Children of all ages love the anticipation of Christmas — so what better way for Christian families to celebrate each new day of December than with an Oh-So-Fun Advent Calendar that also teaches the story of Jesus’ birth.
Below are six unique Advent Calendar suggestions I’m making for families with young children (0-8) in 2014. Each was selected for its quality, interactive, and visually stimulating features. Although I had younger children in mind when I chose them, older kids and parents will enjoy joining in!
For the Toy and Pocket Calendars, print off these Advent Calendar Verses that trace the coming of Jesus from the first promise in the Garden of Eden through his anointing at his baptism. Keep the list handy and read one passage a day as your kids unwrap that day’s object.
Or make sheep buckets (paper cups, felt, cotton balls, buttons, and raffia) for holding individual Advent Verse strips.By planning ahead, you can match the objects to the most appropriate Bible verses, scale the passages down for very small children, and practice reading the next day’s Scripture selection in an interesting way!
Both of the Activity Book suggestions at the end include their own recommended daily Bible readings. But if you like my list better, weave it in. Here’s to making Oh-So-Great Advent memories!
Toy Advent Calendars for Christmas 2014
#1 Hardwood Nativity Puzzle with 25 Pieces, Etsy, $80.
Although a bit more expensive than you might have spent in the past for an advent calendar, this cherry wood puzzle is truly a Christmas creche that will become a treasured family keepsake. And it is ideal for children because of its indestructible interlocking pieces. I suggest wrapping the pieces in 25 numbered bags so that each one is opened on a different day throughout December with the corresponding Advent Calendar Verse. Since there are 25 pieces, the puzzle will be complete on Christmas morning!
#2 Schleich’s Christmas on the Farm with 24 Toys, Amazon, $38.38 with free shipping.
Have you ever seen and held the Schleich animals at Toys R Us? They are wonderful and indestructible — so fun for children to play with at any time of the year! But what I love about this Christmas Advent Calendar Set is that it creates a thinking-bridge from our modern day farms to the story of the manger 2000 years ago. As one toy is opened everyday in December along with a corresponding Advent Calendar Verse, your children will have fun playing with their ever growing barnyard of animals (their very own creche), naming them, and making up stories about how each animal will have a part in welcoming Jesus on Christmas morning. Which reminds me, make sure to provide a handmade or purchased baby Jesus for the 25th as He does not come with the set.
Pocket, Box, or Drawer Advent Calendars for Christmas 2014
Make your Advent Calendar a scavenger hunt this year by putting a clue for the location of your hidden family Bible (with bookmarked reading) in each pocket, box, or drawer — hiding the Bible in a different place each day.
#3 The Lullaby Loft’s Nativity Advent Felt Calendar Pattern with 24 Pockets, Etsy, $14 downloadable pdf. A Felt Starter Kit, $25, is also available but not necessary if you prefer to purchase your own felt.
I love this Advent Calendar because you and your kids get to make it yourselves. And it is a downloadable pattern, so you can have it today — no waiting! All you need to do (after purchasing the pattern) is make sure to gather the supplies. According to the ages of your children, some of you will include your kids in the assembly process, and others will have the joy of creating the pieces in advance so they are ready to be placed on the background scene each day. Whichever you do, make sure to include the Advent Calendar Verses as part of your daily advent celebration. (Note: The pattern is laid out step by step. Hand embroidery is not necessary if you prefer gluing only.)
#4 Red and Snowflake Christmas Wreath with 25 Round Boxes, Target In Store, $24.99 (see photo) or Threshold’s Red Wooden Christmas Tree with 25 Drawers, Target Online, $29.99.
There are some years when you just need things to be quick — no preparation, but lots of meaning! If this is you in 2014, then one of these two advent calendars in the form of numbered drawers or boxes is perfect! Just remember to print off the Advent Calendar Verses, cut them into strips, and place one in each numbered container. Or as I recommend above, add the scavenger hunt and hidden Bible idea to make your season even more festive and surprising!
Family Activity Advent Books for Christmas 2014
#5 Truth in the Tinsel — An Advent Experience for Little Hands by Amanda White, eBook, $7.99.
Amanda White has enjoyed using the Scripture readings and simple handmade ornaments you will find neatly laid out in this eBook with her own preschool children! And be sure to check out her website for loads of wonderful chatter about using this resource and other helpful hints for making Christmas really meaningful this year!
#6 The Season of the Nativity by Sybil MacBeth, Amazon, $13.91.
This just-released, beautiful book by Paraclete Press has abundant ideas for families who prefer to follow the liturgical advent calendar in celebrating Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany beginning the first of four Sundays before Christmas through January 6. The pages of ideas include activities that are meaningful for all ages of children. The book is a quick read for parents so that you can have time to prepare in advance.
Also, consider Sybil MacBeth’s book Praying in Color Kid’s Edition, $14.21, as a supplemental resource for helping children doodle their prayers during the holiday season. It is truly a must-have book for all Christian families!