Saturday, November 19, 2011

Advent & Christmas Ideas for young children

The Donkey for our Nativity scene I made recently 

The other day I went to a talk at our local Steiner preschool on Christmas. I thought i would pop in and share some ideas for Christmas preparations with you all. 

I must acknowledge Ebba Bodame, who shared all these wonderful ideas with us - many of which she experienced in her own childhood in Austria and continued with her own children. 

Ebba started by telling all the mums attending the beginning of the Christmas Story, as she would tell it to the children at the beginning of Advent. The story was left that over the net few weeks we would follow Mary and Joseph on their journey to find the manger where the Christmas Child would be born.

Ebba highlighted that the Christmas Story is at the heart of Christmas and should be the focus. 
She also explained how Advent should be a time of preparation not celebration. 

Some Advent & Christmas Ideas....

Advent wreath
Make your own from bendy branches, buy a wreath from a craft store, or felt one. It is lovely to adorn with fresh greenery and flowers each day (especially here in Australia, as we are in the middle of summer!) Each Sunday of Advent another candle is lit. Each night that week the candle/s that have been lit so far are 're-lit' and a song/s sung. 

Suggestion: something simple that is repeated every night, depending on the ages of the children.

Shine little light, show us the way, to the bright light of Christmas Day

Nativity Scene
Build this up slowly starting with a blue cloth draped over an open hard cover book. Ebba suggested that a small basket be placed outside the house or bedroom each night of advent or perhaps each Sunday and an item left in the basket to add to the nativity scene. Ideas for things left in the basket - some animals/ crystals/ some straw/ anything you feel appropriate. With our modern day Christmas celebrations, Ebba suggested that we finish the Christmas Story on Christmas Eve so that it gets the moment it deserves without all the focus on presents etc. 

Each night of Advent if you are having a Nativity Scene, it is nice to tell a short story about Mary and Joseph's journey. Ebba suggested bringing in things you have perhaps made through the year at playgroup or stories told...perhaps the golden fish in the river helped to light tin the darkness or the winter gnome left out some shining crystals to guide their way when they are lost. 

Advent Calendar using matchboxes
25 matchboxes covered with some gold paper or you can cover each one with felt. slide each onto a long piece of ribbon and hang near the bed of your child. 
Each night during advent the angels will place a very tiny treasure in the bottom matchbox. 
It is not supposed to be something expensive or fancy, perhaps something from nature....a shell, some small seed pods, or perhaps some star sequins or some sheeps wool 
(something to add to the growing nativity scene is also good)
The gift could be in keeping with the four kingdoms of Advent - see below

A few other small ideas to make Advent and Christmas extra special
- A special night dress/ pair of pyjamas to wear for Christmas Eve - perhaps handmade by mum?

- Baking biscuits with your children a few days before and placing in a tin on the fridge/ cupboard - saving the eating for Christmas Eve night when the Christmas Story is finished. 

- Father Christmas/ Santa brings one very special present - perhaps a silk cape or a rainbow silk?

- I think my favourite idea was that the tree remains a tree and undecorated until Christmas eve night when perhaps when Dad or Grandma take the Children out for a walk and mum has a nap (that happens a lot huh!) that the angels are able to come a decorate the tree for Christmas Eve. This really is some Christmas magic (which young children are waiting for) and the decorations would go on Christmas night. 
Ebba explained when the tree is decorated it just becomes part of the furniture, people come and go and eventually not too much notice is taken, however saving something like this, it really is something very magical for young children (wouldn't work so well for the older ones!)

Four kingdoms of Advent
First week/ kingdom - minerals/ crystals 
Second week/ kingdom - plants (perhaps you could do something with flower faeries??) 
Third week/ kingdom - beasts/ animals
Fourth week/ kingdom - Humankind 

27 November is the first Sunday of Advent

I hope you find something here useful. This really doesn't do Ebba's workshop justice however it is all I can manage to reiterate at the moment!

I hope to post some of our preparations for Advent and Christmas in the coming weeks.  


  1. I love these ideas. I lived in Switzerland when I was young, and while my dad and grandpa would took us kids for a walk, the Christ Child aka mum, lit the candles on the tree(real ones) and left presents under the tree. I love the idea of building up the nativity scene piece by piece until Christmas day - I am going to do that this year. Thankyou for your inspiration.

  2. This is wonderful information you have shared here. Thank you! As a Finn, the Joulupuu (Christmas Tree) was always decorated just days before Christmas. My parents would have done it on Christmas Eve day, but us children were influenced by the Canadian culture around us and would never have stood for it. And it WAS magical.


  3. Thank you for sharing yours and Ebba's lovely ideas. We always decorate our tree on Christmas eve. It was magical when were younger to come in and see it all decoarted, but lovely to share in the time once we were older and never bothered me that it wasn't earlier as it was what I had known. Warm wishes to you all.

  4. Some lovely ideas here. I love learning about different Christmas traditions and seeing how they change. These are truly special.


Thanks for your sharing your thoughts. I love hearing from you and will respond to any questions in the comments sections. Natalie

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