C elebrating the season of Advent with children can be a special experience that builds the foundation for a lifetime of faith in Jesus, whose coming we long for. And there are so many ways you can make the season of Advent meaningful for kids. Along the way, you might find new hope and joy in the season of Advent yourself!
Remembering the meaning of Advent
Advent is a beautiful time of year when we celebrate the first coming of Jesus while anticipating his return. You could say it’s a time when we celebrate waiting. There’s a big challenge in this because very few, if any, of us are actually good at waiting! We live in a society of instant gratification. It’s fast-paced and impatient, so being still makes us uncomfortable.
There is special awe and wonder that surrounds the birth of Christ—captured through the entire season of Advent—that requires stillness. In order to truly celebrate the miracle of the birth of Christ, we need to stop running circles around our responsibilities and to-do lists. We need to stop and marvel at what God has done: he has taken on flesh to dwell among us and to save us. Stillness is an important discipline for our own faith, and it’s critical for us to model this for children.
Psalm 145:4-7 reads:
One generation commends your works to another; they tell of your mighty acts.
They speak of the glorious splendor of your majesty—
and I will meditate on your wonderful works.
They tell of the power of your awesome works—
and I will proclaim your great deeds.
They celebrate your abundant goodness and joyfully sing of your righteousness.
These words remind us precisely why parents and families must create spaces that intentionally slow down the pace of life. Advent is a time to model for our children how to be still and marvel at God’s wonderful works. We can live out the words of David in this psalm, sharing the good news of Jesus’s birth with the next generation.
Family Advent activities and resources for celebrating Advent with kids
There are many great ideas and resources for celebrating Advent with children. In this list, you’ll find just a few that will help you embrace moments of stillness and celebrate waiting together during the busyness of Christmas anticipation. It’s my prayer that you and your family find stillness in this season of Advent and that you can pause in wonder, marveling at the birth of our Savior.
Age Range: All ages
The Jesse Tree teaches about the family tree of Jesus, the good news of his coming, and the prophecy fulfilled—a shoot coming from Jesse’s line (Isaiah 11:1-3). Through this tradition, children can make connections between the Old and New Testaments to see God’s perfect plan to bring us back to himself through Jesus. I invite you to explore this engaging Jesse Tree resource, which includes printable ornament designs that kids can color (or pre-colored ones), family devotions, an Instagram photo challenge, and ideas for planning a Jesse Tree event for your church.
Bonus: the Jesse Tree toolkit is also available in Spanish.
Random Acts of Kindness Jar
You’ll need a few basic supplies for this activity, including jumbo craft sticks, a jar or short vase, glue, and the printable strips found here.
Print the Acts of Kindness pages and cut them into individual strips. Choose 24 of the activities and glue each one onto a craft stick. Or, choose and write your own acts of kindness on blank paper strips or directly onto the craft sticks. If you don’t have access to a printer, write the acts of kindness on the craft stick with a pen or marker. Place the completed sticks in a glass jar or short vase. Each day of Advent, take out a stick and follow the prompt to spread kindness as a family in a unique way.
Advent Prayer Garland
Cut out 25 paper strips in various colors. On each strip, write the name of a family member, friend, or ministry. Staple or tape the strips as links into one long garland. Hang the garland as a decoration in your home or on your Christmas tree. Every day in December, have a family member remove one of the paper strips. Spend time in prayer together for the person or ministry whose name is on that strip of paper.
Advent Blessings Garland
Cut out 25 paper strips in various colors. Every day in December, take a strip of paper and write something your family has been blessed with or is thankful for this year. Note ways God has been present for your family or how he has met your needs. Tape or staple the first strip together on December 1. Each day, add one paper strip to your chain. Hang the garland as a reminder of God’s blessings for your family.
Advent prayer stations are a great way to help kids slow down and focus on the real meaning of the season. This list from Theresa Cho contains great interactive options for all ages. The stations offer opportunities to engage, reflect, and meditate. Use one station or all of them. Plus, these stations work well in Sunday school or children’s church, or they can modified for use at home.
By Champ Thornton
Age range: Preschool to middle elementary
This little book is a treasure of family activities surrounding Advent. It’s filled with interactive devotions, recipes, crafts, and activities. What I value most about this book is the teaching. You’ll discover answers to common Christmas-time questions, including: was Jesus really born in a stable? Why didn’t the inn have any room? Who was Saint Nicholas? And why do we see Christmas abbreviated as Xmas?
By Kids Read Truth
Age Range: Ages 3–12+
Kids Read Truth has a fantastic resource: Advent Conversation Cards. With one card for each day in December, they can be used year after year with the entire family. There is a short Scripture reading followed by three discussion questions based on age. Each day ends with a “merry moment” that helps families engage in natural and fun conversation directed around the season of Advent. The set even includes directions and an answer card.
Shelley Henning has been involved in children’s and family ministry for over two decades. She currently serves the Reformed Church in America as the facilitator for KidMin, the children’s ministry branch of Next Generation Engagement. She is also the co-founder and CEO of Grow Family and has written a book, numerous articles, and curriculum related to children and family ministry. You can connect with Shelley by email at email@example.com.