Celebrating Advent With Kids – New for 2012

St Nicholas with kids

St Nicholas with kids

Advent is almost here. And our theme for daily reflections this year is Let Us Wait As Children Wait. In preparation for that I thought that it would be good to update my Advent resource list for Celebrating Advent With Kids which is one of the all time favourite posts on this blog.

A couple of days ago I added this post:  10 Ways to Help Kids Give Back At Christmas but realize that there are a lot of other ways to help prepare children for the celebration of Christ’s birth.

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.

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. I love these Advent candle light readings from World Vision Canada. 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.

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. The combination of inward reflection and outward caring is wonderful. There are some other great suggestions in this post Celebrating Advent with Children too so check it out.

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.)

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 from Advent conspiracy.