Advent is coming. Hooray! This is a beautiful time of year filled with anticipation and growth. But there are also a lot of things that try to steal our focus during this time of preparation. Shopping, decorations, and flying food get in the way of my solemn time of preparation.
Although my little Anna provides many sticky moments and requires a lot of me, I think she is one of the factors that helps, not harms, my celebration of Advent. Because of her ripe age of 1.5, she is really good at following a daily rhythm and living each day with expectant joy. She doesn’t let things worry her or get bogged down with to do lists. Anna has the perfect mindset for a holy and fruitful Advent. This Advent I am going to try and be a little more like my toddler.
This post probably should have been called “what we are trying, but really have no idea what we are doing to celebrate Advent with a toddler” These are some of the ways our family is going to try and sing “O Come Emmanuel” in the days leading up to Christmas, but we don’t have years of experience we are just trying our best.
Acts of Service. Each week we are going to accomplish one toddler sized act of service. Something we can do with Anna for others. Sometimes acts of service can be easier with a little because you are forced to have reasonable expectation. These small acts of service must be something we can do with a toddler on our hip. Here are a few of our ideas.
- Write a few letters of encouragement to friends and family
- Make dinner for a family in need
- Pack up a bag for the local food pantry
- Create a bassinet care package for the local pregnancy help center
- Visit a friend in the hospital
- Call Anna’s great grandmothers
Manger set up. This year we are going to try to set up a manager scene in Anna’s playroom and every few days were are going to add a new nativity character. The coolest thing about this is it is basically telling the story of Jesus through toys. Anna will be able to hold and play with each characters and we can begin to tell her the greatest story of all time.
When Stuart and I were just two grown adults trying to celebrate Advent sometimes we felt silly. Do we light the candles when it is just the two of us? Do we add baby Jesus to the manager on Christmas when it is just adults? Kids are a good excuses to do all the really fun awesome campy stuff, but I wish someone had told us to do it even when it was just adults. The way kids get excited about the addition of a new character to the manager scene is awesome, and the kind of wonder and hope they exhibit is something we should all practice, even if it feels a little silly.
This year we are going to use this awesome printable paper manager set, because it is low cost and I have no idea how Anna is going to like or handle the manager. I will let her color (scribble) on each new character and then we will set it in a wrapped up shoe box. Some other great sets I have seen are below.
- A wood set. These look beautiful and are basically indestructible.
- A fabric manager set from pockets of learning. Great for the littlest hands.
- Here is a fun, made with the kiddos in mind, set from fisher price. With this toy manager you can add on many many pieces and eventually build all of Jerusalem.
- And of course a beautiful, just for looking at, Willow tree nativity set
Advent Music. Our little girl loves to have music on. Our goal is to listen to some spectacular Advent music during this season. We are not going to totally wait on Christmas music, but we are definitely going to make it a point to fill our home with some music of preparation. Hopefully using the tunes to talk to Anna about what we are hearing and singing. One of my favorite albums is In the Bleak Midwinter by Marian Grace. I love the way they have reinvented some traditional songs and really caught the beauty of advent in thier melodious tracks.
Here is also a great playlist that Haley at Carrots for Michaelmas put together a few years ago.
Wreath Repetition. The Advent wreath is a tradition that we were excited to incorporate into our family this year. But we felt a little stumped about how to do it with a little one. There are so many beautiful prayers and traditions surrounding the advent wreath, but we decided to do it with as much consistency, simplicity, and repetition as possible. We will say a quick little prayer each day before dinner and light the appropriate candles. Our goal is that the small digestible prayer will be an opportunity for Anna to catch on to what we are doing and participate a little more.
The prayer we are using this year is, “Our Lord and savior now draws near. O come, let us adore him.” We would love to add in more scripture, but as mentioned before, this year we are keeping it simple and doable.
If you would like to join us feel free to right click and download the below printable prayer.
Small Fast. Advent, despite main stream media’s portrayal, is meant to be a tiny Lent. In order to prepare yourself for the holiness that is Christmas, we are called to spend time in prayer and fasting. We have decided to pick a few things that we will wait until the Christmas season to enjoy. For each family this may look different. This year our list is:
- No christmas movies until the 25th, and limited television watching
- No eggnog until Santa has the first sip on Christmas Eve.
- No meat on Fridays until our Christmas Feast.
We don’t want to be celebrated out by the time Christmas rolls around. We want to offer a little sacrifice to grow in holiness and build some excitement for the 12 days of celebrating Jesus’ birth. We kept it simple this year, but we didn’t want to miss out on some penitential time during Advent.
We are going to clean out and give away the excess in each area of our home this Advent. Hopefully purging will help us let go of material things a little bit and make our home ready for the baby Jesus. Along the same vane we are trying to get most of our Christmas shopping done before the beginning of Advent. We don’t want to spend the entire month of December thinking about possessions.
As we are cleaning our home, Stuart and I are also going to take steps to get to confession sometime before the feast of Christmas, cleaning our soul and starting on fresh ground to worship the coming Christ.
Building Anticipation. Our main goal for Advent with our toddler and ourselves is to prepare for the coming of Christ. We want to build anticipation for the Jesus who came into the world as a little baby and who desires to come into our home, family, and hearts. We are planning on doing this in 3 simple ways, decorations, books, and the story of Jesus.
We will be decorating the home with a lot of simple greenery and placing lights on the house and tree to remind us that we are waiting for the life and light of the world. We will be repeating often that Jesus is birthday is coming and that we are excited about this as we offer bits of the story of Jesus to Anna. Lastly we will be adding a few new books in to the mix over the next 4 weeks. Here is a few great lists of Advent and Christmas picture books from Haley and Kendra.
We hope that with these few simple things Anna is excited for Christmas and that our hearts are all ready to accept Jesus more. So hopefully hand in hand with my little toddler we will sing Come! Lord Jesus Come!
We are trying to add only a few things this year to make sure they actually get done. Here are other great ideas that might fit your family well:
- The Jesse Tree from Blessed is She is just beautiful this year.
- The Story of Christmas Advent calendar read a piece the story each day leading up to Christmas.
- Adding hay to Jesus’ manager when the kids do something kind.
- Waiting until Christmas eve to add ornaments to the tree
- A Lego Advent Calendar is great for an older kiddo.
- Watch for the Light: Readings for Advent and Christmas
- Here are a couple weekly prayer guides for yourAdvent wreath, here or here.
Linking up today over at 7 quick takes. Head over to This Ain’t the Lyceum to see more.