I don’t know about you, but I have always loved Christmas. As a child it was a magical, exciting time of the year; one filled with presents, family, decorations, and the wonder of Santa and what he would bring Christmas morning. Now that I have kids of my own it is even more special because I am seeing Christmas through their eyes. At our house we do elf on the shelf, Santa, and presents and they love every bit of it. However, we try to balance the magic of these fun things with the real meaning of Christmas; the birth of Jesus Christ. For us that is why we celebrate Christmas, but it is easy to get caught up in all the excitement and hype of the season and lose sight of that. I want my children to believe in the magic of Christmas, but more importantly I want them to know that Christmas is so much bigger than Santa and presents.
So if you are looking for ways to teach your children about the true meaning of Christmas, then here are some ideas that you can do to put the “Christ” back in Christmas this year:
Giving to others in need…
Presents are fun, but it’s important for kids to understand that not all children are as fortunate as they are. To help them understand how good it can feel to give to others, they can:
- Have your child buy a toy for a group like Toys for Tots, who will distribute gifts to children in need.
- Order a gift through organizations such as World Vision or Samaritan’s Purse. You and your child can look through their gift catalog and pick out life changing items such as clean drinking water, food, shelter, medicine, warm clothes, and many other meaningful gifts.
- Go to the grocery store and buy food that you can donate to a local food bank. And you can take it a step further and donate your time as well, volunteering at a soup kitchen or food bank.
- Have your child go through their toys, books, and clothes and donate the things they no longer need or use to your local Salvation Army, Goodwill, or other local charity.
- Help your child pick out toys and goodies to pack in a shoe box and send overseas to children in need though Operation Christmas Child, a project by Samaritan’s Purse. You can also track the box you packed so that you can see what country it was sent to.
Doing Good Deeds for Others…
These ideas can be done on their own, or as part of something that your child’s kindness elf or elf on the shelf wants them to do for someone else to brighten their day:
- Bring some homemade goodies to a neighbor.
- Make cookies to bring to your local fire department and police station.
- Make cards for those in nursing homes or for children in the hospital.
- Send cards or care packages to soldiers or veterans.
Remembering Jesus – The True Reason for the Season…
Helping others in need and showing kindness, especially this time of year, are great ways to teach your children about who Jesus is and what he is about. Other ways that we have found to bring Jesus front and center each Christmas season are:
- We do elf on the shelf, but approach it as an elf that comes each Christmas and does fun, silly things; not as a spy who makes sure they behave. My kids love Odo, our elf, and I didn’t want to take that away from them, but I also wanted to find a way to make this game more meaningful. That’s where “The Shepherd’s Treasure” came in. It is similar to elf on the shelf in that it comes with a shepherd doll and a book that explains what it’s all about, but the purpose of the shepherd is to lead your child on a daily journey to learn more about Jesus…our greatest gift and treasure. It also comes with advent cards that you can use each day to share Bible verses related to that day’s part of the journey. And as a bonus it gives you a list of daily ideas of what your shepherd can be doing; so no more stressing out over where you can put the shepherd doll each night!
- Use an advent calendar where each day you add a piece from the nativity story onto the scene.
- Setting up a nativity scene. This can be a toy that is set down low where your child can play with the pieces, or it can be one that sits on display. Either way, you can use a nativity to talk to your child about what each piece represents and retell the story of the birth of Jesus.
- Share not only the story of Jesus’ birth (in story books, with pieces from a nativity scene, or right from your Bible), but also story books that share the legend of the candy cane, why we give gifts, where the Christmas tree idea came from, and even how St. Nicholas came to be. There are also great children’s books telling the story of Jesus’ birth from different characters points of view, like from a donkey, or the animals in the stable.
- Have a fun family movie night watch a Christmas movie like The littlest Angel, or one of the Veggie Tales Christmas movies such as, Merry Larry and the True Light of Christmas, It’s a Meaningful Life, The Little Drummer Boy, or The Star of Christmas. Add in some popcorn and it’s a night of fun and learning about the real reason for the season!
I hope that you find these ideas helpful as you too, look for ways to make this Christmas about more than just Santa and presents. What other things do you do to put “Christ” back in Christmas?