The only thing I knew of the Advent (from the Latin word meaning "coming") growing up was that you get a little gift each day counting down to the really big gift you get on Christmas. Well, that's all really fun, but I think the last thing we need is another way to focus on what it is we are getting for Christmas. Now, don't get me wrong, my hubby and I just built our kids a wonderful advent house and we will be doing it with the kids every day. They will get a small ornament each day to decorate their tree to help them count down to Christmas. There is nothing wrong with giving gifts on Christmas. In fact giving is a very important thing to teach our children. And getting gifts is fun too. It makes us feel special, it makes us feel loved, it makes us feel appreciated. But what are we doing beyond that? Are we taking advantage of the holidays to make family memories, teach our kids about serving others, and remembering the true meaning of the holidays? Here are some great ideas I've found to incorporate into your holiday season to help focus on something other than just how many gifts we will get. For each of these you can use the traditional advent house or calendar or just make a paper chain with the information written on each link (one of my personal favorites). You can search Pinterest for some really fun and different ideas on how to make your own advent.
The Arts and Crafts Advent. This is a really fun way to make memories together (and is great for finding things to do while your kids are out of school). Pinterest, again, is a perfect resource for activities to do with your kids! Find my follow me on pinterest button on my left sidebar to check out my boards for ideas. Pick a craft to do each day leading up to Christmas. Your kids will love it, and you will enjoy the purposeful time spent together.
The Service Advent. Your kids are never too young to learn to put others before themselves. Whenever I think of families serving together, I picture them lined up in hair nets serving at a food kitchen. A great idea, but there are so many other options. And I'm sure there's some you can find that will be much more appealing to your children. It's not about forcing them to serve, it's about getting them to want to serve others and teaching them how to do it. Have them pick out a few of their own toys, books, or clothing to donate (Hint: make sure it's not just a throw-away they don't want anymore. Ask how they would feel if someone gave it to them.) and have them pick out a few new toys to bring to a children's shelter. Get them involved in canned food drives. Have them save up some change from their allowance or pay them to do little things around the house and have them drop it into the Salvation Army buckets in front of stores or into the offering plate at church. Help your kids make handmade cards and letters to deliver to a local nursing home or the elderly members of your church. Fill a shoe box for Operation Christmas Child. Once you start thinking of ideas, you'll realize just how much there really is you can do. Get your kids' friends involved too so your family can serve side-by-side with another family you have grown close to.
Jesus is the Reason for the Season Advent. We say that Jesus is the reason for the season, but are we really teaching it? Since Christmas is focused on Christ's birth it is an excellent time to teach your kids about things you maybe wouldn't know how to bring up during the year. Make a scripture chain with verses for your children to memorize. Do links with the story of Jesus's birth beginning when the angel told Mary she was pregnant. Put the Roman road on links. Or do a chain that studies the different names of God. There are tons of great ways to do this! This is a post I found a few years ago that has a great advent chain for learning the true meaning of the season through scripture. Or you can make advent ornaments as you study the names of God together like this mom did. And this is a great nativity story chain for your younger children (begins on Dec 11 rather than the first). There's not a lot of detail and it's very simplified so it's perfect for those first few years of teaching.
If you search you can find many, many, many other ideas! Way too many for me to post. Tomorrow is Dec 1! So get your Advent ready and begin a wonderful new tradition of playing, serving, and learning with your family. I, honestly, think the best advent is a combination of all 3 of these. I can't wait to begin this journey with my own family!