Ideas for Sharing Jesus with Young Children This Christmas

Like most mothers, I have high hopes for the weeks and days leading up to Christmas.  With a houseful of children 3 and under, I envision rich traditions and excitement for all.  In my mind, we calmly put up dozens of ornaments, read long passages of scripture as a family by candlelight, and marvel at the presents piling under the tree.  The main issue with this vision?  I'm pretending that my very young children are as capable as 10-yr-olds.  I'm ignoring and wishing away this season of life, hoping for the future days of good tidings and great joy, feeling a little resentful that today's Christmas season looks pretty different.

Instead of decking-the-halls with complex activities, our Christmas season looks like a 3ft tree with no breakable items attached.  It looks like hiding all presents in the basement, because we know they would be ripped and opened within a few minutes of being placed under the tree.  It looks like early bedtimes and telling stories with our "Little People" nativity set.  And there can be joy in this too...

So what about the rest of you out there with very young children, feeling a little let down because Christmas doesn't look exactly like you envisioned?

Here are a few ideas to build anticipation and talk about Jesus with young kids in December:

  • Sing songs together.  
    • Kids of all ages love songs, especially if you use actions (and they don't know if you make them up on the fly).  A lot of traditional Christmas carols actually have excellent doctrinal lessons, so you can teach them as you fa-la-la.  Also, for moms of infants, this is a great activity to do with your baby.  Linger for a few more moments in the rocking chair and sing O Holy Night.  
  • Do short and easily accessible seasonal activities.  
    • Warm chocolate milk, put everyone in their car seats and drive around to look at a few lights, cut some holes in your coffee filters and call them snowflakes - you get the gist!  Preschoolers and young toddlers are easily impressed, so use that to your advantage. 
  • Play pretend.  
    • Assign your kids different characters in the Christmas story and act it out.  We have an infant at home, and our older boys love pretending he is baby Jesus.  They bring him 'gifts' like the wise men, announce his coming like the angels and run to see him like the shepherds.  No fancy costumes are needed, just some imagination!
  • Use toys as illustrations.  
    • If you have toddlers or preschoolers, it's worth investing in a nativity set that can be played with, even if it's a hand-me-down.  Throughout the day, talk about the different people in the scene and make a big deal about God's gift of Jesus.  
  • Put up kid-friendly decorations.  
    • Of course, everyone has that 'thing' they love to have out at Christmas that the kids can't touch, but it's wise to have at least some decorations they can interact with.  Maybe it's a felt Christmas tree, some cheap plastic ornaments or a big stuffed snowman, but it's helpful to have something you can say yes to.  Let them have fun, enjoying the sights and textures of the season.
  • Encourage the longing.
    • It's hard for young children to wait for things, and that is especially true as Christmas celebrations draw near.  As they ask for presents and events, capture that longing and talk about that excitement in terms of waiting for Jesus.  It might sound dorky as it's coming out of your mouth, but your kids won't notice.
Remember that the best way to show and tell our kids about Jesus is to live out the gospel.  To be changed women who model a lifestyle of clinging to the great gift of Jesus Christ when we fall short.
More than our perfect activities, our children will remember our habits and attitudes.
Just the other day I was standing at the computer and my 3 year old asked,
"Mommy, are you mad?"
"No, sweetheart!" I said (wondering why he thought that to begin with).
Upon further reflection, I realized I was rather stressed trying to shop on Cyber Monday, and maybe that stress was showing up on my face and in my body language.  That was a good reminder to close the computer, smile and enter into playtime with my children.

Definitely keep it simple.
If you are dealing with children under the age of 4, comprehension and attention spans are going to be limited.  The key is to start planting seeds - basic truths to build on for years to come.  Lord willing, there are many years to tell them all the exciting stories surrounding Christmas.  You don't have to do it all when they are tiny!

We don't want our lofty expectations to stand in the way of our children having joy in Jesus.  So let's all take a deep breath, take on childlike faith, and set down our idealistic picture of the perfect Christmas season!

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