For several years now I’ve been locked in debate with my husband, with him thinking we need new advent calendars, and me using copious amounts of tape to mend the not-so-sturdy cardboard boxes and keep the one we had going. Then last year I came up with the brilliant idea to make a new advent calendar to hold our traditional Playmobil pieces.
See for as long as my eldest has been old enough to help open little boxes, we’ve had the same Playmobil advent calendar. It’s designed so these variously sized cardboard boxes hang on a cardboard backer and you take each box down and open it on the appropriate day. Inside each box is a small plastic version of something you’d find in a forest; a small tree, a bush, baby animals, full grown animals, piles of fruit and other foods, and finally a sled and a fellow in a red suit. Each day in December, as we count down the days until Christmas, my daughters take turns opening tiny boxes and carefully decide where to place each piece in the “forest” on the top of my bookcase. And when Christmas has come and gone I pack each piece back up for next year.
The problem is the little cardboard boxes weren’t really designed to be used over and over again, and well they are falling apart. My husband’s solution to this would be to buy a new advent calendar. He’d love to get a new one each year, or heck two, one for each kid. (And I think there is an expectation that you’ll use the advent calendar just once and let the kids keep the toys.) But I like our tradition fine just the way it is. The kids enjoy watching the animals arrive in the forest one by one, until on the final day Santa himself shows up. They like guessing who or what is in the next box and trying to remember how many rabbits there should be, or when the porcupine will arrive. While they may have argued over whose turn it is to open the box on any given day, they’ve never fought with me over packing it back up at the end of the celebration.
When I decided to create a replacement advent calendar I had two challenges facing me. First, it had to be cheap. It had to cost under $20, or hubby would have a valid point in his argument that we might as well just go out and get a new calendar. And secondly, the boxes had to be various sizes, some quite large, in order to hold the different pieces.
I spent over a month trying to come up with something; shopping around online, browsing through stores in real life, clicking through Pinterest pins, looking at advent calendars on etsy. Everything was either too expensive or not the right size. And then I had a lightbulb moment where it all just came together in my head.
You know those little reuseable gift boxes that they sell at the dollar store? Well, they come in all sorts of sizes. And they’re cheap. The tiny ones are less than a buck a piece. But I needed them to hang on the wall…. Hmm…. Well I could glue them all on to something, but then I couldn’t hand them to the kids to open. Wait, what if I put magnets on the back? And then put them on a tin cookie sheet and hung that? Or wait, even better, what if we just hung them on our metal front door? Brilliant. Perfect.
I had to visit a few dollar stores to find everything I needed, but I spent well under $20.
Here’s what you need:
* 24 Christmas print gift boxes in various sizes.
* 24 Magnets, nice heavy ones.
* Several sets of peel and stick numbers & letters.
(You need to look at how many 1s and 2s come in a set and buy enough to get twelve 1s and eight 2s, for me this equalled three sets.)
Step 1: Figure out what size or pattern you want for each day, and then label the boxes 1 through 24 using the numbers from the peel and stick set.
Step 2: You will need a hot glue gun and also a metal file and/or exacto-knife. I discovered this through trial and error. If you simply glue the magnets on the bottom of the wee boxes they won’t stick. Once the glue cools it easily snaps off the slick smooth paper, or just tears the paper with it. The fix for this is to file the bottom of the box, or even easier score it with the exacto knife. Using the sharp tip of the knife tear into the paper, but not all the way through the box, drawing a pattern that looks like this:
Step 3: Use the hot glue gun to glue the magnets to the “roughed up patch” on the back of each box. Set them aside to cool.
Step 4: Fill the boxes with small treasures or treats and then arrange them on something that the magnets will stick to. For us, that’s our front door. But it could easily be an oversized cookie tray or the side of your fridge.
For me, I love that we can keep reusing our little Playmobil forest year after year. However, you could easily use this as the starting point of your family’s own personalized advent calendar filled with whatever lightweight items catch your fancy.
Anyone going to make one? What are you filling yours with?
Have any other creative advent calendar ideas? I’d love to hear ’em.