Although we are already in the throes of Advent, I still wanted to let you all in on a great idea for an advent calendar. We've been using this idea for four years now and we love it. It's not my idea so I can't take credit for it. It comes from Noel Piper's book, Treasuring God in our Traditions; which is a great read by the way. I can't recommend it enough. She came up with this idea and used it while raising her four boys. At times, the Desiring God website will carry these already made but, when I wanted to start using one, they were out of stock. So...even though I'm horrible at crafty things, I made ours. So with that confession, you can conclude that it's not that difficult to make if I was able to do it. It is just really time consuming so don't start it on November 30th! Give yourself a couple of days.
Here's the basic idea. The goal of the advent calendar is to get your kids to memorize the story of Jesus' birth. The easiest and most compact version is found in Luke 2. The bottom of the calendar holds all sorts of different players in the nativity like sheep, shepherds, wise men, angels, a star and of course, Mary, Joseph and Jesus. Each of these players are numbered starting with 1 for December 1st and go all the way until 25. We save the stars of the story, Mary, Joseph and Jesus, for the very end. This is what it looks like.
The nativity scene is laid out up above. Each day a child takes a character from the story (that corresponds to the date) and places it on its number above in the nativity scene. We then read Luke 2 adding on one verse each day. For example, Day 1 we read Luke 2:1. Day 2, we read Luke 2:1-2 and so on. The repetition helps them to memorize the whole thing really fast. I'm not kidding. Every year since Isaac was two, my kids (those 2 and over) have learned the passage and that's not because they're unusual. It's just because that's how kids at this stage learn...they can memorize anything through repetition. This is what the top looks like.
And this is the whole thing.
I know you're wondering where the treats are like most calendars. Well, there aren't any hidden away in the numbers. However, we just always happen to have Christmas cookies on hand and so after dinner, as we're learning the story, they get one anyway. So there you go. Treats are in there too. But we LOVE this calendar. Sure it takes up a whole wall but, our kids enjoy it and really get into learning the story. Heck, all of us do. If you don't already have a tradition in this area, think about this for next year.
Seriously, it hardly costs anything to make it. You need a big piece of burlap ($2-3), a big bag of pipe cleaners (various colors, including gold), clothespins (to make the characters out of), cotton balls, velcro, a permanent marker (or fabric pen), popsicle sticks and a glue gun. Various scraps of material help too when making baby Jesus, his manger and the shepherds' outfits. I already had most of this stuff when I went to make it the first time. And here's the particulars, in case anybody wants to try and make one of these sometime. We have four shepherds, four sheep, six angels, three wise men, three gifts, one star, a manger, Joseph, Mary and Jesus. Pretty simple. And once it's made, you just get to enjoy it every year.
So this is our tradition for Advent...what's yours?
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