Christmas is magical.
Regardless of age, it transports us back to our childhood: tinsel on the tree, stockings hung by the fireplace, colorful packages needing to be shaken, and traditional celebrations with faithful friends and relatives. For our children, this holiday is still being written upon their future memories. This is why we as parents need to make sure that what they remember is packaged in precious truths about how God's love reached out to a dying world, one silent night in a town called Bethlehem.
How shepherds watching their flocks received a surprise visit from heavenly creatures, showing that God is for everyone, regardless of their social stature. How angels announced peace for mankind, on whom God's favor rests, proving that our Intelligent Designer isn't the kind to create things and then walk away. How good news about our savior spread throughout the world, explaining why we still celebrate today.
So this Christmas, as you reveal the greatest love story ever told, try these fun-filled age-appropriate activities that will direct children, and adults, back to the true meaning of the holiday, when we celebrate Emmanuel, God who is with us.
- In order to avoid making Christmas a "don't touch holiday" for little ones, give them fun things they can touch.
- Move glass ornaments and lights up to higher branches on the Christmas tree, and help your child make fun decorations for the bottom.
- String pieces of colored tissue paper cut into squares onto shoestrings to hang as garland.
- Get out the glitter and make paper ornaments.
- Mold a nativity scene from clay dough and display in a prominent place. Tell the story of Christmas while you do this.
- Decorate cookies and build gingerbread houses together as a family.
- Help your little ones focus on others this season by making use of those Christmas cards received in the mail. Place the cards in a basket on the dinner table; taking turns each night drawing one out. Then pray together for that person or family.
- Also, start a family tradition by picking out a new holiday picture book to read each Christmas Eve. Some of my favorites are:
- 10 Minutes to Showtime, by Tricia Goyer
- The Crippled Lamb, by Max Lucado
- The Stable Where Jesus was Born, by Rhonda Gowler Greene
- The Christmas Rose, by William H. Hooks
- Ring in an international Christmas by assigning a country to each child. Besides reporting about how that country celebrates the holiday, he or she can prepare a seasonal dish to share, or demonstrate a song or folkdance. Then pray for the people of that culture so that they too might understand the meaning of God's love.
- This age group is old enough to bundle up and go caroling. During each visit allow for a few seasonal songs and readings from the scriptures proclaiming the birth of the newborn king. Besides visiting the neighbors, teens may want to stop by the local convalescent home, hospital, or homeless shelter.
- Many families choose to celebrate Advent – the days leading up to Christmas Day. There are fun Advent calendars on the market, some with doors that open and play songs, others that hide chocolate candies or other treats. Thriving Family's own 2011 Advent Activity Calendar offers a free calendar for this year. !
Consider making each Sunday leading up to Christmas special by lighting a candle, reading passages from scripture, and serving a yummy dessert. A great resource for Advent celebrations is the book, Just 25 Days 'Til Christmas: An Advent Celebration for the Entire Family, by Rebecca Hayford Bauer.
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