A couple of months ago I got the call we all get at some point in the year.  The surprise, “So when are you coming over for birthday cake” call.

The um, what-the-what-say-again???


And in that very moment you look at every single thing around your kitchen that might make a suitable birthday present for a 6 year old.  Like a package of spaghetti.  Only a package of spaghetti seems like a stupid present for a 6 year old girl so you consider adding a can opener to it.



When you realize you have to actually go out and buy a present your mind goes blank; you have NO idea what to get this kid and why can’t she just play with a potato like you used to.

Then out of the blue like a birthday arrow shooting straight through your brain it hits you.  You’re going to make a Birthday Advent calendar because that’ll be fast and easy and she’ll love it.

You were right on one count.

Making a Birthday Advent calendar isn’t the fastest present idea in the world but it’s one that can be used over and over again.  Just in case someone’s birthday sneaks up on you again even though you’re normally very prepared for this sort of thing and even kind of think she might have liked the spaghetti.


The Birthday Advent calendar combines two of the most loved things in the world.  Opening secret doors and punching through tissue paper.

So I mean, even if there aren’t any presents behind that door and tissue paper, it’s still a pretty big win on the birthday present scale.



You can make the calendar entirely out of stuff from the Dollar Store (provided you have a half decent Dollar Store around like I do) or a craft store where your’e sure to find the stuff, it’ll just cost you a bit more money.

I made this entire Birthday Advent calendar for $35 including all the materials to make the calendar and the presents for inside each compartment.

All hail the Dollar Store.



Step by step instructions are coming so don’t worry.  I know you were worried.

Also I’m craving spaghetti and meatballs for dinner now.


Basically all you’re doing is cutting holes into a piece of foam core board and prettying it up with ribbon and washi tape.


And glittery stuff.

Because glittery stuff means it’s special.




Again, no joke.  All of it came from the dollar store.




I didn’t buy my glue gun there, although I could have.  I *did* buy my hot glue sticks there however.



Now that I’m looking at this whole thing, she probably would have been just as happy if I’d given her the whole bag of dollar store crap without actually assembling the board at all.




I decided on 30 days of surprises.

So for the next 30 days she was going to be able to wake up every morning, open the secret door, punch through the pink tissue paper and find a present.




This kid likes pink.  Just look at her Pink Christmas room.




Right behind that pink tissue paper is a tiny little bottle of pink nail polish.





Or maybe it was florescent-stick-on-Googley-Eyes.

At 6 o’clock that night I packed the Birthday Advent calendar into my car and hoped it was going to go over well.  I also hoped the cake would be chocolate.

Not a word of a lie, the second I walked into the house I could smell delicious, cheesy garlic bread wafting through the house.  They’d just finished a birthday dinner of spaghetti and meatballs.




Yeah, so the present went over well enough that now I’ve been commissioned to make 2 more Birthday Advent Calendars for her 2 brothers.




Here we go!  Here’s how you do it!


2 pieces of foam core board (one for calendar, one to make stand for back)

1 roll of washi tape

1 or 2 packages of sparkly letters (make sure there’s enough of all the letters you need)

3 or 4 packages of sparkly numbers (make sure there are enough numbers for all you need)

hot glue gun

hole punch

X-Acto knife

Coloured string or very thin ribbon.

Tissue paper (1 sheet)

Foam stickers for Name Tag at top and to cover doors. (I used cork stickers)

30 “dixie” type cups

30 tiny presents


  1. Stick your sparkly numbers on all 30 foam stickers for the calendar doors.
  2. Spell out recipient’s name on larger foam sticker for top of calendar.
  3. Using a measuring tape, mark out the centre of where your holes will go.  You’ll need 6 rows with 5 holes each.
  4. Using something slightly smaller than the mouth of your dixie cup trace the 30 circles onto your board.
  5. Carefully cut out the circles using an X-acto knife.  (this is a pain and by hole 14 you’ll hate it)
  6. When the holes are all cut place a piece of washi tape from the centre of the hole to the edge (either the edge of the board or the edge of the hole to the left as you can see in the photos above).
  7. Punch a hole in the middle right edge of each door.
  8. Loop string or ribbon through the hole and secure it with hot glue on the back side of the door.
  9. Run washi tape along the back of the doors the same way you did on the front of the doors BUT do this with the door open.  If you do it with the doors closed the tape will be too tight and you won’t be able to open the doors. (unlike the front of the door, make sure you run the washi tape along the whole back of the door so it covers up where you glued your string)
  10. Flatten out your sheet of tissue paper.
  11. Run a bead of hot glue around the edge of the first row of doors on the back of the board.
  12. Carefully lay your tissue paper down and press it onto the glue.
  13. Repeat this for all the rows of doors, pressing on the tissue paper as you go.
  14. Flip the board over and stick all of the foam stickers with numbers onto the fronts of the doors.
  15. Add the name to the stop of the board.
  16. Add washi tape anywhere the board looks unfinished (like around the edges).  And then add a bit more just for fun.
  17. Fill your cups with your 30 tiny presents.
  18. Hot glue the edge of your cups and stick them to the back of the board pressing hard so you know the glue seeps through the tissue paper, right to the foam core.  Sometimes this is HARD if you have things that want to spill out.  Like googley eyes.  You’ll figure it out.
  19. Cut your last piece of foam core board into 2 rectangles.  Then cut each piece again until one side is slanted like you see in this photo … and glue both to the back of the board.  This will make it stand up on its own.




You’re done!

If something is just tooooo big to fit in the little cup, just cut the back out of the cup and wrap it in tissue paper like I’ve done.  It just give you a little bit more room for something larger like a miniature Frozen flashlight.

Or maybe, a package of spaghetti.

Did you like it? Don’t forget to Pin it.


  1. Kelly says:

    Definitely worth reusing.
    If I got a birthday advent calendar I’d keep it for the rest of my life. And I’m 44!
    Love it Karen!

  2. Julie says:

    this is all sorts of awesome!!!

    I concur on the “don’t buy cheap glue gun” statement. We’re making fairy wings for a school play and just about burned the school down because the cheap one we had started sparking!

  3. Elaine says:

    When God handed out creativity, Karen, you were DEFINITELY first in line and when there was a second lineup for brain cells, you obviously were first in line for that too! This is SO impressive – what a super, thoughtful, caring idea!

    In the past (I’ve gotten lazier with age!) friends used to say I was creative but I would never have thought of that in a million years; your brain must be running a mile a minute all day long! Congrats!

  4. whitequeen96 says:

    OMG, this is incredible! Thank God I don’t know any children I care enough about to make this, because it also looks like a lot of work! But darn, I do have a friend who will be getting out of the hospital soon, so I may just have to get to work! Maybe, instead of 30 days, I’ll make a tree with a few apples that can be opened to find small gifts. Hmmm, stickers, essential oil, nail polish, tiny hand lotion, headband . . .

  5. Kari says:

    This is the sweetest present ever! I’m sure it was the best present she got. You’re amazing, Karen! #goals

  6. Janine says:

    This is amazing and I’m totally doing one for my mom’s birthday :D


  7. Debbe Van Ness says:

    Oh! I have a 5-year-old, soon to be 6-year-old granddaughter b-day in June. She will LOVE this. I think, if the B-day present is too big, I could incorporate a “treasure hunt” for that day. Her poor parents…..he he he…not really.

  8. Nancy Blue Moon says:

    AWESOME!!..I can’t think of a child I know who wouldn’t love this!!!…

  9. Marna says:

    What a great idea! I want one too, of course I would want a few things more than something at the dollar store, but they have some good stuff there. :)

  10. Mona says:

    I have enjoyed your sense of humor. It is so refreshing . Your ideas and suggestions are great too.

  11. nancy says:

    I want to know why did they eat dinner before you arrived???

  12. Gingersnappo says:

    Man! This is so cool! So glad there’s 3 Dollaramas within 5 minutes of my house.

    I think if I start now, I can get a couple of these suckers done for Christmas 2017.

  13. Wisconsin Gal says:

    Wow, WAY too putzy for me. I might consider doing it with, say 5 windows hiding 5 treats, and wouldn’t mention the word advent. Then I’d hope no one would know I’d wimped out on the labor and supplies.

  14. Darla says:

    Love this idea!!! Now if I can just figure out enough things to put behind the doors…

  15. Kelly says:

    Perfect timing! I’m planning on doing a wedding advent calendar for a friend and this is perfect! Huzzah!

  16. Wendy says:

    This may be your best DIY yet!

  17. christine says:

    No,No,No. While we do celebrate “pre-birth week” which ends with “the day you came out of your mothers vagina” NOBODY is getting a labour intensive 30 cup filled gift.No way I have time to do that and make all the unicorn head bands and tails,flower wall,multi-colored layer cake,find every unicorn figurine in Value Village in three cities etc, for my grand daughters up-coming party.Some people go too far!

  18. Mary W says:

    I can think of several uses for this – for grownups. What a fun gift for someone in the hospital. Coming up with appropriate small presents will be a fun game to play at a party. Maybe even one large hole in the lid of a square box for a boy to receive a basketball. (Shape disguised.) Money for my little coin collector. Man o man, a wedding gift for the honeymoon could contain – well I guess that depends on the couple you give it to. Even a housewarming gift filled with super glue, tacks, scotch tape, stamps, etc. The doors wouldn’t be numbered but have a clue to the problem that the contents could solve. I LOVE THIS IDEA. Maybe you work best under stress? Genius!

  19. monique says:

    Absolutely darling..:)

  20. Judy Jackson says:

    I’m the world’s absolute worst gift giver… srsly, absolute worst… BUT, I CAN DO THIS!!!!! Thank you thank you thank you for this idea 8o)

  21. Catt in Kentucky says:

    Brilliant…unique and so fun….dreaming of an adult version with lipsticks, necklaces and French macrons.

  22. Cindy says:

    Wow Karen! This is really cool. I’m very serious about presents. My family knows…don’t F with my presents. I would totally love receiving this gift. (Not to sound completely self absorbed I also love finding the prefect present for my loved ones too.)
    What are some of the other gifts you found? For me I’d love punching some tissue to find those little bottles of liquor.

  23. Liz says:

    Love it! Going to make this for my grandaughter – thanks for being so creative!

  24. Thandi says:

    That’s it. I’m making myself one of these suckers for Birthday Month this year. I’ll put extra special things in the last seven cups which will correspond to Birthday Week. I’ve lived on my own, far away from friends and family, on more than one occasion. So I have learned to make a big fuss of my own Birthday. I buy presents for myself every year and then I wrap them and squeal with surprise and delight when I open them (my husband thinks this is very weird, while my mom sends me pictures of awesome things I can buy myself in the days leading up to Birthday Month). This project is perfect. There shall be nailpolish! And small cookie cutters! And little jars of edible glitter! And earrings in the shape of birds! I’m getting overexcited now. I may need a nap. Or some spaghetti.

  25. Maura says:

    Wow, what kid would not LOVE this?!!!! Fun,fun,fun idea!

  26. Gillian says:

    Love it! Only problem is the one I’d make it for doesn’t have a birthday until October!

    I wonder if a 13 year old boy would enjoy it….

    Biggest issue….who’s gonna make me one?!? My birthday was only a few weeks ago so, it’s not too late! LoL.

    • Jackie says:

      You could probably find a few things for a 13 year old boy that would fit but most of the 13 year old boys I know would prefer to have money in each one – or maybe just some of them.

  27. Centi says:

    Love the calendar… but the rag dolls are the creepiest things I have seen in my life.

    • Melissa L. says:

      Those are Raggedy Ann dolls! Now I feel sad that you didn’t have one growing up. Her buddy is Raggedy Andy. You used to be able to buy them commercially made, but homemade were best. :)

  28. Ardith says:

    Holy glue gun, Batwoman! Pow, you nailed it. Awesome birthday gift, check. Bonus Auntie points, check, check.

  29. Kathleen says:

    That looks like it could be a lot of fun. So who’s volunteering to make me one?

  30. Bobbles says:

    Wow! What a great, creative idea!

  31. Meg says:

    This is so novel and delightful and fun!!!! This is AWESOME. you are so rad!!

  32. Jani says:

    This is really a nice gift that you made!! Looks awesome.

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