As the holiday season begins, kids of all ages feel growing excitement about the festivities that they’ll get to celebrate. That said, a certain degree of impatience and restlessness can occur, as several weeks can feel like an eternity when you’re young and looking forward to something special. These DIY countdown calendar ideas can ensure that the lead-up to the holidays is full of wonder and appreciation as each day is commemorated. Whether you’re counting down to Christmas, Hanukkah, Yule/Solstice, or Festivus, your little ones will have magical little surprises to open every day.

Holiday countdown calendar, advent calendar, Christmas, Yule, Hanukkah, crafts, DIY, How-to

Bags and Stockings

What You’ll Need:

  • Drawstring bags OR miniature stockings (you can even use odd socks for this!)
  • Small labels
  • Household twine
  • Clothes pins (optional)
  • Little gifts and surprises

Going this route is probably the easiest, as you can either pick up miniature stockings or drawstring bags from dollar stores, or make them yourself with a bit of scrap fabric and yarn. In addition to the stocking or drawstring bag idea, you can also use squares of burlap (or other re-purposed fabric) tied with twine. You can also choose how many you’d like to use: small children may react best to a seven-day countdown, while older ones may enjoy the anticipation and build-up of a month’s worth of surprises.

Holiday countdown calendar, advent calendar, Christmas, Yule, Hanukkah, crafts, DIY, How-to

Determine how many you’ll need, and whether you’ll create one countdown per child, or make the calendars shared instead. Find a place in your home where a long strand of twine can be hung without too much interference (like the outer edge of a stairway banister, along a mantlepiece, or across a large window), and secure that twine across it. Label your parcels with the numbers of days you’ll be counting down, and fill them with the little gifts you’ve picked up. When it comes to deciding what to place inside these bags, that’s really up to you. If you’re not fond of having your kids over-sugared, make sure that only a few of the parcels have chocolate or candy inside them.

Another way to go about the countdown is to use little recyclable cardboard boxes, and hide them around your home. At breakfast, or after dinner, give your kiddos clues about where the boxes are hidden so they can go on mini scavenger hunts to find them.

Holiday countdown calendar, advent calendar, Christmas, Yule, Hanukkah, crafts, DIY, How-to

Here are a few ideas of stuffers that you can tuck into your countdown parcels:

  • Miniature activity books and a few crayons
  • Stickers
  • Books (board books for little ones, chapter books/novels for older kids)
  • Wooden toys
  • Ornaments (for a holiday tree, or to hang in their room)
  • Craft supplies
  • Tangerines
  • Finger puppets
  • Card games (like Fluxx, or Munchkin, for older kids)
  • Toy cars
  • Knitting spools + yarn
  • Bubble solution and wands
  • $5 or $10 gift cards (for a book shop, toy store, or for their own cup of hot cocoa at a fancy cafe)
  • Flower bulbs to force (they’re fun to start, and if you start them a few weeks in advance, they’ll bloom in time for the holidays!)
  • Fun/silly socks
  • Pull-apart holiday crackers
  • Bath toys
  • Maracas or other mini musical instruments
  • Lacing toys
  • Bird seed for feeding wild chickadees and other songbirds (depending on where you live, they may be brave enough to eat sunflower seeds from little hands)
  • Little Waldorf dolls
  • Semi-precious stones
  • Their choice of a Netflix movie to watch
  • Stretchy mini gloves
  • Lip balms
  • Homemade or Eco modeling dough
  • Magnets
  • Little animal toys
  • Beaded necklaces
  • Hats (beanies/toques)
  • Harmonicas
  • Mini bottles of bubble bath
  • Temporary tattoos
  • Bath crayons
  • Ear buds and iTunes gift card (for older kids)

These are just a few ideas for inspiration. You know your family members best, and can determine what would make them giddy when they open each gift daily.

Holiday countdown calendar, advent calendar, Christmas, Yule, Hanukkah, crafts, DIY, How-to

Other Countdown Calendar Ideas

If you’d rather go a different route than having little pouches to open, consider some of these other ideas as countdowns:

  • Little boxes or spice tins filled with ornaments, so new decorations are put up around the house every day.
  • Stoppered bottles filled with gift certificates for time with parents (game night, extra bedtime story, walk in the park), or ideas for random acts of kindness that the family can all take part in.
  • Large puzzle pieces that will make up an entire holiday-themed picture once they’ve all been put together.

It’s so much fun to create this little holiday ritual for the family to enjoy, and these tiny parcels can actually help to stave off the impatience that often comes with seeing presents pile up around the house. Enjoy the creative process while you’re making them, and please feel free to share your own “stocking stuffer” ideas with us in the comments section.