Shortly after her proposal, Bree emailed us this photo:
Sorry, but I don't know the photo source.
It seemed simple enough. Cans filled with goodies; kids would open one can per day. We all agreed that this would be our Advent project this year. However, we each had a different interpretation. Bree wanted to spray paint her cans, just like in the photo. Kristi wanted to get her kids involved by having them make art to go around her cans. I wanted to cover my cans with coordinating Christmas scrapbooking paper.
Maybe now would be a good time to tell you that I do NOT recommend doing this project the way I did it. This was the project that never ended. I don't exactly have extra time for long, complicated projects during the Christmas season. I'm behind on nearly everything in life right now. But I pressed on because I wanted to use this project as an excuse to spend time with my sister-in-law and sister.
So, here's how I did it.
Step 1: Gather cans.
We each needed 25 cans for this project. I had to beg one of my friends to give me her used cans so I could reach my 25-can goal.
After cutting my hand--twice--while washing out my cans, I realized that I needed to use my fancy Pampered Chef hand-crank can opener that cuts the can top off from the side, leaving a smooth top edge.
I removed the labels and washed out the cans. We even put some of the cans in our dish washer to get them clean. I started using Goo Gone to remove the glue that once held the labels on the cans, and then I realized that it really wouldn't matter once I glued my paper on.
Step 2: Spray paint cans.
As my can collection sat on my counter, I noticed that the cans were rusting in a few places. I knew the top and bottom edges, as well as the insides of the cans, would be visible and need to be somewhat nice looking. So, I bought Krylon spray paint in satin white and spent an entire afternoon spraying my cans.
I tried to focus my spraying on the areas that I knew would be exposed when it was all said and done. I sprayed several coats on the inside, top rim, and bottom rim.
I spent several hours painting the cans. I gave up my little window of kids' nap time so I could paint these stinkin' cans. And then when I carried them inside that night, the paint started chipping off.
Plus I only had enough paint to do 2-ish coats on the cans, so the finished paint is spotty and not as pretty solid white as I would like.
Step 3: Apply paper to cans.
I bought a package of coordinated Christmas scrapbook paper at Michael's for $10 (originally $19.99, on sale 50% off).
I pulled out 25 different papers that I wanted to use on the cans. Then I measured EACH can and cut a piece of paper to go on it, allowing an extra half inch or so for overlapping the short ends.
I rolled the paper and stuck it into its coordinating can until I had all the papers cut.
Then I got out my Mod Podge (I poured some into a disposable bathroom cup) and a paint brush. One at a time, I laid a paper face-down on a piece of wax paper, painted Mod Podge around the perimeter, and applied the paper to the can.
I overlapped the short ends, just like on a regular soup can label.
One sheet of paper in my scrapbook paper pack had numbers 1-25 on it. I cut out each number with scissors. Then I spent a little time figuring out which number should go on each can (because the numbers are all different sizes and colors).
I brushed the Mod Podge around the perimeter of the back of each number and stuck them on the cans.
My cans are 2 basic sizes plus one can that's giant. I decided to try not to care about intermixing the can sizes. I focused more on coordinating the numbers with the papers on the cans, rather than on alternating can sizes. I can't make it all perfect, right?
The painted cans with paper and numbers:
Step 4: Fill cans.
I don't know what is in the cans in the inspiration photo. I decided to do a mixture of small toys, candies, prayer requests, and assignments for random acts of kindness. I didn't want the kids just eating candy everyday or opening toys and more toys. But I also couldn't manage a new act of kindness every single day (that sounds funny, but I think you know what I mean). Some days keeping my kids alive and in the right places at the right times is an act of kindness.
I started by lining up my cans in order.
I put toys, treats, and crafts into various cans. For the remaining cans, I just needed to write prompts on paper. I decided to use the scraps left over from the paper used to cover the cans.
I wrote out the people we will pray for and the acts of kindness we will do. Then I folded each paper and put them in the remaining cans.
My sister Kristi will be focusing more on prayer for her kids' cans.
My sister-in-law Bree has already prepared laminated cards to guide her family through the Christmas season.
Bree's cans are filled with crafts and coloring pages that go along with their Bible reading and discussion for each day.
Here are some of Bree's cans covered in paper (the spray painting didn't work out):
Notice that Bree just tucked her paper over the top rim and into the can, so she didn't need to spray paint hers. Some people think of things that are so much easier than my way!
I didn't get a picture of Kristi's cans because she was still working on covering them when I took the pictures. Hers look very similar to Bree's, but she used Christmas scrapbook paper. Kristi and Bree both used adhesive photo squares to adhere their paper to the cans and hot glue for the paper tucked into the cans (and I think the bottoms too).
Last year, we chose to pray for someone every single day in December. We made a list and assigned someone to each day. It was an awesome experience to focus on one person each day. That also led us to reach out to those specific people. You could easily fill each can with the name of a person to pray for and perhaps a card to mail them.
In case you're interested, here is my list of fillers for my 25 cans:
- Everyone gets to eat a candy cane!
- Make a card for our Pray-for-a-Child on our fridge
- Slap bracelets
- Pray for grandparents
- Flash lights
- Leave a Walmart gift card in a cart
- Craft kit
- Pray for aunts and uncles
- Hot cocoa to drink while driving through the Festival of Lights
- Bake goodies
- Scented markers
- Take goodies to church staff
- Christmas sponges (the kids love to do these in the bath)
- Pray for cousins
- Make cards for children's pastor/staff at church
- Pay for someone else's meal or coffee
- Activity books
- Shop for stuff to take to hospital waiting rooms
- Take entertainment/snacks to hospital waiting rooms
- Plastic puzzle games
- Pray for our little family
- Pray for our friends
- Pray and thank God for the gift of Jesus!
Step 5: Cover can tops.
The cans in the original photo appeared to be covered with tissue paper. That sounded cheap and easy enough for me. I bought a package of tissue paper 50% off at Hobby Lobby and a bag of rubber bands at Walmart for $0.67.
I used two pieces of each color together (so each can is covered with a double layer of tissue). I laid out the two sheets flat and folded them in thirds lengthwise and then in thirds crosswise.
Then I cut along my fold lines.
I repeated the process for the other two colors. I placed the tissue squares over the cans in a pattern (white, red, green, white, red, green, etc.) so every third can has the same color. I secured all the tissue papers with red rubber bands. Each child will open cans with a certain color (white for Griffin, red for Nora, and green for Nolan). The kids take turns opening cans on various days, but we all participate in the can activity together (and there are three little toys in the cans with toys).
Overall, I really don't love the look of the finished cans. The tissue paper is covering the numbers and about half of the carefully applied decorative paper. I wish the tissue paper was cut in circles using scalloped-edge scissors, but I really wasn't going to put that time into it (especially since the tissue paper will just be thrown away each day).
My advice to you: don't do this project. Wait...let me rephrase that: don't do this project. Wait! What I mean to say is: don't do this project exactly how I did it. It was so time-consuming. It might possibly be worth it if we re-use these cans every year. If I want to re-use them, though, I probably need to coat them in Mod Podge or a spray sealer so the paint won't keep chipping off and the paper won't rip. I'm just not motivated to do that work at this point.
I still say that this project was worth it because it gave me an opportunity to spend time with my sister and sister-in-law when we got together to work on our cans. I think my kids will enjoy opening the cans and doing the activities. The cans also gave me a way to organize some of our December activities.
At least this was an interesting approach to an Advent calendar, and it promoted some family interaction. Now we get the fun of opening each can and spreading our Christmas cheer!