Thursday, November 10, 2011

Activity Advent Calendar

I saw a picture of an activity advent calendar on pinterest that I just fell in love with. Instead of eating stale candy from a cheap cardboard cutout every night, this advent calendar had a Christmas related activity to do every day. There two huge reasons why this would be perfect for us. You can reuse it every year and, the best part, you can cheat!  We all know the holidays get crazy so planning activities 20 days in advance doesn't always work out, especially when it involved two little boys. So the way this calendar is set up, you can make sure the daily activities line up with your schedule. My plan is to check the calendar every night after the boys go to bed. I'll make sure I can do the next days activity, if not, I just switch the cards around.... genius!!

But there was one drawback to the calendar I saw in pinterest, the blog didn't have any instruction. So I made a plan, and even though it changed along the way, I am very happy with the results. So here is the step by step for you!

Here is the original picture (from HERE)

My shopping list:
Foam board (which I ended up not using)
Fabric for the backing (from a remnant bin)
A package of Christmas fabric quilting squares
Christmas ribbon
Package of Christmas scrapbook pictures
Fabric glue
Fabric Paint
Index Cards
Christmas shaped white cards
Christmas Sticker

My first step was to mark out the edge of the foam board on the backing fabric so I knew how to lay out the squares.

Using  fabric pencil, I laid the foam board on top of the backing fabric, and being sure to keep the board still, I traced along the edges.

Next I took the package of quilting squares and laid them out on the backing fabric, making to that similar colors and prints were not close to each other.

This is where I ran into my first bit of trouble. There was no way to arrange the squares so that there was 24 inside the area of the foam board. So I could either cut every square to be smaller and cut every activity square smaller, or I could just find a bigger double thick cardboard to mount it to, instead of the foam board. Finding a bigger board seemed to be easier than all that cutting, so I pinned all of the squares to the backing. Make sure you put individual pins in all four corners, you'll be moving this around alot and don't want your squares sliding around. You can also choose to glue the squares down but it may require touchups with use.

I sewed the three sides of each square, leaving the top open.

Next was finding a new backing to attach to it. I asked hubby if he could find a section of cardboard big enough. But he had an even better genius idea (don't you hate it when that happens?). Instead of attaching the fabric to cardboard, why didn't I just sew pockets into the top and bottom and put dowels in it. That would also make it easier to store since it could be folded up. So with a heavy heart, I seceded that Chad's idea was better and headed out to buy the dowels. I also had to finish the edges of the side now since they wouldn't be hidden behind the foam board.

I chose to use a fancy dancy stitch on my sewing machine. Again, you could do this using fabric glue too.

Next I folded the top and bottom in and did an invisible stitch, creating a tube for the dowels.  
Once the pockets were done, I inserted the dowels and put drops of glue just inside the pockets to keep the dowels in place.

Next, I turned my attention to the activity cards.  I used red and green markers to write an activity on each cutout. Be sure to choose activities that can be repeated each year. It helps to keep them general or something that is already a family tradition. Instead of using "Make snowmen ornaments" just use "Make ornaments". That way you have a little wiggle room from year to year. For the cutout on the 24th, I used "Read Night Before Christmas, and leave out milk and cookies for Santa". I also added stickers to each cutout to make them more festive.

The last step was the really fun part. Decorating the pockets. I used cutouts from a Christmas themed scrapbook package. I laid them out before gluing any on to make sure I liked the way it looked. I inserted an index card into each pocket to prevent the glue from seeping through the fabric and gluing the pocket closed. I used Tacky Glue and attached the cutouts to each pocket. I also used glitter fabric paint to highlight some of the pattern in the fabric and to write the day (1-24).

You can see the index cards poking out the top of the pockets. I was going to remove the index cards once the glue was dried but they were pretty stuck. I could have easily peeled them off the back of the pockets, but I liked the stability they gave. So I just cut off the top sections so you couldn't see them, leaving the rest glued to the back of the pockets.

To finish it off, I tied a ribbon to the ends of the top dowel so it could be hung on a wall, and TADA, a new family tradition is born.