I am so grateful that wise women ahead of me in motherhood taught me that it's never too early to teach big truths to little kids. It's beneficial to approach things like Christmas and the meaning of life and life after death from a grand, theological perspective, even when kids are young. Mentor parents told Mark and me to dish up the truth early and often, in ways and with words that our kids could understand. As far as Christmas is concerned, a great way to do that with very young children is with toys and tactile activities that they can do throughout Advent to prepare their young hearts for the coming of Jesus. By way of encouraging the younger moms who read this blog, here are my favorites:
The hanging nativity advent calendar allows us to countdown to Christmas and provides for at least a few minutes a day to remember what Advent is actually about. I love that it assists us in recounting the historicity of the first coming of Christ, as we add camels and sheep to the scene in Bethlehem. The Fisher Price play set and the nativity window clings serve the same purpose. They point to Jesus' birth being a real event and they allow the kids to play with the characters of Christ's incarnation. My kids all played with these toys for hours every Christmastime. I think we left the Little People with friends when we moved away from Japan, but we still have the window clings and the girls still (as teens and pre-teens!) enjoy sticking and re-sticking them on our windows throughout December.
I love children's books and have been known to cart a library across both the Pacific and the Atlantic Oceans. Listen, when you aren't guaranteed an English-language library in your future city, carrying books becomes more important than carrying underwear, because underwear shops are usually a given. But I digress.
Beautiful, colorful, and truthful books about Christmas are a must for every Christian family. When we had our first child, my step-sister started a tradition of giving us a Christmas book every year. These books have become a treasure trove and I love her idea. Board books for toddlers are a great start and you can grow with a couple of sweet books each year. We not only have books about Jesus' birth, but we also have books about snowmen and Christmas trees and the like. Because we raised our girls overseas (in a tropical location, no less), I wanted them to at least be exposed to snow and Christmas traditions through books.
Here are some of my favorite Christmas books for young children:
Song of the Stars, Who is Coming to Our House (a board book), and Room for a Little One are all delightful reads for a young child. The Very First Christmas is a longer, historically accurate, and artistic book, which is better for a slightly older child (we often took a few days to read the whole thing--I remember well how it feels to be tucking in a toddler and looking purposefully for books with minimal words on each page!). I would encourage you to collect as many books as you can about Jesus' birth. It's so fun every year to pull out the boxes and remember the titles and pictures with your babes.
And lastly, here are two ideas that I've never done myself, but seem really great: going through Advent using Truth in Tinsel and making a Jesse Tree. What I like about Truth in Tinsel is that everyday gives you a little bit of Scripture and a coloring craft for your kids--basically a simple and biblical devotion to do each day of Advent.
I'll be honest, I tried to do a Jesse Tree once and I totally failed. I was defeated by the ornaments and time required. But I have many, many friends who do this every year. They gather with 24 other women and each one makes 25 versions of the same ornament and then they exchange them in time for Advent. This amount of craftiness is just too much for me, but I love the results displayed in my friends' homes. There are many ways to do a Jesse Tree, so look around for what fits you best. I also like the idea for Easter, when fewer crafty ideas are milling about.
Advent is in 20 days, so get your orders made!