I made and designed this Advent calendar to go with a book we are using throughout this time: Advent Storybook by Antonie Schneider and illustrated by Maja Dusikova. This book was the only present we gave our first babe on his first Christmas. (He didn't care a whit that he only got one present from us, but now that he's more aware, he loves this book!)
The book is structured as twenty-four charming little stories in which a little bear follows a star to Bethlehem. In each story there is one special visual image. I'm assuming the book was designed to go with the kind of calendar that has a little door to open every day, because it always says, "On December 5th, the little bear opened the door and found a rosebush." or whatever. We read that, and then I have Gibbie look through all our paper stars and find the one with the rosebush. He holds it in his hand until the end of the story, when he puts it in our calendar's pocket for the day. Ezra gets blank stars to hold, and puts them wherever he wants in the calendar!
I like Advent calendars because they are a visual representation of time passing in days, which is so hard for little kids to get, that we are actually getting closer to something. I designed ours to be mostly purple, the color of waiting and reflection and royalty. (I made the third week, usually pink, to be mixed warm prints because I liked the way it looked) As we near Christmas, the strip of dark pockets fills with silver starry paper circles; like light coming into our darkness!
The kids love the whole thing. Gibbie helps me color the little pictures for each day on the backs of the starry circles. (not all our pictures look as cute as these ones!) Ezra is fascinated with moving the circles around, and laying them out in different ways. He also liked moving around the cloth pieces when I was working on the color design of the calendar-- very carefully laying them out one by one, and then rearranging.
I really like this book. The illustrations are lovely. The stories are good. The messages are simple. I think parents who wanted their kids to know the Christmas story, or the spirit of the Christmas story, but didn't want anything too heavy-handed would also like it. The stories are original and fun. There is a little aphoristic moral at the end of each story, like "god will always be with you", or "patience and kindness are great strengths". While don't think they would offend anyone, these don't really add much to the story either. The stories themselves say it better.
It's so tempting to spell everything out for kids, make sure they "get it". Sometimes we just make the beautiful more boring and less compelling. Anyway, this is a real sweet book, and a good beginning for talking about Advent and Christmas, and some of what it means to follow God, or just count down till the holiday.
Oh- we do move the calendar up high when we're not using it, as otherwise all the circles are methodically and evenly distributed throughout the house.