Tuesday, November 25, 2014

A Christ-Centered Christmas Craft Advent for Young Children

Hello all! Lorene here again today, to share one of our new favorite Christmas traditions. The holiday season gets so busy, but it's also so important for us as a family to remember the purpose of the holiday, so I am always looking for easy ways to make Christ-centered and kid-friendly Christmas traditions. Last year, I stumbled upon the 25 Days of Christ and I loved it! One small problem -- they were out of stock for the season and... there's no way it would have been delivered before December 1. (Procrastination strikes again!)

Instead, I used the same scripture stories and created my own simple kids craft advent teaching all of the life of Christ. And we loved it! In about 10 minutes each night, we had a short devotional and crafted an ornament to remind us of the story we read. This all-important family time helped us learn and discuss the gospel, invite the Spirit into our home, and enjoy each others' company.

We culminated the 25 days by opening a special present on Christmas morning -- a heart-shaped tree topper to remind us that the most important gift is God's love to each one of us, given freely and not based on whether we've been "naughty or nice". Our quick devotional before we headed downstairs to open presents set the tone for the rest of the day, and sealed for us that we wanted to do this again.

So this year, I'm sharing with you, for those of you who have likewise been searching for good family traditions that don't take a lot of time, money, or energy (all of which are hard to come by these days!) The whole thing takes very few supplies (most of which you probably have on-hand, or could substitute something you have around) and you can create a new family tradition in around 10 minutes every night. I've included photos of our ornaments from last year, plus any changes or adjustments we plan to do this year. Some of the crafts were pathetically lazy/simple last year since I was 32+ weeks pregnant at the time. :)

Each day includes 
  • a short scripture selection
  • a picture (from the Gospel Art Book, which you can purchase at ldscatalog.com or access digitally with additional images here on LDS.org
  • a very simple ornament that uses common craft supplies and requires very little time to create
We also supplement most nights by reading the same scripture section out of the children's scriptures (in addition to directly from the KJV), and if you're interested in also using short videos, the 25 Days of Christ site includes great links to gospel videos (or you can access the whole Bible video library here).

For most of the advent ornament crafts, preschoolers will need some help with cutting, while older children will be able to do it on their own. I've also included some additional options to help you adapt the crafts to your children's skill and interest levels and your available materials. Print a 1-page (front and back) quick reference sheet + printable ornament templates here (or for Bible-only, here) -- which includes the each day, scripture, picture #, and craft supply list. Instructions for each craft are below.

Full details are below (just click the Read More link). Please let me know if you have any questions or if there are any corrections needed. If you do this with your family, I'd love to hear what you think and see pictures of your crafts! You can tag @iamjustlu on Instagram or email me at iamjustlu@gmail(dot)com. UPDATE: we are using #TeachMeofChristmas on social media, too -- join in with your pics and experiences! :)

An important note: I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (aka LDS or Mormon) so the scriptures I refer to use the KJV of the Bible, and day 24 uses scriptures from The Book of Mormon. If you prefer to use just the Bible, you can download the Bible-only advent schedule here. The scripture references and images below are linked to the scriptures and image library online at lds.org for your viewing convenience.

(printable version here)

A 25-day Christmas ornament craft advent for preschoolers using teachings from the Bible and The Book of Mormon. (Or, click here for a Bible-only version.)

*Specific supplies are listed for each craft; most crafts also require basic craft supplies like scissors, crayons/markers, and tape/glue. You will also need basic wire ornament hangers for most ornaments.

**Two sets of these ornaments filled our 3-foot tree to be pleasantly full :)**

DECEMBER 1 | The Birth of Christ
Read: Luke 2:1-7
Picture: Gospel Art Book #30

Ornament: star
5 popsicle sticks
string, yarn, or twine (optional)
Overlap the 5 popsicle sticks to form a star, and glue the overlapping tips. Add a loop of string or ornament hanger. (Optional) Wrap the star with string, yarn, or twine; or decorate with markers or glitter.
Other craft ideas:
--Make cinnamon dough or salt dough stars (add beads for extra sparkle!)
--For older kids, cut stars out of foil pans and let them poke designs like this.
--Cut and glue simple 3D star ornaments from paper (like these).
--Craft a baby Jesus in a manger, like this or this or this
DECEMBER 2 | Announcement to the Shepherds
Read: Luke 2:8-18
Picture: Gospel Art Book #31, online

Ornament: shepherd’s crook
1 pipe cleaner
String the beads onto the pipe cleaner and form it in the shape of a shepherd's crook to hang on the tree.
Other craft ideas: --Use paracord to make the shepherd's crook, following this tutorial.
--Make an easy pasta angel.
DECEMBER 3 | Three Wise Men
Read: Matthew 2:1-12
Picture: online

Ornament: wise men or crowns
empty toilet paper tube
adhesive jewelr
OR 3 clothespin peg dolls
paper scraps
fabric scraps
Last year: we cut 3 simple crowns from toilet paper tubes (using pinking shears) and stuck on adhesive jewels.

This year we plan to: Make each clothespin doll a crown using paper scraps -- pinking shears will make a quick and easy crown! Wrap each clothespin doll in a scrap of fabric for a robe, and secure with glue or string. Attach an ornament hanger to each.
Other craft ideas:
--Create a stained glass silhouette of the wise men using this technique.
--Make the wise men from toilet paper tubes like this
DECEMBER 4 | Boy Jesus in the Temple
Read: Luke 2:40-52
Picture: Gospel Art Book #34

Ornament: mini scriptures
1 sheet copy paper
1 sheet black cardstock
stapler (or needle/thread)
image via Beauty and Bedlam
Cut a rectangle from the cardstock and fold in half to create the book cover. Fold the copy paper to form the pages; staple into the book. Write "The Holy Bible" and/or "The Book of Mormon" on the cover. Add an ornament hanger. (Also, this year, I intend to have word strips of the different names of Jesus to have my children glue into their "scriptures")
Other craft ideas:
--Older children will be able to make more intricate mini books, like these
DECEMBER 5 | Baptism of Jesus
Read: Matthew 3:13-17
Picture: Gospel Art Book #35

Ornament: dove
white craft foam, cardstock, or stiff felt
2 small googly eyes
dove template (download/print here)
Trace the template shapes onto the foam or cardstock. Cut out and assemble by sticking the wing notch into the notch on the bird's body. Attach the eyes and an ornament hanger.
Other craft ideas:
--For older children who can handle a needle, use felt and fabric to make a plush bird/dove.
DECEMBER 6 | Fishers of Men
Read: Luke 5:1-11, Luke 6:12-16
Picture: Gospel Art Book #37, 38

Ornament: fish
1 sheet cardstock
small circle stickers
1 googly eye
fish template (download/print here)
Cut out the fish template and mark the head/face divider. Use the small circle stickers to cover the body of the fish to create scales. Add the googly eye and an ornament hanger.
Other craft ideas:
--Older kids who can use a needle can easily use felt and sequins to create a fish like this
DECEMBER 7 | Sermon on the Mount
Read: Matthew 5:1-16
Picture: Gospel Art Book #39, online

Ornament: candle
1 clothespin
paper or felt: yellow, orange and 1 other color
Cut an orange teardrop shape and a yellow circle; glue the orange on top of the yellow. Cut a long thin rectangle (just larger than the clothespin) from the other color to be the candle. Glue the candle onto one flat side of the clothespin, and glue the flame on top. Clip onto the tree.
Other craft ideas:--Use old-fashioned peg-style clothes pins and pipe cleaners to make candles like these.
--Older children can easily fold these 3D origami candles--Cut and fold mini LED tealight lanterns like these
DECEMBER 8 | Calming the Storm
Read: Matthew 8:23-27
Picture: Gospel Art Book #40, online

Ornament: boat
1 cork or styrofoam ball, cut in half
1 toothpick
scrap paper
OR one sheet of paper

Last year: Assemble a boat by making a "sail" from the toothpick and a pointed oval shape, then sticking the toothpick in the cork or styrofoam ball.

This year we plan to: Fold a paper boat following these instructions or these. Nestle in the branches of the tree.
Other craft ideas:
--Make a kitchen sponge boat like this
DECEMBER 9 | Loaves and Fishes
Read: Matthew 14:14-21
Picture: online

Ornament: bread + fish
bread dough
OR felt or paper: brown, white, blue
bread and fish templates (download/print here)
image and recipe via Bakery Boy
Last year: We made real bread ornaments following this tutorial tutorial. Really fun, but not a quick craft!

This year we plan to: Following the templates, cut and glue the brown and white felt together as the bread, and cut out and decorate the felt fish. (Make as many as you like!) Insert ornament hangers into each.

DECEMBER 10 | Walking on Water
Read: Matt 14:22-33
Picture: Gospel Art Book #43, online

Ornament: footprint
blank shrink film (like Shrinky-Dinks; purchase online here) or regular paper
permanent markers or crayons
Trace your child's foot onto the shrink paper and let them color it in with permanent marker. Use a hole punch to make the ornament hanger hole BEFORE you bake/shrink according to the package directions. (Last year, as you can see, we just traced and colored footprints. Easy!)
Other craft ideas:--Use this activity/coloring page to teach the story. 
DECEMBER 11 | The Good Samaritan
Read: Luke 10:25-37
Picture: Gospel Art Book #44

Ornament: bandaged man
1 clothespin doll
fabric scraps
Cut (or rip along the grain of the fabric) a long, thin strip of fabric for each doll. Wrap the fabric around the doll as a bandage. Insert/glue an ornament hanger.
Other craft ideas:
--Print and color this paper doll
DECEMBER 12 | The Ten Lepers
Read: Luke 17:11-19
Picture: Gospel Art Book #46, online

Ornament: 10 lepers (paper doll chain)
1 sheet of copy paper or cardstock (any color)
template (download/print here)
crayons or markers
Last year: we made a simple bead wreath with 9 beads in one color and 1 bead in another, to represent the 10 who were healed and the 1 who returned to give thanks.

This year we plan to: Make a 10-leper paper doll chain. Print the template. Fold and cut according to the directions -- cut on dotted lines, glue where indicated, then fold on solid lines and cut the outline. Be sure not to cut the folded edges at the man's hands and feet. Count the "lepers" and color one to represent the one grateful leper.
Other craft ideas:--Create a simple button wreath with 9 buttons in one color and 1 in another. 
DECEMBER 13 | The Lost Sheep
Read: Luke 15:3-10
Picture: Gospel Art Book #64, online

Ornament: sheep
cardstock: black and white
cotton balls or pom-poms
2 small googly eyes
2 clothespins
sheep template (download/print here)

Print and cut (or freehand cut) the sheep template: a circle out of white cardstock and the sheep face from black cardstock. Glue pom-poms or cotton balls to the body. Next glue the black head onto the body, and the eyes on the head. Glue the body to the clothespin "legs" (like this) and clip on the tree. (Note: last year we stuck the cotton balls to a styrofoam ball and inserted pipe cleaner legs. Use what you have! :)
Other craft ideas:
--Cut a sheep body from black foam and wrap with white yarn, like this.
--Use wood rings and yarn to create sheep like this
DECEMBER 14 | Take Up Thy Bed
Read: Mark 2:1-12
Picture: video 1, video 2

Ornament: bed roll
tiny pillow
thick fabric scraps (like fleece)
string or twine
Last year: We made a tiny pillow from fabric scraps and stuffing, or from a piece of batting.

This year we plan to: Make the pillow, and then cut a long thin strip of fleece, flannel, or similar to be the "bed". Roll the fabric, stack the pillow on top, and secure with string to make a bedroll. Attach an ornament hanger.
Other craft ideas:
--Color this coloring page
DECEMBER 15 | Woman at the Well
Read: John 4:5-30
Picture: Gospel Art Book #36

Ornament: well with bucket
small paper cup
popsicle sticks
tiny cup (for bucket)
Last year: we made paper and pipe cleaner buckets.

This year we plan to: Glue popsicle sticks (trimmed down depending on size) around the edge of the cup to create the well, leaving two tall on opposite sides. Glue a toothpick across the two taller sticks. Attach the string to the smaller cup and then to the toothpick, so the "bucket" can hang down the "well" -- like this.
Other craft ideas:
--Use small rocks to create a well like this.
--Form a bucket and/or well from clay and bake/air-dry. 
DECEMBER 16 | The Widow’s Mite
Read: Mark 12:41-44
Picture: video

Ornament: clay coins
cardstock and pennies
salt dough (easy recipe here)
coins to imprint
circle cookie cutters (optional)
Last year: we made mini envelopes out of cardstock and put pennies in them to symbolize our tithing.

This year we plan to: Roll the salt dough out to 1/4-1/2 inch thick. Press the coins carefully in the dough to leave an imprint. Cut out the shape, and bake. When dry and cool, glue an ornament hanger to the back.
Other craft ideas:
--Make a coin rubbing on paper.
--Color this coloring page
DECEMBER 17 | Mary and Martha
Read: Luke 10:38-42
Picture: Gospel Art Book #45, online

Ornament: ears to hear
2 printed ears (from here)
Color and cut out the ears. Connect one to each end of a 6" (ish) piece of string and drape over a branch of the tree, or use an ornament hanger.
Other craft ideas:
--Color this coloring page
DECEMBER 18 | Triumphal Entry & Cleansing the Temple
Read: Matthew 21:1-13
Picture: Gospel Art Book #50, 51, 52

Ornament: palm tree
1 toilet paper tube (or smaller in diameter)
green cardstock
palm leaf template (download/print here)
Cut the cardboard tube to be 4-5" tall. In the top, cut 6-8 vertical slits, about 1/2 inch long. Cut palm leaves (freehand or following the template). Place one palm leaf in each vertical slit; secure with tape or glue (optional).
Other craft ideas:
--Make a clothespin donkey like this.
--Use this coloring/activity page.
--Color this Jesus and donkey paper doll.   
DECEMBER 19 | The Last Supper
Read: Luke 22:14-20, John 13:4-15
Picture: Gospel Art Book #54, 55, online

Ornament: bread and water
felt or paper: brown and white
bread template (print/download here)
sacrament cup (or salt dough to make a cup)
Follow the template (or freehand) to cut and glue the brown and white felt to make the bread. Use the clay to form a cup, or attach an ornament hanger to a plastic sacrament cup. (Last year we used just a sacrament cup.)
Other craft ideas: 
--Use this sacrament tray coloring page
DECEMBER 20 | Gethsemane
Read: Matthew 26:36-45, D&C 19:16-19
Picture: Gospel Art Book #56

Ornament: gift
paper box template (try this one or this one)
sheet of cardstock
blank slip of paper
image via BHG
Print and cut/score the paper box template . Decorate if desired. On the paper slip, write a gift you can give to the Savior this year (i.e., a sacrifice or change you can make to become more like Him.) Fold the box, place the slip inside, and attach a bow and an ornament hanger.
Other craft ideas:
--Paint a wood block and wrap it with ribbon like this.  
DECEMBER 21 | Betrayal & Denial
Read: Matthew 26:4-75
Picture: online

Ornament: rooster
felt: red, white, orange
rooster template (download/print here)
2 small googly eyes
clothespin (optional)

Follow the template to cut the pieces of felt. Glue the pieces together to create the rooster finger puppet. Place the puppet in the branches of the tree or on a clothespin clipped to a branch.
Other craft ideas:
--Use an egg carton, string, and felt to create a rooster like this
DECEMBER 22 | Crucifixion & Burial
Read: Luke 23:33-46, 50-56
Picture: Gospel Art Book #57, 58

Ornament: cross
2 popsicle sticks or twigs
twine or string
Glue the two sticks perpendicular to each other. Wrap the center joint with twine or string, leaving a long loop to hang the cross on the tree.

DECEMBER 23 | Resurrection
Read: John 20: 1-20
Picture: Gospel Art Book #59, online

Ornament: empty tomb
salt dough (recipe here)
OR paper and crayons
Last year: we traced and colored our hands to remind us of the marks in Jesus' hands, and that we can act as His hands now as we do good and serve others.

This year we plan to: Use salt dough to create an empty tomb. Attach a hanger (carefully!) and then bake.

**Note, if you are doing the Bible-only advent, adjust this to do the heart craft with the Luke/Road to Emmaus scripture on the 24th and then the cloud craft with Acts/Ascension on the 25th -- like the printed Bible-only schedule here. 

DECEMBER 24 | Appearance & Ministry to the Nephites
Read: 3 Nephi 8:3-7, 17-23; 3 Nephi 11:1-15; 3 Nephi 17:5-24
Picture: Gospel Art Book #82, 83, 84

Ornament: cloud
cloud template (download/print here)
cotton balls or pompoms
white cardstock
yellow chenille pipe cleaner (optional)
Cut the cloud template from white cardstock and glue on cotton balls or pom-poms. (Optional) Use the pipe cleaner to create a lightning bolt and attach to the cloud. Add an ornament hanger.

DECEMBER 25 | Road to Emmaus & Ascension
Read: Luke 24:13-32; Acts 1:9-11
Picture: Gospel Art Book #6061, 62

Ornament: heart (tree topper) and picture frame
felt: red
empty toilet paper tube
craft foam or cardstock, any color
misc craft supplies
small picture of Christ
Cut two large hearts from red felt. (Mine are approx 8" tall by 9" wide.) Attach them to each other around the edges *except* at the bottom tip and about 4 inches up, to create a pocket for the top of the tree. Flatten the top half of the toilet paper tube and slide it into the opening at the bottom of the heart. Secure it with hot glue to form the tube to keep the heart on the top of the tree.

This year we also plan to add a simple frame and picture of Christ for each child: Cut a rectangle frame from the foam (or buy a premade craft foam frame). Decorate the frame and then tape the picture of Christ in the picture to keep all year-round.

Merry Christmas!

Lu (or Lorene if you prefer) is the mom of 3 kids and wife of a singing and dancing elementary teacher. She happily shows up here at Housewife Eclectic a few times a month, when the creative bug strikes in between projects at her awesome job as a virtual assistant. You can check out her other projects here on Housewife Eclectic, or her former blogger life over at just Lu.

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