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31 DIY & Store-Bought Halloween Countdown Calendars For Celebrating The Spooky Season

by Cat Bowen

Halloween is my favorite holiday of the year. It's all spooky movies and ghostly tales with enough candy to keep the dentist employed all year long. This year, I want to go full-tilt holiday with all the anticipation and decoration. To that end, I've got some Halloween countdown calendars I'm kicking around for my home that you might consider as well.

A fresh and secular spin on the Advent calendars popular at Christmas, these countdown calendars will feature 31 (or sometimes spooky number 13) days of fun befitting the holiday. Whether you choose to fill them with spooky treats, scary stories, stickers, or alcohol will depend upon the audience, of course. For my family, I want to do one countdown calendar for the kids and one for the adults, because I refuse to be left out of these celebrations. Because Halloween countdown calendars aren't huge yet, you're going to have to get creative when you make them, as there aren't many pre-made on the market. When you think about it, it's actually kind of wonderful that it hasn't been overdone, and that every idea you have will be new and unique to you and your celebrations.

Take these calendars and run with them. Adapt them for your family and make them work. Most importantly, have fun.

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The Easiest Option

This is a felt countdown calendar complete with pockets for adding whatever your heart desires. Stickers, lollipops, spooky notes — it's all fair game.


Funko Pop!

Who doesn't love Funko Pop figurines? If your kids are a little older, this might be the perfect solution for your countdown calendar.


One You Can Finish Yourself

I love this one because it is so customizable. It's from Michaels craft store, so it really makes sense that they would encourage creativity in this way.


A Magnetic Version

I love all the little magnet characters and pumpkins on this calendar. It's really cute, but also nice and simple. No need to think about a thing, and kids will love popping them into place.


Something More Macabre

My inner goth teen is reeling at this one. It's just so dark and cool. I kind of want to frame it in a big, black Victorian frame and hang it up for the season, you know what I mean?


A Classic Sticker Version

I love how vibrant this calendar is. It's a simple, classic sticker calendar, but the artwork is intensely beautiful and creative. It's really stunning.


Calendar Bags

This is such an environmentally friendly option. You can use the bags every year, and fill them with anything from candy to fruit to small toys. Kids will love opening them each day, and what a wonderful memory you'll have to share.


We'll Call This "Fun Gothic"

If a kindergarten teacher wanted to do goth, this is what it would look like, and I love to see it. It's a little bit frilly, a little bit spooky, and a lot fun.


A Budget-Friendly Option

A fun searching calendar with riddles and jokes behind each flap. It's cheap and cheerful, and still a lot of fun.


Big & Durable

You add a ghost each day leading up to Halloween on this big wall countdown calendar from Amazon. The material is sturdy, and the detachable ghosts aren't going anywhere.


A Halloween Tree

You could easily decorate this tree with 31 fillable ornaments, each marked with the specific date. Or, if you're a grown up, you could tie on 31 mini bottles of alcohol. (Or both.)


Story Box

With this idea, buy a black or Halloween printed large box, and fill it with 31 letter-sized envelopes, each containing a spooky story or Halloween-themed children's book. If you're interested in doing this on a budget, don't shy away from used book websites like Thriftbooks — they are a great resource.


Frank's Pranks

Think Elf on a Shelf, but spooky. Get yourself a Frankenstein's monster toy, and have him leave your kids a little something each day. Maybe it's lollipops, maybe stickers or slime, it doesn't matter. What matters is that good ol' Frankie boy is leaving them with a note for your littles each day. And unlike that silly elf, he's a low stakes kind of visitor, because he's always watching out for mad scientists.


Make A Puzzle

I love making puzzles. I know, I'm a nerd. However, if you take your favorite Halloween picture and cut it into a 31-piece puzzle, you can fill your calendar with the pieces (work from the edges in) so that it fills in as you go. It's not only teaching your kids spatial sequencing, but also patience.


Morning/Evening Mirror Messages

For older or more unflappable kids, spooky mirror messages that appear in the condensation every day when they take a shower might be fun. I think that the ghost in our mirror will say things like "clean your room," and "we only wear underwear for one day before putting it in the hamper," as well as the evergreen "only one spray of Axe per pit."


A Chapter A Day

You don't need the book to have 31 chapters, you just need to divide the pages it does have by 31, that way you finish on the last day. Obviously, The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman would be a perfect fit for this.


31 Ghosts All In A Row

There are roughly eleventy billion types of lollipops out there. I am thinking about making lollipop ghosts, one for every day of the month, and sticking them into a graveyard I would make out of sprayed floral foam and with little gravestones made from cardboard and paint. Each grave has a number and a ghost.


Daily Potion

This might be my favorite. Fill a black plastic cauldron with fillable ornaments or balls or skulls, whatever, and fill 31 of them with treats. Every day, the kids have to look through the "potion" to find that day's treat. (You could also do this with your spouse and leave not-exactly-kid-friendly messages inside.)


A Month of Masks

I am from a region of Europe that up until the early 20th century celebrated a holiday called "Dziady" every year around Halloween. One of the traditions called for the creation and wearing of Karaboshka masks that were designed to scare off bad spirits. (Or the spirits of those recently murdered, but I digress.) This Halloween, why not create a mask for each day of the month to ward off something that scares the child. One for dark rooms, one for the dentist, one for weird holes in the sidewalk (I may be projecting). It's not only a fun way to countdown to Halloween, but a good way to get them to open up.


Trick-Or-Treat With Parents

Throwback candy is a thing. Take your kids back to the '90s and aughts with candy from when you were a kid thanks to Amazon. One treat for every day, and then you can settle in to watch a 1990s Halloween movie or special. Is this a selfish countdown? Maybe.


Hidden Halloween

Ghosts are sneaky. Therefore hiding a treat every day, stuffed in something large enough that the kids don't tear your house apart, would be a fun idea. It's like looking for the stuffed animal at Trader Joe's, but with less opportunity to overspend.


Bonfire Magic

If you're a fan of Harry Potter, you know that witches and wizards can communicate via fireplace. Why not communicate the countdown to your kids via a very fake fireplace? One of my favorite Halloween decorations turns an ordinary house fan into a realistic fire — and it's dang easy. You could easily tie messages into the center that would float when you turn on the fan. It could tell you where to find a treat, or say something silly. No matter, it would be fun.


Jack-O-Lantern Countdown

If you buy a large foam Jack-O-Lantern that's meant to be carved, you could drill 31 holes into it, and fill it with halloween colored string lights. Each day, pop another light through so that at the end, it's a stunning light show in your living room. (You could also fill the holes with lollipops that you pull out before sticking the light through. I was just trying to limit the sugar.)


Cookie Countdown

The best thing about frozen cookie dough is that you only ever need to cook as much as you're going to eat that day. I suggest freezing 31 pumpkin and ghost-shaped cookies, and baking them a few days in advance. Each day, you get to decorate (and eat) one small cookie.


Scrolls Upon Scrolls

To me, Halloween is a holiday of old books and scrolls. If you plan ahead, you could write or print out 31 different Halloween facts or jokes or riddles, and tie them up. Place them in a magical basket and tie them with a piece of ribbon with a candy attached. Pull out one scroll per day and read/eat.


Family Picture Fun

If you're like me, you "decorate with family," meaning that there are pictures of your family all over the house. Print out a cartoon witch head (or like, Nic Cage) and laminate it, adding museum tack to the back of it. Each day, pin the witch head over a different family member's face in a picture, encouraging your child to find the funny.


13 Days Of Pumpkins

For 13 days leading up to Halloween, have your children paint mini pumpkins each day. Not only is it less messy and buggy than carving them, if you do it outside, you can add glitter, which is basically everyone's favorite.


Scarecrow Stuffing

Throughout the last 13 days of Halloween, build a scarecrow one piece per day. Gather all the clothing, and build him as the days progress, ending with the face and head. It's creepy as hell and also fun for kids. We filled ours with yard leaves growing up, so that's a bonus for yard dads.


13 Potions of Halloween

It's just 13 flavors of milk and tea, but if you stir it with a magic wand? You get the point. Instead of calling it "cinnamon" and "chocolate," it's "eye of newt" and "children's tears." Plus, you're getting them to drink milk. Win/win.


Theme Nights

Make a calendar, and behind each flap put the theme for the evening as a holiday movie that you can watch together. Enhance it with snacks or meal fun. For Hocus Pocus night you're going to want to have a cauldron of cheese dip, for Harry Potter, you'll want butterbeer, for Charlie Brown, you'll want rock candy.


Broom Calendar

If you buy a Halloween broom, you can tie treats or stickers or toys to the bottom each day that your kids would find. Remember, store your broom bristles up so they aren't damaged and are safe for flying.