I love doing advent calendars. Even before having a kid, I have done an adult advent calendar for the last eight years! It’s mainly activities and experiences. And we now do those as a family advent calendar. But this Christmas, with a three year old I want to try a kids advent calendar for him. So here’s how I made a Lego Duplo Advent Calendar for 2020! But a last minute advent calendar for 12 days of Christmas – starting December 13 and ending on Christmas Eve!
My three year old really understands the concept of gifts now, so I think a simple gift-based advent calendar is really fun. And yes, we’ll still be doing our holiday activities one as it fits in. I wanted the toy advent calendar to be fun, but not a huge production or over the top. I subscribe to a low stress holiday philosophy. Meaning, I like things like advent calendars or bucket lists to add joy not be a burden or make me more stressed. So if an event or project sounds stressful. NOPE. I opt out. No guilt needed!
Note: if you’re not up for a 24 days typical advent calendar, or missed the start date of December 1, do a 12 days of Christmas Advent calendar, starting December 13. Win win!
How to Make a Duplo Advent Calendar
1. Pick a Duplo set
First up, decide on a Duplo theme. There are tons of Lego advent calendar kits for sale each year. I like the idea of there being a little thing to build each day. Duplos are a little different than Legos though, so I looked for a Duplo set that had at least 12-24 pieces. Then, I decided the actual theme of winter or holidays didn’t matter to me as much. But if it does to you, here are some holiday-ish ideas, and some other fun sets too. Note: some of these seem to sell out and be restocked quite frequently around the holidays!
Duplo Mickey Winter Vacation Home – 57 pieces
LEGO Advent calendars are 236 pieces so that’s about 9 pieces per day. Duplos are much larger so I would like there to be 1-2 per day and that’s fine with me. The Lego advent calendars are $30-40. I would like to spend in the $20 range for a toddler advent calendar!
I ultimately went with the Duplo Alphabet Truck Set! This is a 36 piece set, with 26 Lego Duplo ABC uppercase “blocks”. For a 24 day advent calendar that means 1.5 blocks per day. So rotating every other day for 1 piece and then 2. Or if you didn’t join the advent calendar band-wagon early enough, then you could do a 12 day advent calendar and give 3 blocks per day.
2. Find a sturdy box or wrap the gifts by day
I decided between a Koala/Kiwi crate box and Powell’s BOOX box. Subscription boxes make great DIY advent calendar bases because they are usually a bit sturdier and have a lid that opens and closes securely. Great for toddlers!
After you decide on your box, you’ll need to make a grid on the inside for your advent days. Generally advent calendars are 24 or 25 days, so 3×8 or 4×6 or 5×5 grid depending on the days you want to do and the size of your box and Duplos. Note: even if you have a couple pieces that are too big for your box you can leave a clue or scavenger hunt tip so you can still use the box!
Then, you’ll need to make divider separators so the Duplos don’t get all jumbled up. Thinner cardboard is good for this. Or you could get some of the wine or beer ones next time you’re at the store and cut them in half or thirds to fit in. Since I was making a 12 days of Christmas style aka “last minute” advent calendar, I did 4 rows and 3 columns for 12 total days.
You could also just wrap the Duplos loosely for each day in tissue paper, or have them “appear” in their play space each day.
3. Decide what Duplos go to which days and fill the boxes
Remember, toddlers are just learning about self control and waiting and an advent calendar is good practice for these skills. That said, you also don’t want them to just be frustrated. So I plan to start off with a bigger bang, then scale back the pieces for the rest of the days. You want the pieces to be playable.
With the alphabet truck set being 36 pieces, I started with the 2-piece blue truck and the bear as driver. Day 2 was the 4 letters of his name. Then, Day 3 was 2 pieces – a person and chair. Day 4 – 3 more letters and so on, until the days were filled.
And that’s it! I hope you enjoyed this simple “DIY” project for making your own Duplo advent calendar. What I love about this approach, is you can choose a more mindful gift that you actually want to add to your family toy collection, while still participating in holiday fun. Instead of just buying the repackaged or holiday “thing” for this year. A unique and fun advent calendar for your kiddos. Enjoy and happy Christmas!