Presents are an exciting part of Christmas–especially for little kids–but if you’re looking to make Christmas mean a little bit more for your family, here are some ideas to set the tone for a more Christ-centered holiday.
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Can you believe it’s December? The weather has finally turned cold here, and we’re breaking out the hot chocolate and fuzzy socks. Christmas is nearly upon us! How is your Christmas season going so far? Are you reveling in the Christmas spirit or stressed out by your mile-long to-do list (or maybe a little of both)?
Our tree is lit and decorated, my boys have made ridiculous Christmas lists filled with things like robot dinosaurs and a trampoline (Seriously? Throw mom a bone, kids!), and my house smells like cinnamon and pine. Mmm.
I love Christmastime. As we have transitioned from Thanksgiving to Christmas this year, however, I’ve thought a lot about what I really want for my family this season.
A few weeks ago, while I was at the Target customer service desk picking up an online order, I looked over and saw Little Brother (3) sitting on the floor, poring over the Christmas toy catalog they had on display. Here’s the conversation that followed:
Little Brother: Can we buy this book, Mom? It’s SOO cool!
Me: You can just have it, Buddy. They don’t cost money.
Little Brother: They don’t?! (Incredulous)
Me: No, they give you the book for free because they want you to look at the things inside and buy THOSE things.
Little Brother: Mom, I want to buy ALL the things.
Yep, that’s my boy.
Presents are an exciting part of Christmas, especially for little kids. However, as I’ve considered our family’s plans and activities this season, I’ve realized I want Christmas to be about more than the presents, gingerbread houses, and holiday parties–as much fun as those things are.
As good old Dr. Seuss taught us through his timeless story of the Grinch, “What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more?”
I want Christmas to mean more to my kids. I want it to be about giving more than getting. I want it to be about remembering the real reason we celebrate and sharing the light of Christ with those around us. I want to help my children understand that each of us–even when we’re little–is responsible for making our own little corner of the world a little bit brighter and better.
Sometimes I mistakenly think that because my kids are too young to grasp the complexities of the world that they won’t understand the need to serve. But they aren’t too young to share their love. And my kids always surprise me by how much they truly do understand.
So, although we’re still decorating a tree and shopping for presents, we’re also taking time to serve and love and spread so Christmas cheer wherever we can.
Want to add a little more meaning to your Christmas?
Here are a few ideas to get your family headed in the right direction toward a more Christ-centered holiday.
5 Ways to Make Christmas Meaningful for Little Kids
1. Play Christmas music
Music is a great way to set the tone in your home for the season. The rule in our house is that as soon as Thanksgiving dinner is over, the Christmas music comes on. I have always known it was a way to add a touch of festivity to the air, but I underestimated music’s ability to teach my children powerful lessons as well.
Until last week one day when Little Brother and I were playing on the floor of our family room while Christmas music played in the background. In the middle of “The First Noel,” Little Brother stopped what he was doing and said, “Hey Mom, this song is about Jesus.”
I hadn’t even realized he was paying attention to the song. But perhaps that’s the point. It was one of those moments where I was reminded that little choices we make as parents can make a big difference over time.
2. Read stories of Christmas…the real story
There are TONS of books about Christmas that go beyond the surface-level Santa and reindeer plot line. We love snuggling under a fuzzy blanket next to the Christmas tree and reading stories together. Find books that tell the nativity story so that your children can become familiar with the characters.
I have a pile of Christmas books that I got from the library spread around my Christmas tree so that my kids can pull them out and look at them any time. I love how picture books make the nativity story more accessible to youngsters.
3. Act out the nativity story
Since before I can remember, my family has acted out the nativity story before going to bed on Christmas Eve. Some years it was more reverent than others, but even the silly times helped us to remember the real meaning of Christmas before getting wrapped up in Santa coming on Christmas morning.
Now I do this with my own kids. We dress up in bathrobes or whatever other costumes we can find. Fancy boxes and jars become the wise men’s gifts. And on years when we’re lucky enough to have a baby around, we can really imagine how small Jesus was when he came to earth as a child, just like all of us.
So, get the kids involved. Let them pick their roles, teach them what to say, and let it become a meaningful tradition each year.
4. Have a kid-friendly nativity set available for play
For now, we have a paper doll-style nativity that we printed for free, and my kids love it, too. If you go this route, just be sure to laminate it to make it more durable. This is the one we currently have. My boys love to move the pieces around and retell the story themselves.
- Here’s another printable nativity that kids can color themselves
- And some more nativity coloring pages
Little things like this allow my kids to interact with the story, to talk about the characters, and to retell the story in their own words. As they become more familiar with the story, I hope it’s preparing them to understand its significance as they get older. At the very least, it’s a visual reminder in the midst of all of the candy canes and Santas plastered around town that Christmas is really about Christ.
5. Spend the month giving service
In the month of November my kids and I played random acts of kindness Bingo, and it was a great success. We made “thank you” signs for the garbage man, cards for teachers and grandparents, and treats for neighbors. For December, we’ve decided to continue the challenge in a slightly different way.
We are joining the “Light the World” initiative this Christmas season by reading short scriptures about Christ each day and reaching out to those around us to do acts of service. You can learn more about the Light the World campaign here. There’s a printable calendar of suggested activities for adults, and a more kid-friendly version here.
If you’d rather come up with your own list of ways to serve and give during the season, here are some more ideas, many of which I’ve done with my kids:
- Sponsor a child for a Sub for Santa or from the Salvation Army Angel Tree
- Give money to a Salvation Army bell-ringer while you’re out shopping
- Invite your child to do some extra chores to earn money that they can donate (win-win!)
- Deliver treats to neighbors
- Donate old toys (here’s an idea to make this fun)
- Donate food or supplies to a food bank or homeless shelter
- Send homemade cards to family members that live far away
- Practice singing a Christmas song and virtually go “caroling” to family members or friends on Face Time or Google Hangouts (or you could just go caroling in real life)
- Let someone go ahead of you in line
- Hold the door open for someone.
- Write thank you notes to teachers, bus drivers, janitors, or anyone!
- Make a homemade gift for someone
- smile and say hello to people you see
- pick up trash
Giving service doesn’t have to be expensive or complicated. In fact I think it’s important to show kids that giving kindness and service can be done no matter how much or how little money you have. But as our children contribute in small ways with our families, they develop habits of compassion that will–hopefully–become a way of life.
May you find much peace, love, and many little (and big) joys for the coming year!
What do you do to make Christmas meaningful for your family?