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the Nativity! Advent connections with our Littles!

Tuesday, November 28, 2023

We hope and pray that your Thanksgiving holiday

was filled with lots of yummy goodness and time spent with loved ones!


We both had lovely long weekends, spent with family and friends

and are grateful for the cherished memories made!

We counted our blessings

as we baked and we ate and we crafted, played and snoozed!

'TIS THE SEASON!

Like many of you, we are busy decorating our homes and yards,

we are making list upon list

and our calendars are filling up with lots of holiday fun!


As Grands, we are excited to welcome it all,

especially as we see it anew through the eyes of our grandkids,

our wide-eyed Littles!

It's hard to believe this was Laura's Little L... just one year ago!

Those eyes! ❤️


Today, however, our focus turns to the season of Advent,

that special time in the church year,

when we prepare our homes and, most importantly, our hearts

for the birth of the Christ child!

As we wait with anticipation,

it’s a time for us to remember that Holy night long ago

and reflect on the impact of Jesus’s birth in today’s world!

We can share this joy with the Littles in our lives, too!

Next Sunday is the first day of Advent

and it’s the perfect time to introduce, revisit or retell

the Christmas story of Jesus’s birth with our young Littles!


we devoted time to Advent and ways to explore its meaning with our Littles.

One of the most powerful ways we’ve found

is to introduce our Littles to the Christmas story through a hands-on Nativity!

Last November, Laurie shared… When my own kids were little, we had the typical Nativity set displayed in our home - one made of glass and quite fancy! Young children are quite curious and mine were no exception! So often I found myself reminding my children over and over again - “Don’t touch!” Not surprisingly, one of the kings and the shepherds are now broken and glued together!


As my children grew, I started reading about how our Littles should be able to handle and play with Nativity sets to allow them to explore the Christmas story. When my first grandchild, 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 the following March because Little D enjoyed the Little People so much! What a great way to start introducing the story and language of the First Christmas to my Little!

Laurie also shared that last year, at 16 months old, the play set was out once again, and Little D was learning the names of all the pieces and enjoyed finding them for her parents when they requested them.

And this year Little D was THRILLED when her mom brought it out once again! Baby Jesus was here!

Meanwhile, Laura was excited last year to celebrate Little L’s first holiday season. Based on Laurie’s recommendation, she made a similar purchase as an Advent gift for her sweet Little! (NOTE: Laura found her set on eBay!)


Little L, at ten months old, loved exploring each piece and we spent time introducing her to the various characters as Gramma acted out the story with her!

Both Laurie and Laura have found the Fisher Price Nativity to be a great investment.

It's durable, easy for little hands to manipulate and very simple to clean!


NOTE:

Please know that neither of us are affiliated with any companies…

These are truly our own recommendations based on personal experience!


We understand that the above set is a bit spendy!

We found many other Nativity options available online at different price points

so don't hesitate to check them out!

What we both love most about a Nativity set specifically made for young children

is that it gives our Littles the opportunity to hold and feel each figure

as they hear the Christmas story told again and again

and now... year after year!


Read on for engaging and meaningful ways we’ve created

to use with our Littles and their Nativity sets!


DISTANT GRANDS TAKE NOTE!!

As an added benefit… most, if not all, of the games and activities

described in this section

can be played in-person with Littles OR via FaceTime or Zoom!

Near or far, they are fabulous options for connecting with Littles!


A Review of a Few!

Last year, we shared three games that highlighted the Nativity!

Laura played a few with Little L (who was 10 months old at the time).

but she looks forward to playing them again now that Little L is a bit older!!


Here’s a review of the activities and games we shared a year ago!


Where is Baby Jesus? (Best for Toddler & Preschool Littles)

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 different Nativity pieces on another day or, if you have older Littles you can hide more than one piece at a time. This game is a fun way to introduce the names of the characters in the Christmas story!

For younger Littles another version of this game is Who’s in the Box?

Hide one of the figures in a box and let your little Little(s) discover which one is hiding in there! Littles, like Little L above, will be tickled each time they look inside the box!


Who’s Missing? (Best for Older Toddler & Preschool Littles)

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 figures. In this game, one person removes a piece from the Nativity. Your Little will then look closely at the Nativity to see which character is missing! For really young Littles simply hide one figure at a time under a blanket and play "Peek-a-Boo!"

Hot or Cold! (Best for Older Toddler & Older Littles)

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.)


💙 💜 💙


And a Few New Games, Too!


When Laura and hubby were visiting Little L and her family over Thanksgiving weekend,

we pulled out her Nativity set!

It was stored in her special Christmas box

and the delight on Little L's face as she revealed each piece found inside

was absolutely priceless!


And… just as Laurie described above, Laura's Little L (at 22 months now)

made many more connections with her Nativity this year!

She made the animal sounds and found the different characters for Gramma!

We just had to add a few new games and activities to our repertoire!


A Gift Wrapped Nativity! (Best for Toddler & Preschool Littles)

Who doesn’t love unwrapping a present or two? For this activity, Laura wrapped some of Little L’s Nativity figures individually in tissue paper. Little L had fun unwrapping each (great fine motor practice) and often squealed with excitement when she saw each! She was also intrigued with the tissue paper and would wrap and unwrap the characters over and over again!

A Grand Tip for Distant Grands!

Ask your Little’s mom or dad to wrap the Nativity figures for you.

Then, during each FaceTime call, have your Little unwrap just one!

Talk about the character and what his/her/its role is in the Christmas story!

EXTRA! EXTRA!

If YOU have your own "grown up" Nativity set available on your end of the call,

show your Little your version of the same character!


Nativity Match Up! (Best for Toddler & Preschool Littles)

This game would be fun to play as a follow up to the gift wrapping activity described above and, once again, it reinforces the vocabulary needed to fully understand the Christmas story later in life! Laura printed a set of picture cards to match the Nativity figurines and, as Little L unwrapped each, she found the matching picture, as shown! Of course, your Little can simply pull a figurine out of a box or bag and find the matching photo, too!

How to Make the Photo Cards...

Ahead of time, Laura made a set of picture cards to use for this game..

She found the photos online by googling, for example,

"Fisher Price Nativity set camel" and so on.

She looked for an image that matched the version of the figure Little L has,

took a screenshot of each and

then added them to a document before printing a color copy.


Don't worry though, if you don't have access to a printer or this just seems too complicated! We get it! Instead, play the game by simply setting the figures in front of your Little and then ask him/her to find the camel or Mary or Baby Jesus!


A Grand Tip for Distant Grands!

Send a set of picture cards to your Little(s) mom and/or dad,

through the mail or as an email if they have access to a printer.

Meanwhile, you can keep a second copy of the photos at your home.

(Laura cut her set apart into individual picture cards.)

Then, during regular FaceTime calls, hold up one card at a time

and see if your Little can find the matching figure and even name it!

EXTRA! EXTRA!

You could also send two sets of picture cards to your Little

and then teach them to play “Memory” (or “Concentration”)

by cutting one set into individual picture cards and using the other as a game board!

EXTRA! EXTRA! EXTRA!

For your older Littles (preschool and above) play the game,

I'm Thinking Of...

Give 3 clues to your Little, describing one of the figures

and see if he/she can determine which one you are thinking of!


Story & Song Time! (Best for Toddler & Preschool Littles)

This is a great activity to do with young Littles, especially before a nap or in the evening before bedtime. With your Little, place a candle near your Little(s)’ Nativity set (we used a battery operated one) and then enjoy a story together and/or sing a song like “Away in a Manger.”

A Grand Tip for Distant Grands!

Don’t forget that Distant Grands can read a bedtime story to Littles, too!

As a Grand, you could send a few books to your Little(s) at the start of Advent

to enjoy them together throughout the season!

Mommy and Daddy might enjoy this respite, too!


Finally… Here's a song Little L and Laura found on Youtube that celebrates the Nativity and specifically the animals in the story! We loved listening and singing along… we think you might, too!


If your family is seeking a Christian based countdown to Christmas,

and one that works well for older Littles,

The Christmas Star from Afar is a delightful way to do this!

In fact, several years ago, Laurie gifted this set to her nieces and their families

and now it’s become an annual Advent tradition for each of their families!

The Christmas Star is hidden to create a fun and challenging hide & seek game

for kids of all ages!

The Nativity set also doubles as a Christmas Countdown activity!

NOTE: This set can be purchased from most major retailers

and we even spotted a few available on Ebay!


The directions for preparing and doing the daily/regular activities

are included in the set materials.

Laurie’s nieces also shared with her how this activity works for their families

during the Advent season and we're sharing their thoughts below!


You can begin this activity any time during the Advent season although the book suggests that you begin on the first of December.


When introducing this ongoing activity, sit down with your Little(s) and read the story together.

Then, invite your Little(s) to set up the manger scene (without the three Wise Men).

Explain to your Little(s) that you all will be making the journey with the Wise Men during the coming weeks, following the star until you ultimately reach the manger (on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day).

On that first night, once the Little(s) have gone to bed, the adults in the home will hide the star in the farthest part of your house from the manger scene. For example, if you have a 2-level house, hide the star on the other level. Choose your hiding place based on your Little(s) ages - making it difficult for older Littles or easy to find for younger Littles. You choose!

A Grand Tip!

If you have multiple Littles at varying ages,

you could rotate easy/hard hiding spaces to make it successful for both ages!


The next day, when your Little(s) search for and locate the star, they move the three Wise Men close to it. There is also a short Bible reading/devotion that goes with each move! .(If you begin this game after the first of December, just adjust the readings to fit your family’s journey.)

Each night, after the Little(s) have gone to bed, the aduts (or even a teenage Little) move the star closer and closer to the manger (going up stairs or down stairs, as needed) to be discovered the next day by your eager little ones! Again, be sure to move your Wise Men to the star each time it's discovered in its new surroundings!

Remember to pace the travels of the star out so it lasts the whole time you are using the game.

The star and the three Kings should arrive at the manger on Christmas!

Please Note... Technically, we know that, this countdown is slightly incorrect since, in the Christmas story, the three Wise Men actually arrived at the manger much later than that first Christmas night. However, younger Littles can easily accept the large company of shepherds and kings celebrating baby Jesus together, while older Littles may enjoy learning more about the actual Christmas timeline.


A Grand Tip for ALL Grands... Near & Far!

As a Grand, this would be a delightful gift to give to your Littles.

You could start the adventure out by reading the story together

(in person or online)

and then allow the parents to take over the moving of the star each night!


What fun it would be, as the Grand, to check in and see

all the places the 3 Kings have traveled to during their adventures!

As a Grand, you could even share in a devotion and prayer together, too!


If you have Littles that are able to visit your home regularly during the week,

you could even begin this tradition with your Littles yourself!

Just make sure the star travels a bit farther during each visit

as compared to moving it every night!


And One More Thought... Again, we know that to buy a premade set could be more than you want to spend. While we love this version and all it offers you could certainly find a Nativity set at home or a garage sale/Goodwill to use instead... just make sure it's one you are comfortable letting your Littles love on! Add a homemade star or a battery operated candle and use that for your Littles to follow each day! Read a few Bible verses from the Christmas story or a few pages from a picture book and say a prayer together. Make the activity match your family's needs!

Most importantly...

Use this opportunity to share your faith and love

and the excitement for this beautiful story with your Littles!


Through play, our Littles will truly make long lasting connections

to the Christmas story!

We each think of it as planting seeds as Little D and Little L

grow in faith and understanding from year to year!

That feels like one of the greatest gifts we could share with them!

We hope you agree!

Are you a Grand who loves learning and growing with your Little(s)?

If so, we’d love to hear from you!

If you have any fun ways of sharing the Christmas story

with your own Littles, please share your thoughts with us, too!

Feel free to comment at the bottom of this post

or you can always email us directly at ourgrandlives@gmail.com.


Don’t forget to stop by our Facebook/Instagram sites during the coming week!

We’ll continue to share new content there often!


Are you a subscriber to our blog? If so, you'll never miss a new post!


Speaking of that, look for us to add another Advent post later this week…

It will be a short and sweet one (REALLY!) where we’ll share a tasty way

to bring the Christmas story to life for your Littles!

They'll love it!


We are delighted to join these link up parties and blog hops this week:








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