Children receive an unprecedented amount of gifts for Christmas these days. Why would a non-materialistic mom want to add 24 extra gifts to the madness with a treasure-filled advent calendar? The initial calendar was given to me by my Grandma Boddicker and Aunt Beth. It was filled with small toys and candy. The kids loved it so much that we could not stop the tradition once it began. So we had to make it serve a greater purpose. We have since given these treasured calendars to all of our family and friends with children so that they can enjoy the tradition.
During the holidays kids need several things like a new outfit and shoes for the school program or to wear to church on Christmas Day. We would simply place a note in the box that read, “Today we shop for a new Christmas outfit.” There is always a great holiday movie that comes out that you will be taking your kids to anyway. “Going to the movies,” would be in one box. We always provide one awesome Christmas-themed video and a book among the 24 days. Lastly, on Christmas Eve the note sent them on a scavenger hunt to find their new pajamas to wear on this special night. Basically, the treasures in the box are things you would do or purchase with or without an advent calendar.
To make it extra special, we included activities like “Today, let’s bake cookies.” or “Let’s do something special for Dad today.”
All 24 days preceding Christmas my kids raced to the advent calendar each morning, eager to see what treasure was awaiting them.
This DIY project is simple and uses up old greeting cards so that they do not end up in the landfill. Simply take 24 small match boxes and cover them with old greeting cards (preferably those you received last year). Arrange the match boxes in the tree-shaped arrangement as pictured in the first photo, glue them to a felt backing, hang it on a dowel and use ribbon to hang it on the wall.
When covering the match boxes, remember to only cover the main box sides so that the inner box can slide out to reveal the treasure inside. Tacky Glue works best when wrapping the greeting card around the match box. Also, you have to score the paper to fit nicely around the box. All 24 boxes must have the design going in the proper direction.
Once the boxes are glued on to the felt backing, use sparkle glue to write numbers 1 to 24 beginning at the bottom left box and ending at the top with 24.
Each box is filled with a treasure, note, instructions, or candy. One dear friend fills the calendar with activities for each day rather than candy. We fill ours with a combination of activities, necessities, gifts and candy. Here is a list of some of our favorites:
- A coupon to see a movie or go out for ice cream.
- A Christmas DVD or book to add to our holiday collection. (Charlie Brown Christmas for instance).
- A Christmas ornament to hang on the tree for the day we plan to get our tree. Kids will begin a collection of ornaments they can take when they leave for college.
- A note that says, “Let’s make cookies.”
- A coupon for the child’s favorite meal.
- A new outfit to be worn during the holidays (they need this anyway).
- A note saying, “Today we are going to give to the poor.”
- Notes reminding children of the true meaning of Christmas.
- An activity that makes Dad feel special.
- And most importantly…a pair of special pajamas for Christmas Eve.
When the items are too big to fit in the box, we put a note in the box that sends the kids on a little hunt around the house to find their gift. I hide all the gifts on December 1st. The kids have never found them early–but they know they are around somewhere. Be careful to not go overboard on the gifts or else the kids will learn the wrong lesson and not appreciate the true meaning of Christmas.
Advent Calendar Instructions to Read to the Children
Hang the advent calendar in a visible, easily accessible place in your house. Begin with box 1 on December 1st. Each day you will find a treasure to play with or eat, sometimes both. While providing a wonderful countdown to the great holiday of Christmas, this calendar teaches you to be patient and wait for each individual day to open the boxes. No fair opening them early or peeking ahead. When there are two or more children you need to take turns opening the boxes. If there are an uneven number of items in the box (heaven forbid) you need to give the extras to your mom or dad and never fight over what is there or you may lose the privilege of having this wonderful calendar. Have fun and enjoy!
We hope that you will treasure this holiday tradition and pass it on to others.
Warning: if you do this once for your children, you will not be able to stop the tradition until they are in college and it gets more expensive as they get older.