Tuesday, December 1, 2015

KaiserCraft Advent Calendar -- Christmas Countdown Calendar

Several years ago now, I came upon this KaiserCraft Advent Calendar and thought it would be perfect to use as our Christmas Countdown Calendar. (It looks like they have several other versions, though not this exact one, available right now.) To us, "Advent" has to do with Christ's birth and we weren't planning to use it to teach about Jesus or anything Biblical (we have other things that do that), so we changed the title of it though we know lots of people use these types of things just like we do (which is that we put an activity per day and use them to count down toward Christmas) and call them "Advent Calendars." To each his own! Anyways, my mother-in-law gave it to me for Christmas and it has taken me several years to get around to putting the effort forth required to make this work for our family.

Since I didn't really know what I was doing and couldn't find many posts online showing how people put this together, I thought I'd share step-by-step of what is involved. Here is my journey:
First, you have to separate all the pieces of the calendar, smooth the rough edges and then paint it. It takes SEVERAL coats to get it totally filled in. I also painted the inside of the boxes with a coat of the same paint, mostly so that the inside would be more durable to the little fingers which would be pulling the paper out of them every year. (The boxes are essentially thin cardboard and the calendar itself is chipboard.) This step alone took me about a week, working on it when I could and waiting for the paint to dry between coats.
Once the inside of the boxes was dry, I set about gluing them into the box-shape. I used some craft glue and rubber bands to hold them together. I'm sure there are other ways, but this just seemed to make the most sense to me and it worked great!
I left them wrapped with the rubber bands for a day or more to make sure the glue was totally dry. My brilliant husband came up with the shape for the scrapbook paper so that I could put it onto the boxes and have it cover completely as well as help hold the box together. With most things of this nature (and as you can see in the picture above), each box wasn't exactly the same as the others so this made tracing and cutting the easiest and least time-consuming we could think of. I simply "painted" the outside of the box with Modge Podge and then wrapped the paper onto the box/itself, covering it completely. (I took a lot of pictures of this step because it was the hardest to figure out how to accomplish and I wanted to help y'all as much as possible!)
There was a little extra to be removed on some of them.
Once the calendar itself was completely painted, I applied a piece of scrapbook paper to the back and then set about glueing all the pieces into place. This was difficult and I had my husband help me force a few into their spot because I couldn't get it and was afraid of breaking it with my effort. When the boxes were done and the calendar was assembled, the really fun part began--I got to decide how I wanted to do the numbers on each box and how to decorate the middle section.
In order to eliminate some work and to add some shine,
I used red glitter stickers for half the numbers.
The kit comes with little cardboard numbers for you to paint and glue onto the boxes. This step took about a day because it's hard to get paint on the whole thing without painting your fingers, so you have to let them dry a lot.
Once the numbers were all dry, I glued them in place using craft glue.
I didn't know quite how to write the day's activity on a piece of paper small enough to fit inside the little boxes while also being large enough to actually read, so I came up with this strip idea. I cut white cardstock into 1 inch wide strips and used a gold paint Sharpie to write out the activities before folding into fourths and putting into the right box. (Side note: My husband had an idea of writing on the back of the slip the year we did each activity, so that over the years we would have record of which years we did which things and I love that idea so much I thought I'd add it here for y'all.) I made about 40 strips total, with things we would definitely do this year and things we definitely want to do at some point. Some are more expensive in terms of time or money, so we chose things for each day that fit our schedule/our family this year.
Once I was done with the strips, I put them in their boxes and decorated the center. I was most looking forward to decorating the center and I love how it turned out. I used some stickers, some velum, some glitter cardstock, my printer printing red, and some puffy adhesive squares. All making it totally unique and totally fitting into our decor for Christmas.
One of the great things about this is that if we need to move things around to better accommodate some last-minute change, we can easily pull the strips out and rearrange things. I expect to have to do that several times this year. For this reason, I printed a free December 2015 calendar from online and wrote each days' activity on it in pencil so I'll have a master copy of the things so I know where things are located without having to pull each box/strip out to find what I might be looking for.
The bigs were old enough to hang their own stockings and I loved that!
Overall, I Love it! I'm excited to have this from year to year, I love that we made it, I love that it's to our tastes, but it's definitely time consuming and we joked all the time about what Labor of Love this calendar was. Once we got started we realized just how long it would take and I considered scrapping the whole thing! So, my advice to you is to expect to be working on it for quite awhile. If you're not ready to spent hours on it, Leave it!

Lastly, A huge shout-out to my husband who helped me with this project. It was probably more than I should have tackled with a baby, a toddler, and preschooler around and his help allowed me to actually finish in time for December. Without him, I would have still been working on it next year! Thanks, babe!

Update: Here is how I've been hanging the strips of paper to show that we're getting closer and closer to Christmas (thus, the countdown part). I simply bought fun clothes pins and silver ribbon at Michaels and strung the ribbon on some shelving we have in the family room. It didn't turn out quite how I thought it would, but I'm happy enough with it.