This post is out of date, please see our latest resource here.
It’s time to update my Advent for Kids list. Obviously there are thousands of possibilities out there. I hope you find these helpful.
Last year I posted 10 Ways to Help Kids Give Back At Christmas which I highly recommend to you as you think about how to celebrate the season with your family. However Christmas is more than gift giving and I wanted to make sure that the other resources I recommend are updated too. These are some of the best resources that I have found.
1. Make an Advent wreath with your kids. This is a fun activity that prepares your child for this important season in the Christian calendar. This site has some great ideas for making an Advent wreath with kids . And here is another great Advent wreath idea from children’s handprints.
2. Start a new Advent tradition that revolves around the lighting of the Advent candles. Use your Advent wreath as a centerpiece . Every night at dinner, let one of your children light the candle and say an advent prayer or sing a song. As you become more comfortable with this tradition you may also like to tell stories from past Advent celebrations or about the story of Christ and what he means to you and your family. Alternatively have the youngest child light the candle the first week, the oldest the second week, the mother on the third and the father on the fourth.
3. Make or buy an Advent calendar. I love the suggestion from the post Celebrating Advent with Children to make an Advent calendar with matchboxes and placing slips of paper in each one with different activities to do each day. For example, one day you might read a particular book or Bible passage, make Christmas cookies for a lonely neighbor, or sing Christmas carols together. A couple of years ago MSA Board member Jill Aylard Young put together this Advent in A Jar resource which is still available through the MSA site. Another possibility is this recycle bin Advent calendar – what a great way to introduce kids to the season and to the need to be more responsible.The combination of inward reflection and outward caring is wonderful.
Countdown Christmas Traditions also has a fun kid friendly Advent calendar. As you click on each day of Advent you read about traditions in different countries of the world.
CAFOD: Just One world has some great Advent liturgies available as well as a downloadable Advent calendar for kids.
4. Set up a nativity set. There are several ways that this can focus your child on the real meaning of Christmas. Set it up with the manger empty and the wise men at the other end of the room or house. Throughout the Advent and Christmas season the wise men move closer to the manager and of course on Christmas morning the Christ child appears in the manger.
5. The nativity set is a great way to focus your children on gifts for Jesus too. You might like to consider some of the suggestions in my post from a couple of days ago 10 Ways to Help Kids Give Back At Christmas. Or you might like to consider this idea. On the first Sunday of Advent, each child in the family receives an empty manger. An oatmeal box covered with bright paper will do as well. At bedtime, the children draw straws for each kind deed performed in honor of Baby Jesus as his birthday surprise. The straw are placed in the child’s manger or box daily. It is amazing how much love a child can put into Advent when s/he is preparing for his redeemer’s coming in grace. On Christmas, each child finds an infant in his manger, placed on a small table or a chair beside his or her bed. Usually it is a tiny doll, beautifully dressed. This custom fills the child with a longing in Advent, and provides an image of the redeemer as the first happy glance in the morning and the last impression at night during the entire Christmas season.
6. Explore Christmas traditions from around the world with your kids and discuss the possibility of adapting some of these as part of your own celebration during the Advent and Christmas season. Christmas Around the World has a wonderful description of traditions from a variety of countries that you might like to discuss. The Worldwide Gourmet has a wonderful array of recipes associated with the Advent and Christmas season in many different parts of the world. Just reading through some of these had my mouth watering.
7. Memories for the New Year – Reflect on the previous year and capture children’s memories that can become part of your family and church story. Capture these on camera, draw pictures, write songs or have older children journal. I love this idea from the United Methodist Communications. You might also like to check out some of the resources they suggest. (I have not had time to do this yet.)
- Christmas Gifts That Won’t Break: An Advent Study for Children
- A Different Kind of Christmas: Living and Giving Like Jesus (children’s study)
- Pockets, devotional magazine for children
- Celebrating Advent in the Home
- Children’s Activities for the Christian Year
More resources for celebrating as a family here.
8. Separate Gift Giving From Christmas Day. When I was on the mercy ship Anastasis, we always celebrated St Nicholas day. I think that this is a wonderful tradition that can separate the celebration of Christ’s birth from the giving of gifts. Our friends Ricci and Eliacin celebrate another tradition where the giving of gifts is associated with the coming of the wise men on the Eve of Epiphany.
There are obviously many other ways to celebrate Advent with kids – we are only limited by our imaginations and by the imaginations of our children who are likely to come up with far better ideas than we ever could. So if you have creative ways of celebrating during this season I would love to hear from you.
9. Check out other resources:
Family Advent customs I liked this list because it incorporated customs, recipes and projects to do as a family.
Domestic church.com has some great links and offerings for kids of all ages as well as families in its fridge art section
And Paperless Christmas in the U.K has some wonderful (and quirky) videos for introducing kids to the Advent and Christmas story.