We've never really done the advent calendar thing. The chocolate is always stale ... We forget to open the little windows. It's not for us.
However, we were still very charmed by this recycle bin advent calendar, made entirely from the contents of a recycle bin (plus some glue and tape).
All of the directions are over at craftastica.
This seems like it would be a fantastic project to do with a little one. Just cut out your favorite holiday-themed images from that pile of catalogs you've been collecting, slap on some glue, and there you go.
It's pretty adorable. Much better than store-bought, we think.