Last Advent I wanted to do something that would fun but would still teach Ava about the true meaning of Christmas – not to take the fun of Santa and gifts away – but to add to why we really celebrate Christmas. I tried an Advent wreath but it wasn’t really what I envisioned – both in atheistic and meaning – but it at least helped me start thinking and planning.
Fast forward to this year and all the things that have occurred in our lives and thoughts that have mulled over in my mind and one of the biggest changes that will be happening soon is Ava will start Kindergarten next school year. More than likely she will attend the excellent public school behind our neighborhood for various reasons, but this is still a big change for me as I attended all Catholic schools growing up. Not only did I attend Catholic schools, they were large schools with excellent sports programs, excellent religion programs and an amazing and thriving community who we did life with. We attended mass three times a week, we dressed up for All Saints Day, we had quarterly confession services, we prayed short or long prayers before every class and had school rosaries occasionally. If I spent the night at a friend’s house it was assumed we would attend mass together the next morning because we would have saw them there anyway – this was just life.
Just like every transition in parenthood, I’m anxious about the unknown so I feel particularly compelled to make sure we cultivate an excellent “religious education” at home. This feels like a ton of pressure and so much to accomplish not only because I’m a perfectionist, but also because while I know my faith well, I’m not sure I know exactly how to pass it on in a fun and exciting way to children. So all those thoughts and concerns swirl and then enter Advent. I started actually planning this year about a month ago what I’d like Advent to feel like and how I might engage the kids better this year, so I’m sharing it here in the hope that someone else might use all, some or bits and pieces of it.
Here’s my Advent plan:
Advent Calendar: Each day has a bible verse of the nativity story. As characters of the story are introduced (i.e. shepherds, Mary, etc) there are cut outs they can color and then attach to popsicle sticks to act out the story, pretend with – I might cut out a cardboard box to make a theatre/manger. There will also be treats in some of the boxes as well. At the beginning of each week, there will be either purple or pink ribbon for them to tie around the candles of the Advent Wreath with the symbolism of that week. I’ve linked here to the printouts on my Pinterest Board and my Amazon list of what I used for the calendar. I had an old chalkboard for the calendar that I saw is still at Meijer, but you could take any large frame or bulletin board and fill/cover it with foam board, attach string with hot glue to the back and then pin the boxes on with clothes pins. Here’s my Amazon list. Here’s my Pinterest board.
Advent Wreath: I’m going to try and make my advent wreath with the evergreen bushes outside our home just for the fun of it and because it’s less expensive and I’m not a huge fan of any of the other wreaths I’ve seen. I’m buying white tapered candles from the Dollar Tree and we’ll tie the ribbons to each candle each week and put the Christ candle in the center. I found a foam wreath ring at the Dollar Tree that I’m going to try and use for my wreath, but I saw an excellent idea in Magnolia journal that was beautiful – it used a gold ring with gold candle clips – I also put those in my Amazon list. I haven’t made mine yet as it will be real evergreen. At the risk of sounding ridiculously cheap, I made a berry wreath (pictured below) by forming a dry cleaning hanger into a circle and then using thin wire from Menards to attach the berries to the wire, so you could do this as an inexpensive option as well.
Advent Devotional: I created a devotional that is for both parents and children. Each week focuses on the virtues of the weeks of Advent: Faith, Hope, Joy, and Love. (I have seen other virtues – usually peace swapped in – but decided on these for my devotional.) They have a Bible verse corresponding to that virtue and then a few questions to go deeper – one is always more kid friendly but do whatever feels best. I’ve given lots of space for journalling or drawing, etc. Some of the questions ask for specific actions that I wanted to incorporate into the calendar but I think make more sense in devotion. I think its important to explain to our children that scripture is God’s word and it is living, not stagnant, God still speaks individually to each one of us through the verses we read. I’ve also started putting verses that speak to me on my letter board in the kitchen and Ava loves helping with this and it’s just another way to keep those devotions running through your life. Here is the link to the devotional I created: Advent Devotional
Plan and Reflect: I also created two little “guides” to plan for the season and to reflect on the season when it’s passed. I think I too often I rush into activities and don’t take the time to thoughtfully plan out what I really want this season to look like for our family. I also fail to look back and reflect on what I’ve really learned or what I want to make sure we eliminate next year or keep doing moving forward. Click here to get those guides: Advent Goals and Reflection
I really hope that if you’ve been looking for something that some of these ideas help you, and I would LOVE to hear your feedback if you use these, what your thoughts are and how you and your children interacted with all these activities.
P.S. The “prints” in the frames I made are just done on the free app WordSwag and then I printed them on paper and framed them with Dollar Tree frames! The berries are also from Dollar Tree. (Can you tell I love a good deal?)