Count down to Christmas – DIY Advent Calendar Ideas

One of my favourite times of the year has to be Christmas.   I started planning for this Christmas in September already.  I am sure there are some of you who started even before me.

One of the traditions I have started with my husband and son is to create DIY advent calendars for them. Each year I try to create something different or have a different theme.  It often isn’t easy to find enough gifts but if I start early enough I normally manage to get it done. As it is our own little tradition, we start our advent calendars on the 1 December.  I have 24 gifts, one for each day, with the final gift being opened on Christmas Eve. We open our gifts from Father Christmas (Santa Claus) on Christmas morning and celebrate with a Christmas meal at lunchtime.

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This wooden Christmas Tree makes and appearance every year.  I bought it a few years ago from Woolworths. 

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The Internet is full of amazing advent calendar ideas. If you spend some time browsing,  you will find some great ideas that would work well for your family. Some of the ideas I have used over the last few years are:

  • A Superhero Dad – Marvel Theme: My husband loves the Marvel Movies.  For this advent calendar, I searched for 24 marvel themed gifts.  I tried to gather as many of the little figurines as I could find, within my budget of course. Gosh! They can be pricy! I used the wooden Christmas Tree and in each drawer I put in a riddle, fact or joke.  Each day my husband would open a drawer and read what I had put in there.  If it was a riddle,  he had to solve it correctly before he could open the gift for that day.  The facts I put in actually taught him a few things he didn’t know.   I couldn’t find enough characters, so for some of the days I used other Marvel merchandise e.g. chocolate bar with Marvel characters on, or a cap.


  • Tool Theme: When we built our new house, my husband finally had his own space to set up a workshop.  For that year, I created an advent calendar with all sorts of tools he could put into his workshop. Tools can be expensive, so I also included recycled containers with labels on that he could use when organising his workshop. For example, a jar for wood screws, or steel nails.   Again, I used the Christmas tree with the drawers, and each drawer had a riddle in. Solving the riddle got him the gift for the day.   This tool themed advent calendar has come in quite handy when I have needed my hubby to get things done around the house.


  • Family activity theme: My husband’s annual leave always falls over the Christmas holidays.  So for this particular year I decided to think up different activities that we could do over the holidays as a family.  My family likes to keep busy, and I thought it was a great way to avoid the question, “What are we going to do today?”  I’m not sure about how it works in your home, but in mine if there isn’t a plan, it takes so long for everyone to agree on an activity and get ready, that it gets to the point where it is too late to do anything.  My personality does not cope well with this.  Each day, a drawer from my Christmas tree would be opened. In the drawer would be an activity we could do as a family.  If the weather wasn’t appropriate for the activity for that day, the activity went into a jar next to the tree.  From the jar a different activity could be selected. It would be one that would work for that day.

In my Teachers Pay Teachers store I have a version of this advent calendar. It is a free.  It is based on the family activity theme, but I have set it up simply so that teachers or parents can use it for the children to make as a Christmas gift for their families.

Christmas Countdown – Family activities Advent Calendar Idea

  • New Parent Survival Kit Theme:  One of my best friends, created an advent calendar for me when I first had my son.  It was a new parent survival kit.  It was awesome! Each day I got to open something that would help as I navigated my way through the first 6 weeks of being a parent.  She included so many different things. Here are a few she used.
    • New parents’ playlist:  Songs to keep your spirits high and hearts warm.
    • A clock:  A reminder that time is going to pass quickly – enjoy every single minute!
    • Eraser:  A reminder that we all make mistakes – even brilliant moms.
    • Sponge:  To soak up all the memories you will make together.
    • Toothpicks:  Remember to pick out the good (and humorous) in every situation – even in the middle of the night if possible.
    •  Snickers Bar:  Because laughter really is the best medicine – even though swearing, crying and having a melt down (or a bottle of wine) might seem more appropriate.

I sadly never got to enjoy my Snickers bar.  A monkey came into our house (quite a common occurrence here in South Africa) and helped himself to the chocolate.   Below are some pictures to prove it. I apologise, they are not great quality as I had to zoom in to take the pictures.  This is a vervet monkey.

Here he is unwrapping the wrapping paper off my gift.  A snickers bar is revealed!


He eventually got the bar open. Ate the chocolate and dropped the wrapper on the ground.
He was kind enough to leave the message behind as well.


So what am I planning for this year you may ask?

For my hubby, (I hope he doesn’t read this), I have decided to take a trip down memory lane. We both love music and I thought a great one would be to choose songs that have meaning or a special memory behind them.  In the drawers of the Christmas tree, I plan to have a letter about the reason why I chose the song.  Once he has read it, I will send the song to him over iTunes.

For my son, I have decided to create an advent calendar with storybooks.  My son is almost three years old and loves books.  We read everyday.  This morning, we had to read four books before he even got out of bed for the day.  I have already started collecting stories I am sure my son will love.  I have chosen a variety of stories and haven’t focused on one particular theme. Yes, that is out of character for me, but I think he needs a variety to hold his attention.  24 of the same themed stories could get a bit boring.

Another idea I am thinking of is an Advent calendar as a teacher’s gift:  Being a teacher, I thought a great gift for a teacher would be a teacher’s advent calendar.  Each day leading up to Christmas the teacher could open a small gift. In South Africa, our school year ends at the beginning of December.  We start the new school year in mid January, so an advent calendar could work well as an end of year teacher’s gift. Some ideas I would use as gifts include

  • Teachers Pay Teachers vouchers or any other vouchers a teacher could use to purchase classroom resources. Trust me! Teachers are always looking for new resources that they can use in the classroom.
  • Stationery such as coloured pens, highlighters, post it notes, etc. Nearly every teacher I know loves stationery. Just FYI, there is no such thing as too many coloured pens or markers.
  • Chocolate, sweets (candy). Yummy for some! Just check that your child’s teacher enjoys that type of thing.  Dried fruit or nuts may work better for some teachers.
  • Stickers
  • Books
  • Puzzles / Games. Look at some of the themes your child has learnt about during their time in the particular teacher’s class.  It may be fun to choose books, games and puzzles that would go with some of the themes that he/she teaches.
  • Vouchers for a coffee house of restaurant. It doesn’t need to be a large amount.  Enough simply for the teacher to get a free coffee is appreciated.
  • A heartfelt note. For many teachers a sincere note thanking the teacher for the year is so appreciated. Reading the letters and cards are always my best gift.
  • A notebook
  • A USB flash drive. These are so useful but oh so easy to misplace!

Each gift could be wrapped and the date to be opened placed on it.  Simply put all the gifts in a gift bag and the teacher can take out each gift from there.  If you have time and want to create something more, check out ideas on Pinterest. There are so many there.

One I would like to do for my son when he is a bit older, is an animal themed advent calendar. I would probably make it a bit more specific. E.g. farm animals, sea creatures or wild animals.  Ideas for gifts for this calendar could be

  • Books about the animals
  • Arts and crafts supplies to create an animal habitat
  • Plastic animals (one per day could help reach your goal of 24 gifts)
  • Homemade flashcards / or fact cards about the different animals.
  • Games or puzzles that fit into the theme

In fact, this could work for any theme your child is particularly interested in. Maybe your daughter enjoys baking and cooking.  You could collect recipe books, cookie cutters, fun ingredients etc, to create an advent calendar for her.  My son loves diggers and construction at the moment.  If he is still interested in it next year, it may work out well to do a construction themed advent calendar.

As you can see, the ideas are endless.   I hope this post has inspired you to create your own DIY advent calendars this year.  Please be sure to sign up for my newsletter.  Each month, I like to send out a newsletter with new ideas I am working on, and would love to share it with you.


3 thoughts on “Count down to Christmas – DIY Advent Calendar Ideas

  1. Well done Robyn – I am so very proud of you and your love for your family and teaching. God has Blessed you with a true gifting.


  2. Amazing Robs, you are so creative. Your family is blessed to have you as their wife and mom. What makes it so special is that you are passionate about what you do – it is very evident in all your ideas. So proud of you!

    Liked by 1 person

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