Monday, November 28, 2022
Welcome back to Our Grand Lives!! We hope and pray that your Thanksgiving gatherings were filled with family, fun and, of course, lots of yummy food! Undoubtedly, you’ve just about had your fill of turkey and leftovers and by now your attention is quickly turning to the holiday season ahead! We know this to be true in our worlds!
It put a smile on our faces to learn that so many have enjoyed reading our blog thus far! Thanks for the encouraging conversations, supportive texts and sweet messages sent our way as we continue to maneuver our way through it all! Hopefully you found some ideas from last week’s “It’s Turkey Time” post that you were able to use to make your Thanksgiving celebrations more joy-filled! The Thanksgiving Would You Rather… game was especially popular! Check out the last section of this post for a few photos and follow-ups from our own holiday weekends! Here’s a sweet memory from someone’s first turkey day!
Remember… if you never want to miss a new post, you can subscribe to our blog at the bottom of our home page! Then, every time we publish a new post, you’ll receive an email letting you know! You can also check out our Instagram site at our_grand_lives where we post on a regular basis, as well!
Today we turn our attention to the season ahead as we prepare our homes and our hearts for all it offers! Yes, it's that time of year when we see twinkling lights, wreaths with bows and glorious garlands popping up everywhere! As Grands, we have the wonderful opportunity to share our love of Christmas with those around us, especially our Littles!
In past posts, we’ve highlighted our five pillars of family. In fact, In last week’s post, we overloaded you with probably enough ideas to cover about 3-4 posts… We warned you then to expect a long post as we were so excited to get going! However, today our plan is to concentrate on just one area - Grand Activities. This post, while still including lots of ideas, is shorter in length and content and is more typical of what you might expect when we move into the New Year.! We hope you enjoy our spin on Christmas Countdowns and Preparing Our Homes and Hearts for Advent!
Preparing for the Season… Christmas Countdown!
As we await the arrival of Christmas, the anticipation continues to grow!! Creating a countdown experience for your family or for your Littles to do at home each day with their parents, would be a wonderful way to share your love of Christmas with your Middles and Littles! While you will need to plan ahead, it doesn’t need to be fancy or expensive either! Here are two special countdowns for you to consider:
Countdown #1 - Christmas Book Countdown
For the two of us Grands, reading and books has always been a priority in any of our Littles' lives! Here is a fun way to make it more Christmasy for you and your Little ones! Collect 25 Christmas books (see note below for ideas of how to accomplish this). If you are feeling ambitious, wrap each one in wrapping paper (you can buy inexpensive rolls at a Dollar Store near you) or add a simple ribbon or bow to each. If you’d like, you could even add a handwritten note, explaining why you chose to wrap each book.
Then, every night in December, your Little chooses a book from the basket, box or shelf they are being stored on. This book will then be one of the chosen bedtime stories that night! If you have more than one Little, they can take turns selecting or opening the book each night. If you have more than one household of Littles to provide for, change the countdown to one book each week to open, etc… modify the countdown to fit what works best for your extended family! Also, if you are a Grand who’s Little(s) live far away, you could read nightly or three times a week over Zoom or FaceTime. For older children you may include a chapter book as an appropriate option and instruct them to read one chapter each time.
Note: There is no rule that you need to only use Christmas books for this project. Your Little’s “every day” books are just as fun to wrap and use for this countdown… unwrapping will be just as exciting!. You may even choose some library books to include, especially if you live near your Littles. Perhaps you are ready to downsize your own collection of Christmas books and are ready to share a few with your Middles and Littles. If this is something you would like to build as a collection, look for inexpensive Christmas books at garage sales, thrift stores and library sales. Local libraries often have “book sales” where you can pick up children’s books for a quarter each!
As an added bonus, make the last book to be opened a special one on Christmas Eve! It could be a family favorite that is read each year OR it could be a new Christmas book that you've purchased for your Littles to add to their holiday collection!
Countdown #2 - Christmas Kindness Chain
This activity is for Littles that are older than either of ours will be this year. However, it’s a countdown activity we’ve seen before or used in our classrooms and one we’d like to include in the future when our families’ Littles are a few years older! We see ourselves creating a Christmas Kindness Chain kit to give each family to enjoy throughout the season.
For this countdown activity, your Middles and Littles will build a chain to countdown to Christmas! This chain activity is a simple one to put together and an easy one for your Middles and Littles to complete together each day during the month of December. It serves as a great reminder to the importance of treating others kindly - by helping and sharing and using kind words and would be a meaningful way to add a daily devotion to family routines!
Supplies Needed for Each “Kindness Countdown” Chain: 2 pieces each of 2 different colors of 9 x 12 construction paper or scrapbook paper (we suggest using red and green or white and blue) • a glue stick • pen(s) or pencil(s) • a gallon-sized plastic bag to put the finished project into • pair of scissors
Directions: Use a scissors (or paper cutter if you have one) to cut 1“ x 12“ strips from the construction or scrapbook paper (you should have at least 12-13 of each color for a total of 25 or more). Put the strips, a glue stick and a pen or pencil (or a variety of each to make it more fun for your Littles) into the plastic bag. Label the bag (Kindness Countdown) if you’d like. Send the bag home with your Middles and Littles. Include a short note with directions for completing the Christmas Kindness Chain each evening!
Your directions to your Middles & Littles could include: Dear _______, This is your Kindness Countdown kit for the month of December. Each evening take time with your family to think about one way you were kind or saw someone else being kind during the day. Write your idea on a paper strip and then add it to the chain by using the glue stick or a stapler to do so. Build your Kindness Chain all month long! Make a pattern if you’d like! Be sure to let us know about all the ways you were kind or saw kindness in the world! ♥️ Your Grand(s)
Preparing Our Homes & Hearts for Advent
Yesterday was the first Sunday of Advent, and for each of our families this Holy Season of waiting and preparing for the arrival of the Christ Child is an important time. Here are a few ways we have begun to share the Christmas story with our Littles as well as a few more options we look forward to exploring as they get older!
The Nativity & Our Littles
A Note from Grammy Laurie: When my kids were little, we had the typical nativity set - made of glass and quite fancy. As you can imagine, as young children are quite curious, one of the kings and the shepherds are now broken and glued together, and I ended up reminding my children over and over - “Don’t touch”. As my children grew, I started reading about how your children should be able to handle, and play with nativity sets to allow them to explore the Christmas story. When Little D was born, I searched for a toddler-friendly set to give her as a gift for her baptism in late November of 2021. I found this lovely Fisher Price Little People Nativity Set for ages 12+ months. (Little D started playing with it at 5 months under supervision and there was no problem with small parts) She loved exploring it. In fact, her parents kept it out through March because she enjoyed the little people so much. What a great way to start introducing the story and language of the First Christmas to my Little!
Now at 16 months old, the play set is out once again, and Little D is learning the names of all the pieces and enjoys finding them for her parents when they request them.
A Note from Gramma Laura: When Laurie and I began getting together last year, she mentioned the nativity set she had bought for her Little D. I knew right then that my hubby and I would also want to give such a gift to our brand new Little. Yesterday, on the first day of Advent (her first Advent, by the way) we gave Little L her own nativity play set. We also purchased the Fisher Price Little People version - it’s safe and easy for little hands to hold! However, I checked out eBay and found one there at a third of the retail value! Lucky me! Little L has been playing with this set since yesterday when we gave it to her. She loved unwrapping the pieces and we’ve enjoyed introducing her to the characters in the story and acting it out with her!
I hope and pray that she will enjoy it for many years to come! We also gave her these sweet books to add to her collection! (HINT - they'll be great additions to our own family's Christmas Book Countdown in years to come! 😉)
Guessing Games & The Nativity
Here are a few guessing games you may have fun with as your Littles continue to learn about the Christmas story.!
Where is Baby Jesus?
Toddlers especially like this simple version of a hide and seek game. Each day the adult hides Baby Jesus - depending on the age of your Little(s) you may want to keep the piece in relatively plain sight or make it more challenging to find. Once Baby Jesus has been hidden, your Little goes hunting until the piece is found! You can also hide other nativity pieces on another day or, if you have older Littles you can hide more than one piece. This game is a fun way to teach the names of the characters in the Christmas story!
NOTE: Laura played a version of this game with her Little L when she introduced the nativity set to her. Laura hid Baby Jesus in a gift box and Little L had to open the box to find Him. She giggled every time and she loved the repetition of opening the box, over and over again! Later, we played the same game, hiding the angel instead!
Did you ever play concentration games as a youngster? This game is similar and works best with Littles who are a bit older or who are familiar with the nativity pieces. In this game, one person removes a piece from the nativity. Your Little will then look closely at the nativity to
Hot or Cold
This guessing game is best played with Littles that are 3 years old or older. One person is chosen to be the seeker and goes out of the room while someone else hides the nativity piece. When the seeker returns, the rest of the group says “hotter” or “colder” while the seeker is searching for the hidden piece. (When the clue “hotter” is given, it means that the seeker is getting close to finding the nativity piece; when the clue “colder” is given, the nativity piece is further away.)
The Nativity… More Fun!
We’ve started a collection of Christ centered activities we’ve found on other sites that we think our Littles will be ready for next year! What do you think? Perhaps you have Littles that are ready for one of these experiences now! Feel free to tap on a link next to a photo to go to the site that will explain the activity in detail!
As the Adventures with Four site states, this story box is an easy way to celebrate a most special day, from long ago and far away!
This sensory bin would be an effective way to reinforce the Christmas story with your Littles. As you tell them the Christmas Story, your Littles could act it out!
Looking for a Nativity Set for Your Littles?
As we Grands mentioned previously in this post, checking out your local thrift store or eBay are good solutions for hunting down a child appropriate nativity set for a reasonable price. You may also find a set (other than the Fisher Price one described above) by going to Amazon or Oriental Trading. We've both found nativity sets at both places as well as nativity finger puppets, puzzles and stickers! These would also be great stocking stuffers, too!
The Advent Wreath & Our Littles
Check out this easy Advent wreath Laurie just made in Sunday School with her 4 year olds! This would be a wonderful project for a Grand to complete with your Little(s)!
Supplies Needed: construction paper (you choose the colors!) • a glue stick • velcro strip (optional) • pair of scissors
(1) Cut 4 candles plus one larger white one. (I know there are traditional colors for the candles but I let the Sunday School Littles choose their own.) and glue them on
(2) Cut flames for the candles. If using velcro, attach one part to each flame and the other part to the top of the candle. If you don’t have velcro, simply glue the flame on each week.
(3) Rip green paper to make pine boughs/the wreath.
(4) Store the extra flames in a baggie or attach them to another velcro strip at the bottom.
(5) In the photo above, we also drew a picture to label each candle - a dove (the Candle of Hope) heart (the Candle of Love) a happy face (the Candle of Joy) a peace symbol (the Candle of Peace) and a cross (The Christ Candle)
On each Sunday of Advent (and then also on Christmas Day) your Little(s) can “light” the appropriate candles!
Family Devotions with Our Littles
The book above, Celebrate Jesus! at Christmas: Family Devotions for Advent through Epiphany is one Laurie and her family truly recommend:
“When my children were little, I went to a church book sale and found this wonderful book by Kimberly Ingalls Reese. I fell in love with this book. I had been looking for something to bring the “reason for the season” into our children’s lives, and this was it. A friend had just made my family an (artificial) Advent wreath and I was thrilled to have something to pair with
it. The good thing is, you don’t need a wreath to use this book! There is a section at the beginning of the book that shows you how to make one, but you could use the book without the wreath or simply use candles you have at home. (Or you can use the simple Sunday School wreath from above!)
Each day is broken into the lighting of the candle, a Bible reading, a song to sing, something to think and talk about, a prayer, and what to add to your nativity set. As the kids grew older, we didn’t always have time to do the full format. We would simply choose a section or two or do two days together the next night. It was a treasured time to connect each evening for our family.
Can I just say how much I love this picture from when my kids were little?
One part of the daily activity is to add to your Manger scene each day and towards the end, you add the townspeople of Bethlehem. I sent my kids to find some and they came back with army men and little Barbies. Not only can Jesus be visited by anyone and everyone, he can also be protected by all!! You can also see a family picture that we added one day in the far back of the manger photo. Sweet memories!”
This can be easy to do, even for Grands who don’t see their Littles every day. You could do it over FaceTime or Zoom one or two times a week. I think the effort would truly make it worthwhile!.
Sharing in the excitement and anticipation our Littles feel during the coming month is pure joy for this pair of Grands! We hope some of the ideas shared in this post will provide opportunities for you to share the joy of your faith with the Littles in your life!
At the beginning of this post we said that we were going to focus on only one pillar of Our Grand Lives today and that was the area of Grand Activities. While we've held true to that statement, we can't help but share a few of our Grand Moments from our Thanksgiving weekend!
Do you remember how excited I (Laura) was for the Gramma time awaiting me over Thanksgiving weekend? My husband, youngest daughter and I traveled to see our other Middles and our sweet Little L in Wisconsin. Little L loved the Thanksgiving kit I'd put together for her including the Corn Shaker and the Thanksgiving Sensory Bag (we even took the play dough out of the sensory bag (first time for her) and she was so intrigued and even managed to keep it out of her mouth! However, the BIG take away was how much fun, fun, fun (!) she had with the feathers! What a smart purchase that bag of feathers was! She wasn't quite able to put the feathers into the holes in the colander, but she absolutely loved pulling them out of the colander or through the holes from the other side! We also put the feathers out of the bag and into the colander and then back out again numerous times (I'm talking 30-40 minutes each morning), we had tickling contests and we blew them all over the place! Here's one more sweet photo from our Thanksgiving trip to Wisconsin... Grampa D was thoroughly embracing our Little L time, too! ❤️
Meanwhile… Here's what was happening at Laurie’s house (filled with 20+ people) as they celebrated the holiday together!
These are Little D’s Thanksgiving pants gifted to her from Gramma Laura. If you read our Meet The Grands post, you might remember Grammy Laurie’s childhood crush was David Cassidy and playing The Partridge Family. I swear that Laurie Partridge wore these exact pants!! 😊
Thanks so much for stopping by!
We wish you a wonderful week ahead as you continue to prepare
~ your homes and your hearts ~
for all that is to come!