So I did a crafty project and I’m going to share it here.
I made a little Advent Calendar of sorts for counting down the days until Christmas. I had wanted one last year, but couldn’t find one I liked that I could afford. Etsy has many gorgeous items- all kinds of ways to mark the days of Advent from envelopes to buntings, to little wooden shelves with drawers. However, the ones I liked most were way out of my price range. It goes without saying that they were also out of skill range!
So, I thought, why not just make something myself? I’m not really sure how I came up with this idea, but I decided upon wrapping little gift boxes (the type jewelry comes in) with paper and putting goodies and trinkets inside, then putting them in a large vase. Mabel (and Nemo next year) can open one box per night, leading up to Christmas.
So, here’s how I did it. I actually had about 16 gift boxes in my house. This is probably because my husband is really good in the jewelry buying department. I then hit my mother and sister up for the remaining 9 boxes I needed. If you’re doing the math, that’s 25 boxes, instead of the traditional 24- I’ll get to why later.
Even before I had all the boxes, I started wrapping. It took HOURS and HOURS to wrap all those little boxes. Especially because I wrapped the lids and the bottoms separately and towards the end I was kind of scrounging for boxes and wound up struggling to wrap one heart-shaped box and one round box. If I’m going to wrap 25 tiny boxes, I’m only doing it ONCE. This way, I can tie the boxes with string each year and never have to wrap again. I used scrapbook paper I had on hand from making the bunting for Nemo’s Christening. I chose mostly greens, blues, and browns. It works for Christmas, without being ‘too Christmas-y’ I think. You can see the before and after below.
I also had a tag-punch for making gift tags. Since some of the contents would be date specific (details below), I needed a way to label them. I purchased this assortment of stamps from Amazon because 1-25 would vary in width and I wanted to make sure they would fit on the tags. (Note: I’m super cheap and wasn’t willing to buy the acrylic block. I was going to just use them without it, but realized that I had a lame paperweight my company gave out that was acrylic, so I just used that and it worked perfectly. I have to say, having the block be see-through really helped with placing the numbers in the center, not going off the edge, etc.) I used a gold stamp pad I already had (from making the Save The Dates way back when Mac and I were engaged). You can see the 25 tags below.
So, once I had the boxes wrapped and the tags punched and stamped, it was time to fill the boxes. I had been brainstorming ideas on what to include for a few weeks- keeping my eyes peeled when I was out shopping. A lot of Advent Calendars just contain candies, so I picked up a bag of soft candy cane mints at the grocery store. I chose this kind because Mabel is still too young for hard candy and I didn’t want the mess of actual candy canes! (Also, these are my sister’s favorite, so she’s getting the leftovers!) I also put in some Hershey’s Candy Cane Kisses (these things are AWESOME- like peppermint bark!).
So I had candy, but I wanted to mix it up. I also didn’t want to forget what we are actually celebrating during Advent and Christmas. So, I included some of the figurines from Mabel’s kids Nativity. Last year, my mom got her this Little People Nativity I had put on her Christmas list. It’s great because she loves to play with it and makes no attempts to touch my porcelain nativity! So, I put the 3 wise men in one of the larger boxes. I then put Mary and Joseph in separate boxes. Those boxes will be opened early on so that Mabel (and Nemo) can play with them. Then, in keeping with the reason for Christmas, I put the baby Jesus in his own box- box 25. Mabel can open that box Christmas morning and put Jesus in the nativity scene (assuming we bring it with us to North Carolina, where we will be spending Christmas with my in laws).
In addition to the figures, I picked up a few other goodies. A ring pop, a push pop, a hair bow, a My Little Pony toothbrush with toothpaste (makes up for some of the candy!), and ‘Reindeer Food’ (see the picture above, it’s in box 24 so we can sprinkle it out on Christmas Eve). I also picked up a few new Christmas books- Llama Llama Holiday Drama and This is the Stable through Mabel’s preschool Scholastic book club. Since the books themselves wouldn’t fit, I cut out pictures of them from the book flier, clued them to tags, and put them in boxes.
I have lots of other ideas for future years. My friend Stefanie posted about this great idea of a book only Advent Calendar of sorts. As we accumulate more books (we already have a dozen or so) this could be a nice way to do it one year. The reason I didn’t dole out our books that way this year was because I didn’t want to have to wait to read some of them! Also, it’s A LOT of wrapping paper to use every year. If I did, I’d write the names of the books and put them inside the boxes.
Other possibilities include hot chocolate packets, Christmas ornaments, small crafts, holiday movies, holiday CDs, holiday jewelry (earring, pins, etc.), cookies. Really, if you were to print out pictures (or write out something for older kids) you could have any gift or activity in a little box (i.e. tree lighting, caroling, craft, baking, etc).
One thing that I think will be nice with this idea for Advent is that it will grow with the kids. As they get older, I can change what I include in the boxes.
So, back to the DIY-ing. I had all the wrapped boxes, the tags, the goodies. I fit everything into boxes as best I could and tied them all with Baker’s twine. I ordered this Baker’s twine from Amazon. There is A LOT- I’m set for life in the Baker’s twine department, but it was much more reasonable than ribbon or Baker’s twine from the local craft store. Also, I can have it on had for other uses. I tied the string around the boxes, made a bow, then put the tag on and made another bow- that kept the tag in place.
Once everything was tied up, I filled the vase- starting with the 25, so it would be at the bottom. The vase wasn’t big enough (if I had purchased boxes, or been more picky, I would have chosen small ones and they all would have fit in, but I’m cheap and not that picky!) so I arranged the earliest boxes around the vase. I think it looks nice!
I finished this project on Sunday (I had time to work on it over the Thanksgiving holiday) and so far, Mabel hasn’t seemed to notice it, inquire about it, or try to open anything. I think she got used to seeing the boxes on our dining room table as I was working on wrapping them- and every time she opened one, it was empty. I told her that they would be filled and have treats for her, but at almost-3, I’m not sure how much she grasped about what was happening. This is really the first Christmas where she’s more of a little kid than a baby, but not entirely.
So, that’s my DIY, reusable, Advent calendar. I like how it came out, and I’m glad I never have to make it again! Next year I can just fill it! It will be especially easy if I manage to put the twine and tag in the box after Mabel opens it. Then next year I won’t even have to worry about new twine or tags. However, with a preschooler, that may not be possible!
Any other cool ideas for marking the days of Advent?