I had originally told my son that he could not start counting down for our Disney trip until after his birthday this June. After all, what parent wants to constantly be bombarded with questions like, “how many days now?” for months leading up to the trip. But then I came to the realization that this was the perfect opportunity to sneak in some learning. Lil’ Man has been showing interest in arithmetic, so I figured why not use our trip countdown to teach subtraction and place value through a meaningful experience. Each day, Lil’ Man takes away one day and sees that it is bringing him closer to Disney World.
When Lil’ Man was two years old, I used a Mickey Mouse countdown chain to help him count the number of days until our trip (I started 30 days out). This allowed him to grasp the fact that the chain was getting smaller and, therefore, the number of days were decreasing as we approached our trip. Each time he removed a chain, we would identify the number and he would gleefully clap while shouting, “days ’till Mickey Mouse!”
I recall the construction of the 30-day chain as a tedious and time-consuming project. I’m not about to make one with 100 plus chain links now. I’ll probably still put one together for the month prior to our trip, but I decided that a chalkboard was more suitable for the purposes of this larger countdown. The great part about the chalkboard is it can be reused for future trips.
I completed this project with my Cricut Explore, but there is no reason why this can’t be done without a die cutting machine. I already had the vinyl and paint supplies, but I did purchase the wood plaque from Michael’s when there was a 60 percent off coupon. Given that I already had a lot of the necessary materials, I ended up spending about $8 to complete this project.
- 1 9X12″ Unfinished Wood Plaque
- White Chalk Paint (I used the Sheepskin color)
- Black Acrylic Paint (this will be your base color)
- Mod Podge
- Chalkboard Vinyl or Chalkboard Paint
- Glitter Vinyl (for text)
- Staple Gun or Hot Glue Gun
- Dust Mask
- Card Stock (if you need to make a stencil to paint your Mickey Mouse chalkboard)
- Stencil Glue (if using a stencil to paint your chalkboard)
- Paint the outside edges of your wood plaque with your base color. If you do not want the chalkboard to have a distressed look than you can skip this step as well as step 4.
- After your base color has dried, apply your first coat of white chalk paint over the entire plaque. Once dry, apply a second coat.
- Allow the top coat to dry for 2 hours.
- Lightly sand the edges of your plaque until the base coat starts to appear. Periodically wipe clean with a wet rag to see if you have achieved your desired look. Continue sanding until you have achieved the distressed look you want.
- Make sure you sand your plaque outside and wear your dust mask; this part is messy!
- Use a wet rag or paper towel to wipe off remaining dust. Once dry, apply a coat of Mod Podge (or varnish) to seal the paint. Apply a second coat to make sure the entire board is sealed.
- I used a silhouette of Mickey Mouse’s head for my chalkboard, but you can always use another image (like Minnie Mouse).
- In Cricut Design Studio, I converted my image to an SVG and made it 5 and 3/4 inches wide at the ears.
- If you will be using chalkboard paint, you can print out the image on card stock and cutout the image to create a stencil. Apply a stencil adhesive (or repositionable spray glue) to the bottom of your DIY stencil to prevent your chalkboard paint from bleeding through.
- Apply your chalkboard vinyl in desired location (you can make your board vertical or horizontal). Or apply chalkboard paint to the board with your stencil and allow paint to dry fully before removing the stencil.
- Create your desired text: “Days Until our Disney Vacation”, “Days ‘Till Disney” or “Days Until ____________ Family Disney Vacation”, etc. I used the Disney Mickey Font from Cricut for my text. Apply your vinyl text to the board (or paint it on). I chose to make my text a bit off-centered so that I could add the images of Mickey’s gloves. (It is also a great cover if you mess up centering your text!)
- You will need to attach your ribbon to the back of your board if you would like to hang it up. The total length of my ribbon is 20 inches. I stapled 5 inch lengths on each side to the back of the board. If you do not have a staple gun, then hot glue the length of the ribbon to the back.
- Your done! Hang up your chalkboard and enjoy counting down to your magical trip with your children! Be sure to make them do the math; they won’t know they are learning!