Yesterday we started our countdown to Christmas. In typical me fashion we had to do two days to get caught up but it worked out. If you are like me and are late, you can rest assured that it's not too late to get started with a countdown.
And I'll show you how.
A little history of our countdown calendar:
When Emma was two and Calvin was one Nick lost his job. It was hard and tough and horrid. We had $200 in our savings account. Fun times were had by all.
One thing we vowed was that the kids wouldn't know what was going on. We didn't want them to not have a Christmas or to notice that they had less.
So I came up with this countdown during that time.
That first year I took string, tacked up some socks and mittens I found and put things in them that were around the house...a couple of stickers, dimes, candy canes, whatever. I put them in before I would go to work at 4 IN THE MORNING! And then they had that day's sock or mitten waiting for them when they woke up with Daddy.
And they still ask for this every single year! My kids are all about traditions. In fact, Nick and I even purchased them Playmobil advent sets because they had been BEGGING for them but in the end when I asked which they wanted to do, Playmobil parts or surprises every day they chose our old fashioned surprises method. So the Playmobil's are going back I guess :/.
The thing I love is you can really make this as simple or as elaborate as you want. It doesn't have to cost a lot but if you want it to, you can. It's all up to you!
Okay, so I'm going to walk you through what you need to do the countdown how I did it this year:
Supplies You'll Need:
-String, twine, ribbon. I've used all of them through the years. This year I am going with twine for a rustic look.
-2 Nails or Hooks to hang the string on.
-Socks, mittens, little stockings. I have a mixture of these. Truth be told a lot of these are ones that were cute but we had lost their mate. So I kept them. I also love to see how little their tiny hands and feet were when they were babies so I used a lot of their infant-wear :) See how cheap this is by using what you already have?
-Clothespins, Binder Clips, Safety Pins, or Paper Clips to secure socks to string.
-Numbers. In previous years (I think you can see some from last year on the socks in the previous picture) I printed numbers out. I've used just plain stickers. This year I found these cool gold stickers that were for 25 days. Perfect! They were a little pricey ($4.99!, I know, I'm pathetically a cheapskate) but I had a 40% coupon so it worked out. Emma loved the stickers. I got them at Hobby Lobby if you are looking for them. They are super thick and super sticky so I'm hoping the numbers will last more than one year. But again, use anything! I've used post-it notes before.
-Optional: A Honking Bag of Junk to use. I bought all of this stuff for 90% off last year after Christmas. If you don't have your own honkin' big bag of stuff, it's okay, you can just put in there whatever you would like!
How to Set Up Your Advent Calendar
Hang your wire, string, ribbon, whatever. I just used two nails and tied it on there. I tried to make it as tight as I could because the weight of everything will make it sag a bit. The above picture is what mine looks like before I hung everything. I then went and scrubbed my wall as you can see dirty clay fingerprints from us making ming bowls for our history lesson.
Then hang your socks, mittens whatever. I use some of the kids smaller socks, their baby mittens, and some of those little stockings people give you every.single.christmas. Now you have something to do with them all!
After I took this picture I went and peeled off that piece of tape that is on the wall. This is real life people! I use small clothespins from Hobby Lobby to hang our socks but you can use anything you want.
This is the finished layout I have. I tend to hang them all up and them move them around so I don't have all mittens clumped together or 4 red socks side by side. Make it look how you want, whatevs.
I then put the numbers on. You can o this however you want. I put 25 on one side and then 24 on the other side and then work my way towards the middle. So odds are on one side and evens are on the other. This works great because then I don't end up with one side of the advent calendar empty and the other side sagging from everything in the socks. This is from trial and error that I've figured it out. Also because we have two kids and they like to take turns opening the advent sock, one basically ends up with the odds and one with the even days and so they know which side to go to when it's their day.
Here is another thing I think I do weird but I'll share it with you. I make a column of the days and then next to it I figure out how many days there are till Christmas. Then we open that corresponding day. I know a lot of people do it the other way where if it's December 10 then they open 10 but we open 10 on the 15th when there is 10 days left until Christmas. Get it? Are you confused? You can set it up like me and then have a mini panic attack every day when your kids open it and you're thinking "what? only 21 days until Christmas? Yikes!" but to your kids you can be all "yeah! Only 21 days left!" because that's what cool moms do.
Okay so you saw my weird list, I then start to fill it in with what I'm going to use every day. I started doing this because the first year I kind of ran out of ideas so we had a million days of candy canes towards the end. Lame. Don't get me wrong we have plenty of candy cane days but I try to space them out.
So I write down what events I know we are doing and what we will be up to so if there are things I can tie into that I can plan. One night we are going to a local Holiday event where they always want to buy something so I will put a little bit of money in the sock for them to each be able to shop for a souvenir.
Another idea is I will figure out when we can watch Polar Express at home and I'll put "train" tickets in their sock so they know we are watching the moving and it will be special.
After I've written down events that I know we are doing and things I can coordinate to those I fill in the dates left. This is where I pull out my honkin' bag and see what I have to give them. Again these are all things I got super cheap, for real:
I wait until Target has 90% off and then I buy whatever I can find. So this kit was $0.20! Seriously, I can handle 20 cents. And it makes them work together and it gives them something to do for a while.
I try to space out events, candy, a toy, money, and craft days.
As you can see here, Day 25 they got candy canes! And they were super excited. It's the little things around here!
Day 24 I had puzzles to give them but they wouldn't fit in the sock so I wrote this note and stuck it in the sock. They love the little hunts and running to see what they will find.
By spending a little bit of time putting this together I have peace and quiet in the house. They worked on these puzzles for about an hour. They helped each other, we helped them and it was so much fun!
So I hope that gives you an idea of something you could thrown together and have lots of fun with your kids. There's nothing really special about "here have another candy cane" but the act of putting it in a sock or mitten in the countdown makes my kiddos so super excited. Weird, I know, but it works.
And remember you can make it as basic or fancy as you would like! A couple of dimes makes kiddos super excited. Or put Bible verses in each sock. Or candy. Or an event like "drive to see christmas lights".
I know you'll do awesome! Let me know about your fun advent countdowns and remember,it's not too late to start making memories and traditions!
The kids are getting older (shocking I know!) so I was a little leary about using this again. After all I started doing this when Calvin was a year old and Nick had been laid off...this was cheap! But the kids are insisting we do it again this year. When they were younger it was easier to stick small things in the socks and mittens...coins, candy, stickers, etc. But as they've gotten older it's been so fun to incorporate clues and crafts into the socks.
Have fun with it!