14 DIY Advent Calendars to Count Down to Christmas

rustic bucket advent calendar
Photo: Adam Albright

Can't wait until Christmas? Common household objects—like branches, envelopes, and cookie sheets—can be transformed into creative Advent calendars or Christmas countdowns. We've also included som activity suggestions so you can make the most of this holiday season.

01 of 14

Carefree Countdown

envelope Advent Calendar
Ann VanderWiel Wilde

Offer daily surprises with this simple Advent calendar. Fill colored envelopes with treats; then seal and adorn with numbers. Get creative and trying using our simple hand-lettering technique to decorate the Advent calendar envelopes. Hang with mini clothespins ($4, Target) across a line of twine.

Advent Activity Suggestion: Share a favorite holiday memory from childhood with your own kids.

02 of 14

Advent Calendar Lineup

Hanging Christmas Calendar
Ray Kachatorian

This festive calendar doubles as an eye-catching piece of wall art. Hang two branches in an area where your family regularly gathers, such as a breakfast nook. Clip 25 small favor bags ($8, Michaels) or packages to the branches for family members to open.

Advent Activity Suggestion: Read a favorite Christmas story with cups of hot cocoa and stovetop popcorn.

03 of 14

Happy Advent Calendar

diy black board advent calendar
Adam Albright

This oversize Advent calendar is fashioned from a framed chalkboard and dressed up with a simple evergreen garland. To make, simply write a 24-day calendar and move a mini evergreen wreath ($7, Target) each day.

Advent Activity Suggestion: Go sledding! And afterward, warm up with a cup of hot cocoa.

04 of 14

Farmhouse Advent Calendar

rustic bucket advent calendar
Adam Albright

This galvanized bucket Christmas Advent calendar doubles as a rustic piece of farmhouse Christmas decor. To make, look for a set of mini galvanized buckets ($13 for 12, Oriental Trading Co.). Finish with artificial greenery and a bow.

Advent Activity Suggestion: Write a holiday note to five special people, such as a friend you've lost touch with, someone who made a difference in your life, or a long-distance relative.

05 of 14

Acts of Kidness

Create your own DIY Acts of Kindness Advent Calendar.
Alice & Lois

Celebrate the season by doing good. Create a handmade advent calendar that offers acts of kindness suggestions instead of gifts. You'll feel good opening each envelope, and even better completing each act of kindness with your family.

Advent Activity Suggestion: This is the perfect Advent calendar for kids—it will help them discover the true meaning of the season! Before completing each task, sit down and talk about why it's important.

06 of 14

Envelope Advent

Envelope Advent Calendar

A handmade wood frame means you can customize this Christmas advent calendar to fit any space. A bright garland of colorful pom-poms ($5, Target) gives it a cheery pop of color.

Advent Activity Suggestion: Plan a small family activity for each day and write one on the back of each card. It can be as simple as reading a story together or going for a ride to look at Christmas lights.

07 of 14

Hanging Advent Calendar

hanging advent calendar
Carson Downing

A fun treat for kids and adults, this hanging Advent calendar is a cinch to make with inexpensive boxes and spare supplies. Fill with fun trinkets, candy, and notes to make the days leading up to Christmas more enchanting.

Advent Activity Suggestion: Volunteer at a local soup kitchen or help your kids organize a toy drive at their school.

08 of 14

Box Wreath

child reading in bamboo bed
Erin Kunkel

Cardboard box lids double as an adorable 3-D Advent calendar. To create, simply glue the recycled materials onto a wire wreath frame ($4, Michaels). Fill each with a small toy and cover with patterned paper.

Advent Activity Suggestion: Hang this toy Advent calendar near your Christmas tree or make one for each child's bedroom to make them feel extra special during the holiday season.

09 of 14

An Ornament A Day

Advent labels handmade ornaments
Heidi Palkovic

No need to peek and see what tomorrow holds. This advent calendar idea puts every trinket in plain view. Hang baubles, handmade ornaments, or decoration next to poster board tags, then each morning, let someone hang a new adornment on the tree.

Advent Activity Suggestion: Decorate the tree together! Gather the family and hang a few of your favorite ornaments on the tree each night.

10 of 14

Christmas Countdown Wreath

Christmas Countdown Wreath
Quentin Bacon

Combine two Christmas classics into one project. Paint a large wooden wreath form ($4, Michaels) white. Glue magnets to the form and to the bottoms of 24 small favor tins (approximately 2 ¼ inches in diameter). Cut 12 circles from solid-color scrapbooking papers to fit the tin lids. Adhere number stickers, 1 through 12, to the circles. Cut out 12 more circles from coordinating patterned papers. Adhere the paper circles to the 12 tin lids and fill the tins with treats or small gifts. Arrange the tins on the wreath form, alternating a numbered tin with a plain one.

Advent Activity Suggestion: Get out into the community and attend a live Nativity or see a holiday concert or play.

11 of 14

Stocking Caps Hung With Care

gingerbread advent calendar
David A. Land

Cutout gingerbread cookies are the base of this tasty Advent calendar. Bake a batch and decorate them with colored royal icing. Once dry, attach them to a framed chalkboard using royal icing or glue.

Advent Activity Suggestion: Bake a batch of holiday cookies as a family.

12 of 14

Elf Hat Advent Calendar

elf hats advent calendar

Count down the days to Christmas with a handmade elf hat Advent calendar. Fill this Advent calendar for kids with fun treats, small toys, and special messages.

Advent Activity Suggestion: Attend a community tree lighting.

13 of 14

Behind Closed Doors

wooden cabinet advent calendar
Steven McDonald

Turn a wooden cabinet into a surprise-filled Advent calendar by embellishing each door with rub-on numbers and designs from the scrapbooking aisles.

Advent Activity Suggestion: Craft the ultimate holiday playlist, then spend time dancing to all your favorite tunes as a family.

14 of 14

Advent Tree

25 Days Ornaments

Collect small branches in a vase, then hang a mix of numbered tags and small envelopes ($17 for 50, Staples) to the branches. Write holiday quotes, or activity suggestions on the tags, then fill envelopes with small trinkets. Wrap any bigger surprises and nestle under the "tree."

Advent Activity Suggestion: "Pay it forward" by picking up a stranger's coffee tab, giving up your seat on the subway, or adding a few quarters to an expired parking meter.

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