The holidays can give family a wonderful opportunity to share the deeper meaning behind these celebrations, whether it’s the birth of Christ at Christmas or the miracle of the light at Hanukkah. Hopefully the activities we introduce you to today can help get your kids to think beyond what they are receiving and get to a better perspective: this is a time to give gifts of love, which is a huge part of many holiday traditions.
Act It Out
Act out the story of the holiday using a set of unbreakable figurines such as a nativity set or menorah. Make sure every child has a part to play. One of the adults can read the story while the others act it out. This can be as long or short as you deem necessary depending on the age and attention span of the children. It is important that the children be involved in the story.
Using a baby food jar or clear plastic bottle, paint the outside with white glue. Take strips of multi-colored tissue paper and stick it onto the glue covering the whole jar with paper. The next day, when the bottom layer of glue has dried, paint another layer of glue on top of the paper to seal it in. The jar will have a stained glass look to it.
If you want to take it further, hot wax can be dripped into the middle of the bottom of the jar to have a small candle like a birthday candle stuck to it. The light and beauty that your kids had a hands-on experience with can then be spoken about in relation to the tradition/celebration. This is an abstract idea, but it gives the family a craft that can be done together with the children in a key part of the process.
Take a cube (or make a cube out of a piece of paper – a tutorial for this is provided on the blog here) and on each side stick a picture symbolizing an activity. Roll the block and do the activity together. Some ideas for symbols to go on the block and types of activities are: musical note = sing a (Christmas) song, face with open mouth = give thanks for something, hands clapping = clap a rhythm, candy cane = eat a piece of candy, hands praying = say a prayer, ornament = place an ornament on the tree.
The main thing is to get the children to have the patience to roll it and to see the family having a fun time together. With activities like giving thanks or praying, this also gets the children to think beyond themselves, to pray for others, to think of family needs. Thinking of others is the first step in learning compassion and empathy.
Making musical instruments together will enhance the singing holiday songs together. Dried beans or raw popcorn can be put inside of plastic eggs (which should then be taped closed – otherwise things get messy quickly!) to make castanet-type instruments. This can also be done with an empty toilet paper tube that is sealed at both ends. Pinch one end of the tube and seal with tape. Then add the shaker ingredients as above. Pinch off the other end like the first, though make the pinch perpendicular to the first end’s pinched seal. (This keeps the whole tube from flattening out and thus helps the beans have more room to rattle.)
Another idea is to take little jingle bells and loop elastic through the top of them. Then tie them around the little ankle or wrists. This turns their cute dance moves into a musical experience.
Holiday Feel Box
Pick out a box that is medium sized, like a shoe box or diaper box. Then put items inside that have to do with the day you’re celebrating. (Food may not be best – a bit too messy.) For Christmas time, these might be an ornament, a plastic candy cane, a bell, a little stocking, a candle, a tiny tree, a soft pine cone, etc. Make a hole in one end of the box for the child to reach in. If desired, use the tube part of a sock to attach to the hole so that the child cannot peak inside. Then tape the box closed on all sides. Stick a hand in, make a guess, and enjoy the fun!
It’s a little late to start an advent calendar this year, but this is a fun way to count down to the special day and increase the excitement as the anticipation grows with each day. We have a book that gives a song and a reading for each day in December, and we read it and sing it together at breakfast time to start each day.
There are many ways to involve our children in the holidays. Some may have been passed down from generation to generation. In our family, a candle is lit at 9 pm on Christmas day and a prayer is said for peace on earth. Started as a tradition in Europe, the idea is that if people in every time zone around the world did the same thing at their 9 pm, then there would be 24 hours of prayer for peace on earth at least one day out of the year. Whatever ways you choose to involve your children in the celebrations this time of year, may it be a time of coming together and giving thanks and love for our past, present, and future.