Introduction: Recycled Toilet Roll Advent Calendar

My family loves to make advent calendars each year. But rather than encouraging the gluttony with chocolate (that comes later with all the Christmas eating), we fill our calendar with activities and events that bring our family together and help us share the Christmas spirit with each other, our friends and community. We include lots of fun activities that we always say we "should" do but never get around to during the year. Adapt for your own family or situation.

Some of the things we include are:

* Have fish and chips at the beach
* Give each other a massage
* Cook dinner for mummy
* Watch a Christmas Movie
* Call friends in other cities

with many more suggestions on my website.

This year I've gone with a recycled toilet roll version. We collect all sorts of bits and pieces to recycle, and now that we're past the pre-school and playgroup years, we have fewer venues to donate our toilet rolls. Here's my quick (took me about 2 hours in total) guide to knocking up a recycled (and recyclable) advent calendar.

And please, just use this as a spark to get you going as the variations are only limited by what you have available.

Step 1: Materials

You'll need:

* 24 toilet roll tubes
* colourful tails - I've used crepe paper ribbon, but you can use scraps of fabric or paper.
* stapler (with staples)
* sticky tape or glue
* sheet of numbers (exclude if you're going to hand write or paint them on)
* sheet of activities (cut into strips that fit neatly into your tubes)
* string to hang on
* pegs to a attach to twine

Step 2: Prepare Numbers and Tail Strips

In your application of choice (word processor, spreadsheet or design program), create a table of numbers 1 - 24 using a funky font and a pale grey border (to use as a cutting guide). Print on coloured paper and depending on your font, you can get the kids to colour them in. Cut these out into strips.

Do the same for your activity list - layout, print and cut out. Depending on the age of the children, you may want to include a picture if they're not up to reading yet.

Cut up a bunch of crepe paper to reasonably regular lengths. I'm working with crepe paper ribbon because a) I had it available in the house, b) it was wildly colourful and that's part of our Christmas theme this year, and c) it will move nicely in the breeze.

Once you have some reasonable size piles, you're ready start attaching.

Step 3: Putting It All Together

Tape or glue your numbered strips to the top of the tubes.

You need to seal off the bottom of the tube so your activity notes don't fall out. I've found two staples are enough to do the job. There's no need to seal the tops if you place your tubes high enough that little hands aren't likely to dip in and cheat to see what's happening ahead of time. I've found that leaving them open allows you to change the activities around if your pre-Christmas plans change unexpectedly or bad weather forces you to postpone something you'd planned for outdoors.

Squash the end of the roll firmly, select a couple of tail strips and staple the strips and the two sides of the squashed roll in place. Repeat again for the second set of strips. One roll done!

Repeat these steps another 23 times. =8)

If you engage your helpers you'll be done in no time at all.

Step 4: Hanging

We like to hang our advent calendar in our hallway, an often under utilised wall space for the rest of the year.

I use a piece of twine to hang my calendar on, but you could use more colourful ribbon, Christmas lights or Blu-tak them directly to the wall in some more random and abstract way. Perhaps create a mobile using a coat hanger, or make them part of your tree decoration.

I've used colourful mini pegs to attach the tubes to the twine, but you could use full sized pegs (if the person who does the clothes washing in the house can do without them for a few weeks) or punch a whole in the top of the rolls and use a curtain ring.

Finally, pop your activities into the tubes.

Then for each day of December, have your children remove the activity from the numbered tube. We like to do it in the morning as we're excited all day with the expectation of the activity we'll do in the afternoon or evening.

I hope you and your family enjoy making and participating in the lead-up to Christmas!

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