It may seem overkill to do these games and activities and crafts when we already do an advent countdown where we frequently talk about the real meaning of Christmas. Here's why I like to do a little extra: In our society, Santa seems to easily be categorized as the "fun" part of Christmas and Jesus as the "serious" part. There is an element of truth to the fact that Jesus' birth was a very serious occasion, but it's also cause for great celebration and I want the boys to look back on Christmas and remember the fun things they did to commemorate his birth and have great memories wrapped up in learning about him.
You can look at our playdate post from last year here. Knowing that my energy levels might be lacking this year due to growing a human being, I bought quite a few of the activities, but many of these could be made with a little creativity. Here's some ways we've celebrated the real meaning of Christmas this year:
Lacing Cards ($5.99 for set of 12)- These were fun. We just used the yarn provided and I showed the boys how to "sew" around the edges. Isaac did pretty well and Silas made up his own system and thoroughly enjoyed himself. ;) We talked about what each picture represented as they carefully chose the piece they would lace next.
|Silas concentrating on getting the string in and out of the holes... order is not important. ;)|
Nativity Wheel ($4.99 per dozen)- The boys liked this too, though, no matter how often we try, they just aren't super into coloring yet. I don't know if it's a boy thing, an attention span thing or something entirely different. They spent about 30 seconds coloring the different scenes and then got really excited to put the "nail" as they called it, in the middle (just a brad to hold the two circle together).
|They look like they really like it though, don't they?|
Isaac liked spinning the wheel to reveal the next part of the story.
|Adding the "nail"|
Story Sequencing Cards ($2.99 per set)- These have probably gotten the most use so far from our little pile of activities. This is just a set of sturdy cards with different scenes from the story of Jesus' birth depicted on them. We mixed them up and then Isaac told ME the story by finding the correct scene that came next and explaining it to me. He needed a little help the first time to make sure he knew what part of the story the pictures represented, but now he frequently gets them out, mixes them up and shows me that he knows how the story goes. Such a GREAT way for him to really internalize the story as he re-tells it in his own words. Probably the most beneficial "game" in the group.
Christmas Bingo ($4.00 for a set)- This has been a close second, as far as enjoyment and use, after the story sequencing cards. The boys love this Nativity Bingo game and it's set up simple enough that Silas can easily play and each character is depicted on each card (just in a different order), so they get the joy of covering a square every time a new picture is called out.
|My boys are so stinkin' cute. You have no idea how hard it is for me to narrow down which pictures I'm going to include in posts. ;)|
It was a fun way to review the elements of the Christmas story and my boys have requested to play it several times since. Check out this FREE version you can download at Commotion from the Ocean of Life if you'd like to give it a try now!
|These are the different pictures on the Bingo cards. I removed the "little drummer boy" card, because, well, it drives me crazy when he gets included as a character in the Christmas story... though I will admit, the song is pretty catchy!|
Nativity Sticker Puzzle ($2.99 for 24)- This one was really fun and could be a great (and ridiculously easy) Christmas countdown in the future. There are 25 numbered stickers that are all part of a nativity scene that are all jumbled up. On the reverse side of the sticker page are 25 squares with the numbers. You match the correct numbered sticker with the correct box and when it's all filled up, voila!, a fun nativity scene picture.
Isaac LOVED it and raced to get his done as quickly as possible. Silas and I worked a little more slowly on ours together. The package came with 2 dozen and Isaac has already asked to make it again. I'm sure we'll be doing it several times every year for a few years. :)
|Using his tongue to make him extra speedy.|
Some of these, like the lacing cards, sequencing cards and bingo could be made without purchasing anything with a little creativity and time (and there's a free template out there already made and available for the bingo). The nativity wheel and sticker puzzle would be much more difficult; however, the prices on Oriental Trading Co. are really very reasonable. Since Oriental Trading Co.'s merchandise can change from year to year, maybe you could purchase some of the activities above this year to have for next year. These would all make great "Day After Thanksgiving Gifts" or would be perfect for Sunday School classrooms since most of them come with multiple sets to do with a group.
Disclaimer: As with just about every nativity picture that out there, most of the above sets include the wise men at the manger scene. Scripture tells us that the wise men visited Jesus at a house (Mt. 2:11), not a stable, so the boys and I frequently discuss the fact that the shepherds were the ones who came to see him in the manger and the wise men came a little later. This may seem nitpicky, since the wise men definitely ARE part of the Christmas story, but I like to use these kinds of opportunities to begin teaching my boys discernment when I see an error concerning Scripture. I actually think it can be beneficial in some ways to allow these incorrect details in order to create discussion. I feel like it's a great way to teach them that EVERYTHING, even stuff based on the Bible has to be compared to God's Word. I had a great conversation with Isaac the other day as a direct result of the wise men issue about how the Bible always has the final say and that it is the only thing we can trust as being right every.single.time.
I hope some of these ideas look fun for your kiddos and you can do a little Christmas review with your family that creates a fun memory as well!