Your enthusiasm and follow-through matter! What everyone else is doing on Pinterest doesn't matter! It's not too late to incorporate something into your Christmas season. (Be sure to scroll to the bottom if even these simple ideas seem overwhelming).
For tots (1-3):
For littles (4-6):
For tots (1-3):
- When the kids were tiny, I kept it short and simple. I read one verse about Christ's love each day. I did not have 24 different scriptures, instead I rotated 3 verses. Repetition at tot age is beneficial and fruitful. I printed these verses on slips of paper and drew one out of a box each morning at snack time. I also pulled a Hershey Kiss out of the box as a treat. ;) My 2-year-old daughter anticipated which of the 3 verses would be drawn each day, and she had them memorized by the end of the month. These are the three that I chose:
- "God demonstrates His own love for us in while we were sinners, Christ died for us." Romans 5:8
- "For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life." John 3:16
- "We love because He first loved us." 1 John 4:19
- If you want, you can add an ornament to a tree, a felt calendar countdown, a button or pom-pom to a tree drawn on construction paper, or simply color a picture. [Like these free advent Coloring pages .] Or you can do what I did: give her a Hershey Kiss and call it done.
For littles (4-6):
- You can do a similar scripture advent (as listed above) by reading the Christmas story one or two verses at a time. Here is a free printable for the verses: DIY Advent Calendar w/ free printable If you want to glitter up your clothespins like this example, then go for it! But if you want it simple, then you can put them in regular small envelopes on clothespins. Or in a stack on your counter.
- Or don't print it out at all. One year we made a paper chain, tore one ring off each day, and then I read the verse from my actual Bible. After reading the verse, we talked about what it meant, explained any words that they didn't know. (I also included a Hershey Kiss with this daily routine. You'll begin to see a pattern).
Last year we made this cute tree chain, but we have also done a traditional one-link chain hung by the window.
- But our absolute favorites at this age have been those with one big over-arching story that we read a portion of daily. My two faves for this age:
- "God Made a Promise" a free e-book by Stephanie Nannen. I love to do this with our kids. The stories are short with easy to understand language. If you choose, you can incorporate daily ornaments on a tree or wall-hanging much like a Jesse Tree. Shoot her an email and she will generously send you the files.
- Jesus Story Book Bible. If you already own this book, then follow along with this Free Reading Plan. If you do not own it, then this is the one time I will encourage you to spend money (even if you choose to do something else this holiday season). This is a worthwhile investment. It is hands down our kids favorite Bible, and it has produced so much fruit in their hearts as well as ours.
- If you want to include ornaments with these (we have found it enjoyable), I suggest first digging through all of the ornaments you have. You might discover that you already own half of the right items, or you can tweak it creatively. For instance, one ornament suggestion is "Bread" (for the Bread from Heaven story) so I used a gingerbread ornament that I already had. The kids made some ornaments from felt, popsicle sticks, or painted on round glass balls, etc. We did not make a new ornament every day. But really, if you know you won't do this part, it's still beneficial to do the daily readings. Your kids don't have to know that you skipped this part (and they will gladly thank you for that Hershey Kiss).
- Honestly, we love the "God Made a Promise" for this age too. (See above segment). But I have a high need for variety (remember Mom and Dad's motivation is important), so here's another freebie that I've enjoyed:
- "A Jesse Advent Celebration" a free e-book by Ann Voskamp. This book has beautiful poetic language. The stories are lengthier, and were enjoyed by myself and my oldest daughter, age 7. The download comes with paper ornaments to color. Like the intricate poetry of Voskamp's writings, the illustrations on these ornaments are beautiful and detailed, again best suiting older children instead of tots. I like how each day's reading has an application point--a way to put into action what they are learning.
- There's no shame in taking baby steps. Including scripture and a Christ-focus during your holiday is fruitful no matter if it's a daily countdown. We like to print a verse on big paper, put it in a frame, and meditate on it all season. Our favorite has been this verse from Isaiah with the names of Christ. Auntie Lolo Crafts lets you download for free. We read this a few times a week at a meal. Each week we focused on a different name--discovering what it meant (sometimes pulling out the dictionary) and during prayer times, we would use the name of God mentioned, "Dear Everlasting Father, bless _____." "Dear Prince of Peace, thank you for this food." "Dear Wonderful Counselor, help me to love as Jesus loves."
- The 12 Prayers of Christmas Download. $30. Printable with 12 verses and prayers.
- The "What God Wants for Christmas Nativity" Normally $30, on sale for $15 right now! It has 7 rhyming and illustrated stories, 7 boxes to open. 6 boxes contain a figure of the nativity. They are made to let your child handle them. The 7th box contains a surprise to which each story alludes, and builds anticipation. Our kids have loved this at all ages!