An artful advent calendar

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Maia and I (mostly I) made our advent calendar over Thanksgiving, using the watercolor resist paintings from last week. It's a paper doll chain with an artful holiday activity written on the back of each apron.

Christmas is one of my favorite times of the year. Last year we weren't able to do much in the way of celebrating for various reasons, so I'm especially excited to enjoy the holiday with my family this year! And excited about this advent calendar and all the activities I included!

I'll share with you how I made the calendar, in case you'd like to do something similar, and the activities that I included on mine.


First I cut each of Maia's seven paintings in half and she helped me glue them in two long strips, edges overlapping. I could have done just one strip, but thought two shorter ones would be easier to work with. We pressed the strips under heavy cookbooks while the glue dried.

Note: I don't generally like to alter Maia's artwork like this, but in this case she knew from the beginning that these paintings were going to be for her advent calendar.


We then folded the strips of paper accordian style.


I sketched a doll to fit,


Traced her onto the paper,


And started cutting. Because of the heavy watercolor paper, I only cut about three layers at a time, then retraced the doll and cut some more.


I then had two paper doll chains that I glued together to create one long chain. I trimmed off a doll or two so I'd have 25.


I decided to use paper aprons for the dates and the activities. I wrote the day of the month on the front and the activity on the back, then glued the aprons on using a thin strip of glue at the top. Each morning I will let Maia pull off the apron and we'll read what our activity is for the day.

By the way, if you wanted to make a quicker version of this paper doll chain, you could use colored construction paper attached with tape.


Here's our advent activity list:

Make Christmas cards with styrofoam prints.
Cut out paper snowflakes and make a mobile with
the snowflakes
Feed the birds and draw them.
Make salt dough ornaments with the art group.
Go to the Christmas tree farm and choose our tree.
String popcorn and cranberries and use them to
decorate our tree.
Make stained glass stars for the windows.
Go for a winter nature walk and collect items
for our nature table.
Make a winter nature table.
Paint small canvases to give as gifts.
Do glue batik with the art group.
Make and decorate a Christmas stocking for
Daphne using glue batik.
Have a family art night and make a holiday mural
(on paper).
Make and decorate a gingerbread house.
Try melted crayon paintings.
Make candied and spiced nuts together.
Write a letter to a friend or family member.
Finish glue batik with art group.
Make hot chocolate and play games.
Donate old toys to Goodwill or another charity.
Go shopping for a new toy to donate through a local charity.
Have a friend over to make and decorate
Christmas cookies together.
Create a piece of crazy art with five different
kinds of art materials. (just for fun!)
Make popcorn and watch a Christmas movie
Go for a drive to look at Christmas lights.
Merry Christmas!

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  1. Julie says

    I love the paper dolls – such a lovely idea. Thanks for the list of advent activities – I was a few ideas short for our advent calendar.

  2. says

    Hmmm, making an advent calendar is my job for today. Not sure my 2 boys would go for the girl shape or apron BUT so cute. Maybe a gingerbread shape holding a heart would work. I had been thinking of doing one on big poster with doors to open but this will be easier and cuter!

  3. rae says

    jean, this is such a cute idea! we are doing our first advent calendar this year. we also chose to focus on activities and family time rather than *gift* giving. so fun! ;)

  4. says

    what a wonderful idea – I wish I had a kid to make a calendar for. i can see this becoming a tradition, one that i hope to remember when i have children.

  5. Marcie says

    I love it! Maia has the coolest mom.
    I think I’m going to borrow some of your art projects to do with my girls. Thanks for sharing!

  6. says

    Jean, it is such a great idea to make the advent calendar with the activities FOR THE WHOLE YEAR! I mean you had to think in advance what you are going to do each of next months. I really admire you finding time to think all this over! I think many of the readers of your blog will agree with me if I say that we will be happy to see the results of these activities in your beautiful blog! :)

  7. says

    I love these ideas. I just put a printable list of advent activities on The Brooding Hen. I need to add Family Art Night to my calendar! I put a few very easy no-prep activities on my list last year (like “Give everyone in your family a one-minute hug” or “Have a candlelight dinner”) because I also had a baby in the house, and some of those simple ones ended up being the favorites. They also made it easy for me to keep up with one activity every day.
    Here’s my post:
    I love seeing your non-commerical, family-oriented activities!

  8. Monique says

    Loved this idea last year! I am following the sew-along at and wanted to mention that I incorporated your idea and linked to you. :)

  9. says

    Your dolls need not be so elaborate if you don’t have the time. Just fold, cut and get the kids to decorate the dolls by drawing in with color pencils.