Note from The Thrifty Couple: Cassie’s friend Abigail is sharing a nice advent Christmas Calendar idea with us all today! Just another great way to countdown to Christmas!
About a year ago I ran across the idea of making an advent calendar that told the nativity story . The examples I saw had all the pieces made out of felt so they would be sturdy and easily rearrangeable for toddler hands. I’d been wanting to find a simple way to help my son learn the story of Christ’s birth, and this seemed like it would be the perfect way to reach that goal.
I went out and bought supplies and started the project in February, knowing that a new baby on the way would make it difficult to get much done later in the year. One thing after another kept coming up, though, and it wasn’t until November – with a 3-month-old in my lap – that I finally finished the calendar. :whew: So nice to finally be able to cross it off my to-do list!
A quick Pinterest search pulls up a variety of similar calendars which served as helpful inspiration to me. Some were far more ornate than I had time for, and others were so simple the figures didn’t seem very distinct. So in the end I mostly just winged it and came up with a version that worked for me. My sister also helped one afternoon, and most of the animals are her impressive handiwork.
~One large piece of felt for the background (mine is 3 feet square) – any color could work.
~Selection of smaller pieces of felt in whatever colors you want to use. I’d suggest getting a variety of browns, tans, greys, and whites to use for the buildings, animals, and skin tones. Then choose the colors you want for the people’s clothing and the pockets. I also bought a sheet of yellow and sparkly white for the star and the angels.
~Glue gun with glue sticks
~Sharp scissors, preferably fine point
~Scrap cardboard or cardstock to make stencils
Hobby Lobby has the large sheets for around $3, I believe it was, and an excellent selection of 9×12″ sheets in many colors, most 4/$1. About a dozen small sheets should be enough if you’re careful and don’t have to redo many pieces. And don’t forget about the 40% off one item coupon they offer every week! Since I only had to purchase felt for this project, my cost was a little over $5.
Here’s the list of pieces I made, along with the dates they correspond to:
1 – Mary
2 – Joseph
3 – Angel
4 – Bethlehem (I made three separate buildings for this)
5 – The Inn (another building, a little larger)
6 – The stable (yes, I know it was probably more like a cave, but I couldn’t figure out how to depict that in felt)
7 – Cow
8 – Goat
9 – Donkey
7 – The manger/hay
8 – Baby Jesus!
9 – Shepherd #1 (I made each a little different but coordinated their clothing so they clearly belong together)
10 – Two sheep
11 – Shepherd #2
12 – Two sheep
13 – Shepherd #3
14 – Two angels
15 – Two angels (there are 5 total)
16 – Wise man #1 (again, they are all all little different, but coordinating)
17 – Wise man #2
18 – Wise man #3 (yes, I know Scripture doesn’t say there were three, but for simplicity’s sake I just went with it)
19 – Camel
20 – Palm tree
21 – Gift #1 (I couldn’t figure out how to make the gifts look like gold, frankincense, or myrrh, so I just made festive packages)
22 – Gift #2
23 – Gift #3
24 – Star
Obviously you can change the order around quite a bit here (I keep tweaking it myself, and later on I might add additional characters for some days), but I wanted to tell things in the order we see them happening in Scripture and I think this works pretty well. I’ll even try to have Jesus and family move out of the stable before the wise men arrive. 😉
I made a stencil for the pockets, to speed up the process of cutting out all 24. Making them exactly 4″ square fit nicely in three rows across the bottom of my 36″ background felt. I cut them all first and laid them in place, deciding on the color arrangement. Then I applied a line of hot glue around three sides of a square and pressed it in place, creating a pocket. A few required a bit of re-gluing – you have to work quickly before it cools! – but they seem to be holding strong and I don’t think they’ll rip out easily. Sewing would probably look nicer, but it was faster for me to glue than to dig out my sewing machine and have little hands mess with it. 🙂
Cutting out all the numbers was pretty time-consuming, but doable. I cut a small rectangle out of cardstock – about 0.75×1.5″ – and used that as the basic number size. It wasn’t too hard to freehand all the numbers with scissors, but I’m sure you could create or buy an actual stencil if that was helpful for you. My three-year-old son is obsessed with numbers right now, so he likes to just stand by the calendar and read them off. 😉
I kept things simple and just used a few thumbtacks to hold the calendar up on the wall. Maybe at some future point I’ll get a dowel and hang it properly, but this works for now.
We are still in the first week of advent so we’re only in the beginning stage of using this calendar, but my son is having a grand time with it so far. When he pulls a new piece out each day, I retell the story from the beginning and add in the new element/character. Sometimes I ask him to tell me the character’s names or what they did, as a way of getting him to think and articulate. I can already see that it is going to be a huge help in teaching him the whole story of Jesus’ birth and why He came to earth. It’s a wonderful addition to our advent season!
Pin this idea for this year or next! It’s such a great way to countdown to Christmas!