Sunday, December 7, 2014

Picture Books + Wise Men + Service = One Grand New Advent Tradition Idea!

Good morning and happy Second Week of Advent!

It has been such a full week of discipline, delight and living life throughout this early Advent season that I have yet to be able to carve out much blog-writing time.  Thus, I have yet to put together the mega-list of Advent and Christmas picture books that I had hoped to share this week (and had said that I would share when I offered a free printable of our 2014 Advent Plans last week sans mega-booklist.  Please accept my apologies, then, for not doing so yet.)

Today, instead of trying to race to write a mega-booklist while my children slumber, I am going to share some of the titles we have read this past week along with ideas which have me excited!

What Idea Has Me So Excited?

As we enjoy a number of our annual Advent transitions this year, I am already thinking ahead to next year with joyful anticipation!  You see, ideas have been percolating in my brain all week about a way I might reintroduce some of my children's favorite seasonal read aloud to them next year in a new way a la the tradition of "Elf on the Shelf", "Kindness Elves" or "Three Wise Kings Searching".

Yes, three of our learning shelves are PACKED with Advent and Christmas read alouds that we own or have borrowed from our local library!  (I am not kidding about how we love to peruse picture books during this season!)

One morning this past week, after I saw a friend's Kindness Elf post, the kids ran to the living room to take down a link from our our annual Advent chain.  Then, we all snuggled together to read The Christmas Coat: Memories of My Sioux Childhood and the idea came to me: Next year, we might add the Wise Men tradition to our family alongside reading our favorite seasonal picture books and doing service.  

Since that moment, I have been holding myself back from making the idea a reality this year (because we already have so much going on!) and simply storing away notes for next year's fun.  Today, I thought I'd share those notes with you as...

Part One of Our Mega Advent and Christmas Read Aloud List!

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One morning, my children might find the Wise Men sifting through a pile of coats with The Christmas Coat: Memories of My Sioux Childhood buried inside it.  We'll read the book aloud and then sort out our outgrown coats to donate.  Who knows?  We may even count coats as we go to tie the exercise together with our now annual Count, Pray and Give campaign!
On another day, early in Advent, when Mom is still busy prepping other things and won't have a lot of time for Wise Men set ups, since we own a copy of Joy to the World! already the children might find the Wise Men rifling through a stack of construction paper, markers, scissors glue and the book.  Their service project would be to create torn-and-cut-paper collages or artwork, modeled after the style of the illustrations on the book, to make something to gift another, thereby sharing joy.

Another day, they might find the Wise Men with The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey, a box that contains our largest Nativity set and some printed images of the nativity.  Their job would be to unwrap our Nativity, put the shepherds, sheep and angel on our living room shelf; place Mary, Joseph and the donkey figurines in one bedroom, set to travel each week to another room until Christmas; leave the Baby Jesus figurine in the box until Christmas morning; and re-wrap the Wise Men in the box for use between Christmas and Epiphany.  Then, they'd use the images of the nativity to make thinking-of-you cards to send to someone we know who has lost a loved one in the prior year.

Keeping with the letter-writing theme.  Another morning, the children might find the Wise Men searching through stickies, stationary and writing utensils as well as a copy of If He Had Not Come.  After reading the story, they would write "If He Had Not Come" on stickies and race to put them on things around our house that would not exist if our Lord had not come to earth so long ago.  Then, we'd write letters to folks whose jobs exist because He did come, thanking those people for sharing His love with us and others!

Then, one day, they might find the Wise Men with The First Christmas Stocking and some yarn, thread, needles, their plastic knitting circle, cloth, etc.  Their job would be to hand craft a gift for someone else.

On the day they found The Christmas Knight, they would discover the Wise Men leading all our plastic knight figurines marching towards a food cupboard.  That day, we'd pick out some food to give to our pantry.

Then, one day, they'd find our plastic war guys facing off on either side of the Three Wise Men alongside a copy of Christmas in the Trenches and print outs of Silent Night.  We'd practice the song for the evening we go caroling to bring cookies and cheer to neighbors.

One morning, the children might find the Wise Men wading through straw with a manger and Marta and the Manger Straw nearby.  On that day, we'd begin making soft the bedding for baby Jesus with our home manger and also make straw ornaments to gift someone who may not be expecting a gift.  Alternately, we might choose something we have only a little of that we could pass on to another as  a sacrifice.

Then, of course, before St. Nicholas day, the children would find the Wise Men atop a stack of supplies that includes Saint Nicholas, The Gift from Saint Nicholas,  A Gift from Saint Nicholas, The Baker's Dozen: A Saint Nicholas Tale, The Legend of St. Nicholas: A Story of Christmas Giving, The Legend of Saint Nicholas, The Legend of Saint Nicholas, or portions of Legends of the Saints, a basket, some food stuffs, white paper (for snowflakes), scissors and a printable about the tradition of secretly leaving baskets of food for a neighbor. 

Another Book We've Been Loving

For the record, we've also been loving reading Tabitha's Travels: A Family Story for Advent next to our Advent Wreath each night and hope to get a copy of Jotham's Journey: A Storybook for Adventfor next year!  If we do, on the first day of Advent, the Wise Men will be climbing the kids'
annual Advent chain, filled with their own service ideas ready to be acted upon, with the book and our Advent wreath nearby.

Can you tell I am excited for next year even as I enjoy the precious present of this year?  Just - shhhhh!  Please don't share this idea with my children. 

I pray your Advent is filled with eager anticipation, too!

If you leave a link to a faith formation idea or a reflection relevant to raising young children in the faith in a comment here or on our Training Happy Hearts Facebook page, I will pin it on the Training Happy Hearts: A Call to Faith Formation in Young Children Pinterest board.


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