Make Your Own Advent Calendar

(Family Features) Counting down the days until Christmas with an advent calendar can be a fun way to keep the holiday spirit alive all month. This year, make your own advent calendar - it's fun, budget-friendly, and something kids can help with, too.

Here are some ideas to get you started:

It's in the Bag - Number each pocket of a 24-pocket hanging shoe organizer. Then decorate them with fabric paint, iron-on appliques, ribbons, bows, glitter, ornaments - whatever you like to make it festive. Then add a small surprise, like a little toy, a piece of candy or a special note. Each morning (or evening before bed), the kids can reach inside that day's pocket and get their advent goodie.

Make it Mini - Check out dollar stores or the bridal sections of craft stores for 24 mini metal favors buckets. You can usually find white ones, which can be decorated or left plain for a simple elegant look. You might be able to find buckets in holiday colors or patterns, which won't need dressing up at all. Tie a narrow ribbon to each bucket handle. Then you can attach them to a garland, a sturdy length of twine, or wide holiday ribbon and hang your calendar on a mantel, or set them out as a display on a table or shelf. You can put a little gift or idea for a holiday activity inside each bucket.

Ooh Baby - Take baby-sized socks or kid-sized mittens and string them up on some pretty holiday ribbon. Here's a handy how-to from HGTV.

Hang it Up - Get a tabletop Christmas tree from a craft store and use numbered mini decorations as the calendar dates. You can do this in different ways:

  • Write the dates on pieces of ribbon that you attach to each ornament.
  • Remove those little "to/from" cards attached to gift bags, but keep the string intact. Write the dates on the inside and add some holiday stamps or drawings. Hang each one up as an ornament.
  • Print up some paper ornament templates that the kids can color, number and hang.

So Sweet - Use a large cookie sheet to make a magnetic advent calendar. Use permanent marker and a ruler to draw 24 sections on the cookie sheet. Then, have fun finding or making your own magnets to put on it each day. You can find some fun ideas here, here, and here.

Up-cycled Tins - All those holiday, cookie and Altoid tins you've saved now have a fun way to be up-cycled. Paint them in fun holiday colors and use vinyl number stickers to label the lids. Put a toy or a treat in each one, then set them out on display or hang up on a wall with removable poster putty.

It doesn't take much to bring some Christmas spirit to the home. So, get those holiday creative juices flowing and let the countdown begin.