Call me Scrooge, but I’m not really a big fan of the saying “Christmas is for kids.” I get the intent behind it, but it just doesn’t line up with my beliefs. It’s tough to boil down to one sentence, but I believe that Christmas is the time for all people to celebrate Jesus’ birth by showing love to one another. I don’t want my kids to grow up thinking that Christmas is all about their personal enjoyment and gifts, but think that there are many ways to help them enjoy the holiday as a time of giving and learning.
It’s easy to get so wrapped up in buying your kids the perfect presents, and let the Christmas season whiz by without thinking about the actual meaning and spirit of the season. This year, more than ever, I’m making an effort to simplify the “extra junk” that comes along with Christmas (being about eight months pregnant really made it a necessity!), and instead, focus on using it as a time to teach my son about our family’s Christian faith, and to spread some holiday cheer.
This will be our third Christmas with Oliver, but it’s the first year he’s finally starting to understand that there is something special about this time of year. We’re trying hard to allow him the chance to learn and experience both the spiritual and secular aspects of Christmas this year. As Christians, Nick and I believe that the truly important message of Christmas is that of God’s love sent to Earth in the form of his son, and I want to do my best to teach this to Oliver at a young age. However, I also think that figures and traditions like Santa Claus can be another way to teach kids kindness and get them excited about the holiday, so we’re happy to take Oliver to meet Santa, and enjoy other non religious activities.
If you’re looking to bring a little more meaning to your families’ Christmas, some simple ideas for kids are below:
Teach your kids a simple Christmas carol or hymn, and the meaning behind the song (so far, I haven’t had much success with any songs beyond Jingle Bells…not the deepest of songs, but we’ll get there next year!).
Buy a kid friendly nativity scene – we have a Little People Nativity, and Oliver has taken a funny liking to “Mawy” (Mary). He doesn’t truly understand much about the Christmas story, but I think we’re planting the seeds for him to learn more later on.
Use Advent as a time to remind your kids to complete small acts of kindness. The Kindness Elves have some great ideas, and I hope to incorporate similar ideas into our home next year.
Watch a Christmas classic like the Grinch as a family, and talk about the messages in the show, rather than just plopping the kids in front of the TV (um, because I NEVER do that).
Create a Christmas craft together- there are plenty of great ideas on Pinterest. (I have a new obsession with thumb print crafts…so easy and just enough mess to satisfy a toddler without causing you to lose your sanity!) A craft doesn’t need to be fancy or super complicated to be memorable – stickers and crayons may just make for the perfect craft if you have a young one!
Travel back in time at a Living Nativity – these are often put on by churches, and are dramatic retellings of the Christmas story, often a walking tour with several scenes of live actors and even animals. This is a great way to bring the Christmas story to life for your kids, especially as they are in preschool and beyond. (We took Oliver to the Friendship Church nativity year, and while he was definitely intrigued, he loudly asked “Where’s more donkeys?” from start to finish…we had fun, but I’m thinking next year things might start to “click” more!)
Bake a Birthday Cake for Jesus – I like this visual (and tasty!) way to introduce younger kids to the idea of Christmas being about Jesus birth. I think we’ll try this out this year, as my son loves to sing Happy Birthday and is also very into “helping” in the kitchen, so I think this will kind of cement the idea of Christmas being Jesus’ birthday.
Start a tradition of picking a favorite Christmas book, and read it together as a family each year on Christmas Eve. Growing up, my dad read“Twas the Night Before Christmas” to me and my sister each year, and I grew to look forward to it even as I got older, and plan to do the same with my son as a way to take the focus off the gifts and food, and just snuggle up together as a family at the end of the night.
If you have older kids, involve them in shopping for gifts for those in need, through organizations like Salvation Army, Volunteers of America (I really like their adopt-a-family program), or Toys for Tots. While many adopt a family programs are closed for the year, it’s not too late to find a drop off box for groups like Toys for Tots. Think about buying for kids in a similar age group to your kids, and ask them to help you think of gift ideas. They’ll probably have some great ideas, but also start to think about their own good fortune. There are some good conversation starters (and book suggestions) about talking to your kids about poverty on the Doing Good Together site, that may help guide you in conversations about helping others.