10 Easy Ways to Teach Your Kids the True Meaning of Christmas
(Inside: Teach kids about Christmas. Simply ways to help kids learn about the true reason for Christmas and feel the joy of the season.)
My son’s little legs dangled over the edge of the couch a foot shy of reaching the floor. His usually busy hands were folded neatly on his lap. His legs were still. Alarmed – because my 4-year-old never sits still like this – I asked, “What are you doing?”
“What are you waiting for, sweet boy?”
“Christmas to come.”
It was November. The day after Thanksgiving to be exact. We’d busted out the artificial tree, opened boxes of ornaments, and made our best creation out of it all. The tree sparkled to my son’s left, the stockings hung on the fireplace in front of him and he waited – expectantly.
Joy to the world…joy to this momma’s soul.
Christmas naturally awakens delight in our little humans’ hearts. But do they know why? Do they know the gift of Jesus sent to a broken world in need of a Savior? Do they know that in decorating and baking cookies we are recreating the excitement the people felt in anticipation of their promised Messiah? In giving gifts, do they know that we are reminding ourselves of the gift of Jesus to us? In showing us how to live with real joy not dependent on our circumstances? In connecting us with God through eternal salvation?
Though a 4-year-old is not going to understand the full gift and depth of the Christmas message, he can understand parts of why we celebrate. And that understanding will grow as he grows. I haven’t been very intentional with pointing out the “whys” of Christmas traditions, but this year would like to give it a try. So, I came up with a list specifically for busy moms to incorporate the message into the moments of this season.
Teach Kids About Christmas
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1. Tell the Candy Cane Story:
Have you heard this delightful little tale? I was late to the party on this one. The skinny version is:
A German choirmaster in 1670 gave the children a white peppermint stick to help them sit still during the Christmas service. The white represented the purity of Christ and the mint represented the hyssop traditionally used for purifying in scripture. Other candy makers in later centuries added to this idea. The stick was turned into a “J” representing Jesus and/or the shepherds’ staffs. The stripes were added to represent the lashes Christ bore on the cross and the red color, the blood that Christ split to save us from our sins. Voilà – the candy cane!
This story is a legend, no one knows the exact facts, so spice it up all you want to tell it your way as you:
- Throw a peppermint stick into your son’s hot chocolate.
- Hang a candy cane on the tree with your daughter.
- Order a peppermint mocha from Starbucks.
- Mix together peppermint bark.
- Shape candy cane cookies.
- Read the Legend of the Candy Cane book to your kids.
I like what I’m reading and I want more.
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2. Use Candles:
During my stay-at-home mom years, the Minnesota winters would leave me with cabin fever itching to get out but not wanting to put the effort into taking my 3 young boys (all under the age of 5) actually out. One night, over a spaghetti-from-a-jar dinner, I dimmed the lights and set glowing candles in the middle of the table. The room became magical. No joke. This can be repeated and the Christmas story read as the family breaks bread together. (Or twists spaghetti noodles around their fork as they pretend their one-year-old isn’t throwing it onto the floor.)
3. Listen to Christmas Music:
In the car, as you and your child together set the table for lunch, straighten the toy room, or go over spelling words crank up Christmas music that tells the Christmas story. At some point, maybe pause and talk about what the words mean for one of the songs. Listen to Christ-centered Christmas songs:
4. Incorporate Drama:
Not, the I-can’t-find-my-shoe-and-we-needed-to-leave-5-minutes-ago drama, but real drama. Like, acting. Y’all my talented friend wrote a script of the Christmas story. And she’s sharing it with us. I have my copy and can’t wait to sit near the tree and read through this story together. My perk? Since I’m the only girl in my house – I for SURE get to be Mary!
5. Set Out Your Nativity Scene:
As you unwrap your Willow Nativity scene (Or the plastic Little People Nativity Scene) tell about an angel appearing to Mary telling her she is going to bear a son and name him Jesus. Talk about Joseph traveling with his pregnant wife to Bethlehem knocking on doors, asking for a place to stay. Describe the shepherds and the wise men rushing to see baby Jesus. Or ask your kids to tell you what they know about the story. Feel the hope and joy the Christmas story brings.
6. Listen to the Christmas Story in the Car:
I did some research on this one and found some stories that share the Christmas message that can be listened to. On the holiday lights drive, the road trip to see Grandma, or your umpteenth trip to Target where you vowed to THIS TIME to get out of there in under $20, these stories will help your kids see Jesus.
- 12 Stories of Christmas (Robert J. Morgan)
- A Christmas Carol (PauMcCusker)
- Countdown to Christmas Advent Collection (Adventures in Odyssey)
- A Christmas Story (Brother Francis)
7. Watch Christmas Movies:
Watch Christmas movies and as the end credits roll, ask your children:
- What was the message of the movie?
- What did you learn about Christmas from this movie?
8. Read the Story by the Tree:
Dim the overhead lights, let the Christmas tree flicker and gather your family near. With legs tucked under blanks and arms around the wiggly ones, read the Christmas story in Luke 2:1-20. (Or a book about the Christmas story like Christmas Stories Heartwarming Classics of Angels, a Manager and the Birth of Hope or God Gave Us Christmas.) Feel the Holy Spirit’s warmth hover in the air. Finish with hot cocoa, or making homemade fudge, or then take your kid to basketball practice, whatever – life is busy – but a simple pause to hear the Christmas story in the beauty of the decorations can fill our soul in unexpected ways.
9. Go Shopping:
Before you shop, ask your kids, “Why do we give gifts?” This is a teachable moment to talk about why we give gifts. Because we’re reminding each other of the gift of Jesus God gave to us. This could be a chance to stop and get a Tall Vanilla Latte before you start shopping you know…to talk with your child…not because you’ll make any excuse to get coffee.
10. Enjoy Church:
Dress in your Christmas finest and go to a Christmas service. On the drive home or around the dinner table afterward, talk about what your kids learned and discuss the point of the message. A short conversation can have a powerful impact.
Teach Kids About Christmas:
So, then next year mommas, when one of our children hops on the couch a “waits” for Christmas the day after Thanksgiving, we could say, “Ah, yes – that’s the same excitement the shepherds and wise men felt as they waited to see baby Jesus!”
I didn’t say that way back then when my son was 4. But now, he’s 11…and I have a few ideas this year of how I’m going to unveil his eyes to see the real reason for Christmas and feel the true joy of the season.
Be encouraged by the full “raise kids of faith” series.
Over the years, as my kids have grown and their seasons have changed, I find myself going back to this one prayer, “Dear Jesus, please capture my kids’ hearts.” If as they journey through life, they consistently go back to their Creator for comfort and guidance, it’s all going to be okay.
So, as a mom, I strive to (in my imperfect way), teach my boys faith.
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Cheryl is a mom of 3 boys, wife, speaker, high school teacher, and author of Empowered Moms & Kids. She has a Master’s degree in Educational Leadership and is passionate about learning and teaching. On www.empoweredmomsandkids.com you’ll find inspiration and encouragement for moms raising tweens and/or teens. Read more in the “about” section of this page.