I’ve had several people ask me what we do to be intentional in teaching the meaning of Christmas to my little ones. I realized that we actually do a lot of different things that I hadn’t focused on until people started asking me. So I decided to list out all the things I could think of and share them here.
Some ideas we do consistently every year, others we choose based on the year and some I haven’t tried yet but they are in my files to attempt either this year or next. I hope some of the ideas will help you to have an intentional Christmas.
- The Legend of the Candy Cane
This sweet little book tells the story of the candy cane and why it is such a special Christmas Candy. If you look at a candy cane upside down it is a “J” for “Jesus” who was born on Christmas day. Turn it right side up and it is a Shepard staff, the first people to worship Jesus. The red strips represent the strips of Christ blood shed for our sins and the white strips show that he can wash our sins clean. I have always loved this book and now my kids love it too. At the beginning of the Christmas season I find red & white, peppermint mini candy canes (mini’s help me limit the sugar intake). Each time we read “Candy Cane Book” the boys are allowed one mini candy cane. Joseph eats his up while we read but Daniel will hold his and follow along with each part of the story before eating his. And my two year old can tell you each aspect of the candy cane and what it represents! This is a great way for even a child to be able to share the gospel at Christmas time.
I’ve even found these little poems you can print out and attach to candy canes to pass out with a short explanation of the candy cane on it.
- Adornments – Barbara Rainey’s Ever Thine Home collection
I love Barbara’s vision to make your home an embassy. We are ambassadors for Christ and our homes are a reflection of that. She is so wonderful about providing beautiful items that help intentionally share the message of the holiday (I actually stole the idea of intentionality from her several years ago). As a mother of six she know what will be safe around children. None of her adornments are glass or breakable but they are all extremely beautiful!
I’ve included a photo of out tree where we use the “Savior Names of Christ”, the “Christmas Names” and the “Adore Hymns” collections.
- The Christmas Key
When we were first married my husband found these Christmas keys. They are three decorative keys; the shepherd key, the Magi Key and the Christ Key. A little poem accompanied them that we read each year as we hang the keys. It’s a simple tradition but it explains the “Key” to Christmas as Christ coming to die for our sins.
- Crown of thorns
Another tradition my husband started, (I think because he was tired of fusing with angels and stars that wouldn’t stay on the tree correctly), was to hang a crown of thorns from the top of our tree. We still have angels and stars just in different locations because these do hold special significance in the Christmas story. However, we use the crown of thrones as yet another reminder that Christ’s ultimate purpose in being born was to die for our sins. When we hang it Daniel will find a picture of Jesus were a crown of thorns in one of his picture books and tell us that it was used to hurt Jesus but that his blood took away our sins. It’s a simple symbol we can use in teach that even our two year old can grasp.
- Why do they call it Christmas – Buck Denver
This video by Veggie Tales Creator Phil Visor is so educational even Bible college graduates will learn something new but it is presented in a way that is interesting for the whole family and, once again, even a two year old can grasp the concepts. Some of the symbols and Christmas traditions that are explained are Why is it called “Christmas?”, Why do we celebrate on Dec. 25th?,What year was Jesus really born?, What do Christmas trees have to do with Jesus?, What about Santa Claus? Where did he come from? (Don’t worry it doesn’t spoil anything if you choose to allow your kids to believe in Santa), Which came first – Christmas or Hanukkah? And which one did Jesus celebrate?, What are the “12 Days of Christmas?”, How does the name “Emmanuel” explain the real meaning of Christmas?
- When Christmas Came – Barbara Rainey
I love Barbara’s books because she designs them to be used from toddlers up through teens. I have her Thanksgiving, Easter and Christmas books and in each one she uses various font sizes. The idea is when you children are toddlers you just read the LARGE font and as they grow older you add in the smaller sized font. When Christmas Came uses John 3:16 to explain the meaning of Christmas one phrase at a time. Christmas is about: God, Love, the World, Giving, Jesus, Choice, Hope, Eternal Life, & Promise
- Fisher Price Little People nativity
This was an idea I got from my cousin. Children learn by doing so why not give them a way to act out the Christmas story? We got the Fisher Price Little People Nativity from Family Christian and the boys love when I pack up most of their regular toys after Thanksgiving and bring out the nativity for them to play with during the Christmas season. They love arranging and rearranging the characters and especially love it when I allow them to listen to Luke 2 being read aloud from my Bible app while they play.
- The 12 names of Christmas who Jesus is to me
This little book comes with 12 ornaments. Each with a picture symbolizing a name of Christ on one side and a verse on the other. Each ornament has a corresponding devotional in the book that can be read all at once when decorating the tree or one each day for the twelve days of Christmas.
Here are a few of the ornaments hanging on our tree.
- Advent Calendar
In the interest of full disclosure I don’t have the advent calendar I am recommending. We got a late start this year so I’m modifying a simple grocery store version for this year. But my boys response has been so positive that I am already planning to purchase this more advance calendar next year. It comes with 24 magnetic figures representing different characters in the Christmas story. In each little door you can also place a small piece of candy and a bible verse to read with each character. It’s a great way to refocus our attention back to the reason for the season each day.
- Service Outreaches
I can’t express enough how important service out reaches have been. From the time Daniel was 6 months old I have taken him to buy items for Operation Christmas Child’s shoeboxes. We have also taken bakery treats to the local public service departments. Purchased items for refuges and meals and gifts for single mom’s and their kids. I make sure to have him fully involved in choosing the items and delivering them. He has been able to show a good grasp of what is needed and what would be enjoyable and he doesn’t ask for things for himself when we are on these trips because I explain how blessed we have been and this is a time to bless others.
Here is my favorite story from this year’s trip:
Every year I do a little project with the boys and usually the talk before hand goes like this “We are going to go buy some things for little boys and girls who don’t have nice things.” Daniel says “Ok” and then picks out some things he thinks another little boy would like. This year the conversation wasn’t as easy. He asked a lot of “why” and “what happened?” questions that required a lot more thought and explanation on my part. Since we were doing a project for single mom’s and their kids I explained that God had given us a good daddy and given daddy a good job so he could provide nice things for his family but not everyone has a daddy or they might not have a job so they don’t have money to buy nice things. This seemed to satisfy him until we got to the store and I asked him what he wanted to pick out for the little boys and girls and he said “I want to buy them a Daddy to take care of them.”
- Nativity picture books
This one is pretty simple, each week we make a library trip and get at least one new “Christmas Story Book.” The pictures might change a little but the basic message is still the same and it helps reinforce the message of Christmas each time they bring me the book and ask me to read. Which happens about 20 times a day. That is another reason we use the library for this…the variety keeps mom sane.
- A Birthday Cake for Jesus
This is another idea I took from a family member. When her children were little she had a happy birthday to Jesus Cake each year. I think we are going to try it. It will help drive home the point that we are celebrating Jesus birthday.
Enjoy your intentional Christmas!