Advent with Toddlers

Advent with Toddlers: heaps of ideas for how to anticipate Jesus' birth at Christmas with your littlies | Sacraparental.comHappy Advent, everyone! Today is the first Sunday in Advent, the four-ish-week period leading up to Christmas.

Today was SBJ’s first appreciation of Advent. He’s almost two, so I wasn’t sure just how much would be appropriate for him, but lots of things surprised me about the day, so I thought I’d give a full report to encourage parents of littlies.

I’m keen to hear your stories, too.

This year our household celebration of Advent will include these main elements:

  • Five coloured Advent candles in a candelabra (too lazy for a wreath): green for hope, blue for peace, yellow for joy, red for love, and a central white candle for Christ, to be lit on Christmas Day.
  • Each evening at the dinner table we will light the candles. Just the green one each night of this week, then starting next Sunday, the green and the blue for a week, and so on.
  • Each night before bed, we’ll read one story from the Jesus Storybook Bible, loosely following this plan (but basically just starting at the start and building up to the Baby Jesus narrative).
    This is instead of our Jesse Tree book which he’s a bit young for, but which I highly recommend for slightly older kids.
  • SBJ’s English godfather has sent an Advent calendar – woo hoo! It features Canterbury Cathedral, with an archbishop looking suspiciously like Father Christmas :)
  • I’ll be using Mark Pierson’s Advent in Art cards, one per week. I’ll look at them with SBJ as well, but probably out of order, because they get to the Christmas story before we’ll get to it with the Jesus Storybook Bible.
  • For the same reason, I’m keen to show SBJ these great animations of the Christmas story, but not until closer to the time. But there’s a new one each day of Advent for those who want to follow along at that pace.
  • We don’t have a Christmas tree, but we have a slightly tree-shaped whatnot that I am going to empty, and slowly fill with our Trade Aid nativity figures, the Advent in Art cards and anything else that seems appropriate as the month unfolds.

My husband works on Sunday nights, so SBJ and I kicked off Advent together tonight without him.

We started at dinner by lighting the green candle. I told him it was the Hope candle, to remind us that ‘Jesus is our hope.’

As with many things, I think that it’s just fine, and indeed helpful, for partial knowledge to precede full understanding. So I catechised him on that phrase, and now he can happily tell you that green reminds us that Jesus is our hope. I don’t mind that his understanding of ‘hope’ is sketchy. It’ll develop, and he’ll always be able to anchor it to the annual green candles.

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We left it burning through dinner and stories. We read Hairy Maclary first, and then the creation story from the Jesus Storybook Bible. I explained that throughout Advent we’d read one story from it every night.

It’s a bit of a stretch up for him – it’s got too much text for a typical toddler book – and that’s why we’re only following the plan loosely (the first day is supposed to be the excellent, but way-too-old for SBJ introduction, so we skipped it).

Until now we’ve only ever looked at the pictures and I’ve summarised the stories they illustrate. But the pictures are great, and certainly in the creation story there’s plenty to interest him, as you can imagine: ‘The sea! Elephant! Birdies! Fish! Baby Jesus!’

Hold on. Nope. No Baby Jesus here.

And this was the brilliant breakthrough moment of the night (for me, at least). We don’t get to read about Baby Jesus yet. We have to wait.

Advent is a season of waiting and preparation. Only one candle at first. No Baby Jesus yet. An empty shelf, waiting for nativity figures. Only one story each night. This is going to be great.

Advent with Toddlers: heaps of ideas for how to anticipate Jesus' birth at Christmas with your littlies | Sacraparental.com

Advent is my favourite part of the church year, and I’ve written a lot about it. Click here for the whole list of posts in the Advent category. And here are some of the key ones you may like to revisit:

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8 comments on “Advent with Toddlers”

  1. Andrew Bollen Reply

    Well done Thalia – our kds (now in their 20’s) loved these traditions as kids. Great to see you passing it on to a new generation. And a great reminder that Advent is NOT Christmas – shame we rush straight to the birth without learning the lessons involved in waiting and watching and longing for God’s appearance. Keep posting.

    • not a wild hera Reply

      Thanks, Andrew! You’ll find a lot of ‘our’ traditions familiar as they’re inherited from your time at West :) Definitely one time of year I miss West most. We will dress in the colours on Sundays anyway!

  2. Miriam Reply

    This was so inspiring! I had been searching for a way to create a meaningful Advent tradition/s in our house, and I found your suggestions to be right on the mark. I had no idea that there was such a thing as the Jesse tree, but we have plans for one of our own now, and a meaningful something to put in the Advent calendar. Thank you so much for sharing these with us, and may you and yours have a blessed Advent season.

    • not a wild hera Reply

      Oh, thanks so much for the feedback, Miriam! That’s so great to hear! I’d love to hear how things go.

      I’m already in-my-head drafting a follow-up with how things are panning out for us – some more surprises :)

      Best moment today, though, was this:

      Me: What does the green candle remind us, SBJ?
      SBJ: Jesus is our hope!
      Me: And what about the blue candle?
      SBJ: Jesus is our pieces.

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