Create A Countdown Calendar

It’s beginning to look a lot like… Christmas is coming! With the holidays just around the corner it’s time to prep my Countdown to Christmas Calendar. It’s a little tradition I started when my girls were much smaller.

Every year my in-laws give the kids the classic advent calendar that lets them open a little window each day and discover a small chocolate surprise inside as they countdown the days to Santa’s arrival.


Calendar image source and Chocolate image source

For Q’s first and second Christmas, I created my own by wrapping 24 individual gifts for her to open each day. Just small surprises usually under a dollar that would bring her a little joy as she waited for Christmas to come.

mini presents

When her sister arrived and our first Christmas with two kids approached, I realized that meant doubling the countdown calendar for each girl and that would mean 48 small tokens to wrap. Wait a minute. What!?


This realization did not stop me however. I bought a small tree to house all the little presents for that first year as a momma of two little girls.


Needless to say it was a bit ambitious. And to be honest all those pre-Christmas presents seemed a little excessive, so the following year I decided to switch up my strategy. I realized the gift or treat a day was a little over the top and it wasn’t sending the message I really wanted to send my kids about the holidays and the spirit of the season. So the following year I came up with a new plan that has been tried and tested and is now in its 5th year.

Instead of giving daily gifts I came up with the idea of these little note cards with action items on them. I would make only one board and one set of 24 cards for the entire family to enjoy together. Now that B is two he’ll get a little more involved this year too.


The girls take turns pulling a new card each day to reveal any number of surprises. Everything from holiday themed outings, to sweet treats to enjoy, to making a Christmas gift for a loved one.

Cards 1

The beauty of the note cards is that they are completely customizable. If we have holiday events planned for the month of December I can even turn those into a card.

Cards 2

I also use the cards as an opportunity to remind my children what the holidays are all about. We incorporate quality family time into the cards, reminders about giving back, and about kindness and goodwill.

Cards 3

Cards 4

To display the cards I created a large board using a piece of foam board from the local dollar or craft supply store. I wrapped it in a piece of christmas wrapping paper. I chose a pattern that matches our holiday decor as the piece sits on display for all to see.

There are so many great papers out there to choose from. I picked up these selections this year from HomeSense.


Here’s how I made the backdrop. You’ll need:

  • piece of large foam board
  • roll of wrapping paper
  • roll of double-sided tape
  • roll of painters tape
  • scissors

Advent Materials

Simply lay the wrapping paper face down with the board on top. Then fold back the top and bottom and secure in place with tape.


Much like wrapping a present, just tuck in and fold the corners to get a neat seam and secure with tape.


Then do the same all the way around the board. I secured the entire edge all the way around with tape to keep it from snagging and tearing when stored later on.


To create the pockets, you’ll need:

  • heavy stock printer paper
  • printer
  • cutting mat
  • scissors or paper trimmer

Materials 1

I used a business card template on my computer and labelled several sheets with numbers 1 through 24. I then printed the sheets and trimmed to size. Free printable PDFs can be found at the bottom of this post.


I used the same template and typed my messages onto 24 cards. I actually do extra messages just in case I need to switch something up at the last-minute.


Another great feature of this system is that you can move the cards around if you need to. For example; an event gets cancelled, or the weather doesn’t cooperate with a planned outdoor outing, or you forgot to pick up the supplies you need.

You do need to do a little prep depending on the items you choose to include in your calendar. I usually print myself a little calendar with reminders of things I need to set up or plan for.

Confession: I’ve also been known to peak at the cards the night before and if I’m not prepared, I might just switch around a card or two to give myself more time. Like that time I forgot to buy marshmallows for a holiday treat I had planned to make. No problem, we’ll do that on the 18th instead. (wink)

I’ve used this same calendar five years running. We just pack it away with the other Christmas decorations and I pull it out about a week or two before December 1st to reorganize and prep for the coming month. This is my original Countdown Calendar.


This year I created a new one however as the back board was getting a little worn and I was ready for a change. Notice my adorable little helper at the ready with his tape.

Advent DIY - Lil Hands

This concept is great because you can recycle ideas from one year to the next and add in new ones as you feel inspired.

Here is a collection of ideas I’ve used over the years that you can print yourself and use for your own Christmas Countdown Calendar. I hope you have fun putting together your own calendar and counting down the days to Christmas with your family.

FREE DOWNLOAD CmasCountdown-Printables 1-24

CmasCountdown-Printables 1-24

FREE DOWNLOAD CmasCountdown-Printables


If you post your boards be sure to tag me @perfectsmerfect, as I would love to see what you’ve created.




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