Craft Time! An Accessible Advent Calendar

A Twitter friend recently pointed out that it’s hard to find accessible advent calendars.  Sure, there’s some out there (like this one from the RNIB:  https://www.rnib.org.uk/connect-community/connect-news-and-stories/braille-advent-calendar), but they’re not designed to be fun. Advent calendars, as far as my kids are concerned, should have toys or chocolate–they’re not particularly interested in calendars that are just flaps, particularly since they’d be blank flaps opening to blank pages for Peanut, and they have no interest in calendars that are just words, no matter how inspiring or important those words may be.

Back when I was beginning my parenting journey, I made my own advent calendar using instructions from a family magazine.  My kids love it and eagerly look forward to it coming out each year.  Here’s what you’ll need to make your own:

  • A large sheet of cardboard.  If memory serves, I used the side of a shipping box
  • 12 toilet paper tubes
  • Glue.  Although I did not use it to make mine, I think a hot glue gun would make this easier and more durable.  (I’ve had to repair mine with tape and stickers a few times.)
  • Paint
  • Scissors
  • Rubber bands
  • Tissue paper
  • Yarn
  • Candy, small toys, etc.
The calendar before being filled.

When you build the calendar, it will look something like this.

Here’s how you put it together:

  1. Cut each of the toilet paper tubes in half so you have two smaller tubes.
  2. Make small cuts at one end of each of the tubes evenly around the circumference of the tube.  You’re doing this so you can splay those pieces out flat to glue them to the cardboard sheet, making it so the tube sticks straight out from the sheet.
  3. Glue the splayed edges to the cardboard sheet in rows of 4 or 5.  You can glue these in other patterns if you wish; mine are in a grid pattern.
  4. Paint the calendar.  I used a few coats of white spray paint.
  5. Poke two holes in the top of the sheet of cardboard.
  6. Run a piece of yarn through the holes to make a hangar.  You can put an end through each hole and knot it on the back, or make a big loop that runs through the holes if you like.
  7. Decorate the calendar as you like.  Mine has “Advent” written at the top and a variety of holiday stickers.
Calendar Finished

When it’s filled, your calendar will look something like this.

When you’re ready to fill your calendar:

  1. Cut small squares of tissue paper.  I recommend making each square two thicknesses of paper so it’s less see-through.
  2. Lay the calendar out in front of you and put your prizes in each of the tubes.  I’ve used chocolates, small souvenirs from our travels, finger lights (these were HUGELY popular), balloons, etc.  Use whatever you like–it just needs to fit in the tube, or be close to fitting in the tube.
  3. Put a square of tissue paper over each tube and rubber band it (easy) or tie it down (a bit more complicated, but workable).
  4. Put a number on the tissue paper on the end of each tube.  You can use a marker, foam stickers, or braille them if you like.  (Since ours are in a grid and we’ve used it for years, Peanut knows what order the tubes are in, so I just use marker.)

All you need to do next is hang up your calendar and enjoy it with your kids.  They can punch through the tissue paper each day to get to the treat or just rip it off.

Peanut and Sprout absolutely love this calendar, and I’ve enjoyed putting it together for them each year.  It takes a bit of work to assemble the first year, but after that the hardest part is deciding what to put in it.  You can make it as tactile as you like.

Happy Advent!

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