Such a great tradition for my family to share each Christmas!

How to Make The Ultimate Advent Calendar!

Growing up, my grandparents would mail us advent calendars from the UK. Customs wouldn’t allow chocolate so we got the simple paper flap ones. My grandparents were limited to what they could send us and it was a tradition, but I was always envious of my friends who got a chocolate each day counting down to Christmas or had a more elaborate one. So I wanted my son to have the most amazing Advent Calendar I could think of!!! I made it last year and at 18 months, he enjoyed sticking the decorations on the tree and playing with them. As planned, I completed the other levels of the calendar for this year, now that he’s old enough to enjoy them. Here it is, start to finish!!!

What you will need:

  • A meter of green felt.
  • 1 1/2 meters of white felt (I used a heavy felt so it wouldn’t curl up and I want it to last for years!).
  • Brown felt for the tree stump.
  • White felt for the back of the letter pieces.
  • A variety of colours of felt to make ornaments, pouches, number tags, etc.
  • Rough Velcro (you can buy this on its own by the metre at Fabricland)…enough for 48 squares.
  • Computer, printer, laminating sheets (you can get self laminating sheets at Dollarama if you don’t have access to a laminator).
  • 2 wood dowels, 1/2″ in thickness and 3 feet long
  • Sewing machine and thread matching the colours of your felt.
  • Just over 3ft of twine or rope to hang with.
  • Number stencil if you can’t draw numbers free hand.

I started with some heavy, thick white felt for the background. 3ft wide and 49″ long. I made 2 button holes on the top approximately 3 inches from the sides and 1 3/4 inches from the top (make sure they’ve aligned).

Button Holes

After sewing and cutting the button holes I folded the felt over and sewed it so there was a big enough gap to slide a dowel in. I didn’t slide the dowel in until I was finished so I could maneuver the felt in the sewing machine.

I also folded 1 1/2″ of felt at the bottom and sewed it, leaving a gap for a dowel at the bottom to prevent the advent calendar from rolling up.

From there, I drew and cut out a tree from the green felt so I knew how big to make my ornaments to all fit nicely in the Christmas tree. My tree measures approximately 30.5″ tall and 28″ wide.

From there, I did the fun part, I chose and designed my 24 felt decorations for my son to add to the tree each day leading up to Christmas. If you search for “free felt ornament pattern” in Google or Pinterest you will find 100s! Be sure to add a small square of velcro on the back of each ornament before sewing it together.

After making your ornaments, cut out 24 pieces of different coloured felt for your pouches. 4″ tall and 4 1/2″ wide. Lay your tree and pouches on the felt to see where you want to position them and sew the pouches on, obviously leaving the top open and with a bit of give so your child can put the ornaments and cards in and out with ease.

How to Make an Advent Calendar

I hand stitched my tree on because I wanted the look of big stitches (that’s true love because I hate hand sewing things!!) but you can easily use your machine to sew the stump and tree on.

Now for the numbers pieces. I used a number stencil so they would all be uniform. I traced all the numbers i needed and cut them out. Then I cut out the pieces of felt, 24 white pieces and a variety of colours. Each piece was 2 1/2″ wide and 2″ tall.

I sewed the numbers on the coloured pieces and velcro squares on the white pieces and then sewed the pieces together.

There is it, the felt part of the Advent Calendar is complete! Now for the next levels.

Scripture and Activity Cards

I wrote my own verses for each sheet with the help of some online examples but and here they are if you would like to print them! advent scripture.

Print your scriptures off and then place paper back in printer so your activities will print on opposite side of paper. Here are the Advent Activities I used that will align with the scripture.

Cut out the squares and laminate each one or place in the self laminating sheets.

The Ultimate Advent Calendar with detailed instructions and free printables

Tie the twine around one end of a dowel and slide through the top. Pull the twine through the button holes and ties it to the other end by pulling the dowel out a bit at the other end. Push the other dowel through at the bottom.

Each year, on November 30th, your child can choose where each number goes on the pouches. Match the number on the scripture sheet to each pouch number and place inside. Choose which ornament goes in which pouch (I like the star to go in 24).

Each day after that, your child can search for the correct number pouch and pull out the ornament inside and choose where to place it on the tree. Together you can read the scripture and talk about the true meaning of Christmas and then plan to do the activity on the other side together as a family. I’m am so excited to carry this tradition on with my son this year!

The Ultimate Advent Calendar with detailed instructions and free printables

If you are going to make this Ultimate Advent Calendar, make sure you give yourself enough time to make each ornament, depending on how detailed you want them, they can take some time!

DIY Party Decorations on a Budget! (Wrecking Ball Piñata, Banner, Food Signs)

I already did a How To for the Construction Signs and Dump Truck Photo Booth I made out of cardboard and just wanted to share a few other things that I made and that cost next to nothing (woohoo!).

BANNER

Fabric banners have become very popular as decorations, especially for back drops for cake smashes, etc. My son had his cake smash for his first birthday but I still liked the look of the banner and thought it would be a fun and easy decoration. But I improvised with things I had around the house, instead of buying fabric, I used yellow and orange streamers I had left in our party box from previous events.

Obviously, the streamers are a little more delicate than fabric, but once you get a rhythm going, I had not problems! Another perk to using streamers is that they’re already the right width, you just have to make one cut!!!

I started by cutting the streamers. My kiddo was entertaining himself so I got some string I already had at home and decided to take advantage of the “free time”! I put the string over either said of a clothes hamper so it was easier to tie, portable and out of reach from little hands when my son came over to check out what I was doing!!

I thought it would be fun to have them all different lengths, but then I wished I had kept it all the same, besides that, I thought it turned out great and it cost me nothing! $3.00 if you have to buy string and streamers from Dollar Store. I’m also hadning this banner down to a friend who is having a lion themed party the following week for her son so the possibilities are endless!

DIY Streamer Banner...so cheap and easy!

FOOD SIGNS

I also made a bunch of cute signs to put around the food which cost me nothing besides some ink in my printer! I made them in Word. You can insert a square shape, rotate it and make it the right colours or you can cheat and Google Image Construction Signs and copy and paste…I cheated!

From there, I used text boxes and put different labels on them such as wrecking balls for grapes, tools for cutlery and so on. It didn’t take a lot of time and cost me next to nothing. I taped some toothpicks to the back, and voila, a fun extra for you food table! Click here to print my party signs and save yourself some time! I thought I had cardstock paper in my printer but was wrong and didn’t want to waste the ink, but if you have, I would recommend printing on cardstock so they’re not flimsy.

WRECKING BALL PINATA

Finally, my Wrecking Ball! We had the perfect box at home from a new water filter I used but I’m sure you could find something appropriate at Costco or a furniture store, even if you had to combine a few boxes! I used this How To as my inspiration but decided to turn mine into a Pinata. In the link, you’ll see they covered their box with yellow wrapping paper from Michaels but I didn’t want to spend up to $10 on wrapping paper so I painted it…in hindsight I think I would suggest meeting in the middle and getting spray paint because with all the decorations I made and doing this one last, I had had enough of painting! But oh well, the price was right! I would also recommend using some black tape to make it easier, but again, I used what I had around the house and painted it yellow and black.

DIY Balloon Pinata

The Piñata…I am a piñata virgin, I’m sure I went to parties as a child with piñatas but I have no recollection of it, I don’t ever remember swinging at a colourful thing full of candy so, as you do, I decided to jump right in and as my first piñata experience come up with a way of making my own from scratch! I found a link on Pinterest to make a piñata using a punching balloon and set to it! I found it easier to dip the strips of paper in and scrape them along the side of the casserole dish rather than just putting them all in the paste which made them soggy and impossible to work with…this was my first time doing paper mache since I was in elementary school! There were times I cried inside but by the end, I had it down and there was no looking back! I used black tissue paper (which was delicate!) for the final layer so it would be black.

DIY Wrecking Ball Pinata...Construction Themed Birthday Party
As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, it’s so important to keep the kids in mind so when I got sick of painting and it wasn’t perfect, I reminded myself that 2 year olds won’t care. When The final black layer dried and it was covered in dry white paste, I told myself 2 year olds won’t notice and if someone does, I’ll tell them it’s sand. It’s a party for small children and it doesn’t have to be perfect, it’s the thought that counts!

After following the directions in the link (kind of!) and letting it dry I cut a small hole in the top, pulled out the balloon…I had left the elastic hanging out that came with punching balloon which made it easier to pull out. I had been impatient and didn’t let the first layer dry before continuing (I had a time limit that was the length of my son’s nap time) so when I cut it open, I let it stand for a few hours to dry the inside better. I snuck some small treats through the hole and attached it to the stand I made.

Check out next week’s pictures of the party to see everything set up and in action! Happy Party Planning!

6. A Week’s Worth of Fresh Air…Blow Bubbles!

It’s been pretty windy here the last few days so we don’t even have to lose our breath, we can just hold the bubble wand up and dozens of bubbles will fly out! My son loves bubbles. Bubble Baths, blowing bubbles, he just loves them.

We take turns, I blow the bubbles or wave the wand around and my son runs after them, trying to catch them all and pop them. He wants a turn, he dips the wand into the bubbles, pulls it out with excitement, and covers me with sticky bubbles…again…and again.

I often make my own bubbles with Dawn Dish Soap, water and syrup but I haven’t found them as good as the bought ones so I’m still experimenting with different recipes and ratios (I’ll let you know if I come up with my own super bubble recipe!)

We have big wands, little wands, this summer I would love to buy a hoola hoop and fill a kiddy pool with bubbles and blow giant ones! I love bubbles because although they’re best outside with the wind and lots of space to run and chase them, you can also blow them inside on a hard floor that’s easy to clean up, in the bath or in frigid temperatures in the winter so they freeze.

They’re another fun, cheap and easy activity to do with your kids outside while enjoying the fresh air!

Date Night

When I was pregnant with our son, a lot of people gave us the advice, make sure you take time for yourselves as a couple, have date nights, etc. etc. This is great advice and I pass it on to every parent. However, it is easier said than done.

We live in a city away from family, our closest set of grandparents is 1,370 kms away, approximately. They would all love to take care of their grandson or have him over for sleepovers but proximity is kind of an issue! We have a lot of great friends who offer to babysit and we do take them up on the offer every once and a while but they’re busy and have lives of their own. Asking a friend to give up their evening, especially on a weekend, isn’t as easy as asking your parent who loves spending time with their grandbabies and has passed that “going out” phase in their lives.

So here we are, getting the odd date night in and even making our own date nights at home occasionally. We give our kiddo some supper, put him to bed and than cook together and set the table all fancy to enjoy a meal without a mess! Another thing we’ve been doing is having family date nights. Make no mistake, this is not the same as a date night without kids, but it’s still nice!

This week we went to Kinjo’s, our favourite sushi restaurant. It’s family friendly, but not full of kids. Our son loves it, he doesn’t like rice but he has miso soup, tempura vegetables and chicken katsu. They gave hime a pair of practice chopsticks so he can be just like mom and dad and he loves his complimentary fruit platter with the orange jack-o-lantern! We went early so he wasn’t sleepy, he behaved perfectly (this isn’t always the case!) and we had some great quality family time! …and a break from cooking and cleaning with a change of scenery!

It’s so important to take time for yourselves and your marriage. It’s too easy to put your kids to sleep and collapse, exhausted, in front of the tv, checking the time to see when you can finally justify going to bed yourself. This is something my husband and I often find ourselves in the habit of. A marriage or relationship takes work and when kids are involved, you have to work even harder. So be aware. If you find yourself in a slump, do something about it. If you can’t get out due to resources or finance, make your own date night at home. If you want to get out of the house but don’t have a sitter, make it a family date, it’s better than nothing!

When Your Baby is Sick

The worst part of being a parent is seeing your child sick. You want to help them and make everything better, but it’s not always that simple. We’re responsible for our little ones but, for the most part, their health is out of our control, we have to care for them, give them cuddles and let the illness take it’s course.

My husband and I are very blessed that we have a healthy child. He’s had a few colds here and there but nothing major so far. I am forever grateful of this and have the upmost respect and admiration for those parents who are always caring for a sick child, especially when it’s something serious that their poor angel is having to deal with.

My son had a fever and wasn’t himself this week and than yesterday he woke up covered in a rash. I don’t want to be a burden to the health system and I also don’t like waiting for hours in a waiting room with my little guy, especially when he’s not well, but I worry. So when my son gets sick, the first thing I usually do is text or FaceTime Dr. Grandma. She’s great. She always puts my mind at rest and gives me the facts, or helps me research them.

From our research this time, it looks like my little guy has Roseola, so we just have to wait it out. He had a great Easter morning looking for his eggs that the Easter bunny left for him but we had to stay home in case he’s contagious, plus he’s pretty tired. It’s nothing like the pain that Jesus endured, but it’s still awful to see my baby suffering, let’s hope he’s back to his happy self soon.

 

Stranger Danger ⚠️

I have such a friendly son and I love it! I love that he rarely plays shy, I love that he gives my friends and other kids big hugs, he even hugs the iPad when saying goodbye to his grandparents. But he doesn’t have a lot of boundaries. This week alone he ran up to a girl in McDonalds and tried to hug her because he liked her jacket. He went over to another girl in nursery wearing a buttoned cardigan, said “buttons” and than proceeded to unbutton her shirt. But he also played nicely and appropriately with a little girl at the library. I love that my son didn’t inherit my shy gene but I also worry how inappropriate it is to start undressing strangers.

I think it’s important to teach your children to be friendly and sociable so I always encourage my son to wave and say hello to people. A few weeks ago we were walking downtown and a homeless man had a stuffed animal and was getting him to wave at my little guy and I made sure we both waved back because I want him to be friendly and respectful to everyone. But how do you teach a toddler boundaries?

I was talking about this with some family friends and we agreed how important it is to encourage children to be friendly and outgoing but just as important to teach them that you only talk to strangers when you’re with an adult that you know. But is this really a concept that my child who isn’t even two can actually understand? There’s got to be something I can do to help him learn this valuable lesson?! 

So while I beamed with pride at my son smiling on Santa’s lap while most of the other children at the mall screamed this past Christmas, I couldn’t help but worry how easy Santa had won him over. But I told myself, I’m here, he can see me, he knows this is safe. So now I casually mention, mommy and daddy are here, go say hello, just so he starts associating our presence with speaking to strangers. Now I just need to show him that hugging a man you barely know and trying to give him an open mouth kiss is NOT how we greet people…without discouraging his friendly and loving personality. I always encourage him to wave and say hi instead, but he just can’t resist, my kid is a hugger.

If you can’t fight it embrace it! I’m telling him to ask first, sometimes he starts by touching their arm. I still encourage waving and saying hello when meeting someone. When we are with people we know I tell him to say goodbye to his ‘friends’ or give his ‘friend’ a hug, I try to make it specific. It’s still a work in progress but it’s hard. I love how outgoing he is, hopefully over time and with practice, he will learn how to be more appropriate. A hugger with boundaries and social skills!

Easter

I love chocolate. My grandma (also a chocolate lover) always said, there’s nothing wrong with eating chocolate, it’s calcium. I believe this to be true.

We are still trying to get through our Halloween chocolate but I can’t say no to mini eggs and creme eggs, I’m human. But I do try to limit all that sweet stuff for my son without taking the fun away. Here is what I plan on filling his Easter basket with.

  • Easter themed Stickers
  • A plastic egg filled with jelly beans and a printout of the prayer below.
  • A few small toys
  • A spring themed tshirt (I don’t know what that looks like for a boy but someone suggested it and I think it’s a cute idea, so we’ll see what I can find.)
  • I like the bunny money pic below too but we don’t have $1 bills in Canada and I think a few coins in a plastic egg would be more appropriate for my son’s piggy bank at his age.
  • Colouring book
  • Fishy cracker carrot bags

Fun ideas for an Easter Basket that isn't all chocolate!

My son is at the age where my husband and I want to start traditions, combining some from our own childhoods and some new ones as our own family. We also want to combine the fun and childhood innocence of the Easter bunny and chocolate part of the holiday but without forgetting the reason why we, as Christians, actually celebrate Easter. Our son is obviously too young to understand anything this year, but we still want to be mindful of this as we choose our traditions and ways of celebrating.

This Sunday morning, we will tell our son the Easter bunny came and hid chocolate eggs for him. My son will probably get that cute, excited smirk on his face that he gets when he hears the word ‘chocolate’. We will head downstairs to find the eggs before our dogs beat us to it. My guess is, he will find the first egg and than just want to eat it, not realizing the long term gain of continuing the search. After getting our child hyped up on chocolate, we will have a nice breakfast together and than go to church, dropping our sugar high child off at nursery.