Christmas is a time of excess— shopping and cooking, eating and merrymaking, and lots and lots of Stuff. It’s enough to drive a mother to distraction.

But the Advent season also offers us time to stop and think anew about God sending His Son to take on human flesh. It’s a perfect opportunity to teach our children about the character and works of our God. Psalm 78:4 tells us, “We will not conceal them from their children, but tell to the generation to come the praises of the Lord, and His strength and His wondrous works that He has done.”

So how can all you moms best use the month of December to help your children remember His wondrous works, and have fun doing it?

Here are a few suggestions:

1. You have to start with a good Advent devotional or Jesse Tree study. You can find numerous Jesse Tree helps and Advent devotionals on the web. I have a couple on my blog (nonniesnotes.blogspot .com). And that ought to tide you over until Michal Crum’s new devotional is released (hopefully in time for next Christmas!).

2. Build a collection of great Christmas books. You might even consider wrapping them up and having your children pick one each day to read. There’s nothing sweeter than seeing an older child dust off his sentimental favorite to read to his younger siblings.

3. Make your own Luke 2 Book. Every year our family memorizes Luke 2 during the Advent season with our church. Some time back I came up with a solution to help our kids memorize the passage. Here’s how it works: save Christmas cards that depict scenes straight from Luke 2, and then use those to illustrate a simple handmade book. I’ve used folded 8 ½˝ × 11˝ paper for the pages. To enable the books to withstand repeated use and toddler abuse, I covered the pages with clear contact paper. Then I sewed the pages together by hand with dental floss and a heavy needle. Make your own book as simple or beautiful as you like—your children will love it either way.

4. Get your children involved in making and giving gifts to others. From the time our children were young, we included them in making gifts for grandparents, aunts, uncles, and siblings. We’ve crafted tile trivets, apple-and leaf-stamped hot pads, rice bags, pine cone “re starters, snack mixes, and all kinds of other things.

5. Have a family “gift draw” and have each child handcraft a gift for one of their siblings. We started this many years ago. Tim and I get pulled in to help the younger kids, but the older ones take on the projects themselves. Tim works with the boys on carpentry projects ranging from carved wooden spoons and laminated cutting boards to folding camp stools and garden benches, while I help the girls with knitting and sewing projects. The gift exchange has become the highlight for all of us on Christmas morning. It’s so much fun to see the creativity and love of the children expressed in their handiwork. Really, the more care and time each child puts into the gift, the more gift-giving really proves to be more enjoyable than gift-getting.

6. Encourage gratitude. Right after Christmas we all start in on writing thank you notes for the gifts we’ve received from friends and family. I have the little guys dictate their notes and then sign them with help. Often we make fun cards with paintings, stamping, or paper folding.

Our Christmas celebrations have changed over the years as our family has grown. Some of our traditions have grown and changed too. That’s okay. It’s not the traditions we care about, or even the many fond memories we’ve stitched together with dental floss and contact paper. They’re not precious. They’re all destined to fall apart in time. But our Advent traditions teach us to look forward to another day. And if they’ve done that they’ve served their purpose.

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