Monday, November 12, 2012

November FREEBIE and Advent Calendar Tutorial

I love the magic of Christmastime. One of my favorite childhood memories is getting to open the advent calendar my mom had. She just bought one from the store each year that had the little chocolates inside. My younger brother and I would each get a turn opening the little doors for each day in December. One year, my brother snuck into the kitchen and ate all the chocolates for the entire month. I wish I could say he got coal that year for Christmas; in my mind he should have. :) Now, it's turned into a funny story that we laugh about as adults.

I have a daughter who is just at the right age to begin to understand Christmas and all the wonders of the season. Of course I had to have an advent calendar for her! But I wanted one with little more than just a chocolate candy each day. I envisioned a calendar that had space to put in a slip of paper with a Christmas activity (ex: watch a Christmas movie as a family with hot chocolate and popcorn, drive around and look at Christmas light, build a snowman, decorate sugar cookies, etc..) I also wanted to write a scripture for each day, so my daughter would understand  that, for us, Christmas is more than lights, candy, and presents. 

I have seen several ideas online for making different kinds of advent calendars: everything from using muffin tins to tiny decorated envelopes to bags on a garland.  I don't necessarily like the look of the muffin tin calendars. I still want something a little nicer to hang on my wall, not a muffin tin. And I am not near crafty enough to spend the time making little envelopes with scrapbook paper, ribbon, and stickers or sewing bags for a garland. Then, I saw an idea for a calendar using matchboxes and my idea was born.

I tweaked the original idea a bit. The original idea I saw still had you decorate the outside of the matchboxes with scrapbook paper, ribbon, and stickers. I don't do that. I wanted something easy to put together but still cute. The original idea also had you stick the matchboxes to a cookie sheet. This was okay. I think you could use a ribbon on the back to hang it on your wall and it would look alright. You could even spray paint the cookie sheet or apply scrapbook paper to it, but I still wasn't crazy about that. My husband had some extra tin laying around from an old project, so I asked him to cut it for me to use for our calendar.

My version of the matchbox advent calendar:
Materials Needed:
  • 25 small matchboxes
  • small round magnets 
  • a piece of tin (either a cookie sheet or you can buy tin at home improvement stores)
  • long piece of ribbon to use as hanger
  • download THIS advent calendar topper and print on card-stock
to download this print, click HERE

First, I opened all of the matchboxes and put the matches in a plastic baggie for some later use. Then, I used white acrylic paint to quickly paint over the boxes (you can use any color). I didn't worry too much about the tops and bottoms since no one was going to really see those. I just gave them a quick coat. I used a sponge brush to kind of dab over the strip where you strike the match. It took a few coats to completely cover the strip. But the boxes are small and it didn't take that long. Let dry.
I would not recommend using spraypaint for these. I tried doing that at first, but the gust from the spraypaint bottle just blew the boxes all over the place. Paint is the way to go.

I printed the advent calendar tops on card-stock, cut them out (just cut along the black lines) and used rubber cement to glue them to the tops of the matchboxes.
Now, apply the magnets to the back of the boxes and stick on your cookie sheet or piece of tin. WAH-LAH, you now have an advent calendar! I am going to have my husband drill holes in the tin so I can use ribbon as a hanger for my wall. You could put a vinyl saying across the top of your cookie sheet or piece of tin, or add any other accents. Have fun, make it your own!
NOTE that if you arrange the boxes in rows of 4 across, it spreads the designs out a little better.

On my calendar, I chose not to use the the marker for the 25th of December. One because I am anal retentive and wanted my rows to be even :) and the other reason is the 25th is already kind of a big day so, in my opinion, a box is not really needed. But I did include a box for the 25th on the template if you want to use it.

Now, all you need to do is find things to go inside the boxes. These matchboxes could hold a small treat, or like I am going to do, a slip of paper with a Christmas craft, family activity, service project, special Christmas book or movie to read/watch, a scripture verse...there are so many fun possibilities!

As I got thinking about where to hang my advent calendar, another thought occurred to me: You don't really even NEED a cookie sheet or tin if you don't want to. You can hang this on your fridge! If you have little ones (like I do) and want to keep the calendar out of reach, or maybe you just don't want to poke another hole in your wall to hang something up, your fridge is the perfect spot.

 I plan to put my matchboxes in a small tubberware container to store with our Christmas things. I hope that our family advent calendar becomes a fun tradition my children look forward to year after year! ENJOY!

Don't forget that PeaBee Designs does custom Christmas cards! Contact me for orders. Also, take a look around my shop to see if there are any items that would make someone smile this holiday season!