Last year’s Christmas season was wonderful. Rhys was 2.5 years old and he was getting a baby sister for Christmas. But, more than that, he was finally grasping the concept of Christmas. He understood about Christmas trees (and was so excited about it). He loved wrapping presents and eating candy canes. He knew who Santa was and would wave to him every time we went to the mall.
Even now, when we ask Rhys what Santa says, he says “Ho Ho Ho” and explains in his own little speech-delayed way how Santa goes through the chimney and leaves presents. He also tells us that Santa left him a play kitchen last year.
We love celebrating Christmas. It is actually my absolutely favorite holiday. It’s so festive, so bright, so full of fun, family, and friends. In the weeks before having Evelyn (two days before Christmas morning), we were so busy. We had so many Christmas parties to attend to.
But, while the commercial and festive part of Christmas is really fun, it isn’t the true reason we celebrate Christmas. As a Christian and as a Mormon, I celebrate Christmas because I celebrate the birth of my Savior, Jesus Christ. I absolutely love the Christmas spirit: religious Christmas songs (like Mary, Did You Know), the Nativity story, Advent devotionals, visiting Salt Lake City’s Temple Square, and Christmas church services are the absolute best part of the season.
But, I don’t think you have to separate the two. I want to raise my children to know and understand both parts of Christmas and celebrate them in tandem. And now that I have a 3.5 year old and an almost-one-year-old, it is the perfect time to start really getting into the holiday season. So, I have compiled a list of ways you can really bond with your children and teach them about the Christmas season and spirit.10 ways to celebrate #Christmas with young kids!! Click To Tweet
Bake Christmas Goodies Together
Growing up, I remember one weekend when my mom went into overdrive with Christmas baking. She would make peanut butter cookies, white chocolate dipped pretzels, banana bread, and many more goodies. Before we were allowed to have any, though, she would make large plates for different women she served in her church (those she Visit Taught), our teachers, and our neighbors. She would have us go with her to deliver these baked goodies. This was one of the first introductions to the spirit of service and love during the Christmas season. I want to continue this tradition. We haven’t necessarily done so yet in our marriage due to finances, but I have done family Christmas baked goodies with Rhys before. Last year, we made Christmas Wreath Rice Krispie Treats. Rhys had an absolute fun time pouring all the ingredients in and then watching it turn green from the food die. And, of course, he enjoyed eating them afterwards. Baking with my son is one of the ways our bond grows stronger–Justin and I both enjoy being in the kitchen and we love passing this hobby to our children.
Have a Christmas Dance Party
Evelyn is just beginning to dance–you know, the baby squat and arm waving. Rhys also loves to dance around and sing along with songs. It is the perfect time to have a family dance party and learn Christmas songs. Sing holiday songs, such as “Rudolph”, “Deck the Halls”, “Santa is Coming to Town”, and religious songs such as “Away in a Manger”, “Silent Night,” and “Little Drummer Boy.” This is great practice for when they are older and you can take them caroling.
Teach the Nativity
We have a colorful porcelain nativity set that my mom handed down to me once she got the coveted Willow Tree Nativity Set. Rhys was very interested in this nativity last year. I didn’t let him touch it at all, but I would point out the different pieces to him: baby Jesus, Jesus’s mom, Jesus’s dad, the angel, the smart guys (all in 2.5 year old vernacular, of course). Soon, he was able to easily identify baby Jesus and Mary (Jesus Mama). I will definitely be doing that again with Rhys this year. I’m also considering getting either a felt or a wooden nativity set for he and Evelyn to play with. I feel that this is the absolute most important thing to do during the Christmas season over and over again. Our children should know the story of the Nativity and know about the birth of our Savior. We also read the birth story in the New Testament on Christmas Eve–have your children sit in with you. Some families even act out the nativity.
We have visited Santa every year of Rhys’s life thus far. It is a fun way to get into the holidays and it gets the kids even more excited about Christmas Day. Rhys was almost 6 months old for his first Christmas. We took him to Santa at a mall and got pictures. We sent those pictures to both sets of our parents for Christmas. Justin’s parents who so pleased to have a special picture of their twelve grandchild. And my mom cried and said it was the best gift–Rhys is her first grandchild. Pictures are definitely worth a thousand words. True, we know Santa doesn’t really exist and that Jesus Christ should be a bigger celebrity, but think of the reactions of the people who plan on giving pictures. It may be worth a lot to them.
Since it is Evelyn’s first Christmas (well technically second, but she was only 48 hours old last December 25th….), we are actually going to visit Santa this year and get another set of pictures to send to all the grandparents.
Visit a Christmas Town or Salt Lake City Temple Square
If you are lucky enough to live in Utah, visiting Temple Square is an absolute must for the holiday season. Not only is it fully decorated with lights on every tree, but there is a life size nativity in the reflecting pool with an audio of the story playing. On one side, there is a collection of different nativities from different cultures and countries. In the Visiting Center, you can learn more about Mormons and Christmas. The Mormon Tabernacle Choir has a Christmas concert, which I have gone to three times. We have been lucky enough to take Rhys 2 out of his 3 Christmases so far. The only reason we didn’t last year was because we had moved to Texas and I was about to give birth! But, this year, we are lucky enough to return to Utah for the holidays. It will be so fun to see both kids’ reactions!
Many town squares do the same thing–they decorate for the holidays and many times have live music and different activities for little children to do. Check out your town or local area’s website to see what Christmas activities are happening.
A few local Mormon congregations here do an annual Nativity celebration. We have a live Nativity, different choir groups from local schools and Christian churches come perform Christmas songs, and we have a huge collection of decorated trees and a huge, wide variety of nativities. We invite the entire community to come celebrate with us.
Create an Ornament with your Children
My grandma started a tradition while we were all children. Every year, she would give all of her grandchildren a special ornament. That is now all that my current tree holds. We always looked forward to it. My mother has decided to continue this tradition for her grandchildren (my two children). And, my Mother-in-Law has her own tradition. She does a DIY ornament exchange every year. Two years ago, I decided I wanted to do an ornament based on Isaiah 9:6
For unto us a Savior is born, unto us a Son is given…and His name shall be called Wonderful, Councillor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.
I decided to have Rhys help. I painted his had white and gave every ornament a toddler’s handprint. He loved doing it. Since then, he has helped me with my ornaments. Last year, he helped pour fake snow in my ornaments. This year, I gave him my trial ornament to “paint” and “drill” and “string through.” I’m not sharing this year’s ornament just yet…you’ll have to wait a few weeks until my MIL gets everyone’s ornament first. But, I want to have my children help me with these ornaments every year. It will be something we do together. My SIL’s have also had their children help with their DIY ornaments. So, it’s an extended family activity, now!
Read Christmas Books
This is a perfect opportunity to teach more about Christ and the nativity. But, don’t feel that you have to be limited to religious Christmas books. I like to read a good mix of both to Rhys. We don’t have many Christmas picture books at home, but we got a lot from the library. Every single trip to the library, we let Rhys choose all of the books he gets. It can get very funny–once we got a “I’m a big girl” book and another time he choose a book about how it is ok to have nappy hair….hahaha. We directed him to the Christmas shelf, and these were his choices. Having your children choose the Christmas books you read is a great way to give them the lead in learning about and enjoying the spirit even more.
One book that I will be buying this season is A Special Place for Santa. I remember as a child when my mom found this book and its accompanying . It’s about Santa delivering the presents on Christmas Eve and how he ends up in Bethlehem. He sees Jesus in the manger and kneels to worship him. That image has stuck in my brain since then. That is why I feel it is ok and important to celebrate both Santa and Jesus. And that is why I will be teaching my children that Santa is a Christian and that he wants to give us all presents because he is following Christ’s example because Christ gave us the gift of eternal life. That is why we will be doing both Elf on the Shelf and Little Lamb!
Elf on the Shelf
I know, I know. It’s getting old and many people are annoyed with it. Well, I have been waiting years for a cognizant enough child to do it. My mom finally granted my wish and got us an Elf on the Shelf for Rhys last year. He affectionately named it Jingle and every morning, the first thing he did was to find Jingle. Then, he’d proceed to show us every place we hid him previously. Rhys knew not to touch Jingle and he loved reading Jingle’s book. He was also very well behaved, even when we reminded him that Jingle would tell Santa if he was a good or naughty boy.
Rhys still remembers Jingle and I can tell he’s getting excited. I can’t wait to do the Elf on the Shelf again with Rhys this year. And, it’ll be fun to see if Evelyn even partially grasps the concept.
Little Lamb of Bethlehem
**I received this product from Deseret Book in exchange for a review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.**
This is a brand new product! Little Lamb of Bethlehem is kind of the same concept of Elf on the Shelf, only it focuses on the true meaning of Christmas. It was created by a grandma who wanted her grandchildren to focus more on the religious aspect of Christmas. Little Lamb teaches children about the birth of our Savior and how we can be more like Him by participating in service and learn more about our Savior during the Christmas season. The book is absolutely gorgeous and shows how Little Lamb was there at Jesus’s birth. The book even gives ideas on how a family as a whole can do different acts of service. And, another difference between Little Lamb and Elf on the Shelf is that children can actually hold and cuddle with Little Lamb. It is meant to be enjoyed. I know Evelyn will absolutely love to do that because she is obsessed with dolls and stuffed animals right now. It is a very beautiful and soft stuffed lamb–perfect for little cuddles. I am so excited to use this product, and its so hard to keep it under wraps until Black Friday (when I decorate for Christmas).
Help your kids learn about the true meaning of Christmas! #littlelambofbethlehem Click To Tweet
Find Opportunities to Serve
You don’t have to have a Little Lamb of Bethlehem to serve with your young children this season, but it certainly makes it more enjoyable for the kids. There are plenty of ways to serve and provide charity with little children. Make a dinner for a family in your neighborhood or church. Your kids can help make and deliver it. Offer a free date night for some parents you know and watch their kids. Your kids will enjoy a playdate! Have your children pick out a new toy or outfit and help them donate it. Teach your young sons to open the doors for others.