DIY Advent Calendar (almost tutorial)

Last year, I had a really strong urge to decorate our home before Christmas. Maybe it was just the joy of the coming winter, or to get into a Christmas-is-coming-mood… I’m not really sure anymore. Anyway, I wanted to make our home special in something for that time of year for Liv.

This year, I’m not really there yet. I’m not sure whether it’s because of the (relatively) mild weather that has been most of the time up to now, the tiredness of a long loooong sickness Liv has had for the last 6 weeks… or something else. I guess it will come. I usually feel very decorating-y during autumn and winter.

There has been something else on my mind this year, though. I’ve planned to make a DIY advent calendar for Liv for some time.

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Though because of the already mentioned long illness, I realised it was time to make it only about 2 days before December started. So I finished it on Dec. 2nd, heh. But on the 1st it was half-way there, so we didn’t really miss anything. Not that my daughter would care, anyway. She doesn’t understand yet what Christmas means, nor countown, nor calendar days, or anything else having to do with it, really. Except perhaps opening the packages :-)

While I was doing it, I suddenly realised, I’m not even sure I really agree with the whole thing. Getting a present each day until Christmas. Why should a child get anything each day? What is the thought behind this tradition, anyway? Won’t it just teach her to be more fixed on material things? Not right now, of course, but if we should keep it up as a tradition. But then again, why shouldn’t she get something small, even if it is every day for some period? And the joy she had when finding something she liked… I love to think of and create stuff that Liv might enjoy and be happy about in any way. (Obviously, otherwise this blog would probably never exist).

Well, I’m not quite sure about my standpoint there. And I’m open to discussion on that topic, if anyone would have something to say about it :-)

For my part, I didn’t even think about it, until I was already making the advent calendar. I guess it was much more about the excitement of a DIY challenge for me, rather than thinking about the philosophy behind it.

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So back to the calendar itself. My original inspiration was this lovely DIY advent calendar with animals. So I started looking up animal digital prints. I meant to find some that would be black and white too, as in their version. I might have painted them myself, but there was rather little time for that to my taste and, most of all, a lack of inspiration and energy.

Since I wanted them to be (more or less) in the same style, I started looking up alphabet animals illustrations. Oh, how convenient there are 24 letters in our alphabet and 24 days in December ’till Christmas. :-)

Originally I wanted them to be (almost) life-like, in the Montessori philosophy. But then I came upon those looovely ones by Paola Zakimi. Look her up. SO sweet.

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I printed them, each one twice- one mirroring, so that they could be two-sided. Then I cut them out, glued them together, putting a cardboard inbetween to add firmness.

I could have printed them right on heavier paper, which might have saved me the time of gluing the cardboard inbetween, but I wanted to save money (had to print it in a print shop, since our printer at home is not such a high-quality one for pictures). If I had a laminating machine, I probably would have laminated them instead of doing the cardboard. Well… one day, perhaps…

I bought some brown paper-lunchbags, on which I painted the numbers. Had to do it one by one, always assign a thing for each day to adjust the size of the bag (and therefore the number too).

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A work in progress.. (while watching a movie… I love watching movies while working on something where I don’t need to concentrate too much)

Not that numbers and days would matter to Liv yet. Who knows, if we will follow the numbers or if it will come to just opening whatever bag Liv gets a grab on. Or opening more at a time, rather than one day one bag. I’m really curious how that will turn out. Until today, she didn’t even pay much attention to it hanging there. Only this morning I think she realized there’s something for her in each package and she wanted to go right next to open another and it took quite some persuasion to get her mind away from it.

So now you may wonder what I put in those bags?

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Here is my list:
Warm socks
2 cars (my girl loves cars)
a fabric elephant with magnets in its legs
Finger puppets
Hair clips
a little bunny
a little dog
Rings… some tiiiny rings (still too big for Liv’s little fingers, actually)
a Lip Balm in the shape of an owl
a little stamp with a ladybird
Coloured pencils
Crayons (we love drawing& painting)
Sticky notes
Stickers
a Jingle bell
a Pine cone
a (compressed powder grape sugar) lollipop
Beans (yes, beans indeed! we love to play with them)
aaand the big finale: a Wooden Duo-Puzzle

I still want to add a little outfit for a doll I still have to sew.

I have to say, I did not buy all those things. Since I like the philosophy of second hand and vintage things… I made a little tour through my parent’s basement, where still some of our old toys are hidden. So it came, that the cars, the finger puppets and the fabric elephant with magnets are taken from there.

I divided the finger puppets into more days. 10 would be too much to play with at once anyway (in the beginning), so at least I have more days covered. Liv already got the first 4, the rest I divided in groups of 2. She was sooo happy about them! It was a joy to see her excitement!

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not the best quality picture, it was taken just with my phone (in the evening), but if you could hear her squeak with delight :-)

The stickers and the stamp are left overs from my nephew’s birthday party. The cone and the jingle bell I had at home.

The rings are still too big. And she’ll probably loose them soon enough anyway. But it is something I wanted to give her for some time. She loves our rings, my husband and I wear, especially our wedding rings. We always tell her they mean that we belong together. And then she likes to take it from one of us, so she would be part of us (I guess). So that’s why rings.

The owl lip balm- I took it just at an impuls because it was hanging next to the rings and I liked it. And Liv likes owls.

I know Liv will be happy to have new pencil colours and crayons. She is quite an artistic little thing. And I look forward to that Duo-Puzzle. I stumbled across it in a shop. I love wooden, intelligent toys. And this seems perfect for her right now. It will be a present for the 24th.

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I’m not even sure if she’ll get anything else from us. Yet. Since she doesn’t really care yet. And we get her stuff all the time when we find something interesting anyway. Or I might make my own version of these beautiful sorting bowls I wanted to buy for her for a long time now. I would totaly buy them, if the shipping costs to Europe weren’t almost as high as the bowls themselves.

I meant to hang the animals and packages on a branch, originally. But it was raining for 3 days, just as I was making the calendar. Not being at rest until I tried anyway, I went into the rain and brought some branches with me home. But then I realised they were soaking wet (and dirty) and I couldn’t hang that on our wall.

Then the idea came to me, that I wanted to hang empty frames on a wall around a big one with Liv as a baby. Why not hang them into the empty frames, right? At least it made me paint and hang those frames finally on the wall. That only took me about a year or so, since I first had the idea.

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So.. that’s it! That was a pretty fun project. And it’s actually quite pretty on the wall. Definitely better, than the empty spaces that were there! Now I’m looking forward to how it will look like when all the packages are taken down and only the animals will remain. It will probably hang there for a while, even after Christmas. Until I get bored with it or come up with something else to do with the frames. :-)

What would you give into such an advent calendar?
I’m thinking of more sensory based things for next year, if I keep it up as a tradition. We shall see.

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