Last November I almost lost my mind trying to find a doable advent plan for Faye.
The crazy came mostly from my own head.
It went something like this: “You need to teach your one-and-a-half-year-old everything possible to know about the Christmas story. Order all the books! Read all the blogs! Quick, craft something out of peppermint sticks and marshmallows to explain the hypostatic union of the incarnate Christ before you take her to see Santa at the mall!”
A week into losing my ever-loving sanity, and surrounded by no less than seventeen advent plans made for kids, I realized something really important: my one-and-a-half-year-old was just one and a half years old.
I spent days calling out red item after red item for before she wasn’t pointing at the nearest candy cane and triumphantly identifying it as “purple.”
And here I was with an advent guide crafted to give my tiny person new information about Christmas every day. To build a story with 25 or so blocks.
New stuff every day was just going to be too much.
The second realization was that I had the wrong perspective. She can’t know all the Jesus things now, and now isn’t the only time for all the Jesus things. The opportunity to teach her about Jesus didn’t arrive once a year with the Thanksgiving turkey. We talk about Jesus all year long. We try to talk about Jesus every day, in fact.
Without a doubt, this time is special, but it isn’t solitary.
With the pressure released and having a clearer view of my daughters capabilities, I started over with the mantra “simply advent.”
I told myself to simply advent with my family. It’s not everything advent. It’s not adult only advent. “Simply Advent” became my mantra as I sifted through the Jesus Storybook Bible and began to craft my own advent guide for the Hency family.
What we ended up with is a five-week plan that starts the Sunday after Thanksgiving and runs a week past Christmas.
Each week has one story and one song and we read that same story and sing that same song every night. Throughout the story, we ask Faye to say a few key phrases out loud and we ask her questions about what we are reading.
Despite my certainty that I had ruined everything, this advent ended up working well for us.
A few days into each story Faye would spontaneously shout the phrases we were all saying together unprompted. She would shout them out when we got to that page of the story, in the car as we drove to Starbucks for hot chocolate, and as she played with her stuffed bunny. She was always shouting them.
Faye was learning little bits of the story throughout the week and this Mama smiled everytime she shouted.
But the advent plan was working for our life during the season of “yes, we will be there.”
Some nights we didn’t get to the story. We just the song in the car on the way home from party number six. And that’s ok. Because of the built-in repetition, there’s space to miss a night or two in this guide. I never felt guilty because she was going to miss the part where Baby Jesus was laid in a manager because there wasn’t room at the inn.
And lastly, it turns out that repetition works for adults too. Advent gives us time to linger; time to sit. Taking a week to tell and then retell each story to my child wasn’t boring, it was enlightening. The repetition was a class in the details. An invitation to slow down and experience the stories that I overlooked for familiarity.
We really loved our simply advent approach.
So, now I am offering up our advent guide to all of you.
For those with young kiddos, my hope is that it may help you keep your sanity while you see your little people grasp some of the storyline and a few of the details.
This probably works best for four and under, but it could work with older children – I just don’t have those yet so I don’t know for sure.
Here’s what’s in the advent guide. A one-page guide for each week and printable daily excerpts (seven per week) that come from each week’s story.
The one-page guide includes:
- What to Read: A story to read from the Jesus Storybook Bible (side note: if you don’t have one of these it’s a worthwhile purchase for the Christmas season, yes, but also for every other day as well–get ya one–plus it’s ten bucks right down. Yup. $10). The Jesus Storybook Bible: Every Story Whispers His Name
- What you are looking to Learn: the overarching lesson of the story to help keep you focused.
- Questions you can Ask: these are simply suggestions for talking about the story with your littles to aid im their comprehension.
- A Christmas song to Sing: each song relates to the story themes. (Tip: We pull this up on youtube and watch a video while we sing along. Carrie Underwood and the Pentatonix make multiple appearances.)
The download also includes cards with a daily excerpt from the story. We looked at our card every morning and talked about that specific aspect of the story casually during some point in the day.
The download button is just right there below these words. See it? Great. Now go for it. Take the advent plan. Talk about Jesus with your kiddos. Learn together. Celebrate the birth of the one who came to rescue us.Download Weekly Advent Guide Download Daily Advent Excerpt