• Arts & Crafts
  • Easy DIY Advent Calendar Ideas

    I like to pretend that I am really good at arts and crafts, but the truth is I’m really not. I’m not particularly patient, and I very rarely manage to get anything I make to end up looking like the creation I had envisioned. But, because I love Christmas so much, I usually end up giving crafty things a go at this time of year. It doesn’t always end well, but when it comes to advent calendars, it does. It really, really does.

    Last year I left the whole advent calendar thing until kind of the last minute. That meant I needed to come up with an idea that was super quick, super easy, and super shareable, because who wants to make three different advent calendars only a couple of days out from December 1st?

    In the end I decided I’d give the old Socks on a String idea a go. I’m pretty sure I spotted it on Pinterest originally. But I made it my own…

    The video quality isn’t the best, after all I’d only just started YouTubing and I was filming everything on my very crappy iPhone. But hey, the content is still acceptable. I think…

    The kids loved it. I loved it. Everyone was happy. And we probably would have been happy with the exact same sort of advent calendar again this year. But…

    I had this amazing idea after spotting a Christmas wreath inspired advent calendar on Pinterest.
    What if, I thought, I make a train-themed Christmas wreath inspired advent calendar, using Mr. Three’s Thomas tracks joined together in a circle?

    For some reason I am the sort of person who can’t think about anything else after she gets an idea like that. The next thing I knew I was obsessing over Thomas the Tank Engine wrapping paper, and phoning pretty much every shop in town to ask whether or not they stocked it. They all said no, but (to cut a long story short) Kmart was lying. So I bought Thomas the Tank Engine wrapping paper (from Kmart). And then, after a bit of trial and error, I put together a truly impressive advent calendar, using old cardboard rolls, paper, string, and a couple of corkboards. Genius!

    It’s not the shortest tutorial video ever, but it’s easy to follow and you’re encouraged to do things your way. It’s kind of fun, I reckon.

    So then I had an enormous DIY advent calendar for one of my four children, and nothing for the other three. Hmm. Well, the baby isn’t even quite one and a half yet, so I’ll just cross him off the advent list for this year. But the older two? Miss Eight and Miss Six? Yeah there’s no way in hell I could get away with not making them an advent calendar each. So I went back to Pinterest, and I pinned a few bits and pieces, and then I came up with a plan.

    For Miss Eight I created a Shopkins advent Christmas tree. It was so easy! I bought a tree for $5 (guess where I got it from), and then, after hiding a wee Shopkins surprise inside each one, I wrapped 24 cardboard rolls in pink paper with white spots, carefully taping a loop of string to the roll first. After whacking a number on the front of each parcel, I hung them on the tree. And then, because I am clever, I wrapped an extra roll in the same paper, and taped a Shopkins sign to it. Ta da! Done!



    So that left one child needing an advent calendar. I just had to come up with one more idea…

    Turns out I had an old, square frame just hanging out in the garage. I’d been planning on donating it, but the glass broke under the weight of all the other donations so I’d been forced to bring it back home from the charity shop with me. At the time I was annoyed, but suddenly the smashed glass was practically the best thing that had ever happened to me.

    I took the frame and filled it with a piece of thick, gift wrapped cardboard. Then I took 24 more cardboard rolls (smaller ones this time), wrapped them in the paper too, and hot-glued them to the board. After tucking more Shopkins surprises inside, I glued square sheets of wrapping paper to the top of the rolls, and popped a loom band over each one to hold the paper down, like a cute little jar of jam. Once they were all numbered, and I’d added some themesy fun to the frame, my masterpiece was complete.




    Miss Six reckons it looks like an advent calendar you could buy at a shop. High praise, indeed!

    So the moral of this story is that even if you are handicraftily challenged, you too can make your own advent calendar that actually looks kinda, sorta coolish. You too can post photos of your creations on Instagram and have your friends leave you comments that include the hashtag winningatparenting. You too can live The Fern Life.

    It’s really fun, I promise*.

    – Fern xxx

    *I can’t actually promise that, because to be honest I didn’t have that much fun making these advent calendars. But it was fun enough. And also it gave me an excuse to think about Christmas even more than I already have been. So you know, we all win in the end.

    Let me know if you want more detailed instructions for how to make either (or both) of the Shopkins themed advent calendars! 

  • Arts & Crafts
  • Pinterest Mum? Not Me!

    It’s Saturday. The Saturday between Good Friday and Easter Sunday to be exact. Being a special occasion, I thought I’d better put my Pinterest Mum hat on and organise some sort of holiday-themed activity for the kids…

    I settled on egg painting. There were eight free-rangers sitting in the fridge just waiting to be used, and the gel food colouring was still close at hand thanks to the Big Boy’s birthday.
    I know, I thought. I can blog about this. I’ll take photos and write a post explaining how we did it and how much fun we all had. Genius!

    However, because I set out to blog about my life as a mum authentically, I will not be giving out step-by-step instructions. Nor will I be raving about what a wonderful experience it was, and how my kids had the time of their lives. I’m not one of those Pinterest-esque bloggers. I’m here to tell it like it is.

    The problem with craft activities for children is that prep takes at least 15 minutes, and the clean up takes even longer. This would be fine if the activity lasted more than five minutes, but how often does that happen? I spent a good half-hour boiling and then cooling eggs, sourcing paint brushes, and organising edible paints this morning. Compared to the ten seconds it took my kids to smear paint all over the table their clothes their hands their eggs and announce that their work was done, that’s practically a lifetime. And don’t even ask how long it took me to clear everything away again!

    It wasn’t just the duration of the activity that got to me either. I hate to admit it, but I found the whole thing incredibly stressful. I wanted the painted eggs to look good. I didn’t want anyone to make a mess. And I definitely didn’t want my expensive food colouring to be ruined. So when all three children failed to rinse their brushes properly between colours, I kinda, sorta lost my cool. Shame on me. The poor kids had no chance of actually enjoying themselves with Grumpy Mum standing over them.

    If I were to attempt egg painting with my kids again (and let’s face it, I’m dumb enough to have another go next Easter), I’d take a slightly different approach. For starters, I’d set everything up outside. The children would be dressed in already-stained clothes, and we’d have a ratio of one paintbrush to one colour pot. I’d stock up beforehand so there were enough eggs for everyone to decorate four or five each (two per person just wasn’t enough). And, most importantly, I’d go into the activity without any expectations. The kids want to mix all the colours and end up with a boiled egg that resembles a turd? Fine. They want to dab on a couple of colours and then go and find something else to do? No worries at all. They have so much fun painting their eggs that they want to paint themselves too? Perfect. Just remind me a year from now that kids’ crafts are about the process, not the end result, and we’ll be set.

    – Fern xxx