Advent begins the Christian new year, and everyone — from the youngest to the oldest member — should celebrate. Making Chrismon ornaments that convey the life of Christ is a time-honored tradition. Another is the calendar with a little piece of candy behind the numbered windows counting down the days until Christmas. However, if you do the same thing year after year, these traditions can become stagnant. Consider these new ideas to celebrate Advent with children.
1. Advent chain — Make an Advent chain that includes ministry activities children can do. Make a link for each day from the first Sunday in Advent, Dec. 2, through Dec. 25. Symbolizing penitence and royalty, make purple links and a white link for Christmas Day. On each link, write an activity to do as a group or church or with parents or guardians. The possibilities are endless. Tailor the activities to your church’s size and the needs of your community. Ideas include:
- Bake cookies for your local fire department.
- Make paper snowflakes.
- Do a good deed for your neighbor.
- Have each member of your family finish the sentence: “To me, Christmas means….”
- Read your favorite Christmas story.
- Drink cocoa from Christmas mugs.
- Make Christmas gift tags.
2. Baby boy birth announcement — When a family welcomes a new baby, they often send a birth announcement to friends and family. Children can celebrate the birth of Jesus like this as well. Have children work together to create a birth announcement for Jesus — complete with a footprint from a baby in the nursery, with the consent of the infant's parents. Make two copies per child — one to keep and one to share to spread the news of Jesus’ birth.
3. Christmas Bingo — For young non-readers, or people who are youthful, create a Bingo board of different Christmas pictures. Make nine 1-inch squares on a word-processing document and paste a different Christmas clipart image in each square. Use a manger with straw, a star, a cow, a candle, a shepherd with sheep, an angel, Mary, a gift and a donkey. Print a Bingo game card for each child with rearranged images on different cards. Using either small candies or bingo tokens, have children place the item on each figure when you describe it with clues.
- Straw: "I am all golden brown, where Mary laid her baby down."
- Star: "I shined brightly in the sky over baby Jesus that first night."
- Cow: "I mooed with joy so sweet and breathed on baby Jesus' feet."
- Candle: "I have a warm, soft glow that lit that room so long ago."
- Shepherd: "I am keeper of the sheep who came to watch the baby sleep."
- Angel: "I told of Christ's birth. I shouted the message, 'Peace on Earth!' "
- Mary: "I am the mother of this baby boy. To serve God completely is my heart's greatest joy."
- Gift: "I was brought by the wise men to worship this baby born to be King."
- Donkey: "I walked a long road with Mary, the mother, as my heavy load."
4. Memories for the New Year — Reflect on the previous year and capture children’s memories that can become part of your family and church story. Capture these on camera, draw pictures, write songs or have older children journal. Discipleship Ministries suggests some great questions, including:
- What was your favorite thing that our family did together this year?
- Who are your best friends? What do you like the most about them?
- How is Sunday school this year? What do you like most about Sunday school?
- What do you like to daydream about?
- What was your favorite thing that our church did together this year?
5. Build a nativity snack — Gingerbread house kits are in abundance at Christmas, but bring Jesus back to the focus of Christmas and build a Nativity set. Each class or family will need four large pretzel rods, two graham crackers, one Hershey Treasure candy, one Tootsie Roll candy, two pretzel sticks, one marshmallow, five animal crackers and the Nativity snack directions. (You also will need waxed paper and a container of frosting.)
- Christmas Gifts That Won’t Break: An Advent Study for Children
- A Different Kind of Christmas: Living and Giving Like Jesus (children’s study)
- Pockets, devotional magazine for children
- Celebrating Advent in the Home
- Children’s Activities for the Christian Year