Make: An Easy Holiday Paper Chain Countdown (with Free Printables!)

This DIY paper chain countdown to winter holidays is a simple and easy December craft for kids with endless uses and many opportunities for recycling old artwork or scrap paper.

Our DIY holiday paper chain countdown taped to a dark grey wall.

Paper chains are an enduring holiday decor craft classic, aren’t they? Until this week I hadn’t made one for years, and I had completely forgotten how much instant warmth and charm these colorful paper garlands bring to a space. And as a real holiday bonus, they’re easy and QUICK for kids to make all on their own or together.

December is a month full of events to look forward to. In our family, there are multiple birthdays and lots of reasons for celebration, and as a kid, there were constant countdowns happening throughout the month.

Press play on the 1-minute tutorial video below to watch the quick holiday paper chain how-to process…

This colorful paper chain is a wonderful way to help kids visualize the passage of time. It’s also a simple craft that even your youngest little ones can help with in some way to ensure everyone in the family knows when the next big winter event is coming up.

Our DIY paper chain countdown to the holidays laying on the a white background.

For our holiday paper chain DIY, I designed a set of free paper chain templates you can use to make this process EVEN EASIER. The bright and colorful patterns were created specifically to be festively secular, so you can create paper chains for Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Posadas Navidenas, Boxing Day, Eid al-Fitr, Lunar New Year, Three Kings Day, the Winter Solstice…I could go on and on!

You can also countdown to special December events like the last day of school before winter break, holiday programs and performances, or (as we do) December birthdays – high five my fellow Sagitarrians!

For more holiday paper activities, visit our cut-paper snowflake suncatchers, 3D paper advent trees with pop-in ornaments, or peace and love paper holiday wreaths.

To make your own holiday paper chain countdown you’ll need:


  • Paper or cardstock
  • Scissors
  • Clear tape or a glue stick


How to Make an Easy Holiday Paper Chain – DIY Instructions:

  1. Print our free paper chain templates or fold your own

    Download and print our free printable holiday paper chain PDF templates or create your own templates by cutting paper strips or accordion-folding sheets of construction paper or cardstock.

  2. Cut apart the paper chain templates

    Use scissors to cut apart the paper chain strips.
    How to make an easy holiday paper chain

  3. Add colored cardstock strips (optional)

    Depending on how long your paper chain is, you can add strips of cardstock or recycle old artwork into paper chain pieces.
    How to make an easy holiday paper chain

  4. Secure links with a piece of clear tape or glue.

    Gently bend a strip into a circle and secure it with tape (or glue, if you’d like to recycle or compost the strips!). Loop another strip around your first link and secure. Continue this process until you have a full paper chain!
    How to make an easy holiday paper chain

  5. Add numbers or dates to each loop (optional)

    You can handwritten numbered office supply stickers (as we did) a festive gold Sharpie, or numbered paper scraps to add a number to each loop.

    During this hectic season, it can be easy to miss tearing off a loop or two. Adding numbers or dates can help kids stay on track with their countdown without having to count the loops again should they miss a few. This can also be helpful for younger kids still learning the connection between visual and spoken numbers.

Gorgeous AND functional! Now your little ones can enjoy the process of ripping off a loop every day – and be sure to save those torn paper loops! We’ll be recycling ours into handmade collaged holiday cards (keep an eye out for the DIY shortly) and paper scrap confetti for New Year’s Eve.

Our DIY holiday paper chain countdown taped to a dark grey wall.

More Ways to Use (or Reuse!) Your Paper Chains

  • Make paper chains for all sorts of winter countdowns. Instead of using this to count down the days until a holiday, use it to count down the hours to the New Year on New Year’s Eve or the number of people you’ll be sending holiday cards to.
  • Create a paper chain holiday bucket list. After you’ve cut your paper strips, write holiday activities on the back of each strip. Simple pleasures like watching favorite holiday movies, making hot chocolate with marshmallows, writing a letter to Santa, making a cozy fort, or reading a festive picture book together are all easy but fun undertakings that won’t be too overwhelming whatever day they’re pulled off the paper chain.
  • Practice creating patterns with your paper chain. Pattern-making is a basic principle of art and design, and you can use this paper chain as a way to practice.
  • Draw your own paper chain designs. Invite your kids to use the sheet of blank paper links to design their own holiday patterns, or create special drawings of their own to honor the specific event to be celebrated.
  • Gift a DIY paper chain kit. For a lovely, simple, and *small* gift idea or early holiday season party favor cut up 4-6 pages of paper links, package them in a clear treat bag with a roll of tape, add a happy little note, and give the gift of recyclable or biodegradable holiday DIY decorations.
  • Recycle paper strips into gift tags. Save your old chain links, trim off the torn edges, and turn them into super cute gift tags.
Our DIY paper chain countdown to the holidays laying on the a white background.

For another incredibly simple garland you can make with your kids visit our DIY felt garland tutorial!

For more printable winter kids’ activities, try making your own paper small world winter forest, open your own DIY paper play gingerbread bakery, put together a modern paper pine tree garland, or make festive handmade tree treasures and art projects with our pine tree template bundle!

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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