Our DIY, interactive, anachronistic advent calendar!

I am so excited to share this advent calendar I came up with and actually executed this year! I was looking for something that would not only be childproof but child-friendly, in that Sam would enjoy playing with it and I wouldn’t care about pieces getting lost/carried around the house. I originally had planned on adding “easy” into its description, you know, right after I had come up with the idea and after I had bought the materials but before I had actually executed the project. And after an epic fight with my sewing machine (it won, I gave up and didn’t finish sewing the last two pockets) I might not be so quick to call it “easy” but I think that’s depends on the order of the steps you take and your dexterity with a sewing machine!

Anyway, here is the final product!

Complete with professional pictures from my camera phone.

I merged the idea from that great magnetic calendar on Amazon and the Little People nativity set and just substituted felt instead of business wood and magnets.

Thats right, if you look close you’ll see that there is all sorts of Christmas fun going on in this nativity scene.

We’ve got reindeer (“giraffes”), evergreens, and a penguin present, as well as St. Nick of course. He will come early to get the scene ready on Dec. 6th, I’m think.

Then we have the three wisemen joined by Frosty.

And of course, coming out on the 25th is the divine man of the hour, Baby Jesus himself, or, “Baby Gee” as he’s affectionately known in our house.

So here is what you need:
• Large felt background
• Extra felt for pockets, manger scene, and scrap pieces for characters
• Felt sticky letters and numbers (these came in one pack that I found, although I had to get creative with all the 2s I needed)
• Felt based characters for the manger scene
• Wooden dowel and ribbon to hang it
• Glue gun and thread for sewing machine, to attach the pockets and the manger scene. Again, the letters/numbers were stickers.

So where I went wrong is that I first laid it all out and then just glued the pockets on with a thin bead of glue. Once it was dried I quickly realized that the glue wasn’t strong enough to withstand the granny, curious hands of a toddler, so I tried to then sew the pockets on, and sewing over glued felt turns out to be a big nono. My advice would be to either fully commit to the glue gun and just use way more glue (less recommended) or just safety pin the pockets in place and then commit to sewing around the edge, holding it a little buckled to get the “pocket” effect (recommended). I really don’t think it would have been as epic of a sewing battle had I not been gumming up my machine.

Here she is…still smug after her victory…


I just stuck on the numbers and then arranged a simple empty manger scene. I ended up just gluing the scene on since I think that will be able to hold better than the pulling on the pockets (but I have a particularly curious and strong little boy so I guess we will see!).

I folded over the top and glued it to create a sleeve for the dowel, and the glued the ribbon on to the ends of the dowel to hang it. I’m site other options would work well and it might be better to have it not “swing” so, we will see how this works.

The characters we bought at Hobby Lobby. Some were felt stickers and some were just felt characters. On the sticker characters I just glued a piece of felt directly on the back so we could stick and re-stick the characters and move them around on the board.

There were only a few characters in the manger scene I found, and we need to fill up 25 days, so we obviously supplemented with the other winter cast members. I think its kind of hilarious, but if anyone knows where I can grab some shepherds and farm animals, I reserve the right to do a cast change! And of course we will still have to have a willing suspension of disbelief about the desert scenery and the fact that the wise men arrive before Jesus but, I don’t think Sammy will mind.

Its a little large, so feel free to put the pockets closer together (even touching) if you don’t want to hear your husband say “That’s a pretty big calendar…is it going to fit on the wall?” (Yes, it did fit. Whew.)

I think I will enjoy it more than Sam, but that’s OK! I’ve always loved advent calendars and I loved making this one!

5 thoughts on “Our DIY, interactive, anachronistic advent calendar!

  1. I love it! It reminds me of the one we had growing up that was a giant, red, flannel blanket that my favorite aunt sent us. She had sewn pockets on and sent tiny little toys for each of us for each day (for all 6 kids!). I remember cute little camels in one. There was no manger scene though – I like that! I didn’t do an Advent calendar this year, but I’ve been making felt ornaments for a Jesse tree. Hopefully I’ll finish them before Advent is over!

  2. Oh my goodness, that is amazing!! I love it, love it, love it!!!! In regards to ideas for what to put in the pockets, I bought these foam self-adhesive stickers for Elizabeth and she really likes them. I put a 8 1/2 X 11 piece of felt with an adhesive back on a piece of card stock. She uses the stickers to create a rearrangeable Nativity scene. I bet they would work great on your felt. The adhesive is repositinable and lasts quite a while. And it is a huge bag full. We also have purchased the farm ones awhile, those are neat too. http://www.orientaltrading.com/fabulous-foam-self-adhesive-nativity-shapes-a2-57_2486.fltr

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