Putting away Baby Jesus?

Like many of you we have the Little People Nativity set by Fisher Price. My girls LOVE it! Last year after playing with it all through Advent and the Christmas season, it was time to pack it up with all of our other decorations. As we cleaned I would put it in the storage box and my girls would pull Baby Jesus out and put him back with their other Little People. They complained that they wanted to keep playing with him and after a few times I realized just what I really was doing. As the holiday season comes to a close for some of you and you are putting away decorations, consider the lesson I learned that day–don’t put away Baby Jesus.

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Many think of Christmas as one day but really the Christmas season extends until January 6, the Feast of the Epiphany, when the wisemen came. You know the song “The 12 Days of Christmas”? These are the 12 days. Some cultures even wait until then to exchange presents.

I have some friends who won’t even let their children play with their Little People Nativity because Jesus is one to be revered not tossed around.  And while I can understand what they are saying I disagree.  This past year as I watched Baby Jesus be pulled around in a tractor and attend princess parties I couldn’t help but think that this is exactly what I want for my daughters–for them to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.  I want my girls to feel him throughout their day-to-day lives, not just on Sunday.

Baby Jesus

Jesus taking a ride

Another nativity set our children love

Another nativity set our children love

Now I know my children need a great deal more in their spiritual upbringing and this is just a toy, but those toys are a great reminder for us adults to make sure we continue to make Jesus a focus in our lives as we get back into the “normal” swing of things.

So when packing up your children’s nativity set this year, consider leaving it out for a little while longer.  Let your kids continue to play with the Holy Family with the rest of their play things.  I hear Jesus can be a great influence on the other toys.

This is why it's a good idea to have a children's nativity.... otherwise they will play with yours.

This is why it’s a good idea to have a children’s nativity…. Here are my girls playing with our “fancy” nativity.

P.S. If you don’t have a children’s nativity, consider getting one in time for next year.

Good Deeds for Jesus

It’s easy to get caught up in the holiday season and start to miss the real focus.  So, to get ready for the coming of Jesus we have been adding straw to his manger.  Each time the girls do a good deed this Advent season, they add a piece of staw (yellow yarn) to the empty manger.  We want Jesus to have a nice, cozy place to sleep so we want to add lots of straw.

In our family Nativity the Jesus is attached to the manger so I made a manger out of cardstock.  I just colored it to look like wood and then folded/taped it together.  I’ve included the pattern I used to make it, which you can easily adjust to fit the size you need.

Click Here for Manger Template

On Christmas Day when we add Jesus to the Nativity scene, I will just put the yellow yarn on the stable floor under the ceramic Jesus.

The girls are loving adding straw to the manger.  And we really like the focus being on good deeds for Jesus as opposed to avoiding bad behavior for Santa.  After all, Jesus is the reason for the season!

Homemade Advent Calendar

Advent started this past Sunday.  I had meant to have this finished and posted by then but life got in the way.  Anyway, this year I wanted to do more to celebrate Advent with the girls as we prepare for the coming Christmas season.  Towards that goal I made our own Advent calendar with activities to celebrate the season.

Supplies: cardstock (red and green), glue, stickers, twine, clothespins

This was super simple.  I cut red cardstock into rectangles (mine were 3.5″ by 5″).  I debated using the colors of the Advent candles, but decided to wait until the girls were older to add in that aspect.  So the tabs were red and then I cut the numbers out of green using my Cricut.  You could just as easily use number stickers or write them by hand.

On the back of each one I wrote a message or activity for the day.  Each day we will turn over a card to see what it says.  Keep in mind what events you already have scheduled.  Here are some of the messages I included:

  • Advent is when we get ready for Jesus’ birthday.
  • God loves you so much!  He is always with you!
  • Buy toys for those who won’t get any at Christmas.
  • Say a special prayer for someone who needs extra help.
  • Go to church with your family.
  • Help make Christmas presents today.
  • Be extra nice to your sister today.
  • Learn a new Christmas carol today.
  • Help feed and take care of Hero. (Our dog, this is a chore they haven’t done before).
  • Draw a special Christmas picture.
  • Do a Christmas craft today.
  • Tell a family member the story of Jesus and the first Christmas.
  • Bake Christmas cookies today.
  • (For the Immaculate Conception) Say a special prayer to Mary today.
  • (On Christmas Eve) Happy Birthday Jesus!  Sing Happy Birthday to Baby Jesus!

To included the girls in this activity I had them decorate the cards with stickers and then help me hang the pieces up.  At first I liked the plain cards better but I knew that the girls would like being a part of it and this would make it more meaningful.  Now I enjoy the colorful cards so much that I think we’ll have to add stickers each day to the backsides of the cards as we read them.  🙂

Happy Advent!

Mr. Willowby’s Christmas Tree

The girls love Christmas trees so much this holiday season that I decided to do a little mini-theme on them, inspired by the classic Mr. Willowby’s Christmas Tree by Robert E. Barry.  In the story wealthy Mr. Willowby gets a huge tree that doesn’t fit in his house so he cuts off the top.  The top is passed along where once again it is too big and the top gets chopped.  Mr. Willowby ends up providing many with a Christmas tree, including the maid, the bears, and the mice.

We did felt board stories, learned about the life cycle of a tree, sang songs, and even made our own little trees, all leading up to decorating our family Christmas tree. We actually spread the everything out over two days, setting up the tree the first day and actually decorating it the second after all of our activities..

Skills: counting, science, math concepts (classification),fine motor, art, music, letter recognition
Prep: medium (if you have the supplies it really is a low prep time)

 Felt Board Christmas Trees

Supplies: felt board, green felt (I used two pieces of green felt from the craft store)

I cut out 10 fir trees out of green felt with the trees starting small and getting progressively bigger. I then layered the trees on the felt board to make one big tree.  As we read the following poem, we would take a tree off of the big one and add it to the board so that the number of trees would grow out of the bits of one tree just like in Mr. Willowby’s Christmas Tree.

One Christmas tree big and strong
Two Christmas trees, one short, one long

There are three trees so cute and green
One big, one small, one in between

Counting trees, one, two, three, four
I wonder if I’ll see some more

On the board now there are five
Those trees are doing a Christmas jive

All different trees are in the mix
So now our trees will number six

If I add yet another tree
Then seven trees stand before me

Oh wow isn’t it so great
All our trees add up to eight

In front of me I see a line
Of Christmas trees that number nine

A forest now we do see
A forest full of ten fir trees

While the trees were all out we looked at which one were bigger and smaller and counted them again on the board.  Then we sang the following song based on 10 Little Indians:

One merry, two merry, three merry Christmas trees, Four merry, five merry, six merry Christmas trees, Seven merry, eight merry, nine merry Christmas trees, Ten merry Christmas trees there.

Ten merry, nine merry, eight merry Christmas trees, Seven merry, six merry, five merry Christmas trees, Four merry, three merry, two merry Christmas trees, One merry Christmas tree there.

Life Cycle of a Fir Tree

Ahead of time, I printed out pictures of the different stages for a fir tree–seeds, sprouting, seedling, full grown, pine cone–and mounted them on construction paper.  The girls and I went through each card talking about what a tree was doing, really focusing on seeds and pine cones.  The second day we actually pretended to be trees, starting curled up in a ball as a seed and then growing big and tall.  It was a little silly but the girls thought it was funny.

Tree Cycle Pictures #1                       Tree Cycle Pictures #2

Pine Cone Christmas Trees



Supplies: Pine cones, green paint, pom pom balls, glitter, glue

We also made our own little Christmas trees out of pine cones (I remember doing this myself when I was little).  First the girls painted the pine cones green, next sprinkled them with glitter, and then glued pom poms on as ornaments.

As we live in the desert, pine cones are hard to come by.  I just picked some up at Michael’s.  They are the scented ones but that just added some extra Christmas cheer to the house. 

Other Activities

When starting our activities we talked about where Christmas trees first started, looking at Germany on the map.  If you don’t have a globe or map, you can find great maps here. We also colored sheets on T is for Tree and practiced the letter T using some of the worksheets found here.  And we sang the song “Oh Christmas Tree.”  To round off our theme, we cut our peanut butter sandwiches in the shape of a Christmas tree with a cookie cutter.

Finally, we were ready to decorate the tree!

 

Christmas Colors Felt Board Story

I came up with this felt board activity based on the classic Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Bill Martin, Jr.  It follows the same rhythm but uses colors and images from the holiday season.

Skills: Color recognition, language development
Prep: Medium (drawing/decorating the pieces did take some time, but if you use solid pieces of felt it goes much quicker)

 

White Snowman, White Snowman, what do you see?
I see a green tree looking at me.

Green Tree, Green Tree, what do you see?
I see a red hat looking at me.

Red Hat, Red Hat, what do you see?
I see a blue present looking at me.

Blue Present, Blue Present, what do you see?
I see a yellow star looking at me.

Yellow Star, Yellow Star, what do you see?
I see a purple stocking looking at me.

Purple Stocking, Purple Stocking, what do you see?
I see a brown reindeer looking at me.

Brown Reindeer, Brown Reindeer, what do you see?
I see an orange light looking at me.

Orange Light, Orange Light, what do you see?
I see _(Child’s Name)_ looking at me.

_(Child’s Name)_, _(Child’s Name)_, what do you see?
I see a white snowman, a green tree, a red hat, a blue present, a yellow star, a purple stocking, a brown reindeer, and an orange light looking at me.

Like most of our felt board activities, the first time we did this, I recited the poem and placed the pieces on the board.  When we went through it a second time, I tried to get the girls to say it with me as we pulled out pieces and put them on the board.

Ed drew the images for me, which I have included below.  You can cut silhouettes from colored felt or draw/trace images on  pellon to color in with oil pastel crayons.

Tree and Reindeer Images
Snowman and Stocking Images
Present and Hat Images
Star and Light Images

 

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