Learn how to make the countdown to Christmas even more magical with this simple and inexpensive DIY advent calendar. Please note: affiliate links are used in this post. Please see my disclosures for more information.
On chilly December mornings, you’ll find me snuggled under our fluffy down comforter, anticipating the firm jab of a little finger on my forehead.
“Mommy! Jack left lollipops in our bucket today!” one (or both) of my kids declare as one hand taps my sleepy head while another wraps around a lollipop stick.
Jack is our elf-on-the-shelf (or on a lamp, or on the toilet tank), and in a moment of inspiration – or foolishness – I linked Jack to our advent calendar. Not only does our elf move every night, he also leaves little notes or gifts in the advent calendar. This little Christmas tradition means that December mornings start early so the kids can discover what their elf left for them.
Sometimes, it means late nights for me when I wake up in a sweat at 2am because I remembered at that moment to move the elf and fill the advent calendar. But, Jack’s surprises bring happiness to my kids and keep the Christmas magic going all the way through the month. So, the extra work is worth the effort.
Although it would be easy to purchase an advent calendar pre-filled with candies, if you crave something more unique the best and most inexpensive bet is to create your own.
A DIY Advent Calendar Your Kids (and Elf) Will Love
Our DIY advent calendar is a loose interpretation of a Pottery Barn version from a few years ago and is easy and inexpensive to make. To make it, you’ll need:
- Mini galvanized buckets
- Twine or string
- Wood dowels (try the 3/2″ or 1/2″ diameter versions)
- Optional: Scrapbook stickers, ribbon, cardstock, embroidery thread, or paint pens
Decorate and number the buckets to your heart’s content – make them as colorful or as simple as you wish. The original Pottery Barn version was too plain for me, so I used lots of bright Christmas colors to make the buckets more cheerful. After all, this DIY advent calendar is for my little kids, and primary colors attract children the way a flame attracts moths. 🙂
Dowels come in a variety of pre-cut lengths (12″ and 36″ seem most common) and you can buy them at your local hardware or crafts store. Use the twine or string to attach the buckets to the dowels, then attach the dowels to one another. The easiest method is to cut individual lengths of twine and tie loops on both ends, then slide the dowel through the loops.
DIY Advent Calendar Gift Ideas
There are many ways to fill your advent calendar buckets without resorting to lollipops every day. Here are some ideas that we’ve used:
- Plastic animal figurines
- Glitter glue sticks
- Crayons, markers, or colored pencils
- Bouncy balls
- Hair clips or elastics
- Lip balm
Occasionally, Jack the elf leaves a note in the bucket with instructions to do an activity, such as:
- Coloring a picture for Santa
- Decorating the tree with new ornaments from our elf
- Making ornaments for family members
- Watching a Christmas movie together
- Visiting Santa
- Baking Christmas cookies
My childhood advent calendar was simpler than this one, but I still remember the excitement of unpacking it and counting down to Christmas each day. Now, I get to experience the joy and anticipation of Christmas through the eyes of my son and daughter. Which is all well and good until a little hand shoves a lollipop in my face at six o’clock tomorrow morning.
Check out these other ideas!
- 10-Minute Christmas DIY: Ornament Garland on the Cheap
- 3 Last-Minute Thanksgiving Centerpieces for the Overwhelmed Hostess
- The One Room You Should Decorate for Christmas
Free printables, exclusive tips, and more!