Make your own family time advent calendar

Forget the shop-bought advent calendar this year. This version from crafter Lucy is easy to make, looks beautiful and reminds you to spend quality family time together every day


With just a week of November left, we’re almost at my favourite time of the year: advent. For the countdown to Christmas, why not try this DIY version of the traditional advent calendar? There isn’t a disappointing foil-wrapped chocolate or a garish design in sight.

You can forage the ingredients from your garden or local parks, which makes it super cost-effective to put together. It looks beautiful hung up on the wall and, most importantly of all, each day’s ‘window’ is a prompt to do something fun and different as a family.

You will need:

Sticks and twigs – find these outside
24 parcel or gift tags
Pine cones or holly for decorating (optional)
Baubles, spray paint or lights for decorating (optional)

Step one – foraging

Collect some sticks and twigs. You’ll need a variety of lengths to make your tapered Christmas tree shape. I found some storm-damaged cherry branches in the garden which still had cherries attached. Make sure the sticks are fairly thin so the finished tree isn’t too heavy. You can make it as big or small as you’d like, but remember you need to fit 24 tags on it.

Step two – preparation

Lay your gathered twigs out on the floor in length order, starting with the smallest at the top. I used red and white baker’s twine for an extra festive feeling but string would work just as well. Cut two lengths that are both 12 inches longer than your tree is tall – this will give you enough string to wrap around each branch in turn and then tie at the bottom.

Step three – assembly

Starting at the top, loop your twine around the branch and tie a knot. Continue down the tree, looping around each brand and tying it off at the bottom stick. To keep each stick extra secure, I cut shorter lengths of twine and tied a decorative bow on top of each loop – this looks jolly and it keeps your sticks from slipping. Lastly, tie a knot where the two lengths of twine meet at the top ready for hanging or taping to your wall.

Step four – decorate

I used red and silver baubles, pine cones, some holly I cut from the garden and a fried flower head for my star at the top of the tree. You could try anything from spray painting to stringing battery-powered fairy lights around your sticks.

Step five – add your advent activities

Ask the little ones for some ideas for fun activities you could do between now and Christmas day. Mine put going swimming and face painting at the top of their lists. Write these down on your tags and hang the tags on your tree in a random order, facing the wall.

Ta-da! You’re ready for advent

Each day in December, turn round one tag and have fun doing whatever that’s day’s activity is. By Christmas day you’ll be left with a beautiful, natural tree and dozens of memories of fun things you did together. Beats chocolates any day (and we don’t say that lightly).

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Lucy Heath

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Lucy Heath