By Lindsay Schlegel
It goes without saying that this year has been different (and weirder) than any most of us have experienced. As my kids’ school suddenly transitioned from in-person to virtual, one thing that has helped me stay hopeful is spending some time carefully selecting Christmas gifts for them.
In eleven years of giving gifts to our children, our family has developed our own traditions. Each child receives one gift from Santa (some of our children still believe in Santa, but not all do—that’s a post for another day!), one from Mom and Dad, and one book from Mom and Dad on Christmas morning. They also have a hand-knit stocking, filled with treats and smaller items, like DVDs and activity books. A favorite food is those single-serving boxes of cereal, which we don’t have any other time of year.
I look forward to watching our children open their gifts on Christmas morning, even more so when I know what’s inside is something they’ll come back to many times over in the year to come. This year in particular, I want to be sure that some of the gifts our children receive will foster and nurture their faith now and into their teenage years and adulthood. Enter Brother Francis!
Here are some of the gifts I have my eye on for our kids (ages 10, 7, 5, 2, and 4 months):
For the little one who has trouble sitting still during Mass: Let’s Go to Mass!
There’s so much that goes on at Mass that we can’t see with our eyes! The more we understand about the Mass, the better able we are to put our hearts into prayer and push distractions aside. This book is a great way to start sharing those realities with our nearly-three-year-old (and to remind myself as I read to him!).
For the child who often has a sword in his hand: DVD Episode 18: The Kingdom
I have four boys, and early on in this parenting journey, I learned that anything—anything!—can become a sword in my children’s eyes. So why not take that interest in good battling evil and direct it toward the spiritual battle that happens in our own lives? My kids will love learning how they can be part of the victory!
For the child who’s gotten caught up in receiving, rather than giving: DVD Episode 7: O Holy Night, The King Is Born
The week between Christmas and New Year’s is a time of rest and family togetherness for us. After a day of playing with the kids’ aunts and uncles, we can curl up on the couch and draw our attention back to the reason for the season. Christmas isn’t just one day, after all!
For the child preparing for First Confession: DVD Episode 4: Forgiven!
Our second-grader is getting ready to make his First Confession, and this episode is a great way to reinforce what he’s learning in his religious education classes, while prompting discussion and making time and space for his questions at home. It’s something the whole family can enjoy and learn from.
For the child who’s missing music class, due to quarantine: Let’s Sing! Audio CD
I’ve been taking our kids to a local mommy and me music class for years, but this year, that’s not possible. This CD is the perfect alternative for both my almost-preschooler and my infant to enjoy.
For the little guy who wants to do virtual school, too: A is for Angel App
It’s tough for my three-year-old to understand why the big kids are on screens so much these days, but he can’t be. This app bridges the gap, even if it doesn’t fit in a gift bag. Really, it’s a win-win: he gets to play on our tablet, and I know he’s learning more about the love God has for him.
For the budding artist: Let’s Pray: Coloring and Activity Book
Whenever she’s not playing with her brothers, you can find my little girl coloring or drawing. This book gives her ample room to put her crayons to use, while fostering her understanding of prayer and desire to stay close to God.
For everyone’s stockings: My Heavenly Friends: Prayer Card Collection
What a steal! I can take this collection of 70 durable, laminated prayer cards and divide it up between my kids’ stockings. While I’ll miss gifting it in the colorful box it comes in, I also like the idea of being able to add a card or two to gifts for cousins, godchildren, and friends. Every little bit helps mold children’s hearts for the Lord!
Also for stockings: Devotional Fans
These fans are a genius way for kids to participate in the rosary, the traditional stations of the cross, and saint prayers at their own speed. I may gift my children all the same one, or put a different set in each stocking, knowing they’ll share them as the occasion allows.
Of course I don’t want to skip over the Advent season, but with this list, I’m as excited as my children to get to the gifts on Christmas morning. I’m grateful to have in Brother Francis a trusted resource for fun gifts that will make a lasting impression on my children and help me achieve my ultimate goal as a parent: guiding my children to Heaven.
Lindsay Schlegel is the author of Don't Forget to Say Thank You: And Other Parenting Lessons That Brought Me Closer to God. She and her high-school-sweetheart-turned-husband live in New Jersey with their five children.