Make: A 3D Paper Advent Tree with Pop-In Ornaments

Have you always wanted to make your own Advent calendar, but felt a bit overwhelmed by the task? This tabletop paper advent tree version is my simplified answer. Kids draw their own ornaments to put on the tree, then pop one in (see how below…) every day until Christmas!

When I was little, my grandma made us the most beautiful felt Christmas Tree Advent Calendar. There was a pocket that held an ornament for each day, and my sister and I so loved decorating our little tree on the wall throughout the month of December.

A handmade felt Christmas tree Advent calendar hung on a white wall.

Our 3D Advent trees don’t require any fabric or sewing and only take a few minutes to cut out, fold, and prepare for decorating. It’s a fabulous way to work a little handmade art time together into your holiday season.

Two of our 3D paper Christmas tree Advent calendars sitting against a yellow background with pop-in paper ornaments.

And it’s SO fun to see the types of ornaments your kids pick to draw for the tree – whether it be their own favorite Christmas things or small doodles of ornaments that might be special traditions in your family.

Looking for some variations on DIY holiday trees? Create a different kind of art invitation (and use up wrapping paper scraps) with our 3D cardboard Christmas tree. Or make a small world countdown to Christmas that doubles as a snowy nature sensory activity with this adorable miniature DIY pinecone Christmas tree farm.

To make your own DIY Paper Advent Tree you’ll need:

Note: We prefer to shop locally or use what we have at home, but this list contains Woodpeckers Crafts, Etsy, Blick Art Materials, and/or Amazon affiliate links for reference. As Amazon Associates, we make a small commission on qualifying purchases.*

BASIC SUPPLIES:

  • 2 pieces of heavy cardstock (you can print your tree on green, white, or other colors)
  • Scissors
  • A standard hole punch
  • Crayons, colored pens or pencils, watercolors, or other drawing supplies
  • 3-4 Paper straws (I love this kind!)
  • A hot glue gun or craft glue

OPTIONAL SUPPLIES:

TIP: As a modification to the project below, you can simply download our free tree template and color directly on the tree instead. Fold and stand up for an artful kid-made holiday decoration!

DIY Paper Advent Tree with Pop-In Ornaments Instructions:

  1. Print and cut out our free paper tree printable template

    Download and print our tree template onto heavy cardstock or watercolor paper. We made two really different styles of trees just by printing our trees onto different colors of paper. Our green tree looks more traditional, while the white tree has more of a modern look.

  2. Fold and crease the tree at dotted lines

    Fold the tree in half and crease along the center dotted line, then fold the two sides and crease. This will allow your tree to stand up.

    You can tape the ends together at the back for a tall skinny tree, or leave the sides of the tree open (as we did) for a wider tree.

  3. Use a hole punch to make 25 holes in your tree

    Using a standard hole punch, make 25 holes in your tree. A standard hole punch can’t typically get too far into the paper, so we folded our tree in half/quarters to make the holes near the center. After unfolding and flattening, we went around the edge of the tree to make the rest of the holes.
    Use a hole punch to make 25 holes in your paper tree

  4. Draw your own set of small ornaments and cut out

    You can freehand sketch or color a set of ornaments or use our grid template. Our free printable PDF comes with a page of 25 1-inch boxes you can use to draw your ornaments in.
    Use pens, markers, crayons or other drawing tools to draw your ornaments

  5. Cut 2-3 paper straws into 1 to 2-inch pieces

    Make 1-2 inch “stems” for the backs of your ornaments by cutting a couple of paper straws into pieces (you’ll need 25 total – one for each ornament).
    Cut a couple paper straws into 1-2 inch pieces

  6. Glue the straw pieces to the backs of your ornaments

    Use a glue gun to affix a paper straw piece to the back of each ornament. This will allow you to pop your ornaments into the holes in the tree! A small dot of glue is all you need.
    Glue the paper straws pieces to the back of your ornaments so you can pop your ornments in the holes in the tree.

Now you can add a little ornament to your tree every day until Christmas! Not big into drawing? You can use pom-poms or other craft items as decorations on your tree instead of doodling a full set.

Our 3D paper Christmas tree Advent calendar decorated with pop-in paper ornaments sitting against a yellow background.

Much like the felt tree my sister and I so loved, the beauty of this activity is that it allows kids to do the decorating. From the drawing to the special decorative touches, to the placement of the ornaments – it’s a little tree to call their very own!

Two of our 3D paper Christmas tree Advent calendars sitting against a yellow background with pop-in paper ornaments.

Our simple paper chain holiday countdown is the perfect crafting complement to these fun paper advent trees. And for even *more* holiday-themed paper crafting, try making a colorful snowflake suncatcher or tabletop winter paper forest.

Our 3D paper Christmas tree Advent calendar sitting against a yellow background with pop-in paper ornaments.

Download our free printable Santagram and surprise little ones with a bit of early holiday magic!


*A note about affiliate links: We strive to use simple, earth-friendly supplies that can be purchased locally whenever we can, but sometimes we find the best universally available options, a rare eco-friendly find, or a niche product only available on Blick Art Materials, Amazon, Etsy, or Woodpeckers Crafts. When included in our supply list, these products are affiliate links, and if you click through to make a purchase we receive a small commission that helps us re-order these supplies!

Amanda Eldridge
Amanda Eldridge

With a passion for cultivating imagination, Amanda aims to help kids and families discover their creative potential through art, play, adventure, activism, conservancy, and community. Amanda has a background in graphic design, environmental design, and art curation. When not playing with ideas and designs for barley & birch, she enjoys working in freelance design, art, and illustration.

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