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Beyond Chocolate Reindeer: 8 DIY Advent Calendar Ideas

two little girls looking at a homemade DIY advent calendar
phBodrova/Shutterstock

If you’re feeling uninspired by the store-bought, chocolate-filled advent calendars, why not make your own? We’ve got some easy, creative options to get you started—several that use everyday items you have at home.

Counting down to Christmas is a great way to spread out the joy all month long. It helps give your children an outlet for directing their anticipation and excitement since waiting for Christmas Day can be tough. You can fill your advent calendar with whatever you like—stickers, poems, little treats, crafts, books, and so on.

Felt Advent Calendar

a colorful DIY felt advent calendar in the shape of a pine tree
Tell Love and Party

This is a sweet calendar that you’ll be able to use for many years to come. It has a small pocket to slip in a poem, a coupon for a prize (such as “ice cream night”), or a small piece of candy.

Here’s what you need:

  • Felt: Whatever colors you like, cut into triangles.
  • Duck canvas: Cut into a 24×23 inch square—used to display the felt triangles.
  • Embroidery floss: Contrasting colors to the felt pieces.
  • Wood dowel: This is the hang the canvas on for display.
  • Pom poms: To hang from the dowel (these are optional).
  • Hot glue gun

Read the full tutorial at Tell Love and Party

Christmas Bulb Advent Calendar

an advent calendar made from paper craft Christmas bulbs
The House That Lars Built

A festive option, allowing you to string up your calendar wherever you need a splash of color in your home. Each bulb opens up with a hidden treat, poem, or gift tucked inside.

Here’s what you need:

Read the full tutorial at The House That Lars Built

Mini Box Advent Calendar

simple advent calendars made from little boxes
Fun365

This is a super easy project most kids can make with a little guidance. Depending on the size of the boxes, you can stuff them with candy, toys, or sweet poems.

Here’s what you need:

  • Mini boxes: You can reuse take-out boxes, or order some boxes in fun colors.
  • Pom poms: To glue on top of each box.
  • Numbers: You can get number stickers, or download this free printable for the numbers.
  • Glue: A hot glue gun is best, but a regular glue stick will also work.

Read the full tutorial at Fun365

Paper Bags Advent Calendar

simple advent calendar made from plain paper lunch bags
Most Lovely Things

Not feeling super crafty? This project is by far one of the easiest DIY advent calendars out there!

All you need are small paper bags—in any color (even brown). You can hang them with twine and close pins, place them in a basket, scatter them on a shelf, or hide them under the Christmas tree.

Fill them with goodies, a new book, candy, or a warm pair of wool socks. Decorate it however you like—with paint, stickers, markers, crayons, etc.

Creating an advent calendar doesn’t get much easier than this!

Read the full tutorial at Most Lovely Things

Toilet Paper Tube Advent Calendar

colorful advent calendar made from toilet paper tube sections wrapped in paper
Smashed Peas and Carrots

It’s always good to reuse and recycle, especially during the holidays when money is flying out the window. Well, you don’t get more resourceful than reusing old toilet paper rolls! So dig them out of the recycle bin and have some fun with this project.

Here’s what you need:

Read the full tutorial at Smashed Peas and Carrots

Coffee Tin Advent Calendar

coffee cans, labeled with the date, stacked up in an advent calendar pyramid
Look What I Made

Here’s another great project that reuses stuff that’s headed towards the trash or recycling bin. The original project was made using coffee tins, but you can use anything—such as tea boxes, spice tins, mason jars, whatever can hide goodies.

Once you’ve put in the time and effort to decorate your containers, you’ll be able to use them for years to come. Who doesn’t love a craft project that brings joy for multiple holidays?

Here’s what you need:

  • Empty containers: 24 in total. Old coffee tins, spice jars, whatever you have lying around.
  • Paper: Thick white paper is best.
  • Tissue paper
  • Scissors
  • Glue
  • An X-Acto knife
  • A cutting board
  • Tape: Try to get installation tape since it’s thicker and will give a cool 3D effect.
  • Numbers: Print out numbers, or try these wood ornament numbers for a rustic look.

Read the full tutorial at Look What I Made

Shoe Organizer Advent Calendar

an advent calendar made from a shoe organizer
Elizabeth Joan Designs

If you have an old shoe organizer lying around, then consider repurposing it for this project. Otherwise, you can order a new shoe organizer for less than $10! Hang it over the door, or use hooks to hang it on a wall.

You can get all fancy by stenciling in the numbers, or just add stick-on numbers. It’s up to you.

Here’s what you need:

Read the full tutorial at Elizabeth Joan Designs

Envelope Advent Calendar

a clever advent calendar made from white envelopes
A Few Things from My Life

If you’ve left this project to the last minute, don’t stress! We’ve got just the project that you can whip up in a jiffy. All you need are some envelopes—basic white ones will work.

Fill each envelope with pieces of candy, hair ties, jewelry, stickers, or whatever will put a smile on your child’s face.

Here’s what you need:

  • 24 Envelopes: Really, this is all you need! You can get festive with these red envelopes.
  • Numbers: You can write the numbers, or seal the envelope with advent stickers.
  • A board to display: This is optional since you can stick the enveloped to the wall, or stack them on the shelf. If you want to display them, glue or tape the envelopes to a whiteboard, an old picture frame, or a bulletin board.

Read the full tutorial at A Few Things From My Life


Go forth and get all crafty this holiday season. Remember, an advent calendar doesn’t need to be fancy to be meaningful. The simplest ones can still warm your child’s heart. It’s what’s inside that counts, right?

Jill Chafin Jill Chafin
Jill Chafin is a freelance writer, aerialist, dancer, food enthusiast, outdoor adventurer, and mama, based in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Read Full Bio »

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