Jar Advent Calenda

I like this advent calendar because you can probably do it from things you have around your house. If you have a bunch of dried up clay in containers (like we do), then ditch the clay and use the containers for your new advent calendar (after you wash and dry the containers). Then, wrap the containers in festive contact paper or wrapping paper and number the fronts. (I love how they numbered these containers in all different fonts and numbers and even spelled out the day on some of them.)

If you want uniform jars, check out these jars for an advent calendar.

5. Burlap Bag Advent Calendar

DIY Burlap Bag Advent Calendar

Isn’t this advent calendar beautiful? I love it because you can use it each year and it doubles as a decoration!

To make this advent calendar, you’ll need:

Burlap craft bags
Red stick-on felt numbers
Toys, candy, or party favors

You can tie the bags to a wreath, garland, the stairs, or even on the tree!

6. Envelope Advent Calendar

Cellophane Bag Advent calendar

These are a great idea to do as a family craft project. Start with an envelope (any size or style, like mini glassine paper bags, vellum, or even large, white business envelopes). If you use glassine or vellum, remember to wrap the goodies you put in the bags because you’ll be able to see them! If you don’t want to use cellophane or paper envelopes, try these cute muslin craft bags.

Then, decorate the fronts with paint, crayons, or cutouts.

To make the star clasps shown here, stick (or glue) red felt stars onto mini craft clothespins. (Don’t forget the felt stick-on numbers!)

You can then clip the bags onto twine, ribbon, garland, or the Christmas tree.

7. Mini Bin Advent Calendar

DIY Bin Advent Calendar

This is a fun, modern take on the advent calendar. Use mini food storage containers (those rectangular plastic baby food containers work really well!). I like these because they are long and deep, which means they can fit advent toys or candy of different sizes.

The kids can have fun painting or decorating the outside and then adding the countdown numbers to the top.

8. Easy Advent Bag Calendar

Easy DIY Advent Calendar

If you’re running tight on time (or low on motivation), then you can make a simple advent calendar out of Christmas favor bags and ribbon. Just write the numbers on front with a festive marker!

You can also have the kids decorate white paper bags to use for the calendar:

paper bag advent calendar

9. Wrapped Package Advent Calendar

Wrapped Package Advent Calendar

This one is very easy, but functional. Just get small gift boxes (I like these favor boxes because you don’t need to wrap them and you can just decorate with fun ribbon — fast and easy!) Either write the countdown numbers directly on the boxes or write them on fun tags. (Don’t forget to put your goodies into the boxes before you wrap them!)

10. Book Countdown Advent Calendar

Book Advent Calendar

A friend of mine told me about this advent calendar a couple of years ago and each year I say I’m going to do it . . . and then I forget! Make an advent countdown calendar of children’s books. Just wrap 24 books and each night your kids can unwrap one for the bedtime story that night.

As you can imagine, this type of calendar can get pricey. My friend actually wraps books that they already have and she said her son is still super excited. (Dig in the back of your shelves for books your kids may have forgotten about!) I think I’m going to hit up the thrift store (our thrift store has 69-cent kid books) and find some for this project. Then, at the end, we’ll have 24 great new additions to our home library!

11. Heart Fabric Countdown Calendar

Heart Countdown Advent Calendar

If you’re a little more crafty (and have a little more time), try this fabric heart countdown calendar. Sew fabric hearts onto a piece of fabric and then use the stick-on felt numbers for the countdown. (Don’t forget to leave the top of your heart open so you can put the advent toys in them!)

12. Advent Calendar Templates

advent calendar templates

If you want to print out your own advent calendar to make, here’s a great list of advent calendar templates.

13. Online Advent Calendars

Online advent calendars

Are you less DIY and more a techy type? There are some really fun online advent calendars you can do on your computer, phones, or tablets. Just search “online advent calendars [your device type].” My daughter had a lot of fun with one last year (and there’s no glitter to clean up after).


What’s your favorite advent calendar?

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Jacqueline Wilson is a writer, mom, wife, homeschool super freak and #1 Bestselling Author of It's Homeschooling, Not Solitary Confinement. She has been featured at Huffington Post, Parenting Magazine, Redbook, Kiwi Magazine, Fox News, and more. She is a discriminating sock monkey enthusiast and has a small collection of rescued pets. One more and she gets a free set of steak knives.

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