Advent is a time for us to quiet our hearts, grow closer to Christ, and prepare for his coming. This can be hard to communicate with children who are usually focused on their excitement for presents and goodies on Christmas morning. If you are looking for some ways to help this liturgical season come alive for your children, here are five of my favorite activities I do with my children:
1. Advent Family Giving. I’ve seen on Pinterest these lists of “30 things to do this Christmas season” and its filled with things like “drink hot chocolate,” “go sledding,” etc. But the “Christmas season” is actually the Advent season. So I decided to make a list of ways to grow closer to Christ and give of ourselves to others this Advent season. Some of the ideas I have included on my list are:
• Pray the family rosary for those who have nothing or are lonely.
• Volunteer at a soup kitchen as a family.
• Write a love letter to your grandparents.
• Visit a nursing home and visit and love on the elderly who live there.
• Draw pictures for your neighbors.
• Send Christmas cards.
• Go to adoration as a family.
• Act out the live nativity.
• Sponsor a child.
• Make goodie bags for the homeless.
• Go to confession.
• Get toys for kids who have nothing.
• Make a meal for a priest or invite them into your home.
• Watch “The Nativity Story.”
• Keep a prayer journal during advent.
• Pray an advent novena.
• Watch a Brother Francis show about Christmas.
• Go through your things and donate to those in need.
• Reach out to a friend or family member who you haven’t connected with in a while.
This is a great way to help both adults and children practice littleness as a preparation for Christ’s coming. My list was pretty long, but you can make it as long or short as you like. You can also ask your children for their ideas and add them to your family’s list too.
2. The Giving Manger. Every time your child does something kind for another person, they can put a piece of straw into baby Jesus’ manger. The more good deeds and straw that goes in the manger, the softer the bed for baby Jesus. This is a great interactive activity that helps kids to understand that we prepare for Jesus’ coming during advent. You can either buy or make a giving manger. The parts you will need are the manger, straw, and baby Jesus. Growing up, my parents made their own out of cardboard and paint and we used yellow yarn for the straw.
3. Joseph and Mary Search. Rather than do “Elf on the Shelf,” we will hide either St. Nicholas or Joseph and Mary. Last year I hid St. Nicholas, but this year I will be hiding Joseph and Mary. Starting in advent, I will hide Joseph and Mary throughout the house each night and then each morning the kids will try to be the first to spot them. They loved this last year and felt so cool when they were the one who found St. Nicholas. I love that hiding Joseph and Mary throughout the house will be able to help the kids visualize Joseph and Mary’s journey to Bethlehem and their arrival at the manger on Christmas Eve.
4. Brother Francis: “Days of Advent.” The movie starts by explaining what advent is. Then each day there is a 3-4 minute video that explains a little about the faith and gives the kids a prayer to say. I love Brother Francis videos, and this is a sweet, short way for children to learn the faith each day during advent.
5. The Advent Jessie Tree. We do this every year and I talk about it every year. We use the book “The Advent Jessie Tree” for our reading each day, and it explains the meaning of the ornament that we put on the tree each day of advent. I did a whole video on this activity, which you can watch here.
I hope you and your family try some of these activities this advent. But most of all, I hope these activities help you and your family grow closer to Christ this Advent season.