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Thursday 12 November 2015

An Advent Calendar with Hallmark Itty Bittys

Can you believe that Christmas is almost here again? Well, it's still a little way off, but it will be here before you know it, trust me.

I'm not usually the best at being organized for Christmas far in advance, but this year with a little help from Hallmark Gold Crown I'm getting a jump on this whole Christmas thing and starting my preparations early.

Today I'm sharing a DIY for an advent calendar featuring Itty Bittys from Hallmark. These tiny stuffies are the perfect surprise for an advent calendar and help make counting down the days until Christmas a little more fun. Itty Bittys come in a range of beloved characters including Star Wars, Disney Princesses, Frozen, Mickey Mouse, Peanuts, Muppets and Rainbow Brite (she's back!). My girls are huge fans of Peanuts so I chose Charlie Brown, Linus, Lucy and Snoopy as treats to go in the advent calendar. Lola, like lots of little girls, is also kind of obsessed with Frozen, so I had to add Elsa, Anna and Olaf to the mix as well. If I was making the advent calendar for myself it would've been filled with Muppets. As a small child I wanted to grow up to be a frog so I could marry Kermit! Ok, that's a story for a different day...

Back to the advent calendar. We usually have an advent calendar filled with vouchers for fun Christmas activities. This year I decided it might be nice to have an advent calendar filled with treats instead. Or maybe as well as. I haven't decided yet. We have been using the same store bought advent calendar for quite a few years now but I decided it was time to get a little creative and make my own. I wanted to make something a little different with materials that can easily be found in a stationery store. I also wanted it to be fun for the kids to interact with. I liked the idea of the advent calendar being a little like a pinata that they could break open, so I decided to go for a paper mache like finish made with tissue paper.

Here's a look at how I made the advent calendar.

What you'll need:
Mailing tubes (3" diameter fit Itty Bittys perfectly)
Thick cardboard
Tissue paper
White school glue (aka PVA for my Australian friends)
Masking tape
Sticker paper & printer
Itty Bittys and other fun/yummy treats to fill the advent calendar

First up you'll need to work out how many days you would like to have for your advent calendar. Some people like to include Christmas day and go with 25 days. Others prefer not to include Christmas day and go with just 24. (I originally was only going to with 24 days but changed it to 25 as this fit my desired shape better). I used 3" mailing tubes which are the perfect size for Itty Bittys, but you could use a combination of different sizes if you prefer. The mailing tubes that I used were 25" long so I cut each one into 6 x 4" lengths which perfectly fit an Itty Bitty doll. There was an inch of cardboard left over from each roll.

To cut the mailing tubes evenly, I marked each measurement out in three spots around the outside of the mailing tube. I then lined a thick rubber band up with the three measurements and traced along the edge of it. This gave me a nice, straight line to cut along.

With the measurements marked out I then use the box cutter to cut the mailing tubes.

Once all of the mailing tubes are cut to size it's time to cover them with tissue paper. I cut pieces of tissue paper slightly bigger than the end of the mailing tube to go over one end of each tube. With watered down white school glue (50/50 glue and water) I painted around the top of each tube. I then placed the tissue paper over the end, making sure the excess stuck to the glue. I smoothed the tissue paper down onto the mailing tube and painted over it with the watered down glue. There will be lots of folds in the tissue paper but once you cover it with the glue mix it will be fairly smooth.

Carefully paint the glue mix over the tissue paper on the end of the mailing tube. This will make the tissue paper a little stiffer so that it breaks rather than rips when the kids open it. Make sure not to add too much glue mix onto the tissue paper as it may tear through if it gets overly wet. If it does tear through you can always just add another layer of tissue paper. This happened to me with one of the tubes.

While I waited for the tissue paper on the ends of the mailing tubes to dry I cut stripes of tissue paper 4" high x 12" long to go around the outside. I stuck these onto the outside of the tubes once the top was dry with a layer of the glue mix. After smoothing the paper onto the tubes I painted a coat of the glue mix over the top.

Once all of the tubes are covered in tissue paper on one end and around the outside it's time to put them together in your desired shape and color pattern. I originally planned on making a circle but it didn't look quite right so I went for a diamond shape which worked perfectly with 25 tubes.

To attach the tubes together I laid them out in the final shape but upside down. I then used a small piece of masking tape to attach each tube to its neighbors.

I then cute a long strip of cardboard 4" high to go around the outside of the advent calendar. I taped this onto each tube along the outside to hold it in place. I actually needed two long strips to go the whole way around the advent calendar. I attached these together with more masking tape.

With the border of the calendar in place, I traced around the shape onto a piece of cardboard to form the base. I cut this shape out with a box cutter. The base will be attached after the advent calendar is filled.

An advent calendar needs number so this is the next step. I made up a simple design with black numbers on white circles (which you can find here) and printed them on sticker paper. You could also just write the numbers on with a Sharpie if you prefer. I cut out each number and stuck them onto the advent calendar in a random order. You could place them in numerical order if you prefer but I like to make it a little bit of a challenge for the kids to find the numbers.

The advent calendar is now ready to fill. I turned the whole thing over and placed the Itty Bittys plus some Christmas chocolates randomly into each tube. The kids were excited to help me with this part - especially when they discovered that there were a few left over chocolates!

With the calendar filled, it can now be closed up by adding the base. I taped the base on around the edges with masking tape.

The last step is to cover the sides of the advent calendar with tissue paper in much the same way that the tubes were covered. I painted on a layer of glue mix, placed a strip of tissue paper on top and smoothed it down with another coat of the glue mix.

The advent calendar is now done! All you need to do now is work out where to display it. Depending on the shape you've made you could stand it on a piece of furniture like a sideboard or low cabinet. Or if you prefer it can be hung on the wall using 3M Command strips or with a string attached to the back and a nail in the wall. This all depends on the weight of the advent calendar - chocolates can get pretty heavy!

I hung our advent calendar on the wall so Lola could test it out. She couldn't wait to give it a try! She searched through the numbers until she found number 1 then gave it a big poke with her finger. The paper broke open and what was inside? An Elsa Itty Bitty! Just as she'd hoped.

This advent calendar is so much fun for the kids and it was pretty easy to make. It's a little time consuming but it's worth it for the fun that the kids will have busting each day open.

My girls had a lot of fun at our local Hallmark Gold Crown store choosing the Itty Bittys  to go inside the advent calendar. Lola wished we could use the giant Elsa and Anna Itty Bittys for the advent calendar! Just imagine how big the advent calendar would have to be!

 Thanks to Hallmark Gold Crown it's starting to feel a little festive around here!

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