With the holiday season quickly approaching and my toddler reaching an age where he can learn from and enjoy holiday learning activities, I set out to find an Advent calendar that our family would enjoy.
However, I couldn’t find one that was suitable. Some were filled with chocolates (which negates our healthy lifestyle), some where filled with gifts (I don’t want him to get caught up in the gift aspect of the holiday), and some had numbers that were too small or simply didn’t stand out enough for a toddler to easily recognize.
So I did what I do best – I created my own.
And I’m sure you can easily guess that I made the homemade Advent calendar out of felt. 2016 has definitely been the year of felt for me 🙂
I’m going to cut right to the chase since we are already a few days into December! It was a little time-consuming, but I love the way it turned out. It provides quite a few learning opportunities, and we can use it year after year.
Homemade Advent Calendar Materials
- Green Felt – for the tree and bottom layer
- White Felt – or other background color
- Felt Pieces in various colors – (I bought a new package for more colors but ended up using scraps I already had)
- Free Printable for the Tree Outline (keep scrolling for printable and instructions)
- Hot Glue Gun – for attaching the felt
- Numbers – Make sure you have enough for numbers 1-25.
- Ribbon – for attaching the ornaments to the tree
- Buttons – to hang the ornaments on
- Basic sewing materials – thread, needle, scissors – for attaching the buttons to the felt but you could skip this and use hot glue
- Wooden dowel – for hanging
- Decorative ribbon, if desired
How to Make the Homemade Advent Calendar
I was excited to get work on the homemade Advent calendar. I started with the background and large pieces and worked my way down to the ornaments.
Making the Background and Tree
First, I cut the large felt pieces, and I must say, this was the hardest part. I simply am terrible at cutting in a straight line. Why don’t squiggly scissors worked on felt?!
I cut a piece of white background to be 18 inches by 22 inches. My reason for this was that I already had an interactive alphabet of this size hanging from a wooden dowel. I figured I could borrow the dowel; although I ended up finding another one in the garage.
After that, I drew a Christmas tree onto green felt using a sharpie. It took me a few tries to get all of the branches right and to maximize my use of felt. I really marked up the back of it.
To save you the same work, I am sharing the outline that I drew. It’s on two sheets of paper, and I want to note that the bottom of the Christmas tree was a little too big for standard paper.
Therefore, the second page looks like it cuts off. However, it’s not a mistake – the tree was just a too wide. So I let it run off the edges, figuring it would be easy for you to just connect these few lines – easier than drawing your own tree, at least 🙂
Next, I cut a little brown rectangle out of my felt scraps for the tree stump.
Then I hot glued the tree and the stump to the the white background.
Attaching Buttons to the Advent Calendar
Even though felt sticks to felt, I wanted to use buttons and ribbon for this Advent calendar to provide another learning opportunity to my son – using buttons.
I found 25 buttons from a collection that I had. I love these buttons – especially their varying hues and textures all although within the same color family.
First, I spaced the buttons out, and then I sewed them on. Also, I put four buttons under the tree for the presents I was going to make.
You also could hot glue the buttons; however, I wanted the sewed look 🙂
Making Ornaments for the Advent Calendar
Now came for the daunting part – 25 shapes to make! Yet, an idea dawned on me… cookie cutters! I used my Christmas cookie cutters to trace a bunch of the shapes – the gingerbread man, snowman, and candy cane, to name a few.
If you are trying to cut down on the work, you could use just a few shapes and repeat them.
The rest of the shapes I outlined or I just cut. If I’m not sure how to draw something or I want a shape simplified, I google an outline of it.
Looking at just the outline makes it easy to emulate. I did that with the angel, and she turned out great!
Adding Decorative Ribbon
My shapes were looking a little boring, so I used holiday ribbon to spruce them up. Just a line of ribbon here and there, actually, went a long way in turning my boring felt shapes into cute pieces.
For example, on the snowman (pictured above), I used a line of ribbon instead of buttons.
The line of ribbon on the train spruced up its plainness. And, even the faceless gingerbread man look pretty spiffy. I didn’t want to fill them up too much though because I still had the Advent numbers to add.
Adding Ribbon Hooks
Next, I needed to attach ribbon to the felt, so the ornaments could hang from the buttons on the Christmas tree. I used this green ribbon (from our wedding programs!), and simply looped one end around the other.
To keep the loop, I put a bead of hot glue to hold the overlapping ribbon pieces (right above where my finger is).
Once glued, I added another bead of hot glue to the criss-cross and attached it to the back of the ornament.
Attaching the Calendar Dates
Next, I needed to add the dates. I went to Michael’s specially to pick these up – got caught up in all the sales, and completely forgot about it.
Not wanting to waste another trip out to a craft store (and not wanting to wait for Amazon prime delivery – two day seemed like too much!), I started to cut out my own numbers out of felt using a template. They looked horrible! It was just too many imperfect twos!
The next day, I picked the below numbers up at Michaels.
They are simply adhesive cardboard numbers, so they didn’t stick that well. I had to use hot glue to give them a good stick – and that was a lot of gluing plus a burnt pinky.
In hindsight, I should have gotten felt ones from Amazon. They have a bunch of felt numbers. When you do purchase your numbers, make sure you have enough 1s and 2s.
With these adhesives, at first I wasn’t crazy about the sharp contrast that the glitterly black created, but it’s grown on me.
And, they are very easy to read, which makes them perfect for my toddler.
When you are sticking on the numbers, make sure to lay them out ahead of time. Put the single digit numbers on the smaller ornaments – to make sure that every number has a good shape to fit on.
I barely was able to squeeze the 25 onto the star, since the star is the last thing that goes on the tree 🙂
The ornaments look so cute – and I think it was that ribbon 🙂 Faceless gingerbread man is definitely my favorite, yet, Frosty is a close second.
After the ornaments for the homemade Advent calendar were done, I went back to the tree. It looked a little drab with the white background, so I cut yet another piece of green felt and hot glued it behind the white. It provided a border, a little depth, and hid my sewing.
The tree still looked like it needed a little sprucing up (haha get it?!), so I ran a line of ribbon across the bottom.
I also used this same ribbon to create tabs to run the wooden dowel through. I was planning to use felt for this, but the ribbon was perfect – and tied it all together.
Here’s a close up of a the completed DIY Advent calendar.
I love how the homemade Advent calendar turned out, and my son is learning a ton!
He is learning to follow a number sequence, identify holiday shapes, create connections between the items on this tree and the items on our real trees, apply his fine motor skills on the use buttons, and practice responsibility, as it is his job everyday to find and hang up the next number.
He also loves that he has own tree and ornaments and that he doesn’t have to ask mommy in advance if he can touch them 🙂
Here is the entire tree, with some of the ornaments hanging. In the second picture, you can see how the tree is hanging.
The calendar is going to be a little crowded when all of the numbers are on – but they all do fit, and the homemade Advent calendar is the perfect size for small spaces and doors.
Not only do I love a great learning activity, but I love holiday traditions. This homemade Advent calendar will now be one in our home 🙂