Simple Spool Advent Calendars

My kids’ favorite holiday tradition is the December advent calendar, the big countdown to Christmas. Over the years, they’ve taken turns opening their little homemade advent calendar bags {LINK} to find and share the tiny presents inside. But with 3 children, ok- young teenagers, it’s getting harder and harder to find inexpensive items other than candy that will fit into those small bags that they will like. It’s especially challenging with only one calendar and 3 gifts per day, of which I try to keep it under $1 per item or less.My solution this year is to make an advent calendar with notes and clues. An advent calendar with a daily note that will lead the kids on a hunt for their presents. Vintage wooden spools are a great way to display these notes. Wooden spools can be found at thrift stores, flea markets, and online. If you ask around and you may be surprised to find that several people you know have been hanging on to theirs for years and would be glad to share. You can also purchase new wooden spools at craft stores.

Remove thread from 24-25 standard size vintage spools, (but don’t throw out the unwound bunches of thread, there’s another project in store for using those down the road.)
UPDATE: For thread project, click HERE.Print out the free PDF files you will need for your advent project. Click on file images to download.Trim out wraps and write the clues on the back side of each.Keep track on a separate paper of the clues. This way, you don’t have to buy or hide the presents right away, as long as you get to it before each spool wrapper is read.

I purchased an inexpensive spool rack to display the spools. HERE is an online source for the same rack, but I paid less than $10 for mine at the local JoAnn Fabrics store.I usually only display 24 advent numbers because day 25 is Christmas, but since this advent has 30 dowels, I sawed off the top row and made my count 25, I’ll think of something clever to write on that last one.I used sandpaper to remove the logo & name from the rack.Wrap the spools by taping the blank end of your advent clue wraps to the spool, wind around the spool and tack the numbered end with a small amount of glue-stick adhesive. Then display on the rack in order, or as my kids prefer, completely out of order.If you don’t want to go the spool rack route, create a holiday advent swag with simple wooden bead garland.Use the set of numbered wraps that will read correctly when the spools are on their side.You can also create a set of individual tree or garland ornaments with wooden beads, string and your wrapped spools.Although I prefer my spools with their original labels and graphics, you can use a decorative circle punch to punch out the rounds to finish off your spool ends if you like, punch center holes if necessary.Numbered rounds can be cut with a 1″ circle punch or trimmed out by hand and attached to the tops of the spools.Trim off numbered section from the long labels and begin wrapping from the cut end for unprinted wraps and/or add your own graphics, ribbon, stickers or handwritten names to them.

Here are a few extra ideas and tips:

  • Paint your rack with acrylic craft or easy spray paint.
  • Make extra sets of calendars to give as gifts to other families.
  • Not just for kids! Make a romantic advent for your significant other!
  • In lieu of clues, write jokes, make coupons, or share motivational notes.
  • Place numbered spools about the bookcase, or along the fireplace mantle.
  • Print out lots of extra copies of spool wraps and/or ends to tuck away for the following years.
  • Print out copies of files and gather spools to create kits to share with friends to make their own calendars.
  • Share the project with your children’s teacher. Each child can write their own holiday wish per wrapper.
  • Use cut-out numbered circles for your own advent calender creations.
  • Can’t think of all the clues to write by the first of December? Use tiny blobs of sticky party-tack instead of glue to hold the wraps closed until you do.
  • Share your ideas in the comment section of this post!

UPDATE! Check out my 2010 post on making Christmas Advent Calendar Kits with more free PDF downloads, HERE!

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