I’m still in the midst of post-Thanksgiving turkey hang-over, but just like many of you, thoughts have rapidly changed towards the Christmas season. And, although December is just a couple of days away, I want to let you know that for the next 12 days, I will be posting some ideas to help you create some fun Christmas memories–especially with young children.
I know this blog is geared towards women’s missions and ministries, but our first ministry is always our family. And now that my children are in their upper teen years, I’ve realized how much they loved the memories we made while they were young. In fact, my children are a little put out with me after this weekend. I delegated the felt Christmas tree skirt made by their great-grandmother to our game room because I purchased a new tree skirt that goes with furniture we just purchased. You would have thought I had totally disregarded our family heritage because they have such sentimental feelings about the felt skirt with sewn-on buttons and fringe.
So, for the next twelve days, join me as I share with you some of our family traditions and ways we have helped keep the focus on Christ in the midst of holiday chaos. (warning: before I get angry comments from Santa haters, some of our ideas do incorporate the jolly ‘ol man)
Day One: The 24 Days of Christmas
The reason this has to be at the top of my list is because if you choose to do this, you have to do it NOW! But, I will admit, this was one of my children’s favorite activities stolen from my friend Sandi Willis. When my kids were middle schoolers, I chose to stop this tradition, but not without significant whining.
A few days before December 1, cut out 48 Christmas trees from green construction paper. (If you have a die cut machine at your church or school, this makes it so much easier!) Have markers, glue and glitter for your children and have them “decorate” 24 of the trees. (I guarantee they will remember which ones they did and even the parents can do a few!) Make sure you leave room at the bottom of the tree trunk to number them from one to twenty-four. Glue a second piece of plain construction paper to the decorated one, but leave a small opening either at the top or bottom.
On a piece of white paper, list 24 activities you will do together as a family during the month of December. (Hint: Look at your calendar and schedule activities that will work for each day of the week) Cut the list into 24 strips and strategically place them in the Christmas trees and glue the opening shut. Attach the trees to a piece of yarn and place them where your children will see the trees each day.
During breakfast, take turns letting one child open the tree to the corresponding number for the day. (December 1 is #1) If your child can read, let them read the activity. If not, read it for them. (I found that when they were preschoolers it was an advantage because if the activity didn’t fit our schedule, I could change it and they wouldn’t know!) Each day, do that activity together. (see below for a list of ideas) It’s important that you do things that don’t cost money or cost very little because 24 days of activities can add up.
By doing this activity together, your children can learn to count down to Christmas, plus they are making the most of the holiday by spreading it out over time. (translate: no more constant questions about how long it is until Christmas)
List of ideas to include in your holiday countdown: (these are just random ideas and in no particular order)
- Put stamps on the Christmas cards and go to the post office to mail them.
- Go look at Christmas lights.
- Watch a church Christmas production.
- Go to a garden center and look at real trees or the variety of poinsettias.
- Make snowflakes together.
- Sleep under the Christmas tree. (we did this every year and it was a favorite!)
- Listen to Christmas music. If they’re old enough, take them caroling.
- Watch a Christmas movie together.
- Let your children give to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering at church.
- Have your picture taken with Santa Claus.
- Read the Christmas story together from Luke 2.
- Visit the local library and check out Christmas books together.
- Visit a great-grandparent or someone in a nursing home.
- Take a day trip to the zoo. (it’s always different in the winter time!)
- Write a letter to Santa.
- Go to Boys Ranch Town and drive through their live nativity scene. (Edmond, Oklahoma)
- Make Christmas cookies.
- Make a “Happy Birthday Jesus” cake.
- Let your children put money in a Salvation Army bucket.
- Take your children to a dollar store and let them pick out a present for each other.
- Pack a box for Operation Christmas Child.
- Put together a Christmas puzzle.
- Make a gingerbread house. (this one was never a success at my house, but it’s worth a try)
- Attend a candlelight service at church.
Have fun with this activity and come back tomorrow for part two!