Looking for something more meaningful than a piece of chocolate to put behind those advent calendar doors? This simple, DIY advent calendar gives kids good deeds to do every day leading up to Christmas (or Hanukkah, which starts this year on Dec. 24). You can adapt it to any month, though, if you want to do one that is 30 or 31 days. Read on for the how-to.

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What you’ll need: 

Paper

Twine, yarn, or string to hang advent bags

24 small muslin bags (30-31 if you’re going for a month)

24 clothespins (30-31 if you’re going for a month)

Number stickers (enough to label numbers) or fabric paint

Charms or other trinkets (optional)

Glue gun (not pictured)

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Step One: Brainstorm Acts of Kindness

Sit down with your kids and talk about what it means to be kind, and what they can do to practice kindness (Need ideas? Check out this story). Some ideas our young kindness crew came up with included:

– Call Nana

– Pick up trash

– Let someone in front of you in line at school

– Hug a friend

Then, have them write these simple acts on small squares of paper to go inside the muslin bags.

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Step Two: Number the Bags

Use number stickers or fabric paint to label all 24 muslin bags (we think gold glitter looks holiday-festive, but any color will do). Note: If using stickers, use a hot glue gun or other strong glue to secure the stickers to the bag; otherwise, they won’t stick for long.

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Step Three: Put Stuff Inside

Put the acts of kindness cards into each muslin bag. To up the excitement factor, you can also add trinkets or candy. Our best suggestion — Drop these heart-shaped charms into each bag (they’re about $8 for a box of 50) so your kids can make “kindness necklaces” to remember all those sweet, nice things they did.

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Step Four: Hang it Up!

Hang all the bags on a wall, across a mantle — wherever works! Start opening the bags on Dec. 1 and keep on cranking out those acts of kindness until Christmas Eve (and, hopefully, every day thereafter). If you’d rather keep your December decor secular, just add a few more days and call it a countdown to the new year.

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Keep the kindness coming…
Inspired? Check out these free lesson plans from RandomActsOfKindness.org that teach kids how to be fair, kind, and respectful all year long.

Ask your kids: “What’s something you can do to be kind?”  Then, share their answers in the comments section below!

— all photos and copy by Melissa Heckscher