Simple Christmas Photo Advent Calendar

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Happy Monday, everyone!  Last year I rounded up a bunch of ideas for advent calendars, and this year I finally have my own to share.  Karah from The Space Between got a few of us together to see what we could make on the advent calendar theme, so without that gentle push I may never have gotten it done this early!

I’m trying to simplify the holidays this year, and the last thing I wanted our advent calendar to have was more ‘stuff’.  Therefore, I decided not to have pockets or drawers for goodies which solves two problems– it keeps the focus on our family, and also means I don’t have to worry about filling it with two of everything so my little guys have equal shares (which seems so important, to a two and four year old).

Instead, I wanted a simple, pretty, and family focused advent calendar.  It occurred to me that we should combine family photos that prompt an activity for each day leading up to Christmas.  This versatile idea means that on December 1st you’ll have a calendar and by Christmas morning a beautiful family photo display!

It starts with these kraft paper tags, stamped with the date.  Each day has a photo clipped behind it, and that photo is associated with an activity.  What I love about our calendar is it’s flexible: if it’s snowing outside, I can clip a ‘go sledding’ photo behind that day’s tag.  Raining?  I’ll avoid outdoor activities.  Perfect day for cookies?  Clip the cookie baking photo to that day’s tag.  It keeps my kids guessing, and gives me lots of leeway to arrange that day’s activity.

Plus, you can add new photos each year and swap out some old ones.  This advent calendar grows with your family, while preserving treasured favorites.  My kids love looking at photos so that in and of itself is a treat.

I didn’t write the actual activity on the photos because my kids aren’t reading yet, but if you have kids who read you could type out the activity and glue it to the back of the photo.  I’m thinking I’ll have to do that next year, a certain Miss Noodle is showing a love for reading!  Right now I’ll have them look at the photo and guess, and then I’ll tell them what that day’s activity will be (a list of 25 great advent calendar activities will be posted on the blog tomorrow!).

Another nice feature is you can be flexible with where and how you display them.  Here’s a set clipped to an old shutter:

Or to a simple ribbon:

Hang them on a tree and you’ll have a beautiful family focused advent tree.

kraft paper tags
25 photos
letter and number stamps
ink pad
ribbon for hanging
mini binder clips


1.  Draw a line on the tag near the top in pencil.  This will be where you line up the top of your stamp.

Stamp ‘december’ and the date on each tag until you have all 25.

I used large number stamps and small letter stamps to get this effect because that’s what I had on hand, but you could just stamp numbers if you’d like (it’s certainly faster that way).

2.  Gently erase the pencil line.  Decide which way you want to orient each photo, and use a tag as a template to cut them out.

3.  Punch a hole at the top of your tag-shaped photo using a hole punch.

4.  Use mini binder clips (these are from Walmart’s office supply section) or custom ones like these DIY Christmas card display clips.  You can add the photos all at once or each day if you don’t want the kids to peek.

As you go through the calendar, clip the photo on top to show how far along you are– and then you’ll have a beautiful family photo display by Christmas day.

Many thanks to my sweet buddy Karah (whom first I met at the Haven Conference) for getting a few folks together to share their advent calendar ideas.  These ladies are so super talented, be sure to stop over and say hello!

How do you celebrate advent in your home?  What are your advent calendar traditions?

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