INSIDE: This Christmas, set out a few strategic toys to help your kids experience a Jesus-focused Christmas, through play.
His chubby hands wrapped up the stuffed bear in a special blankie, then lowered the swaddled bear into a laundry basket.
“Ni-night Jesus,” he said.
I tucked him in, and made sure that the Jesus-bear was ready for sleep as well.
Together, we acted out a story as old as time.
“While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.” Luke 2:6, 7 (NIV)
Christmas is the perfect time to learn to incorporate play into your child’s Bible learning, because the subject matter is so gentle and the story is so familiar to even the most irregular church-goer.
Children learn best through play
It may look to adults that they are “just” playing, but the amount of learning that occurs in the brain when a child is freely enjoying themselves is astounding.
(Google “learn through play” to read a ton of info about this!)
For example, playing with various sized buckets at a sand and water table is giving a preschool an early understanding of volume. Scribbling helps them learn fine motor skills, and simple puzzles help them identify shapes (which is crucial for understanding letters).
I am a huge proponent of letting kids play what they want (within safe limits!) when they want, because it also helps them learn self-discipline, engages their imaginations, and helps with their social skills.
Encouraging my young son to wrap up a stuffed bear and lay him in a “manger” helped him learn to be gentle, as well as teaching him the Christmas story.
This is something you can easily introduce to your child this Christmas, using the follow list of 8 ways to help your child engage in the Nativity story this Christmas through play.
Some are items you would simply make available for free play time, and others include a guided play aspect. Click on each picture to learn more details about the product.
8 kid-approved ways to have a Jesus-focused Christmas
1) Place a toy nativity set at child level.
As adults, we have a tendency to pick up beautiful nativity sets that our kids aren’t allowed to touch, so it’s important to have one that your child can engage with! They might plan the nativity story, or they might do something totally different (they might even add some dinosaurs to the scene)! Both are totally okay!
If you’re looking for a set, you can choose from Fisher Price (for toddlers/preschoolers), or Playmobil or Lego sets for the bigger kids. We have the Playmobil one at home and we love the details in it, down to the light-up lantern to place in the stable.
2) Leave Nativity-appropriate costumes in a play area
Toss a bunch of costumes in a plastic bin and let your kids have fun! Assuming you don’t have scads of Bible-times costumes laying around, here are a few ideas to help you find some:
A) Find bathrobes and animal costumes at your local secondhand store.
B) Make your own (here are some cute patterns I found!)
C) Buy (or create) some masks like these!
3) Bake nativity cookies
Baking cookies itself might not qualify as free play, but doing it together will help them with fine motor and math skills, and give you quality time together! Check out these fabulous cookie cutters!
4) Download my free Christmas-play guide!
If you liked the activity I mentioned at the beginning, there are 20 other simple activities in this Christmas play guide. Click here to grab it.
I’m a huge fan of these activities because they’re simple enough for little kids, but also fun for bigger kids. AND they don’t require any prep because they’re play-based, not craft-based. Win-win!
5) Set out some nativity-themed puppets
Set these up behind a puppet stage (or a couch) and see what happens! You can probably find some animal puppets at a secondhand store, but here are some adorable finger puppets I found on Amazon!
6) Hide some wisemen around the house!
This game is more parent-directed, but is still a super fun way to PLAY at Christmas! Simply hide your wisemen around the house, moving them to a different spot each day as they search for the newborn King.
Read more about how we did that in this article.
7) Make the crafts from Truth in the Tinsel
Making crafts might not feel like play to some moms (you know who you are!), but there are some kids (and moms) who ADORE crafting! Check out the suggestions for many different Nativity-Themed crafts in this bestselling e-book.
8) Set out purposeful Christmas books
There are probably about 14 billion Christmas books already in print, and I’m sure you have your favourites. My favourite ones are those that approach the Christmas story in a new way. I like them to creatively share the deeper meaning of Christmas without simply retelling the story over…and over…and over.
I’ll post links to a few of my favorites, but I also wrote a full article about Gospel-centered Christmas books here.