Here at Imagine. Make. Believe, we love Christmas! We also love advent calendars! The children here love finding some little gift or trinket in a hidey hole every day leading up to Christmas. (Janelle also has a ‘thing’ for hidey holes and boxes!) In keeping with our philosophy of using inexpensive every day materials, we have created some eggstraordinary advent calendars using egg cartons and milk bottle lids to present as our first free project tutorial. The children have created four completely different advent calendars (all featured here) using the following instructions and when you’ve finished yours, we would love to see what it looks like too, so please contact us so we can put your photo in our gallery. Have fun!
Difficulty Rating: 5/5 – This is still achievable by children (Seven year old children can do this with some help – younger children will probably need more help, and older children, less. See below for more details )
- Weekend project
- Adult supervision/help required unless 12 & over
- Help may be needed to tie knots in elastic
- Supervision of poking holes with sharp implement
- Young children may find threading elastic through holes difficult
- Some help with layout may be required
- 2 egg cartons the same – low humps are best (the base or lid of one, needs to sit inside the other’s lid)
- 24 bottle lids, approximately 4 .1cm (1⅝ inches) in diameter. Milk bottle or juice bottle lids are best. Each lid needs to fit snugly in a compartment of the egg carton. These need to have discs removed, and then be washed and dried. View our mini video to see how you can easily remove the discs from the lids.
- 24 white discs – these come from the inside of the lids. (If you have a collection of discs, make sure they fit into the lid, as some discs are a slightly larger or smaller than others.) These need to be removed from the lid and then washed and dried. View our mini video to see how you can easily remove the discs from the lids.
- 1 metre (3.3 feet) length of thin elastic (1 mm or 1/16 inch in diameter)
- Glue – PVA or craft glue
- Egg carton colouring material – choose one of the following: paint, spray paint; crayon; torn tissue paper and glue; felt tip pens; pencil; watercolour pencil; glitter and glue; or watercolour paint.
- Numbers – you can use: game tokens; quantities of sequins or shapes (eg 3 stars, circles, squares, etc); pipe cleaners (shape into the number); stickers; stamps; or write with a pen.
- Other decorations – some ideas are: sequins; ribbon; cord; stickers; glitter; baubles; charms; paper flowers; ribbon flowers; nature bits; pompoms; card or paper; buttons; yarn; bells; gems; beads; tinsel.
- Clear spray – to seal colour on the egg carton
- Thread for stitching on charms, buttons or other decorations
- Double sided tape for attaching paper, card or other decorations to discs or carton
- A sharp item like a drawing compass, sharp metal skewer, an awl, or a sharp nail.
- A toothpick or small paintbrush to apply glue.
- Paint brush (if using paint or glue for colouring egg carton)
- Craft punch
- Fancy edged paper scissors
- Wire cutters or old scissors
Gift or Trinket Ideas:
See our list of suggestions – Christmas Advent Calendar Gift Ideas
- Choose a theme. Some themes ideas are ‘Snowy’, ‘Outdoors’, ‘Toys’, ‘Santa’.
- Choose a colour scheme. For a more professional look, limit your colours to 3 or 4 main colours, with a small splash of 1 more colour. Use the colours of the bottle lids and discs (we have mainly red lids in our house and the discs are generally white) and choose one or two other colours that go with those. Some good colour options are red, green, black, blue, gold/yellow, silver, pink and purple. The extra colour (the small splash) is like a little highlight and gives the design a little extra zing. You may find it hiding in one of your main colour decorations and then you can add a little more of it by using a sequin or a piece of card, for example, in the same colour.
- Decide how you want your egg cartons arranged. You need 24 compartments and the base or lid of one carton needs to go inside the lid of another to keep the whole advent calendar together. There are a few different options – see below, and trim off extra carton tabs or halves.
- Choose your egg carton colouring material and paint, colour or glue the material on your egg cartons, so that the egg cartons are completely coloured, and allow to dry (this may take 24 hours, a whole day, depending on the material you used).
- Seal colour with clear spray if you wish and allow to dry. (This step is necessary if the colour comes off on your hands when you touch it.)
- Adult Supervision Recommended- Lay out cartons in front of you in your chosen arrangement. Using your sharp tool, poke holes in the middle of the top edge of each bridge on your carton, for the first row, being careful not to poke your tool in the table, bench or other surface. Poke holes in the middle of each compartment, about half way down the side of your carton for the second row of lids, . If you have overlapped cartons, poke holes through both cartons. Make sure second row of holes are at the bottom of each compartment, not the top. Click on photo below to see larger picture.
- Adult Supervision – Using your sharp tool, poke a hole into the side of each lid (by screwing and pushing firmly) 1/3 of the way up from the smooth side of each lid. See below. Make sure the hole is big enough to thread the elastic through. Twirl your sharp item from side to side to make the hole bigger if necessary.
- Thread the piece of elastic through the hole in the first lid and tie a knot(on the inside of the lid) in the end of the elastic, leaving a 1 cm (¼ inch) tail, pulling tight to secure the knot. See below. If you have difficulty threading the elastic through the hole, try poking the end of the elastic with your sharp tool into the hole, or make the hole bigger, or trim the end of the elastic to make a more pointed smooth end.
- Thread the elastic (attached to the lid) through the first hole in the carton, turn the egg carton over, and then thread the elastic through the second hole (on the first row), coming back out to the front.
- Thread the elastic through the hole in the second lid, as in step 8, and pull elastic tight (make sure knots are sitting tightly against edge of lids, and lids are sitting firmly against carton). Stretch the elastic as much as possible, tie a knot and pull the knot down as close to the second lid as possible to make the lid pull tight against the egg carton. (You can use your pointed tool to pull the knot down to the lid.) The lids should flick back into position when top edges of the lids are pulled back or lifted – this means the elastic has been pulled tight enough and knots are in correct position.
- Cut off the extra elastic next to the knot leaving a 1 cm (¼ inch) tail.
- Repeat steps 8-11 until all lids are attached to the carton.
- Sit discs on top of lids (do not attach at this stage).
- Choose decorations and numbers that match your theme and colour scheme, and lay them out on the discs and cartons to check the design and position.
- Once you like the layout of your decorations, use PVA or craft glue to glue the shiny and furry things to the discs and allow to dry. Paper or card decorations can be stuck on using double sided tape. Some items (like buttons and charms) can be attached by thread or yarn.
- To attach buttons or charms to disc, thread needle with three strands of thread or one strand of yarn.
- From the back side of the disc, poke hole through the disc with the threaded needle and pull thread or yarn through hole, leaving a 3 or 4 cm (1 or 1½ inch) tail on the back.
- Put button or charm over needle and thread through.
- Hold button or charm firmly on the disc in correct position.
- Poke needle through the next hole in the button and pull through to the back side of the disc, or go over the edge of the charm back through the same hole or a new hole in the disc through to the back side of the disc.
- Cut end off thread leaving a 3 or 4 cm (1 or 1½ inch) tail on the back.
- Take both tail ends and tie a knot (twice), firmly securing the button or charm on the front of the disc. (See our video for further instruction).
- Trims ends of tails to 1 cm (¼ inch).
- After all the decorations are attached to the discs, use a small brush or blunt toothpick to spread PVA glue around the inside top of one lid. Making sure the disc is the right way up and straight, carefully place decorated disc inside the top of the lid, being careful not to push the disc down too far, and gently tap into place. If you push the disc down too far, flick the lid out carefully using a knife. Repeat for all other discs and lids.
- Glue or stick the other decorations onto the carton as in step 15 and allow to dry.
- Pull back the lids and place your goodies in the space behind the lids, allowing the lid to go back to its original place again.
- Hang advent calendar on a wall with a hook. From December the 1st – 24th, invite a family member or friend to look behind one lid every day for a surprise gift or trinket.