Light the World with your Kids!

I LOVE LOVE LOVE the church’s Light the World campaign each year and have had so many wonderful experiences finding ways to keep the kids involved. They love it and have become very service oriented because of it. I also like to find ways to focus on Christ through any activity we participate in throughout the month.

This year is obviously going to look very different, but I think with some creativity we can make it even more special and meaningful this year.

The calendar produced by the church this year is very social media heavy in order to promote safe socialization which is a little hard to involve little kids in so here’s some ideas to bring it beyond social media and on the kids’ level. Take pictures and videos of what your kids are doing and share them as you are comfortable on social media or just with family and friends, and then at the end of the month look through the pictures and videos together of everything you have done to light the world.

1- Giving Tuesday- choose an organization you want to donate to. Use physical cash or money if possible so the kids can actually see it. You could use a physical donation slip and envelope at church for the humanitarian fund and have the kids put the money in and hand it to the Bishop. Or if you can find one of the fun coin drops (you know the ones where the coins circle around until they drop in) gather whatever change you can find and have some fun while you donate.

2- Hero Highlight- write letters/ color pictures to send through Operation Gratitude.

3- Peace on Earth- learn about another culture (or a few cultures) that has a celebration this time of year. There are tons of children’s books available on Youtube. Here’s two that I really like:

The Story of Hannukah

Golden Domes and Silver Lanterns

4- The Christ Child- watch The Christ Child then make gingerbread/ graham cracker stables. We typically use a peach ring for the manger, sour patch kids to make the Holy Family, and animal crackers for the animals.

5- Pay it Backwards- make a Thank you card for someone

6- Fast Relief- depending on age and other health factors- consider having your kids fast in a way that is appropriate for them and for your family. While a traditional fast suggests we go without food for two meals you could shorten that to one meal, or only eat very simple and plain foods. Then select food items to donate to a charity. (You could also do a typical fast offering- however for young kids they will understand better if they see the actual food being donated.) Tonight is also the First Presidency Christmas Devotional

7- Signs of Christmas- decorate someone’s door or do sidewalk chalk in their driveway.

8- Health Caring- decorate disposable masks with Christmas stickers so the kids can have a festive mask when needed. Discuss how we can show appreciation to health care workers and help keep everyone healthy.

9- Words of Love- read some Christmas books together, then pick a book to send to a friend or charity (or both!)

10- Light the Family Tree- Print pictures of your family as far back as you can (I have a set that goes back to mine and my husband’s great grandparents). We use them regularly for family home evening so they are worth having and laminating. You could put them on your actual Christmas tree, get a mini tree (or rosemary bush!), or make a fake tree on a wall or fridge.

11- Treats Times Two- make (or buy) treats to drop off

12- Shop with Care- find a small local business to support- we love going to petting zoos in December to remind us of the animals in the stable. You could also just find a small business to buy some Christmas presents from, or find a small restaurant.

13- Serene Sunday- try to get out and spend some time in nature or just enjoy your Christmas tree and talk about how Heavenly Father and Jesus created the earth for us to enjoy.

14- Social Sing and Serve- more info will be coming about an online event this day so check out LightTheWorld.org/sing but if that event doesn’t work out with the kiddos just gather the family and sing your favorite Christmas songs. Some from the hymn book, some from the Children’s Songbook, and some just for fun. If you can convince your kids to sing on camera you could do some virtual caroling to loved ones near and far!

15- Love Mom and Dad- make cards or crafts for grandparents/ or adopt some grandparents in your neighborhood or see if you can drop off something to a local nursing home.

16- Shining Star- make star frames out of popsicle sticks and let the kids pick whose picture they want in their star.

17- Christmas Dinners- Donate more food to a food bank, or make some freezer meals (or sides) and take to someone who could use some help (either financially or timewise) with their holiday meals.

Green Bean Casserole is easy (and pretty inexpensive) to put together in bulk then divided into disposable pans to be frozen. Or there’s a lot of breakfast foods that can do the same so they can just pop them in the oven the day of!

18- Christmas Stories- snuggle up for a Christmas read-a-thon and movie marathon. Some of our favorite Christmas movies:

  • The Star
  • VeggieTales- Little Drummer Boy, Saint Nicholas, Christmas Star, etc.
  • The Grinch (great for talking about repentance)

19- Letters of Light- write letters/ draw pictures for missionaries you know in your family, serving in your ward, or serving from your ward/stake.

20- Looping Luke 2- Use one of these sequencing activities to help your kids learn and tell the Christmas story. Film them telling the story. You could also take turns telling part of the story.

This page has a 3 part (great for really little ones) and a 4 part sequencing coloring pages.

This page you have to sign up for the newsletter to get the free printable. It’s a 6 part (good for right around kindergarten) that comes pre-colored and in black and white to be colored (great for the older kids to get more involved!)

Even older kids could get involved by drawing their own or using pictures from church magazines to make a collage.

21- Together Time- Continue your Christmas story and movie marathon- there’s plenty to go around! Invite friends or family from far away to watch at the same time so you can feel connected across the miles and talk about your favorite parts of the movie after.

22- Sharing Light- find a light display to visit

23- Gifts from God- wrap a box in paper that can be written/ colored on (most gift wrap won’t work super well). Have everyone write or draw pictures of the gifts they have received from God on the outside of the box. Keep it under the tree as a reminder.

24- Goodwill to Fam- Have a special family dinner (we eat Middle Eastern food to get a taste of what Jesus would have eaten and use an oil lamp like those that were used in Biblical times) talk about why you love each other. Write down what the kids say to each other so they can look back on it down the road.

25- Light of the World- Put mini flashlights or glowsticks in the kids’ stockings. Read John 8:12 together about Jesus being the Light of the World. Look at all of the pictures and videos you made throughout the month as you worked to Light the World!

26- Light 2021- Use the printable below to set goals for how you can continue to Light the World throughout 2021. We like to use this dice activity from the Friend to help us set goals.

Image by PublicDomainPictures from Pixabay

Light your Family to Light the World

In my last post I talked about how a few years ago I had a Christmas breakdown when I got super overwhelmed by Christmas festivities and thought, “This isn’t about and Jesus and it’s not even fun.”

That post gave ideas on how to shop to avoid the overwhelm and keep the fun things actually fun.  This post is going to focus on how to keep the season about Jesus.

I’m by no means anti-Santa (or as my husband said it, “You’re not antee Santee.”)  But I feel very strongly that I need to make sure that Jesus is getting much more focus.  My kids will learn about Santa with no effort on my part, but learning about the real miracle we are celebrating is going to take some effort on my part.

The past few years I have been posting a daily activity count down and have tried to align it as much as possible with the Light the World campaign from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

This year I decided to stray a little from that pattern because I’ve realized recently that I just can’t keep up that daily level of activity.  Between my current energy level, figuring out how to fit everything in with a kid in full day kindergarten, and my husband having a significantly longer commute than in the past, I’ll be honest, my daily Thanksgiving activity plans have kinda tanked and I’ve realized that I need to simplify more and more.

Also, this year’s Light the World suggestions are smaller and simpler and someone already did the work of creating one specifically for kids.  So if you are looking for a simple thing to do every day then I would definitely suggest checking out A Year of FHE.  She’s got a really great calendar going on!  Although admittedly I did chuckle a little when I saw that the activity on the church produced calendar was, “Think of someone for whom you’ve had negative feelings lately.  Try praying for them.”  And the corresponding kid activity is, “Pray for your parents or care-givers today.”

But, I did want to give some suggestions of a few larger activities to try and fit in, or how to take things you already do and tie them in to Christ, as well as a few of my own ideas for incorporating kids and this year’s Light the World campaign.

 

Activities:

Christmas parties– we’ll have at least two just for fun parties this year.  Explain that the scriptures say that we should have joy.  Also Heavenly Father and Jesus want us to have good relationships with our friends and family so having fun with them is a great way to prepare for Christmas.

 

Light displays– No Mesa Temple lights this year 😦 but we like to get over to Glendale Glitters- explain to the kids that Jesus is the Light of the World so when we see the Christmas lights we remember Him.

 

Live Nativity– Dec 6-7 at Grace Lutheran Church in Glendale, they do a hay ride that will pick you up from Glendale Glitters then take you back

Dec 13- we’ll have a live nativity and petting zoo at our church building at 325 W Coral Gables Dr. in Phoenix

Dec 13-15- First Baptist Church in Chandler has a huge event that sounds really neat

 

Movie Nights– there are tons of Christ-centered Christmas movies to enjoy together as a family this season.  Pop up some popcorn, make some hot cocoa, and sit back for a low energy but Christ-centered activity!  Here’s some faves:

  • Veggie Tales! (You can buy DVDs from their website, or most can be found digitally on Amazon)
    • Little Drummer Boy
    • Saint Nicholas
    • It’s a Meaningful Life
    • The Toy that Saved Christmas
    • The Star of Christmas
    • The Best Christmas Gift (haven’t actually seen this one yet, but I’ve never met a VeggieTales I didn’t like)
    • Beauty and the Beet (not specifically about Christmas, but winter themed and has Christmas music)
  • The Star
  • Joy to the World
  • So many short clips on the Church website!

 

Petting Zoo– if you can’t make it to a Live Nativity with a petting zoo, I definitely encourage you to seek out a petting zoo somewhere.  A couple years ago we started this tradition, I explained to my son that we would see some of the animals that were there when Jesus was born.  He hopped out of the car at the farm and immediately started calling out, “Jesus, where are you baby Jesus?!”  It was absolutely adorable.  I explained that we wouldn’t actually see baby Jesus, we would just see animals LIKE the ones that were there, but I think seeing the animals really helps make things more concrete for little ones.

 

Gingerbread Stables– this is a fun twist on gingerbread houses, and my kids love it.  We use sour patch kids for the people, a peach ring for the manger, and I get animal crackers for the animals.

 

Service Project– find a larger service project that your family can participate in together.  Here’s some ideas:

  • Treats and cards to the NICU or another group that is meaningful to your family (my 3 year old spent 10 days in the NICU so this is important to us)
  • Pick a Christmas tree angel or family to provide presents to.  Have the kids help pick out and wrap the gifts
  • Kits for asylum seekers and recently arrived refugees- my kids have loved helping to buy some of the items, putting them in a back pack and delivering them to a local assistance group.  We go through Gathering Humanity.
  • Food, coats, etc. to a homeless shelter

 

Christmas Eve– I like to make Middle Eastern food (lamb meat, goat cheese, pita bread or naan, olives, and baklava for dessert) and we eat by the light of an oil lamp similar to the ones they would have used in Christ’s time (admittedly I use a little tea light candle instead of oil).  Then we read and act out the Christmas Story from Luke 2.

 

Light the World activity ideas:

Here’s a few additional ideas to incorporate younger kids into the Light the World activities:

  • If you’re in an area with a Giving Machine– get over there!
  • Invite someone who might be lonely (like a widow, or someone living far away from family) over for dinner and/or one of your movie nights
  • Take treats and carol to some of your neighbors
  • Make cards for your primary teachers
  • Make cards and maybe a small gift* for school teachers
  • Set New Year’s Resolutions using the categories from Christ’s life- wisdom, stature, favor with God, and man.  I love this from the Friend to help younger kids set goals in these areas.

 

* I’m going to get on a little soap box about teacher gifts for a second- if you want more info on gift giving this time of year read my last post.  As a former teacher and the daughter of two current teachers, let me talk to you about teacher gifts.  As I said in the other post, I do not want this to come off as ungrateful, of course we are so grateful for students and their families thinking of us.  But at some point it can turn into a burden instead of a blessing.  So before you grab lotions, a candle, a knick knack, or a water bottle, etc. consider how well that would work if you got 30 of those a year every year.  For my mom, she can’t handle scented lotions or candles at all, so while it’s kind and sweet, she feels bad because she turns around and re-gifts, donates, or eventually just has to throw them away.  Candy, again, think 30 kids giving you sweets- ain’t nobody need that much sugar in their life.  Crafts made out of school supplies- I have heard unanimous agreement from teacher friends that rather than receiving a wreath made out of crayons, they would prefer just to receive the crayons.

So stick to a note from your kid, school supplies, and/or gift cards to places like Target or Amazon!  Because a note on gift cards, if you get small amounts to random places, you end up spending more of your own money, so at least with Target or Amazon, most people just shop there regularly anyway so even if it’s a small amount, it’s helping reduce their cost, but also they will probably get them from other people as well.

 

 

Photo by javier gonzalez from Pexels

Christ-Centered Easter Activity Countdown- 2019

Time to get inspired for Easter!  With Easter being April 21 we will start our countdown on Friday March 29th.  A lot of these will be repeats from last year but I’m also going to incorporate some of this year’s activity from the Friend Magazine.  They don’t start until Palm Sunday so I won’t be going along day by day because I like to give Easter as much attention and preparation as we give Christmas.  I hope this helps you as you make your Easter preparations more intentional.

  1. Friend The Miracle of Easter (Day 2) “When Jesus was a boy, He lived with Mary and Joseph in a city called Nazareth. He always did what Heavenly Father wanted Him to do.”  Date with Dad- It’s our ward’s Father/Son camp out but you could substitute any activity with Dad!
  2. Friend (Day 3) “When Jesus grew up, He went to the Jordan River. He asked His cousin, John the Baptist, to baptize Him. Then He began to teach others about Heavenly Father.”  We will have cousins in town so we’re going to party with cousins, but you could also attend a baptism if possible.
  3. 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!)
  4. Jesus created the World for us- visit a zoo or aquarium to see some of His creations.
  5. 2018 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?”  Serve someone who has been ill (take a meal, make a card, take treats to the hospital, etc.)
  6. Read the Easter Story from this month’s Friend Jr.
  7. He is Risen cut and paste, there’s also a tracing one
  8. Jesus rode in to Jerusalem on a donkey- go to a petting zoo with a donkey
  9. Resurrection Eggs for toddlers
  10. Jesus continued His church by calling a Prophet.  Read about President Nelson in the Friend and watch General Conference.
  11. 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.
  12. 2018 Friend activity #5– “Jesus said, “Behold thy mother!”  Before he died, Jesus asked one of His disciples to take care of Mary, His mother.” Mom date!  Our ward will be having a mother/daughter activity this evening but again, this could be any fun activity with mom.
  13. Jesus prayed in a garden and after his Resurrection he visited Mary in a garden- visit the Botanical Garden (they have butterflies this time of year!!!)
  14. Jesus was the Lamb of God, make a lamb craft
  15. Easter Movie Night, we will probably watch To This End Was I Born, and one of the VeggieTales Easter shows.
  16. Friend (Day 1)- “Our Heavenly Parents love us dearly. They want us to live with Them forever. Before we came to earth, Heavenly Father knew we would need someone to show us the path back to Him. We would need someone to save us from our sins. Who could He send to save us?”  Talk about our Heavenly Family, and Jesus as our older brother.  Explain that because they love us they gave us our Earthly Families as well.  Extended family Easter Egg hunt.
  17. Friend (Day 5)- “Some people were angry with Jesus because of His teachings. They didn’t believe that He was the Son of God. Jesus knew it was almost time for the greatest miracle of all. Jesus gave His disciples the sacrament to help them remember His sacrifice for us. Then He went with some of the disciples to the Garden of Gethsemane. There He prayed to Heavenly Father, and He felt the pain of all of our sins. He did this so we could repent and return to live with our Heavenly Parents.”  Take the sacrament at church.
  18. Friend (Day 6)- “After Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, people came with swords to arrest Him. They took Him to Pilate, the governor of Judea. Then they took Him to a cross on a hill called Calvary.”  Make palm frond crosses- my little brother will grab some extra palm fronds for us from the Palm Sunday service at the Episcopal church he attends.  Here’s a simple tutorial.
  19. Friend (Day 4)- “Wherever He went, Jesus taught and helped people. No one had ever seen anyone do miracles like He did! He healed people who couldn’t walk and people who couldn’t see. He blessed children and taught people how to pray. He even brought a girl who had died back to life. What greater miracles could there be than these?”  Do a service project to be a miracle for someone else.
  20. Easter Sequencing Activity– this one focuses just on Christ’s death and Resurrection- the other one I’m using covers His whole life.
  21. Show a picture of Jesus washing the Apostles’ feet, then wash each others’ feet in a foot spa or just in the tub.
  22. 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.
  23. Make Resurrection Rolls, and tell the Easter story as you do it
  24. Friend (Day 8)- “Jesus really did live after He had died, and so will we! He visited with His disciples for 40 days. He ate with them and talked with them. What a joyful time it was! Then He asked His disciples to meet Him on a mountain. He told them what they should do after He went to heaven. And He gave them a promise that He would always be with them. This wonderful promise is for us too!”  Use a glove and your hand to explain the Resurrection.  I explain how I do this in my Family Home Evening post for this month.

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.