A Christmas tree advent calendar

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A Kid-Made Christmas Tree Advent Calendar

Here's our advent calendar for this year! It's a Christmas tree, drawn and painted by Maia, with twenty-five ornaments listing holiday activities on the backs. We loved having an activity-oriented advent calendar last year and Maia was very excited about helping to make one again this year.


First, Maia drew a large Christmas tree with oil pastels on brown contractor's paper (similar to butcher paper). I know the paper looks like it's floating above the floor, but it's taped to our studio table.


After drawing the tree, Maia painted it in with green tempera paint…


…and then sprinkled a generous helping of glitter to the wet paint for good measure. The tree trunk is colored in with chalk pastel which is already causing problems. We keep brushing against it and getting covered with brown chalk. Next time we'll stick with the oil pastels and paint!


The next day I had some circles ready for Maia to number and decorate as Christmas tree ornaments. I used a small drinking cup as the template for the circles and cut them out of watercolor paper, using a hole punch to make a small hole at the top of each.


After Maia numbered the ornaments, she painted them with liquid watercolor paint, using  red, silver, and gold. We are loving the metallic watercolor paint!


Finally, Maia and I decided on our list of advent activities together. At first I was just going to do it myself and have them be a surprise, but she kept talking about the activities we did last year and I knew she would love to help choose. We are doing many of the same things from last year's advent (holiday traditions in the making) as well as some new activities. Also, I learned from last year to divide up some activities over a couple of days — i.e. bake the gingerbread house pieces one day and assemble them the next — to keep it from getting too crazy.

After deciding on our activities, I wrote them down on the backs of the ornaments.


To hang the ornaments on the trees, we used star shaped brads.


You know, these things. I used a needle to poke holes in the paper first to make it easier to insert and attach the brads.


And, last of all, we hung the ornaments. (By the way, I had to use the hole punch to widen the holes on the ornaments so they were large enough to hook over the star brads, which were larger than I initially thought.)


I love our advent tree!

Here's our activity list for this year:

  1. Make snowflake Christmas cards.
  2. Decorate salt dough ornaments.
  3. Head to the library to pick out some Christmas books.
  4. Drive up to the Christmas tree farm to choose our tree.
  5. String cranberries and popcorn to decorate tree.
  6. Have a friend over and paint nails red and green.
  7. Decorate our own wrapping paper.
  8. Make pinecone wreaths.
  9. Bake gingerbread house.
  10. Assemble and decorate gingerbread house.
  11. Make pinecone ornaments for the birds and hang outside.
  12. Bake gingerbread scones (anyone have a good recipe?).
  13. Make candied and spiced nuts.
  14. Have a family art night and make a holiday mural together.
  15. Decorate and sew pillows as gifts (using Pentel fabric crayons).
  16. Make snowflake window decorations.
  17. Make candy cane playdough.
  18. Go for a winter nature hike.
  19. Play games and drink hot chocolate.
  20. Bake Christmas cookies.
  21. Invite a couple friends over to decorate cookies.
  22. Make popcorn and watch a Christmas movie together.
  23. Go for a drive to look at Christmas lights.
  24. Sing carols.
  25. Make pumpkin waffles with whipped cream for Christmas breakfast.
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  1. erica says

    love it! we made ours this year with twine and little stockings found at the dollar store – easy way out, i know;) but i love the way it looks hung in their playroom and they can’t wait to peek in the stockings!

  2. says

    That’s great Jean!! We’re working on ours this week, too. It’s based on this idea- not very child friendly, but Esme’ loves peeling the tape!! I really like this idea and might try it sometime since the kids could do so much of it themselves. Thanks for listing all your ideas… I forgot about making a gingerbread house. I never have- do you have recipes/instructions?

  3. says

    We made a gingerbread house last year for the first time. It was fun! Maia had a blast decorating it with icing and candies. Unfortunately the roof caved in! We’re going to try a different recipe this year and not put so much on the roof.

  4. Jill says

    What a great idea! We made an advent chain (paper chain) last year, but I love love love this…I was trying to think of something new to do! We’ll get started this afternoon.

  5. says

    It’s a great idea!
    for the treetrunk broblem – you can spray it with some hairspray. then it might be more frendlier to your clothes ;)

  6. min says

    I love this idea especially since we won’t be able to put up a Christmas tree this year due to lack of space. It came out beautiful!

  7. says

    Beautiful! I love the idea of all activities. Ours is a mixture of make ~ do ~ gifts. Heavy on the make and do. You have some great ideas on here that I’ll probably use next year. Thank you!

  8. says

    I absolutely love this! And all your activities sound so fun. This is the first advent calendar that I’ve seen online that I really want to make. I think I’m going to copy you! :-)

  9. says

    i love it! so pretty
    However I confess to being sneaky in mine that I pop the activities in the pocket/envelope the night before and I choose the activity that I THINK I can handle the next day!! Some activities just wont fit in certain time frames, or certain days when I want to do something specific!! lol.

  10. Alea says

    I hope you share how you do some of your activities as you do them. – like the gingerbread scone recipe! Sounds good!

  11. says

    I love it! I think it’s a great idea to do an activity advent calendar. Please share…what is candy cane playdough?! Definitely sounds like something we need to make. Something I’m looking forward to on our list is making ornaments with cinnamon applesauce dough. Happy Advent!

  12. Julia says

    That is beautiful. I love how creatively and flexible you involve your children in the projects. I use much of what I find in your blog as inspiration to try in the classroom with my Kindergarteners or at home with my own children.
    Thank you for sharing.

  13. says

    Jean and Maia — thanks for the inspiration. We just hung our calendar (pics next week!) and I’ve been racking my brain for 25 activities. Now we’re set (and love the tip about splitting the gingerbread house up over 2 days).

  14. says

    I love this idea so much! I was just thinking that an advent calendar would be really helpful this year for my three year old. I was just going to buy one, I don’t know why making one didn’t cross my mind.

  15. Veronica says

    Hi from Spain! My name is Veronica an I think that is amazing what you do at home with your children. I love your blog. Your ideas are really interesting. Thanks for sharing your blog with us! Best wishes!

  16. Kayan says

    Los metodos que usas para enseñarles a tus hijas me gustan mucho. Pienso que tu blog es una fuente muy buena de informacion para los futuros educadores y personas que quieran enseñar a sus hijos en sus casa como tu haces.
    Congratulations for this wonderful blog. Greetings from Spain.

  17. says

    We are recycling last year’s activity advent calendar — I’m just double checking the calendar so I don’t book something like make and decorate the gingerbread house on a busy school night! : )
    Am also trying to sew a Christmas tree one this year — it’s taking forever and may (or may not!) be finished by December 1st – LOL!!
    Happy Holidays! Maia did a great job!
    pink and green mama,

  18. says

    Beautiful tree! I love how involved your daughter is in the whole process. Enjoy all of the wonderful memories you are making together.

  19. says

    What fun. I’m trying to develop our family traditions over here and will adopt your idea of doing something each day.
    I’m going to combine it with a story that we’re writing together (blog post to come soon). So thank you for the inspiration!

  20. says

    Lovely! I’ve got a few budding artists in my home too!
    a little tip: You can spray the chalk pastel part w/ hairspray to keep it *in place* so it won’t smudge. ;-)

  21. Rosa says

    Me ha encantado tu blog, porque pienso que son ideas muy buenas para hacer con tus hijas, para que ellas aprendan divirtiendose y ¿con quién mejor que con su madre?.
    Nosotras tambien estamos haciendo un arbol de navidad en clase de Inglés y un Calendario de adviento y la verdad es que con tu blog me has ayudado a tener un par de ideas.
    Muchas gracias por dejarnos aprender con tu blog y un saludo muy grande desde España.