#LightTheWorld Countdown for Little Children

I am so excited about this year’s light the world campaign and the opportunity to combine it with our annual tradition of having a Christ-centered advent calendar.  My kids call them circle activities because we use muffin tins to create our calendar so they take a circle off each day to find out what our activity is.  I have been doing them for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter the past couple of years (hoping to add Valentine’s day this year!) in order to keep our celebration meaningful, deliberate, and focused on the Savior.

I’m by no means anti-Santa, I love Santa, we do Santa.  But, I have had to DO nothing in order for my 4 year old and 2 year old to learn about Santa. He’s everywhere- in fact he knows when you are sleeping, he knows when you’re awake…

However, I do have to be deliberate and intentional in making sure they learn the true meaning of this time of year.  It’s not all strictly “religious” but I make sure that we find ways to tie the “just for fun” things back to the Savior.

As I mentioned I love the #LightTheWorld campaign for this year especially.  This time it’s broken down by week:

1- Light the World (global focus)

2- Light your Community

3- Light your Family

4- Light your Faith

As I sat down to start brainstorming our calendar I struggled a little to figure out how we could make sure the kids were actually involved in and understanding global service.  I reached out to friends for help and got some great ideas to incorporate into our calendar.  A really cool idea that didn’t make it on the calendar is the Light the World vending machine.  There is one in Gilbert by the water tower (also one at Temple Square in Salt Lake, Manhattan, London, and Manila- and if you can’t get to any of those there is a way to donate online at that hyper link).  This is a vending machine for charities- you choose to donate a pair of glasses, or a chicken, or clean water, etc!

Additionally- we’ll be kicking off our celebration before the calendar actually starts, I could just add it but it would throw off the perfect 24 spaces on the calendar and that might make my slightly obsessive brain explode.  But, we’ll be attending a local Live Nativity on November 30th at Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church.  It runs the 30th-1st.  There is also the Walk through Bethlehem in Chandler that sounds amazing but as I looked at our crazy calendar for the month I realized I needed to pair down a little and the time and distance on that was going to be a little too much for us this year.  That one runs the 14th-16th.

I’ve had a lot of fun thinking through how to incorporate these ideas for my little ones, and I really hope this helps others find ways to serve and make this season meaningful no matter the ages of your children or if we belong to different faiths- together we can Light the World!

 

1- Jesus said, “Rejoice and be glad!”- We’ll be attending a Christmas party- this is an example of how I incorporate a “just for fun” event and still make it meaningful.  This day has also been set aside as a Day of Service.  We will be bringing food and toy donations to the party as our service for the day.

Week 1- World

2- Jesus speaks to the world through His prophet- watch the Christmas Devotional

3- Missionaries are sent around the world to share the gospel- color pictures to mail to a missionary in a foreign country

4- Refugees have had to leave their homes in other parts of the world and come here to be safe.  Take a meal or other donations for refugee families.  If you’re in AZ then Gathering Humanity is an amazing organization!

5- Jesus created the world- Decorate the Christmas tree and talk about the days of the Creation

6- Jesus is the Light of the World- go to a light display (probably Glendale Glitters for us)

7- We believe in a God of miracles for the whole world.  Tell the Hanukkah story.  I’ve purchased this children’s book which tells the story and has beautiful illustrations.  I include Hanukkah each year for my kids because one of my best friends is Jewish and while we won’t be able to celebrate together this year, I have cherished memories of lighting the menorah with her growing up.  Also, I want my children to know and understand that God loves ALL of His children and provides them with miracles even if they believe differently than we do.  This also fits in so well with the global focus, no coincidence that Hanukkah lined up with week 1 this year, amIright??!

8- Asylum seekers come from different parts of the world and arrive here with nothing hoping to find safety.  Make and donate a backpack asylee kit.  We will have the kids pick the backpack and stuff it with the necessary items (my 2 year old LOVES backpacks right now so this will be a good way to get her involved).  We will be partnering with Gathering Humanity again for this one.  And special thanks to my cousin for guiding me to this idea!

Week 2- Community

9- Donate to the Humanitarian/ Fast offering fund.  We typically just do this online, but in order to get the kids involved we are going to go old school and use the paper slip and envelope and actual cash then have the kids hand it to the Bishop.

10- Angel craft

11- Jesus said, “Love thy neighbor as thyself.”  Make little ornaments and take them to our neighbors

12- Nativity Craft- I bought a cute little foam kit at Hobby Lobby.  They have a few different ones depending on your kids skill level (and your capability for handling messes!)

13- Take toy and clothes donations to Maggie’s Place.  One of our Thanksgiving activities was to clean up and clean out the playroom- this is where those will be going.

14- Jesus was born in a stable- go to a petting zoo to see the types of animals that might have been there.  We will be heading over to Superstition Farm.  This might seem silly, but we have done this a few years in a row now and the kids LOVE it.  Two years ago my son ran around the petting zoo yelling, “Jesus, where are you!”  Apparently when I told him we would see animals like the ones that were there when Jesus was born, he figured we would also see baby Jesus.  Last year we went after we saw The Star and they started calling all of the animals the names from the movie.

15- Jesus healed the sick- take treats to the NICU.  Our daughter was a NICU baby so we make sure and take treats to current NICU parents this time of year.  Be aware if you decide on a NICU for service it is best to call ahead and you really will just drop off the treats with the desk.  Small children will most likely not be allowed into the NICU.   We walk to the door together as a family and then my husband takes the kids to a nursery viewing window while I take the treats in to the actual NICU.

Week 3- Family

16- Jesus said, “Ye shall meet together oft.”  Church!  It might seem like cheating because we do this every week anyway, but I call it being creative with my resources.  Also, I think it’s good to periodically talk about WHY we go to church.

17- Light your family- Make little gifts for Grandparents

18- Cards for cousins

19- Jesus asked us to pray together as families- have family prayer and review how to pray

20- Gingerbread Stables

21- Family Movie Night- The Nativity (8 minutes- live action) Christmas Story videos (more very short videos telling the story) Joy to the World (about 45 min total), and we’ll probably do a VeggieTales or The Star

22- Make memories with Family- activity with extended family and open presents with them

Week 4- Light Your Faith

23- Sing Choirs of Angels- sing Christmas songs at church and with our opera singing relatives coming into town!  My husband’s brother is engaged and we will finally get to meet his fiancee this day!  Their common interest in opera brought them together!

24- Bethlehem dinner- I make lamb and other foods similar to what they would have eaten at that time in Bethlehem.  I’m hoping this year to eat it by light of a candle from that era as well.  Then we’ll read the story from Luke 2 and hopefully have the kids act it out!

 

Merry Christmas!!!  I hope this has given you some good ideas to incorporate in your own family’s celebration!

Christ-Centered Easter Countdown

You may have seen my Thanksgiving and Christmas Circle activity posts in the past.  I meant to get one together for Valentine’s Day, but then my grandma died in mid January, and while it was very peaceful, funeral arrangements and travel made life a little crazy for a few weeks so unfortunately we didn’t get around to much for Valentine’s Day.  In case you haven’t seen the other holiday activities posts, a little background- this idea came out of a prompting that I needed to be more deliberate in my parenting and in teaching my children the true meaning of Christmas and Easter, and to bring purpose to each holiday we celebrate.  With little to know effort on my part my kids will learn about the Easter Bunny and get an unhealthy amount of candy, but to teach them about Christ’s death and resurrection will take deliberate effort on my part.

I do 24 activities because then I can re-use the same muffin tins as my “advent” calendar for each holiday, with Easter coming pretty early this year, that means that we are starting on March 9th.  Also my kids are 18 months and 3 so this is very targeted to toddler/preschool, but would be easily adapted for older kids.  I’ve also provided links when I have used someone else’s idea and those links have tons of activities that work for older kids.

I took several ideas from the Friend magazine, but decided not to go in the exact order they did just because some activities worked better with our family schedule on different days, and I did not include the coloring activity because it’s a little more coloring than my kids could handle.  But, if you’re kids are more in the 5 and up range it would be a perfect and simple activity already put together for you.

For the most part I do these activities during the day and they are super short, however, if an activity is listed as being part of Family Home Evening that means it will be a little more extended and with the whole family.

Here’s the activity list:

  1.  Friend activity #3-Jesus said, “I thirst.” Jesus felt pain and was terribly thirsty. He understands whenever you feel sick or tired or hurt. Jesus wants us to help others who are ill or tired. What can you do to help someone in your family who isn’t feeling well or is very tired?
    Make a card for a friend who has been sick
  2. Washing feet- we will do this with my foot spa, but last year we just did it in the tub, We show a picture of Jesus washing the feet of the Apostles and then we wash each other’s feet.
  3. Make Resurrection Rolls
  4. Family Home Evening- Friend Jr. Life of Jesus Christ Sequencing activity.  I will put each picture in an egg and make it an egg hunt and then sequence and talk about each part of Christ’s life.
  5. Friend activity #5– Jesus said, “Behold thy mother!”  Before he died, Jesus asked one of His disciples to take care of Mary, His mother. What can you do to show love for a family member today?
    Do a craft for a family member.
  6. Easter Movie Night, we will probably watch To This End Was I Born, and one of the VeggieTales Easter shows.
  7. Friend activity #4– Jesus said, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”  When Jesus felt alone, He prayed and told Heavenly Father about His sad feelings. You can pray too! Try talking to Heavenly Father today like you would to a best friend.
    Review how to say prayers.
  8. Jesus is the Light of the world.  Use trick candles on cupcakes, as the kids blow them out and they re-light explain that even though they tried to put out Jesus light, his light did not go away.  (Got this from The Joy Journey, scroll down, it’s one of the last activities, this is also a great resource for ideas!)
  9. Jesus loves our Family- Cousin Easter Egg hunt at grandparents’ house
  10. Jesus started the sacrament- take the sacrament at church
  11. Jesus is the Lamb of God- make a lamb craft with cotton balls.
  12. Easter Sequencing Activity– this one focuses just on Christ’s death and Resurrection- the other one I’m using covers His whole life.
  13. Family Home Evening- Friend Activity #6– “To day shalt thou be with me in paradise.” This is what Jesus told another man who was about to die. Because of Jesus, death is not the end! We will all go to the spirit world and then be resurrected someday. Who has died that you look forward to seeing again?
    Do the Resurrection glove activity (put your hand inside a glove and explain that your spirit is like your hand and your body is like the glove, take the glove off and explain that when you die your body stays on the earth but your spirit goes to Paradise and waits until the Resurrection when they will come back together.)  We’ve done this before and it helped my son a lot with understanding my Grandma’s passing.
  14. Jesus rode in to Jerusalem on a donkey- go to a petting zoo with a donkey
  15. Resurrection Eggs for toddlers (if you have older kids and just search Resurrection eggs there’s a lot of resources that are more age appropriate, I was just so excited to find this one that is so simple for my littles)
  16. Jesus prayed in a garden and after his Resurrection he visited Mary in a garden- visit the Botanical Garden
  17. Palm Sunday- make hand print Palm fronds out of construction paper
  18. He is Risen cut and paste
  19. Make an “Easter Garden” in a pot with some little plants, a rock for the tomb, etc.  Mine will be much simpler than the one in the link, but it gives a good idea for reference.
  20. Family Home Evening- Friend Activity #7–  “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” Jesus forgave those who hurt Him. We should forgive other people too. Is there someone you can forgive?
    We’re going to focus on forgiving between siblings.  They’ve reached that age where they are seriously bugging each other on a regular basis.
  21. Friend Activity #2– Jesus said, “It is finished.” Even though what Jesus was doing was really hard and hurt a lot, He didn’t give up. He kept on doing the right thing because He loves us and He loves Heavenly Father. Sometimes we might feel like giving up, but we can choose to keep trying. What’s something hard that you have done lately?
  22. Attend the Easter Pageant at the Mesa Temple.  Non-Arizonans might be able to find a local church that does a Passion play.
  23. Jesus continued His church by calling a Prophet.  Read about President Nelson in the Friend and watch General Conference.
  24. Easter Day- Friend Activity #1–  Jesus said, “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit.” Jesus knew that He would see His Heavenly Father again after He died. Because of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, we can also live with our Heavenly Parents someday! What’s something you can do today to follow Jesus?

As far as Easter baskets go, again if you search there are so many good ideas for Christ-centered baskets, from actual Christ-centered items to adorable printables with scripture related sayings to go with candies and toys.  I like to keep it really simple, and know that we’ll get candy and little toys from other sources, so we will probably get an Easter related book and an Easter related movie and call it good.

Happy Easter everyone!  I hope this helps you brainstorm some good ideas for your family as your prepare to celebrate this beautiful holiday.

Christ-centered Christmas Advent Activities

Last year as we were coming into the Christmas season I had a few strong impressions from the spirit which lead to some resolutions.  One that I needed to be a more deliberate mother, that we needed more structure in our lives.  The other that I needed to focus on keeping this holiday about Christ.  With absolutely no deliberate action on my part, my children will learn about Santa.  Santa is everywhere.  Shows, decorations, songs, EVERYWHERE.  Let me be clear that I am by no means anti-Santa, and he does visit our house.  BUT, because everywhere else we get inundated with Santa and commercialization, I felt very strongly that I needed to come up with meaningful and fun activities to make sure my kids understand that this holiday is about Jesus.

If you look at my Thanksgiving advent post I explain a little bit of how I put together these activities.  But for a quick recap, I keep it simple, there’s candy involved, and I use dollar store muffin tins with circles of construction paper to make the calendar.  I don’t have December’s put together yet, but here’s a picture of November’s for reference- just imagine red and green paper instead.IMG_20161031_151857448

Some of my activities are based on the #LightTheWorld campaign from mormon.org, but I struggled to come up with activities for a 3 year old and 1 year old that fit with each scripture.  I also did not go in the order of their calendar at all just because certain activities would work better for us on different days of the week.

You’ll notice that I included a day to celebrate Hannukah, I did this for a few reasons:

  1.  One of my very best friends is Jewish and she has inspired me to want to teach my children to love and respect other cultures.  Also she’ll be visiting right after Hannukah ends, so we’ll get together and have a belated Hannukah bash!
  2. My thought for that day is that we believe in a God of miracles.  The story of Hannukah contains a beautiful miracle and it’s fairly simple for children to understand.
  3. I want my children to understand that God loves and gives miracles to EVERYONE, even those that believe differently than we do.

In addition to the activities listed below we also have Nativity picture books, one from Usborne and the others I think I just grabbed from Toys R Us, and I found some Nativity printables on Pinterest and turned them into magnets for the magnet board in the play room.

I don’t have all the dates set in stone, but here’s my list of thoughts and activities.  Activities based on Light the World have a little star.

  1. Jesus created the world and all of nature.  Decorate the Tree.
  2. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad.* Attend the Southwest Family Christmas Party (my mother in law works for Southwest and you should all be jealous because their family party is so much fun!  But I felt like this Light the World activity should definitely be matched up with a party, so if you already have a holiday party to attend, just pair it with this scripture!)
  3. Jesus speaks through His Prophet and Apostles.  Watch the Christmas Devotional.
  4. Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.* Make ornaments to take to neighbors (I’m using foam and felt snowflakes that I got from Target last year because they are super easy and low mess, but substitute whatever craft floats your boat.)
  5. Nativity sticker scene, again, I picked up a pack of stickers last year at Target.
  6. I was in prison and ye visited me.* Take treats to a police station.
  7. Make gingerbread stables for Family Home Evening.
  8. Jesus is the light of the world.  Go to Glendale Glitters. Here’s an example of doing something fun, but still keeping it Christ-centered by linking the lights back to Him.
  9. I was sick and ye visited me.* Take treats to the NICU.  If you want the long story for why we pick the NICU you can read that post here.  Short story, my daughter was in the NICU for 10 days.  We took treats last year, and I plan on continuing the tradition as the kids grow up.  If you want to do a NICU near you just know it’s best to call ahead and you really will just drop the treats off, young children will most likely not be allowed in.  But, being there even for the short time we were, was lonely and stressful, I can’t imagine being there during the holidays, so NICU parents are definitely a group that could use some cheer.  You could pick any group of ailing individuals, visit someone who recently had surgery, etc.
  10. Jesus gave us temples.  Got to the Mesa Temple Lights.
  11. Family Home Evening, movie night with Nativity movies.  Bible Videos-Nativity, Collection of short Christmas videos, Joy to the World
  12. I was naked and ye clothed me.* Drop off donations to Maggie’s Place.
  13. We believe in a God of Miracles.  Tell the Hannukah story, light candles, play dreidels, etc.
  14. Jesus gave us families.  Make ornaments for grandparents.
  15. Visit a Live Nativity.  There’s a few I’m considering but need to figure out some dates.  Here’s some links to help you out.  Walk through Bethlehem, Grace Glendale
  16. Because of Jesus, our family can be together forever.  Make wreaths (circles have no end.)
  17. Ye shall meet together oft.* Go to church.
  18. Make more ornaments for friends and family.
  19. Family Home Evening- Caroling
  20. For I was an hungered and ye gave me meat.* Donate food, either to a food drive or take a meal to someone who is sick, or a refugee family.
  21. Wisemen still seek Him.  Do a wisemen craft.
  22. Jesus was born in a stable with animals around.  Visit a petting zoo.
  23. Go to see The Star in theaters.  We aren’t huge movie goers, and part of me is wondering if I’m crazy to take a 1 year old and a 3 year old to a legit movie theater,  but I feel like it’s important to support this film so that more like it can be made!  Also, my friend’s son is one of the animators so that’s pretty cool!
  24. Bethlehem dinner.  Last year we started this tradition, and it definitely went over my son’s head, and I think he was sick and didn’t eat anyway, but by golly we are going to stick with it.  We’ve decided to do Christmas Eve on our own as just our little family.  For dinner we eat the type of food that was eaten in Bethlehem.  We had lamb with pita bread which I bought from a Middle Eastern market (you should find one, it was a really neat experience).  We had goat cheese, I cheated on this and bought the stuff wrapped in cranberries from Costco, so maybe less authentic, but sooo good.  Then we read the Christmas story and used our Nativity magnets to help act it out, as the kids get older we’ll have them do the acting, but for now we just use the pictures.

Merry Christmas!