Published 25 June 2017 ● Last Updated on 30 September 2020

I had been saving up a surprise for my daugther’s 13th birthday for last few years, something unique to make her feel special on her arrival to the ‘teens’. It was to hand make a personalised advent calendar for the month of her birthday! Guess what? I couldn’t wait another year -which is when she actually turns 13- so I decided to surprise her this year when she turned 12 instead. The advent calendar gift eventually turned out to be a big hit with my daughter and family, so sharing the step-by-step guide on how to make it in case you would like to make one for a loved one. Besides as Anuja rightly points out, I am the undisputed queen of toilet paper roll recycling! (See Toilet roll wire organiser, Halloween costumes for your candy.)

Note to self: I need to outdo myself for the 13th Birthday next year!

What is needed: Toilet paper rolls, a used cardboard box [just use one from your next amazon delivery!], glue gun, scissors, white glue, ruler, recycled plain paper, any used/spare colorful wrapping paper you have at home

diy toilet paper roll adventcalendar raw materials for 12 year old birthday
Prepping up- The raw materials

Getting started:

1. Cut out 2.5″ squares on the colorful paper [I just used the reverse of brown paper I had picked from IKEA many moons back. It was red and bright]. Wrap one side of the toilet paper roll neatly. I had a try a few permutations of wraps before I got it neat as well as right, so do not give up easily!

easy toilet paper roll diy advent calendar birthday christmas anniversary
Cut a square piece of paper and stick it on one side of the roll

2. Now it was time to get creative. Unlike the traditional Christmas advent calender which has a little gift or trinket for every day, I decided to place messages with a clue about a gift- what it was and where to find it [a mini treasure hunt of sorts]- in 12 of the rolls.  Remember it was for my daughter’s 12th Birthday! These were a variety of things she had wanted [not needed, but then birthdays are for those rare indulgences]- clothes, shampoo, toys, games, DIY stuff.

diy advent calendar message ideas3. Thereon was it was simple. I cut out the messages in long strips, rolled them up and slipped them inside the toilet paper roll from the side which was still open. There was no order in which I selected which roll would have a reward inside. Given I was throwing in a treasure hunt to find the gifts,  I did make a note on a sheet of paper of the date against the clue. This way I would make sure to place the gift item strategically the night before the due date.

Message rolls in the toilet paper roll for advent calendar
Roll the message strips gently and drop them into the open side of the toilet paper roll

4. Next I used white glue to stick the toilet paper rolls on the cardboard box, with the open side facing the box base.

diy advent calendar5. Once I was done sticking all 29 on- June 29th was the birthday – I numbered the rolls from 1-29. I attached a string to the top of a box which I secured with double knots. this would hold it up against a nail on the wall or a hook on the door.

diy toilet paper roll advent calendar
The final product

How it works?

Hang the advent calendar in a nicely lit up area of the house which is easily accessible. My daughter decided to keep it next to her study table so that every morning from the 1st of June to the 29th she could pop one roll to see if there was a message with a clue leading to a gift inside.

advent calendar finally up
Advent calendar finally up

The best part- A very pleased 12 year old

The challenge- An overly expectant soon-to-be 9 year old!

My 5 most fun takeaways

1. Both my kids- my daughter who is 12 and my son who is 8 went bananas trying to find a mathematical pattern in the days I had picked to place a clue in.  There was no mathematics though, not this time!

2. There were days I forgot to place the gift item in its “designated” spot. Hell broke loose when the roll was popped and the item was not there. If you ever decide to do this for someone special, please do not forget that most mobile phones have reminder features 🙂

3. On 1 of the 12 occasions, the gift item, had, well, sigh, not been delivered. Blame Amazon, blame me. Up to you. My daughter was most cool about it, and said no worries mama, I think I will re-look at the clue tomorrow. Maybe I am looking in the wrong place. Note to self: I should order well in time

4. One of the items was placed in its designated spot 2 days too early. After incident #2 above I was being over careful. My 8 year old promptly found it and gave it to his sister. She of course realised the folly as she had already got her gift for the day. She promptly put it back in place. I sneaked out of their vision as early as I could and fixed the minor aberration.

5. Nothing beats a hand-made gift for a loved one…try it…its very fulfilling.

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