Monday, 30 November 2015

24 Days of Surprises // DIY Advent Calendar

Tomorrow is the start of advent and I'm so excited to share our DIY calendar! Advent calendars are used to celebrate each day leading up to Christmas Day on the 25th of December. Last year we picked up a rectangular cardboard calendar that had 24 windows. Each day of the month a new window was opened, revealing a piece of chocolate behind the flap. Our two children each had a calendar and after dinner they would open their individual advents. It was a big hit with both and the calendars served as extra motivators to get them though dinnertime that month. 

This year I wanted to change it up a bit and make my own version of an advent calendar. Turning to Pinterest for inspiration, a quick search on the site shows hundreds of DIY advents. Some of the calendars are simple, others require some serious preparation, but they're all excellent ways to participate in the festivities. I especially love a few, including... 

It was when I saw this super adorable image of a woodland advent calendar on the Snug Studio blog, that I was instantly inspired. I immediately knew I had to make my own version. While I love the woodsy forest theme that the original designer used, I wanted to create a more Christmassy scene. 

Firstly, I wrote out the figures, characters and other parts to the Christmas scene I wanted to create. The 24 parts include:

  • Santa 
  • Snowman
  • Elf (2)
  • Reindeer
  • Yeti
  • Snow Capped Mountains (2)
  • Pine Trees of varying sizes (4)
  • Birch Trees of varying sizes (2)
  • Birch Logs (3)
  • Snowflake (2)
  • Star 
  • Mushrooms (2)
  • Candy Cane 
  • Wrapped Present 

Next I wrote a list of the number of days (December 1st - 24th) and filled each date with a corresponding part from the Christmas scene.

Now it was time to pick out paper. Using a couple of paper pads from Michaels and Target, I was able to find a suitable combination of complimentary patterns and colours. Each part of the Advent scene was assigned a piece of paper. 

Plenty of patterns and colors in the paper

Paper pads form craft stores 

Instructions for the Mountains: 

  • Trace a triangle on plain paper 
  • Cut out the triangle 
  • Using the first triangle as a template, trace a second triangle on patterned paper 
  • Cut around the second triangle, leaving space on each side of the triangle for a tab 
  • Score the lines of your triangle 
  • Fold up the three tabs where your scored 
  • Apply glue to two of the tabs 
  • Attach the two tabs to the backside of the patterned triangle, creating a pocket by lining up the two triangles evenly 
  • Insert a small gift to the pocket 
  • Add glue to the third tab and attach to the backside of the patterned paper 

Draw the triangle 

Two triangles, one includes space to fold the tabs

Folded tabs to glue to the other triangle

Follow these steps to create additional Mountains, as well as the Pine Trees. 

For the Snowflakes and Star, cut out the respective shape on the patterned paper. Cut out a smaller circle with tabs that can attach to the back of the patterned shape. 

Cut out snowflakes

Glue the circular ouch to the back of the snowflake to hold coins
Score 5 lines in the star as shown to create a 3-dimensional look

For the Candy Cane, cut out the shape on patterned paper. Cut out a smaller rectangle with tabs that can attach to the back of the patterned Candy Cane shape. 

Instructions for the Santa:

  • Choose a cardboard tube and trim to the appropriate height
  • Trace the bottom of the tube onto plain paper
  • Add 3 tabs to the circle
  • Cut out the circle, leaving the 3 tabs attached
  • Place the circular paper on the bottom of the tube and attach with scotch tape
  • Now cut out a piece of patterned paper to cover the tube
  • Attach to the back of the tube with scotch tape
  • Now cut out a small circle for Santa’s face and draw his eyes, nose, mustache details with a black marker
  • Cut out a teardrop shape for his beard
  • Attach both pieces to the tube with scotch tape
  • Insert two small gifts into the center of the tube
Trace bottom of tube on paper

Draw 3 tabs to the circle

Cut out circle, leaving 3 tabs attached

Tape the circle to the bottom of the tube

Repeat these steps for the other paper tube characters: Elves, Snowman, Yeti, Reindeer, Logs, Birch Trees and Mushrooms. Add paper cone hats, paper faces, small twigs and other embellishments where necessary. 

For Santa’s hat: 

  • Cut out a small circle from a second piece of patterned paper
  • Remove a small wedge from the side of the circle
  • Wrap the paper into a cone and secure with a piece of scotch tape
  • Add a small white strip and a tiny piece for the pom to add details to the hat
  • Cover the Santa tube with the hat
  • Here's a link from wikihow with directions to make a paper cone if you need it 

Each day the children will discover small gifts in the various advent pieces. Examples of some of the items include:

  • Blind bags of favourite miniature characters (Doc McStuffins, Littlest Pet Shop)
  • Small bags of Lego mini figurines  
  • Chocolate coins
  • Candy or sweets
  • Euro coins
  • Christmas themed Stickers
Blind bags are hidden in the cardboard tubes

Smaller chocolate treats are found in the miniature pine trees

Mushrooms hold chocolate coins

I made sure to include two items in each of the 24 parts, so there are a total of 48 items in our advent. I did this because I have two young children and wanted to make sure they each received something every day, to keep things fair. 

Our 2015 Christmas Advent Calendar

The cast of colourful characters

A walk through the magical woodland

Is that Rudolf with Santa?

Snow capped mountains in the background

Snowflakes fall from the sky

Little Elfy hangs by the birch logs

Number each of your items 1 through 24

It's an abominable snowman!!

The Yeti, Snowman and Reindeer

The Elves and Santa 

Reindeer, Santa and the Yeti hiding among the pines

I’ll be sure to update this post with the details of this year’s advent calendar, but I can almost guarantee its success already! Do you make or give your child an advent calendar? Did you open one as a child? I’d love to hear any advent stories you can remember, just post them in the comments section below! And for more advent ideas and inspiration, check out Pies & Gents on Pinterest. We have a holiday board dedicated to the cutest advent calendars around!


  1. Fantastic advent calendar...sure to be a big hit at the house every evening.

    1. Thanks, Gayle! I don't know how I'll stop them from sneaking a peek at all the contents!!!!

  2. Awesome. They will have a ball

  3. Love this idea, such a fun event for the kids!

    1. Thanks! They look forward to it everyday. Such a fun time of year!

  4. This is really an awesome article. Thank you for sharing this.It is worth reading for everyone.

    christmas advent calendar


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