15 Unique Advent Calendars

15 advent calendars

December is creeping closer. I’ve already told you about two favorite Advent activities we try to do around here. But I also love Advent calendars, don’t you! We have a sweet little one with drawers now that my mom made. But here are some fun ones you could make, buy, or download to be prepared for December 1!

 

  1. Free Printable Bible Verse Advent Calendar
  2. DIY Toilet Paper Roll Advent Calendar
  3. Felt Christmas Tree Kit (buy it here)
  4. Paper Bag Advent Calendar
  5. Chalkboard Countown – buy it from Etsy or draw your own on a chalkboard decal or regular chalkboard
  6. Chinese Take-out Box Advent Calendar
  7. CHRISTmas Tree ($5 download)
  8. 25 5×7 prints ($35)
  9. Button Cone Advent Calendar
  10. Print a Nativity picture and color in one star each night (free printable).
  11. Love Came Down Pocket Calendar
  12. Basic Chocolates and Little Doors Calendars
  13. Coffee Cups with Gifts Inside
  14. Glitter Tape Advent Bags
  15. Stenciled Muslin Bag Advent Calendar

Do you use an Advent calendar? What kind?

Preparing for Advent

I know, I know. I don’t want to skip over Thanksgiving! I love it! But if you want to make a meaningful experience for your children this December, it might take some prepping.

I wanted to share with you my two favorite Advent activities that I’ve been doing with my (little) kids the past few years.

 

 

My lovely friend Amanda has such a heart for helping parents reach their kids for Christ. A few years ago, she wrote this e-book called Truth in the Tinsel. It’s an Advent experience: a 25-day guide with Scripture, crafts, activities, and application to help you tell your child the whole Christmas story – from Isaiah and the prophecies to the cross.

You can see my personal post about it here. But I just have to tell you how much my daughter enjoys this. I think this year, now that she’s 5, it will be even better. The Bible stories and truths are really starting to sink into her little heart. And I think Truth in the Tinsel is one of the best ways to fight back against secular Christmas. Make your focus Jesus … not presents.

{I love Amanda’s FAQ post if you have any questions about it!}

___________

Last year I also put together a list of 25 Jesus-centered Christmas books on my own blog. I wrapped each one in Christmas paper. Last year, each night in December the kids picked one book to unwrap and read. They thought this was the BEST THING EVER, and I loved the time reading together and again, reinforcing the true meaning of Christmas.

I would really urge you to take December as yours as a parent. Refuse to go to every party and event if you need to. Spend the holidays impressing Scripture and truth on your child’s heart, so you can emerge from December refreshed and in awe of God’s great work through Christ.

 

Mother’s Day Cards and Crafts

With Mother’s Day quickly approaching (it’s May 12!), you might want to guide your kids to make cards or small gifts for their moms and grandmothers. (Pssst, Dad, that means you.) Here are a few fun ideas to run with!

scrapbook paper flowers

These flowers are made from scrapbook paper. My daughter painted the paper (not necessary, just gave her something to do!); then we cut it into different-sized circles and layered them. Libbie (4) glued everything in place and drew the stems and leaves. You can use pom-poms, flat marbles, sequins, or buttons for the flower centers. We found the idea at Hands On As We Grow. These would be perfect to grace the front of a Mother’s Day card or to use as framed artwork for Mom or Grandma.

handprint art

No one will love your child’s artwork more than his or her grandparents. Hand and footprint crafts are especially sweet and preserve a memory of a specific time in your child’s life! I have a whole Pinterest board full of ideas for hand and footprint artwork. Make one on a painted canvas for Grandma!

These tulips painted with forks would be a fun and cute painting for the front of a card.

One last idea – how cute are these pool noodle flowers?

Last-Minute Ideas for Easter Weekend

 

Use a playdough mountain to teach about the crucifixion and resurrection

Make a resurrection garden

 

Easter fruit tart

 

resurrection rolls

Do you have any Easter traditions with your kids?

 

 

Easter Crafts

Are you, like me, a parent of a craft-loving child? I have a 4-year-old who would “make art” all day long if I had the motivation, ideas, and supplies!

All of the chicks and bunnies floating around in Springtime are cute, but they don’t teach about the true Easter and the Resurrection. Here are some craft ideas I dug up that do help teach that to your child!

Mosaic Cross at That Artist Woman

Remembrance canvas at OhAmanda

Hand and Footprint Donkeys at Catholic Icing

Easter Light Ray Cross at Philzendia

 

How do you keep Easter about Christ?

Celebrating Valentine’s Day at Church by Christi McGuire

Valentines Heart Bag & Packaging
source: Premier Packaging

Want to help the families in your church celebrate Valentine’s Day next week? Here are a few ideas.

  • Youth Childcare Night. The youth group can utilize the church’s nursery, preschool, and children’s ministry rooms to host a night of babysitting. For a minimal fee, couples can drop off their children to enjoy activities planned by the youth group and youth leaders and then enjoy a date night together. Proceeds can go to the youth department for missions or outreach events.
  • Spaghetti Dinner. The youth can host a dinner at church for couples of all ages, complete with performances by the youth. The youth can showcase their talents, whether singing, playing an instrument, or creative dancing, to popular love songs. Couples can engage in a game of “Valentine’s Trivia,” a game of the history and facts about Valentine’s Day. The youth group can plan this event as a fundraiser or as a thank you to the church for supporting them throughout the year.
  • Grandparents and Grandchildren Party. Host a party for proud grandparents to bring their grandchildren. Activities may include checkers, hula hoop, making Valentine Cards, a scavenger hunt, and an ice cream sundae buffet.
  • Newlywed Game. Give the spouses of staff members a questionnaire about themselves with 10 questions about their favorite food, hobby, Bible verse, movie, and so forth. Either at a church-wide Valentine banquet or during the Sunday worship service, ask the staff members the questions about their spouses. See who gets the most questions correct!
  • Marriage Memories. Choose a few of the couples in the church who have been married the longest. On the Sundays leading up to February 14, ask one couple to share each week during the worship service the stories of how they met, how they got engaged, how God has worked in their marriage, and advice for younger couples. Share a slideshow of pictures of each couple and play their favorite love song.
  • Love Bible Study. During February, engage the entire church in a study of what God says about love in the Bible. Preschoolers and children can learn that God is love and He wants them to love others. Youth can learn about God’s plan for purity. Adults can study the book of Song of Solomon. End with a commitment ceremony that includes teenagers and singles committing to remaining pure until marriage and married couples committing to remaining faithful to one another.

What has your church done to celebrate Valentine’s Day in the past?

Special Needs and Resolutions by Ellen Stumbo

Happy New Year!
source: erjkprunczyk

With the New Year here, it is time for me to think about resolutions. The thing is, having children with special needs has changed the way I look at these hopeful declarations of a better me. So I turn to my daughters and see in them examples of who I want to be.

1. I want to love people despite of their appearance.

I tend to judge and keep my distance from people based on their exterior. My daughter with Down syndrome has the ability to look past appearances and accept people fully.

2. I want to give it all.

Sometimes, I don’t try very hard; I just do enough “to get by.” My daughter with cerebral palsy gives it her all, she is fully in, trying hard, never giving up. Everything she does, she does it to the best of her ability.

3. I want to experience joy in the little things.

My daughter with Down syndrome seems to find joy easy. She is not just happy; she is filled with joy (when she is not filled with crabbiness). The way her face lights up with a smile, and the deep laugh that comes from her soul when she is surprised with a bowl of ice cream reminds me I need more joy in my life.

4. I want to celebrate with others.

In our home, we celebrate every little accomplishment our girls achieve. Celebration is a normal part of our life; we clap, jump, and cheer often. I want to take that beyond my home, I want to encourage others and celebrate with them. We all need more celebration in our life.

5. I want to make a difference.

The world might see my children as less than perfect, but I know that God has a plan and a purpose for their lives. My children have inspired not only me, but many others around them. Hopefully some day, I will be able to do for others what they have done for me.

Ellen Stumbo is a writer and speaker. She is the mother of three daughters: Ellie; Nichole, who has Down syndrome; and Nina, who was adopted and also has special needs. She is wife to Andy, a pastor.

Merry Christmas! by William Summey

The Christmas season is upon us with all that entails: decorating, exams, church programs, holiday parties, shopping, family time, travel, delicious meals, and most importantly celebrating the birth of Jesus. I always lament how quickly the holidays pass each year because of how busy we are.

Join me in being intentional this year. Don’t be afraid to prioritize, cut back, say no, and plan wisely so that you can do the most important things as a family and not just those things that seem urgent at the moment. The time with our children truly flies by.

We hope you enjoy the December issue of ParentLife and all the content we’re able to share here on the blog. Above all, the team at ParentLife wants to wish you and your family a merry Christmas!

Christmas Break Training 101: Making Yours a Success by Erin MacPherson

sequoia and rachel, sittin' by the tree... - _MG_6719
source: seandereilinger

We love the idea of using Christmas break as a time to “train” your kids. I wrote about sleep training my daughter during Christmas break in December‘s article “Sleep Tight.” Whether you’re sleep training, potty training, moving your kid to a big-boy bed, or training your kids to eat something other than chicken nuggets, setting aside a dedicated time to do it is a great way to make sure you end up with a fully-trained (or at least mostly trained) kid.

Here are six tips to make sure your Christmas break training is a success.

  • Read up on the strategies. Before you even think about training your kid to do anything, check out a couple books from the library or ask good ole’ Mr. Google what other parents have done right … and wrong.
  • Know your kid. You know what makes your kid tick, and you know how he is going to respond to the training, so trust your instincts and come up with a plan that works for you and your family.
  • Write down your plan. If you’re sleep training, write down who is going to get up when and under what circumstances. If you’re potty training, plan how you’re going to do it and decide who is on “potty” duty when.
  • Get your supplies. Make sure you’ve stocked up on everything you need—stickers, books, caffeinated beverages for you—before the break starts.
  • Talk it up. Start talking about how excited you are about training early on. Trust us: If you’re excited about it, your kid will be excited about it.
  • Don’t let setbacks get you down. There are always accidents. You will have setbacks, and that’s okay. Tomorrow is a new day.

Erin MacPherson is an author, blogger, and mom to three preschoolers. She blogs at www.christianmamasguide.com.

Strategies for Reducing Stress During the Holidays by Marianne Neifert

Remember that your own stress level and emotional state are readily transferred to your child. Lower your expectations for the “perfect” Christmas holiday and be prepared to “go with the flow” when your child’s needs call for flexibility. Keep her emotional tank full during the holiday season by scheduling daily one-on-one time to play, read, or do an activity together.

Shorten the Countdown

An extended period of anticipation can feel overwhelming to a young child. Consider waiting until mid-December to begin your holiday decorating or to use an Advent Calendar to track the days until Christmas. To defuse children’s mounting excitement about presents, let them open a few smaller gifts during the countdown to Christmas.

Don’t Make Santa Your December Disciplinarian

The anticipation, bustle of activity, and excessive stimulation during the weeks preceding Christmas already create stress and anxiety for children. Threatening that Santa will bring fewer presents if your child misbehaves only adds to the pressure and worry she feels, and ultimately proves to be an empty threat. Don’t abdicate your essential parenting role of consistently enforcing your rules and limits for appropriate behavior year-round.

Allow Children to Let off Steam

Arrange opportunities for your child to be physically active each day by playing outdoors or visiting an indoor children’s play center.

Schedule Some Quiet Time

Periodically allow your child to retreat and unwind from the excitement of holiday festivities by watching a favorite DVD or playing quietly with arts and crafts or Play-Doh.

Don’t Force Children to Sit on Santa’s Lap

While parents relish the time-honored photo of their youngster happily smiling on Santa’s lap, young children often perceive Santa as strange and scary and may violently recoil at the idea of being held by him. While waiting in line at the mall, show your child exactly what will happen if she chooses to greet Santa. If she is terrorized by the sight of a big stranger in a red suit, respect her emotional distress and show your support by not forcing her to sit on Santa’s lap.

Do you find your children to be a little stressed during the holidays? How do you schedule downtime while still participating in traditions?
Marianne Neifert, M.D., M.T.S., also known as Dr. Mom, is a well-known pediatrician, professional speaker, and author. Visit her web site, www.dr-mom.com.