10 Ways to Celebrate a Christ-Centered Christmas With Little Ones

Guest Post by Jessica of Smartter Each Day

Isn’t Christmas with little ones wonderful?

It’s been quite a Christmas here, already. We’ve suffered three broken ornaments (one vintage), one ripped Christmas book, two discovered presents, a missing baby Jesus, and our monstrous tree has toppled over twice. (Don’t worry: two tree stands, four saw-ings, one PVC pipe, and two strands of fishing line later, it’s as stable as can be.)

Oh… and did I mention a rather tense and snippy mom?

I keep wondering: how can we celebrate a true Christmas, amidst the wonderful stresses and messes of life with little ones?

This year I’m focusing my energy on a few of these ideas for a real, memorable, and Christ-centered Christmas.

Have a feast!

I love these musings from Ann Voskamp about feasting on Christmas. Our grocery budget is tight, but I’ve considered eating simply for a week– frugal soups and rice and beans  – so we can splurge Christmas morning on real, delicious foods God has given us.

What would Christmas feasting look like for your family?  

Here, we’ll have dairy-free cinnamon rolls or chocolate-chip banana muffins. (Food allergies aren’t going to ruin our feasting!) I’m a potato girl, so I’ll fry some hash-browns and brown-sugar turkey bacon. And of course, fresh berries! (Later we’ll devour Braised Short Ribs with all the fixings!)

Let your kids throw him a party!

My toddler boys love celebrating someone with a birthday party. To them right now, honoring Jesus’ birthday means a giant balloon, a homemade cake, and lots of loud singing! I think we’ll invite the neighbor kids and make an event!

Enjoy good Christmas music and books. 

I know this might cause an outrage, but I’m just not a fan of “Frosty” or “Silver Bells”! (I know, I know…I’m a Grinch!) These just pale in comparison to songs that tell the real story. This is our favorite kids’ album. My husband and I could listen to Andrew Peterson’s brilliant “Behold the Lamb” album all year long! As far as books, consider visiting the library for a few Christ-centered books.

 Teach Christmas to little ones. 

This seems obvious, but bears repeating. Christmas can be confusing to little ones! It’s Jesus’ birthday, but there are trees, candy canes, Santa, penguins… Frankly, it’s hard for me to draw all the connections; imagine the confusion if you’re young!

Here’s a snippet of the conversation I had with Sam, our three-year-old:

 Sam, do you remember that God sent Jesus down to earth to show people how to get to heaven? Every year we celebrate his birthday, when he was born as a little baby! Do you think we should give Him a gift? (Yes!) Well, do you know what He said he wants? (What?) He wants us to love other people and help them!

And how about really giving Jesus a gift?

This year we rolled pennies and dimes from our family piggy bank, headed to the dollar store, and picked out toys to cram in shoe boxes for Operation Christmas Child. Together we’ll pick out a gift from the Samaritan’s Purse or Compassion International gift catalog.

And I think we’ll give Jesus “a gift” – a picture of us stuffing the boxes. (You could take or draw a picture.) Although certainly not necessary, I think having a visual, tangible “present” for Jesus is a great idea for little ones. Whatever gifts of love you give this season, be clear that they are gifts for Jesus!

Simplify gifts.

I’m really intrigued by those families who forgo gifts at Christmas. Others do three gifts, symbolizing the three gifts Jesus received. I also like the idea of four gifts: “something you wear, something you need, something you want, something you read.” Celebrating and Savoring a Simple Christmas has many thoughtful, homemade gifts I’d never thought of!

Make it to a Christmas Eve service.

I’ll be honest; this often feels like a real sacrifice! Getting everyone dressed in festive attire, fed something semi-special, and in the car at 5:00 p.m. on Christmas Eve is sometimes the last thing I feel like doing, and I’m tempted to skip it. Yet these services can often be the most entertaining and memorable for little ones!

Use Christmas cards as acts of love.

Look over that list again. Who’s missing? Elderly neighbors who linger to say hi to your kids? Great-aunts out-of-town? Would some of these folks enjoy pictures of your family or a Christmas coloring page? Funny, but a page of scribbles and a picture of your kids just might bless a lonely someone with His love.

Celebrate Advent daily. 

These days there are a plethora of Advent projects to choose from.

Ann Voskamp’s Jesse Tree devotional is inspirational and outreach-oriented. Quiet times have been a struggle for me recently, and this is an answer to prayer!

  • Check out the Truth in the Tinsel resource with daily crafts for young children.
  • The Jesus Storybook Bible tells a brilliant Advent story. If you read 1-2 stories a day in December, on Christmas you’d be at Jesus’ birth! If you don’t have this beautiful Bible, consider gifting it to your family early.
  • You may have heard of the “elf on the shelf” tradition, where you hide an elf every day for your kids… I love this idea, which uses the “elf on the shelf” (or Santa, if you wish) to teach grace!
  • Or, how about taking time to meditate each day on a different name for Jesus?  Here is an adorable project that your kids can do on the same theme.

Give yourself grace.

Perhaps it’s been a long and stressful year for your family. Maybe you’re frazzled and weary, and a list like this is more overwhelming than helpful. (I’ve been there!)

What would it look like to ask Him for grace?

Consider pausing to ask the Lord what He wants for your family this year. If that means a barren tree, a handful of unwrapped presents, and a take-out dinner from Olive Garden, so be it! Growing up, we once celebrated Thanksgiving dinner at a local restaurant because my mom had been sick. We kids loved it!

How do you keep Christ at the center of your Christmas? What Christ-centered activities do your kids love?

 Disclosure: This post includes affiliate links.

About Jessica Smartt

Jessica Smartt is a former middle-school teacher who lives in beautiful North Carolina. You can find her at www.smarttereachday.com where she enjoys poking fun at the everyday challenges of motherhood, sharing delicious allergy-free recipes, and rejoicing that God still loves her no matter what phobia she has recently developed. She is blessed beyond belief with two Smartt little boys and a husband who can fix anything.

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  1. A few years ago I we took an idea from a Focus on the Family magazine. We have Mary and Joseph make their way around the house during Christmas and the wisemen follow a good distance away. The shepherds hang out in a field by the stable until they hear the news. The kids love getting to move the the characters each day and then Jesus makes his big appearance on the day. You never know where in the house you will find Mary and Joseph as they make their way to the stable!

    One year, when we knew a bunch of families going through some rough times, we made ornaments with their names on them and each night we would gather around the tree and one of the kiddos would choose an ornament and pray for that family. I definitely want to do that one again this year.

  2. I love how at the end of this post, you give some grace to those of us who can’t do this sort of thing this year. I just moved, am feeling a bit sick and very tired. Ummm I am not even sure where my Christmas tree is. So, simple, basic, one or two ideas is where its at.

  3. First of all, the little boy in the first picture looks just like all three of my sons! My three year old saw the fire truck toy in the background (he has the same one) and said, ” that’s me Momma! Look there’s my fire truck!” Too funny! Second, THANK YOU so much for this list. I have a three year old, a two year old and a eight month old, and I would love to do all of these things. But as you said in the last part….. I am weary and overwhelmed. I know God’s grace is sufficient but sometimes we need that reminder that its really all about Jesus no matter how many things we do or don’t do. And it is ok if we don’t do EVERYTHING!! Once again Thank you and Merry Christmas!

    • Wow, Nicole…I can’t imagine adding an eight-month-old to my two boys! I am sure that your days are incredibly busy!! :) I hope that you do have time to rest and enjoy the gift of Christ this year. And to enjoy those three little cute boys! If they look like mine, I know they’re cute! ;)

  4. One of the most memorable parts of our family Christmas has always been the “special guests.” Sometimes it was people from church who didn’t have family to celebrate with. Sometimes it was someone my parents met in the weeks leading up to Christmas. One time it was a guy whose car broke down on Christmas Day and my Dad stopped to help on his way home from Christmas morning service. We never knew who or how many special guests we were going to have, but unlike the inn keeper, we always had room for others. Mum and Dad made this a highlight of our family Christmas tradition from their very first Christmas.
    As the family Christmas host for the last few years it’s fun to pray for and plan for unexpected extras, including generic gifts for men, women and children just in case :)

    • I love this idea, Gail. That is an excellent point! Honestly, I need to pray for more courage and openness to strangers in need…I was cringing the other day thinking what a horrible innkeeper I probably would have been, too, back in Bethlehem! LOL!

  5. Thank you for a great post about teaching children the true meaning of Christmas! As much as I like the Red Baron and penguins, polar bears, etc, I really don’t know how they relate to my Saviour’s birth!

  6. I found a website a few years ago that had “patterns” for Chrismon ornaments. They looked suspiciously like coloring pages to me. So each day, i hide a box for each child and inside is a Chrismon to color, cut out and glue to a 1/4 piece of construction paper. We talk about how each picture represents Christ as we hang them around the chair rail in the dining room for everyone to see.

    • I love this idea! I’d love to know what that website is! I tried to find a good resource for Christmas coloring pages, but mostly found Santas and snowmen. :)

  7. Thanks for sharing these great ideas! I especially like asking Him for grace. That often gets overlooked when we’re busy keeping little ones from scaling the tree and scraping cookie dough out of their hair. It sounds like your little ones will enjoy a very focused, festive Christmas. God’s blessings and Merry Christmas!

  8. The Elf-on-the-Shelf phenomenon intrigued me, but I knew it wasn’t quite the focus we would want for our little ones. Instead, I’ve come up with a very simple Angel on the Shelf tradition, remembering that angels were messengers of the Good News. It includes a reading plan and discussion questions which can be started any time in December.

    • Suzanne,

      I’m with you on the Elf-on-the-Shelf. It sounds fun, but I really want to emphasize Christ during Christmas. I think we will try the Angel on the Shelf tradition and make it fun while still telling Christ’s story. Love it!! Thanks for sharing!

      • That angel on the shelf idea is a terrific idea! Thanks for sharing! I, too, have steered away from that cute little “elf…” simply because at my children’s young age, it’s all I can do to explain Jesus and Christmas! We don’t really emphasize Santa here, either, but I included the link with the “elf in the shelf” idea in the post because I’d never seen someone use the concepts of elf/Santa in a way that seems to include the Gospel, as well! Just thought it was interesting! Thanks again for sharing! Blessings this season!

  9. This is a great post, Jessica! I appreciate your transparency about how crazy you home can be–and your struggle with quiet times. I’m so there, girl! These are all wonderful ideas. Let’s grab coffee in the new year! :)

  10. Isn’t it adorable? It was a gift from my mom to our family a few years ago. I found one here that is very similar….http://www.amazon.com/Vermont-Christmas-Company-Nativity-Calendar/dp/B005COP51I/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&qid=1354626635&sr=8-4&keywords=felt+advent+calendar. The kids just love it!

  11. Where can I find that really sweet advent calendar under the “celebrate advent daily” heading?


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