There is frost on the trees at my house and the glittering crystals are getting me excited for the most wonderful time of the year…Christmas. I love Christmas. The lights, the smells, the snow, the look of wonder on my children’s faces, the giving of gifts and, most of all, the pause to celebrate Jesus and the strange and magical way he entered this world. One of my favorite ways to celebrate is by doing an Advent devotional with my children. I want them to be awed by the wonder of Jesus’ birth and find it as beautiful and exciting as all the shiny distractions of the season.
This is the plan we followed last year and I will be doing it again and again. The reading plan is so simple, there is no jumping around. We encounter Jesus in every story from creation all the way through to His birth and celebration. There were insights in this reading plan that were, honestly, new to me as a life-long Christian. I love the way that God reveals Himself to me in the simple lessons that I teach my children, reminding me that I can seek Him and grow in every season of life.
Day 1: The Story and The Song
This is really just an introduction to what the Storybook Bible is and how the story of Jesus is woven through the whole Bible. We had our children open a present containing their Christmas jammies, the storybook bible, some hot cocoa and popcorn and some fancy Christmas glasses on December 1st. We were then able to snuggle up and reflect on the story together while snacking, relaxing, and encouraging the kids to be detectives and find Jesus in every story. We drove the point home by reading our Little People nativity book and having them use their Christmas glasses to find pictures of baby Jesus in that book so they got the idea for the next time we read.
Day 2: The Beginning: A Perfect Home
We made a days of creation poster sharing what was created on each day. Then rolled dice so they could spy the numbers and tell me what was created on that day.
Day 3: A Terrible Lie
I used an empty toilet paper tube and green construction paper to make a tree and made a snake from pipe cleaner and beads. The lie they really focused on in this story was the belief that if God really loved them, He would let them taste the fruit. So we wrote John 3:16 out on the tree and spoke of God’s undying love for us. We also played hide and seek to discuss how Adam and Eve tried to hide from God and how well that worked for them.
My children did not believe this craft could be complete without Adam and Eve puppets on popsicle sticks.
Day 4: A New Beginning
For the Noah’s Ark story we built a fort out of totes and sleeping mats and had it be our Ark, the kids practiced climbing aboard it as various animals. We also made a paper bag and pipe cleaner diorama and loaded it with mini animals.
This year I may also do some rainbow finger painting in the bath tub, self-contained messes for the win.
The stuffed animal Ark was a hit, don’t let my sons pouty lip fool you.
Day 5: A Giant Staircase to Heaven
The Tower of Babel. We played Jenga and talked about the story. How the problem was that the people were believing they were good enough on their own and didn’t need God. It was a great opportunity to discuss how everyone needs help. We asked: What do we need to ask God to help us with? What things can we do to help others?
The look of concentration here is priceless
Day 6: Son of Laughter
The story of Isaac. We discussed Abraham being promised descendants as numerous as the stars and drove around town for our annual Christmas light cruise. We pondered waiting for promises to come true and how happy they must have felt holding their brand, new baby. They were so full of joy that they named their baby “Laughter.”
Day 7: The Present
The story of Abraham’s faithfulness to not withhold his son and God’s provision of a ram. Trusting God even when it is hard and doesn’t make sense. We were able to talk about making hard choices and knowing God is for us. Our craft for this activity was a coloring page, which we added cotton balls to for the rams hair and red and orange tissue paper for fire on the altar.
Day 8: The Girl No One Wanted
The story of Rachel, Leah and Jacob (with an emphasis on Leah)
Guys, I have to be honest, this one actually blew me away. Perhaps it is because I grew up with 3 sisters and the unhealthy obsession with “who is the prettiest?” plagued way more of my adolescence than I’d like to admit. Perhaps because we have had some intentional conversations with our son lately as he is beginning to notice differences in peoples looks and abilities. I want to raise children who see people for their inner beauty and don’t get so hung up on the other stuff so I loved this activity I found, as an object lesson for this story:
I took two gift bags and filled one with a little treasure ( we used baby Jesus from our nativity set and a couple candies) and left the other one empty. I decorated the empty container so it looks beautiful and then beat up the other a little so it appeared wrinkled and old, then put the treasures inside of that container. The kids were given a chance to choose. I assumed they would choose the beautiful bag and I would have a great chance to share how we can never judge someone based on their outward appearance. We want to look at the heart like Jesus.
Our object lesson didn’t work quite as planned because the kids chose the brown paper bag over the fancy one anyway and were way too distracted to have the discussion. Here’s to better luck next year and may they always see the beauty in the mundane.
Day 9: A Forgiving Prince
The story of Joseph.
Our craft for this story was an old fashioned paper chain of dolls holding hands. 12 people to represent all of the brothers, coats were colored on and I vut out the letters for the word “forgiveness” to glue on. It is one letter short for all 12 brothers but we added a heart and it worked well! It was a good opportunity to talk about the value of forgiveness and also caring for others in need.
I also had our kids look through the pantry with me and see what stuff we have that could be given to a food bank since the story focuses on stores of food and sharing in crisis.
Day 10: God to the Rescue
The story of Moses and the 10 plagues of Egypt.
I am played around with some of the plagues to try to get them thinking about what that would have been like. We did a sensory bin with rice for the base and added raisins for flies, ice cubes for hail, whatever small animals we had for the plague on livestock (we happened to have some farm animals from TOOBS) and plastic frogs, we will put some sunglasses in for darkness. Talk about how it would have felt to be surrounded by darkness or swarms of flies, about God’s power and fierce desire to rescue His people. Another craft we did was making a door frame with popsicle sticks on a cardboard milk carton, cut it so it opened, then painted red over top as a way to talk about the Passover.
This one was super fun! They played with it for days and it was really a hodge podge of stuff from the house. crumbled paper, random animals, game pieces, etc. We got creative and had fun!
Day 11: God Makes a Way
Moses and the Red Sea.
I happen to have a sea blue sheet set at my house so I am used those (although any blankets would work) and set them up beside each other. The kids took turns blowing like a strong wind while I spread them apart for them to walk across. We also threw all ocean related toys we had on the blankets to look like animals in the sea beside them.
We also made some blue play dough and had their Lego people walk through it.
We did have fun with this one but my children were determined to be nudists that day so…no pictures. This may have happened a few other days as well. Clothes are, evidently, overrated.
Day 12: Ten Ways to be Perfect
The Israelites time in the desert and the receiving of the 10 commandments.
I brought out a picnic blanket and gave the kids some baskets to try to catch chunks of bread that I sprinkled down at them as manna. The picnic blanket was an attempt to keep it cleaner and a little less confusing for my children who are frequently asked not to toss their food around.
For our craft we did painted handprints with a commandment written over each finger.
Day 13: The Warrior Leader
The Battle of Jericho. This is it. My son’s absolute favorite bible story. It has destruction, loud noises and a cement mixer (in the veggie tables version at least) so it isn’t hard to see why and I can’t wait to go through it with him again. We busted out our Jenga blocks again to build a tower and see if we could knock it down just by marching, playing music, and singing. For our craft we made some gingerbread fortresses, with the intention of allowing one to turn to rubble.
The gingerbread fortress was surprisingly not destroyed but we did have fun marching around Jenga towers with harmonicas and shouts of victory!
Day 14: The Teeny Weeny True King
The choosing and anointing of David.
It was really sweet with this one to actually take a moment to anoint and specifically pray over and bless each of my children. To show them the biblical significance of anointing with oil and just really love on them.
On a more playful note, I also focused on how God knew David was fit to be king because of his great love. My kids both have superhero capes so I encouraged them to wear those and brainstorm ways we can be super hero helpers and show love to our people.
Our prayer time today was super special and the kids were great super hero helpers for the day. I didn’t manage any photos of that time but we had fun down at the lake in the afternoon.
Day 15- The Young Hero and the Horrible Giant
The story of David and Goliath. We made ourselves a snowman to knock down with snow balls for a fun chance to re-enact the battle.
For our craft I glued three Popsicle sticks on a piece of paper in the shape of a slingshot, had the kids glue 5 pom pins nearby for the stones and wrote “The Battle Belongs to the Lord” on it.
Day 16- The Shepherd King
For this story we talked about both David, as a shepherd turned King, and Jesus, who is our King to lead us and Shepherd to guide us. We used marshmallows and pretzels to make sheep and staffs. Sometimes an edible craft is more fun!
For our activity I had the kids build a corral (we used train track pieces) and I hid cotton ball sheep around the room for the kids to find and carry back to the corral on a spoon “staff”.
Day 17- The Little Servant Girl and the Proud General
The healing of Naaman. We did a family foot washing party: soaked our feet in a tub and took turns washing each others feet while talking about the servant girls forgiveness and kindness and brainstorming some acts of kindness that we can show. For our craft we covered a paper cup with blue construction paper to be a pool and made a double-sided Popsicle puppet with a sick Naaman (spots or something to show wounds from leprosy) on one side and a healed Naaman on the other. The kids had him dunk seven times and come out clean.
Day 18- Operation “No More Tears”
Readings from Isaiah; the corruption of the world and the prophesy of Jesus. I drew a circle on a piece of paper and had the kids glue scraps of blue and green paper on it to make the earth. We drew picture to depict the perfect world to come; no more tears, the lion shall lay down with the lamb, no more danger, mountains bow down, etc. Then we made binoculars out of toilet paper tubes and put a picture of baby Jesus on them. We used these to look at the perfect, clean world to signify it only being possible through Jesus.
Day 19- Daniel and the Scary Sleepover
Daniel and the Lion’s den. We made Lion masks out of Paper plates by cutting the center out of a plate and gluing strips of orange, red and yellow construction paper around the edges to make a mane. We then attached a popsicle stick handle. We also did some role playing with a fort cave, rock pillows, an angel ornament and the lion mask. We usually have the best conversation during play and it was an excellent chance to talk about Daniel’s bravery and commitment in praying even when it was dangerous.
Day 20- God’s Messenger
The story of Jonah. We used another paper cup to make a big fish by gluing construction paper fins and tail on it and left the opening as a mouth.
The kids had fun in a laundry basket boat where we pretended to ride the stormy seas with flashing lights, a spray bottle of water for rain, and some music to set the mood. The kid then tried to toss our Jonah ( we will use a Lego guy) into the mouth of the fish.
This may have been the favorite activity. It went on all day long and we read the story of Jonah for months afterwards.
Day 21- Get Ready
This story focuses on The Law and how the Israelites were sad after realizing how far they had fallen from it and then the joyful celebration of remembering how God had time and time again saved them from their own sin. My children love obstacle courses so I built than into this lesson. We set a course up in our play area and included a jump that was way too big for them. We had a couple jump ropes laid out for them to make it across, after letting them take a few tries I will brought out a piece of cardboard with a cross drawn on it and had them walk across the bridge. This was our prompt for a conversation about Jesus being the way to Heaven and our helper to do hard things. Then we just had a dance party to celebrate the good news, just like in the story.
Day 22- He’s Here!
The birth of Jesus. We talked about the long trip that Mary and Joseph had to take and what items we thought they would need to bring, had the kids pack their own back packs with items they need for a journey and take a walk together.
For the craft I did brown hand prints for each child, with the palm of the hand open so it creates a stable, we then drew Mary, Joseph, and Jesus in the center and put a star at the tip of the middle finger for the top of the stable.
Day 23: The Light of the World
This reading focuses on the angels appearing to the Shepherds. We talked about Jesus being the light of the world and did another Christmas light cruise, just because we love them! We also played a game of flashlight tag outside.
Day 24: The King of All Kings
The visit of the Wisemen and gifts they brought to Jesus.
We made some construction paper crowns and put stickers all over them. We always keep it pretty simple on Christmas Eve because it is a busy day visiting family but it is the perfect opportunity to talk about why we give gifts at Christmas.
We read the last 3 stories to get the entire Christmas story in our heads before opening gifts and just enjoyed the day as a family.