By Anne Metz
Advent in the Catholic Church is a beautiful season of hopeful anticipation. But, it can be hard to teach our children that when the world around them seems to be celebrating Christmas before it even gets here! We’ve compiled a list of simple activities you can do as a family to teach your children the true meaning of Advent.
Decorate Using Advent Colors
Looking for a simple Advent activity the kids are sure to love? Decorate! Hold off on all the Christmas decorations and fill your home instead with the colors of Advent: pink and purple.
Advent decorations aren’t super common in the stores, so you might have to get creative. Start by putting out your Advent wreath in a prominent place. Then, hit up a fabric store and grab a bit of purple fabric to use as a swag on your mantle (you can re-use this for Lent too!). Or you could make a purple and pink paper chain with your kids and hang it up. This is a cute decoration and could also serve as a countdown to Jesus’ birth. How about making your own placemats for the table? Print out Advent coloring sheets for your kids to color, then laminate or cover them with contact paper for a simple decoration.
Use Your Nativity
A Nativity set in your home is a lovely reminder of the true meaning of Christmas. But, instead of just putting it out as a decoration, why not use your Nativity set to teach your children the Christmas story?
Here are a few simple ways to actively incorporate your Nativity into Advent:
- Invest in a Nativity set for children that they can play with.
- Don’t add baby Jesus until Christmas morning.
- Set up your Creche but only add the animals. Place Mary and Jesus far away and have your children move them a little closer each day.
- Divide up the characters from your nativity set evenly between your children. Then, grab your favorite book explaining the Christmas story and read it out loud to your kids (if you don’t have a favorite already, this one is great for elementary school age children!). When their character appears in the story, have them act out what’s happening with their character.
- The story ends with all the characters in their rightful place in the stable.
Advent Wreath for Kids
Lighting the candles in the wreath every night is a great way to teach your kids the true meaning of Advent. If you don’t have an Advent wreath yet, consider getting one that works well for a family with young children - think sturdy with flameless candles.
Let your children either light or turn on the candle each evening. Then, read a prayer or a little bit of the Christmas story to your children. Or, keep it simple. My family says, “Jesus, show us your light, every day and every night” as we light the candles.
Count Down With a Calendar
Reinforce the season of waiting and anticipation with an Advent Calendar. Kids love to open a door each day and count how many days left until Christmas. There are tons to choose from, but try to stick to a religious-themed one to help your kids keep Jesus in their minds.
A Jesse Tree is a great way to teach your kids about the true meaning of Christmas. Each day you and your family read through the story of the Bible, starting with the creation story and ending with the birth of Jesus. Each day is represented by an ornament which is then placed on the Jesse Tree. Our family has a book that we read every day, and we purchased a set of wooden ornaments to hang on our Jesse tree. Actually, our Jesse tree is a wreath! There are so many Jesse Trees and ornaments out there. If you have very young children, you might opt for a felt tree with felt ornaments. If you are a crafty family, create your own ornaments together!
Another way to celebrate this season of waiting is to sing together. While the radio stations fill the airwaves with songs about reindeer and Santa and presents, your family can fill your home with music about the birth of Jesus. If your family isn’t the singing type, you can still listen to music at home. Here are some song suggestions to get you started:
- Come O Come Emmanuel
- Hark the Herald Angels Sing
- Ave Maria
- Mary Did You Know?
- Handel’s Messiah
- Soon and Very Soon
- The First Noel
- Holy Night
Teaching our children about the true meaning of Christmas starts with teaching them about Advent. We hope you find some activities above that your family can do together to enjoy this sweet season of waiting for our King.
Looking for even more ways to celebrate Advent with the kids? Check out our Brother Francis Advent Bundle, featuring stories and DVDs to celebrate the season.
Anne Metz works as a part-time freelance writer and spends the other part getting kids off the bus, breaking up fights, doing laundry, cooking, and cleaning up after her son and triplet daughters. She is passionate about meeting people where they are in their faith journey and with her writing, hopes to inspire people to find or deepen their relationship with Jesus right here in our beautiful Catholic faith. You can find more of her work at Inherited Faith.