Wednesday, November 28, 2012

DIY Felt Activity Advent Calendar!

Here is the Advent calendar I made my preschooler. Below you'll find info on all the materials and techniques needed to make the tree, plus a printable PDF of all the activities we are doing.

Still need to stitch it together & sew on buttons...
I'm super excited to share with you the felt Advent calendar I've been stitching up for my preschooler. I saw the idea of having activities for each day in Advent rather than the focus being on getting a small toy or piece of candy each day, and I LOVE it! I know it will be fun for my son, and it will be a great way to keep me accountable to actually do all the fun things I'd want to do with him in Advent but would be too disorganized to actually make happen otherwise probably. By putting them in his Advent calendar, I'll * have* to do them!

I decided to make a felt Christmas tree covered in buttons along with 2 1/4" square felt pockets to hang on each day (I have a 4.5" quilting ruler that made the cutting fast for that size which was my primary motivation in choosing it-you could use any size square you wanted!) Since Advent can vary between 22 and 28 days and I want this to be usable every year, I didn't put numbers on the pockets*. I made some of the pockets special colors to represent special days. For example, the Sundays of Advent have pink or purple pockets that correspond with which color of candle ought to be lit on the Advent wreath that night, and a few Saint days have special colors as well.
I ended up with:
  • 3 purple (Sundays in Advent)
  • 1 pink (3rd Sunday in Advent)
  • 2 blue (Feasts of Our Lady of Guadalupe and of the Immaculate Conception)
  • 1 yellow (St Lucia Day)
  • 2 white (St Nicholas Day and Christmas Eve)
  • 9 red
  • 9 lime green
Some of the pockets!!

What you need:
  • 3-4 triangles of green felt so that the tree is tall enough to accomodate all of your pockets (or one big piece of felt, then cut it to be shaped like a tree. I used scraps from a previous project so triangles was my only option!)
  • a brown rectangle of felt for a tree trunk
  • a yellow star or white angel cut out of felt for a tree topper
  • 56 felt squares (see above for color suggestions)
  • 28 buttons-bright Christmasy colors or shiny gold, white, or silver recommended!

What you do:
  • Cut your triangles out. Fold each in half to make sure the sides are even and the bottom is straight all the way across.
  • Layer them on top of each other in a way that look cute to you, tucking the trunk under the bottom layer, and pin the layers together (or glue, if you aren't interested in sewing).
  • Stitch the layers together. Either use green thread and sew just in the overlapping portions, or choose a contrasting color like red or gold and make your line twist and turn across the tree like garland! Be sure to glue or stitch your star or angel for the top as well, and attach a loop if you want to use a loop to hang it up (I'll probably be using masking tape this year to stick it to the side of a desk I think)
  • Stitch or glue the squares together in pairs, stitching or gluing only 3 sides to form pockets.
  • Sew or glue a small loop of ribbon to each pocket so it can hang.
  • Sew or glue your buttons on your tree so that pockets can hang from them. Be sure to add 28 buttons, or leave spaces that you can do so in future years (brown buttons on the trunk can be a discrete way to add buttons for years with "extra" days)
  • Print your activity slips off for each day of Advent, and choose a place for a new pocket to appear each day for your child to hang up on the tree! Each night, put the next day's activity slip into the pocket (or have them all in ahead of time) to get it ready for your child, and prepare any supplies you need for the activity-they may want to start on it immediately after reading their piece of paper for the day!!
You can find the word document version of the activity slips I plan to use here, and feel free to customize it for your own family (I included specific movie titles and specific types of cookies we plan to make, and we are Catholic so I used the word "Mass" instead of "church", so you may want to change those and other specifics!). But in case you don't want to read that document, here's an overview of our activities:
  • Mondays: bake cookies (eat a few, freeze/store most to save for Christmas)
  • Tuesdays: theme days based on songs-Away in a Manger (get out Nativity, read story, sing song), Jingle Bells (bell related craft, sing song), and Frosty the Snowman (build snowman if weather permits or do snowman craft indoors, sing song, watch movie)
  • Wednesdays: make ornaments
  • Saint days (mostly ended up on Thursdays): St. Nicholas day we'll be learning about how Christmas is celebrated in France, St. Lucia Day we'll learn about how Christmas is celebrated in Denmark, and the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe we'll learn about how Christmas is celebrated in Mexico
  • Fridays: "Be Santa to someone else" by donating toys to Goodwill, caroling to Grandma over the phone, etc
  • Saturdays: Watch a Christmas movie with mom and Dad and eat popcorn
  • Sundays: Go to church, light a new candle on the Advent calendar.
  • Christmas Eve: read "Twas the Night before Christmas"
I like that by the end of Advent we will have baked lots of cookies to share with family on Christmas, made some new ornaments, learned about other cultures, helped others, practiced some good songs, and had tons of Christmasy fun. And I love that it is flexible. If I ever realize that I'm out of butter or have a sore throat and can't sing, I can easily change the next day's activity!

We have all been sick for at least a week or two each this November, and my sewing projects got pushed aside. But I'll try to post another pictures when I have it all sewed up and the buttons on! And I'd love to hear what you are doing for Advent with your kids!

*Advent refers to the liturgical season before Christmas and the start date changes each year (but always falls on a Sunday-the 4th Sunday before Christmas, to be exact!); many people choose to have Advent calendars that begin on December 1st instead of beginning on the first Sunday of Advent, which could be before or after December 1st.. If you are one of them, just use 24 buttons and pockets!

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