Get the Children Involved

“Tell me and I’ll forget. Teach me and I’ll remember. Involve me and me and I’ll learn.” Benjamin Franklin

Today I want to teach you and involve you so you will learn. The season of Advent is upon us. What exactly is Advent and where did it come from?

Advent is a Latin word that means “coming”. Established as early as the sixth century, it refers to the “Sunday nearest to November 30 and running to Christmas Eve”. Christians are to use this time to reflect on the coming of Jesus.

Many families and churches use symbols as reminders. Advent wreaths can to be used in churches with one candle lit each Sunday and the Christ candle in the center lit on Christmas Eve. The first candle is for Hope. The second candle is for Peace. The third candle is for Love. The final candle symbolizes the joy of new life – the gift of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. In Christian terms the flame represents the hope of light and life to come. “Jesus is the Light of the World.”

One of the simplest customs is placing a candle on the windowsill. Today many people use candles in their windows. There are even candles that are battery operated making their placement that much easier. We always had trouble finding enough outlets to light our candles.

Years ago, my grandmother had a candelabra with seven candles. She always placed this in the window on her porch. The only bad part of this is that all of them went out when one bulb burned out. We had to bring it back inside if it went out so that we could test the bulbs. It held the little skinny bulbs that were common in old fashioned lights.

Advent calendars are also familiar pieces that the children use to countdown to Christmas. My own children used an advent calendar. We did not give any gifts along with this calendar. We simply opened the doors one day at a time and placed a piece of the manger scene in the awaiting manger. My step-father made the manger for me so it was treasured. Baby Jesus did not go in until Christmas Day.

I continued the tradition with my grandchildren. For one of her first Christmases, I gave Carly an Advent calendar. This one had little figurines and there were places for little treats along the way.

A lady at church made the children Advent treat pieces that she attached candy to. Each day the children got to unwrap and eat a piece. At the end of the season the piece went back to her to use again next year.

I have seen other ideas that work just as well. Some children create a string of loops that they hang in the house. Each day they take one loop off until it is gone by Christmas. Loops can be made of anything that can be glued together. Any way that you can get your children involved is a good one. This contributes to the idea of involving the children in the activity so that they learn.

I know about “Elf on the Shelf” but that was not being done when even my grandchildren were small. It is a tangible reminder of the days before Christmas and reminds children to count them.

I have a little Swedish decoration that has an angel at the top and four candles. When the candles are lit the angel spins around ringing the bells. Of course, you do not light all of them until Christmas.

Take the children and grandchildren to church so that they can be part of the celebration of Advent at church. I guarantee you they will watch as the candle of the day is lit. Your church should have already lit one candle. Explain to the children about the tradition. Tell them the meaning of the first candle. Maybe they will catch the meaning of the second candle as someone reads before the second candle is lit.

Talk to your children and grandchildren about the meaning of Advent. How will they learn if we do not share our beliefs with them?

They probably are already excited about the arrival of Santa Claus. Excitement is contagious. Remember that this is a secular meaning of Christmas. The basis of the holiday is a Christian celebration. Be sure they know about the birth of the Savior.

Ann Swanson writes from her home in Russell, Pa. Contact at hickoryheights1@verizon.net.


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