There is just something about the holiday season that makes me want to craft! It’s true…if you look back through my blog chronologically, you’ll see that every year around this time, I tend to put aside the home decor and organization projects in order to make time for fun holiday crafts. I think it’s because I grew up with a Mom who always made handmade projects for the holidays, so festive crafts just rings “Christmastime” for me! Truth be told, today’s project wasn’t exactly on the “planned” project list for this year. But then Henry asked if we could make a Christmas Countdown Chain (just like the one we made to countdown the days until Greg came home from deployment earlier this year), and I was more than happy to make it happen! (I mean…I rarely need an excuse to pull out pretty papers!) Not only do I love the happy and festive paper chain we ended up with, but I’m really excited to have our entire holiday season planned out in a fun, easy, family friendly way! Let me show you what I mean!
For the last few years, we’ve used our Hidden Message Advent Calendar to countdown toward Christmas. But after two years in a row, the jokes have grown a bit old, and Henry remembers the secret phrase it reveals. As such, I was already planning to update that Advent calendar with new jokes and letters. But when Henry made this special request, I figured it was time for a new Christmas countdown tradition anyway! So we made a simple, classic paper chain to count down all the days in December…
…and inside each one is a (super simple and totally manageable) holiday outing, event, project or task for us to do as a family!
Not only is our paper chain functional and helpful, but since I made it out of such a lovely array of colors, it sure helps bring a lot of holiday cheer to our upstairs playroom!
To make a Christmas Countdown Chain like the one I have shown, here is what you need:
- Cardstock in the holiday colors of your choice (I used 7 sheets from this gorgeous paper stack to make our chain)
- Number stickers (I cut mine from silver glitter vinyl, but you can find number stickers in most craft stores, as well as here!)
- Holiday activities printed onto white printer paper (optional)
- Roller adhesive
- Scissors or paper trimmer
The Chain Links
My paper links are cut from my latest paper obsession: this double-sided paper stack by Martha Stewart. You guys…the colors of these papers are just so so so pretty, and since they are double-sided (a different color on each side), it makes getting lots of different colors for your project really quick and easy!
My links measure 11.5×2.75″ (4 will cut nicely from a 12×12″ sheet of cardstock). You can easily cut simple strips with a scissors or paper trimmer, but I chose to cut this design (below) with my Cricut Explore. (If you want to use it too, it’s the #M3CBCA Pilgrim Hat design from the Classroom – October & November cartridge. I used the Contour Tool to remove the hat piece and then re-sized the second band to be wider.)
Why? I like to make things that can be used year after year. So because of the clever arrow and slot design of these links, we didn’t need to use adhesive or staples to hold the links together…they fit together all on their own!
You certainly don’t need to add stickers to your paper chain, but I find that 1) they are a pretty detail that dresses up your chain a bit, and 2) they eliminate that “did we take a link off the chain today?” problem!
As I said before, I cut some simple numbers out of silver glitter vinyl (so they would lie flush against the round chain), but you can handwrite your numbers or use sticker versions like these or these!
I will be the very first to admit that I start every holiday season with really big ambitions of making it our most “magical season ever.” And then life and shopping and school and parties and work and everything else piles on, and we’re lucky if we do even a few of the things on our Holiday Bucket List. So I thought…if we could combine our Christmas Countdown Chain with our Holiday Bucket List…maybe we’d be more likely to actually fit in some of the fun things we want to do.
I’m really, really optimistic this is going to work this year for three reasons:
- I chose really manageable activities for our Christmas Countdown Chain. I’m not trying to force big projects or outings, and I don’t need to stock up on special candies or gifts. I purposely tried to think of things that we want to do and can feasibly do.
- We cross-checked the planned activities with our family calendar! (Duh!!!! Why have I never thought to do that before?!?!) I checked our church’s schedule and made sure their events (like the carols concert and Nativity play) matched our chain’s event. Also, I put more involved things (like making a gingerbread house and going to see Santa) on weekends when we can actually do them, and I put smaller things (like reading Christmas books) on school nights when we don’t have much spare time!
- Henry is at an age (7.5) where he will hold us to it! He.remembers.everything!
Once we had our holiday activities picked, I typed them out in a basic Word document and printed them on plain printer paper. Notice I included the dates so they could easily match up with the right paper link!
TIP! Print out a second version of your activities list and keep it in your planner so you know what’s coming up and can plan accordingly!
Assembling Your Christmas Countdown Chain
Assembling your paper chain couldn’t be easier, and your kiddos can probably help you do it! (Unless you want to keep the various activities a surprise!).
I started by glueing each activity to the inside of the paper links. I purposely used temporary roller adhesive so we can swap them out in the future with different activities.
Then, I placed the corresponding number sticker onto the other side of the paper link.
TIP! If you want your numbers to all face the same (readable) direction when the chain is assembled, you want to either place the numbers in the exact middle (so the link can be rotated any direction) or alternate sides as I show below.
With the activity strip glued to the inside and the matching numbers attached on the outside…simply loop each link to the next…in number order…and you’re done!
Place it where you can see it each and every day, and start removing links on December 1st! Since our chain turned out so pretty, I kind of wish I did two links for each day. Not only would that make it a longer garland for our shelf, but then each number would be facing front. Oh well…I can make that adjustment for next year…because we have other projects to get to 😉
With Thanksgiving so early this year, you still have plenty of time to put together a Christmas Countdown Chain like this one! Henry was all ready to take a link off this morning, and he was totally bummed when I told him he had to wait until Saturday to start! Hopefully your kids will be just as excited about this fun little project and it will help you have a fun and full holiday season as well!
P.S. If you’re looking for some other Holiday paper craft projects to put on your list, here are some of my favorites!