Blessing Buddies and “What’s in the Box?” continues

The Blessing Buddies have continued to focus on blessing some of the ladies from our church who are coming for a special Christmas high tea tomorrow. They have had the children making craft gifts, decorating and setting up the room and making the house look presentable for the coming visitors.

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Our 3rd “What’s in the Box?” toddler activity for this year is some rainbow coloured metal jingle bells that combine beautifully with these magnetic construction tiles for a new dimension to the children’s play. My 2 year old is just getting the hang of constructing with these blocks so I think she will like this one.

 

 

 

Christmas traditions in someone else’s house

My friend Kristy is at it again with amazing Christmas activities and traditions for her children. Here is a pictorial compilation that may spark a few ideas for your own family.

Truth in the Tinsel” is another bible based advent count-down to Christmas that is used in the same way as a Jesse Tree count-down. Kristy got together with some friends and did a symbol swap so they each ended up with one complete set for the days of December.

 

Her daughter is loving decorating the felt Christmas tree each morning before breakfast and her MIL is knitting this amazing wool nativity piece by piece for them.

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Kristy’s knock and run nativity is wrapped, labelled and ready to go. Both of us chose the same wooden nativity from Target this year as a fairly inexpensive way to bless a friend/neighbour and share the true story of Christmas with someone who may not have heard it before.

 

While not necessarily Christmas, this pizza shop invitation to play was so inviting that I want to have a go!

 

Kristy is super organised and makes up all kinds of amazing sensory tubs and activities for her little ones to enjoy. A little bit of preparation makes for some peaceful times ahead. Thanks for letting me share your ideas Kristy.

Now, all my other wonderful friends/readers who are busy making amazing traditions happen this Christmas at your house – how about some pics to share on my blog? We all feel inspired when we get to take a peak into what others are doing to make this Christmas season meaningful and special.

The Blessing Buddies have arrived

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The first of December is an exciting day in our house as so many special Christmas traditions get started. The Blessing Buddies arrived with their daily act of kindness to help us focus on blessing others throughout the Christmas season, we began our Jesse Tree readings and started our sugar-free advent calendar jigsaw puzzle.

The children come out first thing each morning and hunt through the house to locate the Buddies and read the little note that will tell them what blessing we will work on for the day. Today we are working on a craft gift to give to the ladies from our church who are coming over for a Christmas high tea on the weekend. The whole event is about blessing others so it fits right in.

We choose not to do Santa (see why here) so we are careful not to replace one lot of pretend with another – the children all understand that they do not really move around by themselves but enjoy the experience nonetheless. This year the Buddies abseiled down from the roof vent instead of arriving in their usual suitcase on the doorstep.

The Buddies bought some epsom salt snow and special Blessing Buddy Christmas trees (LED light-up plastic trees) for the children to play with since we don’t get real snow here in Australia and left them where our nativity pieces can be easily added to the play.

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Our first “What’s in the box?” activity also arrived and although it wasn’t in the official red sparkly box due to it’s size, this Christmas sensory play tub was a hit with the younger ones.

What did you start with your family today that adds to their store of special memories each year? I’d love to hear your ideas.

A sugar-free advent calendar

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We have several different Christmas advent traditions running throughout December, one of which is opening the little numbered boxes on our wooden stable. Magnetic figures are added to the stable scene each day to tell the Christmas story and traditionally there would be a treat of some kind for each child. In order to cut down the junk over this period we have opted for non-food related fillers for a while now. Last year I purchased a secondhand random assortment of Lego bricks. I had my eldest son make little things from the blocks for each child each day. There were miniature birdhouses, cars, furniture and all kinds of things to open. They loved it, but we don’t have the benefit of another pile of cheap Lego bricks to use so I am going to borrow a great suggestion from one of my readers Kath, who commented on my Christ Centred Christmas Traditions  post to say that she has purchased a 260 piece jigsaw puzzle for her advent calendar. She has split it up into 25 piles of pieces and each day the children will add them on to eventually complete the full puzzle.

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I have whipped out and bought a puzzle so we can do the same thing as I think it is a wonderful idea. I first made the puzzle which took both my husband and I over an hour (did I mention I hate doing puzzles?) then took out groups of around 10 pieces. I wanted each day’s pieces to be able to join up to form a section of the puzzle, rather than a random assortment that may not join together for quite some time. This puzzle is very detailed and shows many scenes from the biblical story of the first Christmas so I wanted to place the sections in the order that they occurred to slowly build on to the story. I also numbered the back of each set so that I NEVER have to do this jigsaw again because as I said, I detest doing jigsaw puzzles.

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The piles of pieces are safely behind each little wooden door, ready to build on to our masterpiece each morning and should provide some Christmas fun. Thanks Kath for the great idea.

 

Jesse Tree Symbols; Unwrapping the Greatest Gift

We use a Jesse tree of some sort to count down to Christmas each year. Every day there is a section of the bible to read and a corresponding symbol to add to our tree, beginning with the creation of the world and moving on through some of the main events of the bible to finish on Christmas day with the birth of Jesus.

We started with traditional Jesse tree symbols (ideas for symbols here) to go with scrolls of bible verses, reading from the scroll each day and unwrapping the corresponding symbol. Another year we used clear glass jewels with Jesse tree symbol pictures behind them to make a magnetic Jesse tree (free printable here) and another year we counted down throughout December with the names of Jesus as our symbols. Other times we have used books like “The Jesse Tree” by Geraldine McCaughrean and “Grandpa’s Box” by Starr Meade.

This year we are reading a section a day from Ann Voskamp’s “Unwrapping the Greatest Gift” and using her free printable symbols as well as our own that we have collected from previous years. I usually wrap the symbols because this makes it all the more exciting and the children take turns to open each one. This time I have sewed up some drawstring bags because wrapping them takes ages and from now on I’ll never have to do it again!

Here are our symbols to match the readings in Ann’s book:

  1. Jesse tree – stump of Jesse prophesy (Place where love grows)
  2. The world/planets/solar system – creation of the world (Created by love)
  3. Apple – snake in the Garden of Eden (God is looking for you)
  4. 3 birds that Noah sent out from the ark – Noah’s Ark (God’s tears)
  5. Tent – Abraham follows God’s call (Count the stars)
  6. As many descendants as the stars – Elizabeth’s baby (The gift of laughter)
  7. Ram – Sacrifice of Isaac (Here I am)
  8. Ladder – Jacob’s ladder dream (Climbing up)
  9. Joseph’s coat (Surprise gifts)
  10. Mini photo frames with the 10 commandments (Ten love rules)
  11. Red rope – Rahab (The red rope)
  12. Wheat – Ruth (The little things)
  13. Crown – Samuel (Looking at things inside out)
  14. Candle – Isaiah predicts a light in the darkness (A candle in the darkness)
  15. Fire – Elijah calls down fire (Bowing down)
  16. Whale – Jonah (Turning around)
  17. Cottage – Bethlehem prophesy (A true fairy tale)
  18. Shoe and “E” keyring – Esther (A bridge to the king)
  19. Tower – Habakkuk (Watch and wait)
  20. Angel & heart – Zechariah & Elizabeth (God remembers)
  21. Fish – John the Baptist (Thunder in the dessert)
  22. Heart with wedding rings – Mary (Wide-awake dreams)
  23. Tools – Joseph (He can’t stay away)
  24. Mary holding a baby – birth of Jesus (Kneel at the manger)
  25. Star – leading to the manger (Never-ending Christmas)

What’s in the box? Christmas toddler tray activities; sensory tub

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Each day throughout December our older children work on a gift or craft of their choice, however these are often not toddler friendly, so we started this “What’s in the box?” tradition a couple of years ago. Each day the younger children search the house for the sparkly red box that houses an activity for them to play with during highchair/table time while their brothers and sisters are happily wielding needles or hot glue guns and crafting away.

I will post new ideas for these as I present them, but here is one to get you started. (Last year’s ideas start here.) The young ones simply love sensory tubs and I find of all the activities I prepare for them, these are the ones that keep them occupied for the longest times and for day after day. Include something to tip and pour and manipulate with lots of containers to open, shut and fill. Objects to search for and sort and a variety of scoops and utensils for tonging, spooning, scooping and pouring go down a treat. I will add couple of these to this tub once the initial interest has worn off somewhat.

I have many ideas for sensory tubs on this blog so simply type the term “sensory tub” into the search bar to find them. Once you get the idea of how these are put together it doesn’t take too much imagination to create a Christmas version for your little ones.

img_1772With rice and other messy fillers it is a good idea to spread a sheet or mat under the play area to catch the spills. At the end of play time it can be lifted up and simply poured back into the container without a lengthy pack-up, which will quickly dampen enthusiasm for sensory play in the future. I also find that the children always want to take the materials out of the main tub and work next to it rather than in it. Instead of fighting this continuously I now place a large shallow tray (or lid from the tub itself) next to the main tub so that they can set out the material as they please without creating a horrendous mess outside of the box itself.

I also use sensory tubs for mat time rather than in the highchair as the children need to be able to move around and see what is inside the tub without dropping items they are playing with out of reach. Be wary of choking hazards and perhaps hold off introducing sensory tubs to children too young to resist putting items into their mouth.

 

A Christ-centred Christmas

Each year we endeavour to keep Christmas centred around blessing others and keeping our hearts focussed on Jesus. We have many family traditions that we repeat yearly to build memories and make the Christmas period a special time for our children without it being about Father Christmas (Santa) or the presents they will get.img_1710We usually decorate the house on the weekend closest to the 1st of December but this year we have some busy times coming up so we decided to get an early start. Our Christmas tree is decorated fairly sparingly because it will become our Jesse tree come the start of December as we add a symbol each day. This year we will be reading from Ann Voskamp’s book “Unwrapping the Greatest Gift” and opening a corresponding symbol to hang on the tree as part of our daily reading.img_1744 One tradition we like is to have the youngest child in the family place the star on top of the tree once the decorating is done.img_1758Watching Daddy as he turns on the tree lights for the first time. The children tell us that one of the things they love to do through December is to lay on the floor in the dark each evening and listen to our Christmas stories while watching the Christmas tree lights. img_1752We have collected several nativity sets over the years and have looked hard for those that can be handled by little fingers without being easily broken. This year we have bought out the same sets again but presented them a little differently with this large mirror I found secondhand as a backdrop. With the rocks and small stones to manipulate and create with, along with our wooden blocks, the children have enjoyed setting up all sorts of arrangements already, even if I do have to take out the occasional truck or car at the end of a day of play in Bethlehem.

To the right we have our golden bags filled with a Christmas book for each day of December. Over the years I have been building our collection by adding a few new titles each Christmas. The children take turns choosing and opening one bag each night to find the story we will share before bed.

We now have so many books (mostly secondhand) that we have a basket of Christmas stories available to read whenever the children wish as well as the wrapped titles. These stories are packed away throughout the rest of the year and old favourites are treated with joy as they come out for the Christmas season. img_1761We try to make as many of our decorations as possible about the real meaning of the season. We want people to walk into our house and be able to see that we love God. While everything is not beautiful, perfectly coordinated or particularly fancy, the children love setting it out and we like the festive feel it gives the room.(Not that we have anything against beautiful or fancy – I think Christmas decorations make wonderful Christmas gifts!!)img_1762 Our advent wreath and candles are lit each evening as we read and count down the days to Christmas day, when the white candle symbolising the birth of Jesus is lit. img_1753We have delivered a knock and run nativity to different neighbours for a couple of years now and enjoyed blessing them in secret. This year someone is blessing us with pieces to add to this beautiful nativity. Whoever you are, we love it and NO, the children are not allowed to play with this one!!

Our Blessing Buddies will be appearing soon for a Christian alternative to the Elf on the Shelf and the usual Christmas crafts and daily activities will be starting in a couple of weeks. Keep an eye out back here for lots of ideas for What’s in the box? toddler activities and ways to bless others throughout December. I would love it if you would share your favourite Christmas traditions with me – I am always on the lookout for new ideas.