Every Christmas season, LEGO releases new advent calendars. They’re usually LEGO sets, not Duplo, and interesting to about ages 5+. One year, LEGO released a DUPLO Town Santa’s Winter Holiday 45 piece set, which has since been discontinued! Last Christmas, I wanted to try a kids advent calendar for my three year old. So here’s how I made a Lego Duplo Advent Calendar with a surprise punch box! Instead of 24 days, I did a “last minute advent calendar” for the 12 days of Christmas – starting December 13 and ending on Christmas Eve! Here’s how to make your own Duplo advent calendar – updated with 2021 Duplo set options!
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 12-24 pieces at a minimum. 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! What’s great about a DIY Duplo advent calendar, is you’re picking a Duplo set they will actually be interested in and use, not just a random assortment of seasonal knick-knacks!
LEGO Advent calendars are 236 pieces so that’s about 9 pieces per day. Duplos are much larger pieces, so I would like there to be 1-2 items per day and that’s fine with me. The Lego advent calendars are $30-40. I wanted to spend in the $20 range for a toddler advent calendar!
Duplo Santa’s Winter Holiday Set – 45 pieces DISCONTINUED! But you can always check eBay.
Duplo Mickey Winter Vacation Home – 57 pieces
This might be my new favorite set for doing a Duplo advent calendar. The trees are kind of Christmas-y, and so many unique pieces that won’t just be some days having a few random blocks!
There’s also a smaller 17 piece set if you are doing a 12 day 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. Make a “Surprise Punch Box” or wrap the gifts by day
I decided to make a DIY punch box for my advent calendar. I used a Koala crate box as the base. 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. Target sells a punch surprise box, but the holes might be too small for Duplos!
You could also just wrap the Duplos loosely for each day in tissue paper, or have them “appear” in their play space each day. Or on a Duplo building baseplate, would be cute too.
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 planned 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.
I love doing advent calendars. Even before having a kid, I have done an adult advent calendar for the last nine years! It’s mainly activities and experiences. And we now do those as a family advent calendar. 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. Enjoy and happy Christmas!
Originally published Dec 2020, updated for 2021.