How to Celebrate Advent with Your Kids

Updated Nov 08, 2021
How to Celebrate Advent with Your Kids

There are so many incredible resources and ideas for celebrating advent with little ones, it can be hard to figure out what to do. My number one rule: whatever you do with your family must produce joy, not stress. With that, here are my favorite ideas, guides and resources for celebrating the season of Advent with your children.

Growing up in a Southern Baptist tradition, we did not celebrate Advent as a family. However, a paper advent calendar of a scene of a house sitting on a snowy mountain hung on our wall. The windows of the house were made out of small paper flaps. Each day we opened a window and inside was the date in December counting down to Christmas Day. Unfortunately, we didn’t anticipate the holy day of our Savior’s birth as we opened each window. Instead, we remembered that we were that much closer to receiving new toys.

I was an adult when I learned the meaning of the word “advent” and its place in the Christian liturgical calendar. I’m not sure what prompted me to start celebrating advent. I think I simply saw an Advent devotional in the Christian bookstore and picked it up. Each Sunday in December, I read my devotional and lit a candle on my new Advent wreath.

About thirteen years have passed since I first celebrated Advent. Now it's a season I look forward to more than Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Celebrating Advent grounds my heart and mind on the holiness of Christmas. I identify with the Israelites as they awaited their Messiah. It reflects my patience for Christmas Day and more importantly Jesus’ second coming.

Throughout the years, I’ve celebrated Advent using different scripture readings and devotionals. However, after my children were born Advent evolved into a wondrous time of seeing the season through their eyes. Now marvelous crafts, children’s books, and activities capture the truths of Jesus’ birth.

Get your FREE copy of 25 Days of Advent Prayer Guide - short daily prayers for your family to connect your heart and mind to the reason we have hope and peace this holiday season, and each day to come!

Resources to Help You Celebrate Advent with Your Children

Below are the resources that we have used to celebrate Advent. However, before I share them I want to emphasize one important guideline - they must produce joy, not stress. There have been years when I’ve tried to do every single project and been resentful of the whole experience. Those years of Advent had no part in drawing me closer to Jesus.

Instead of focusing on a checklist of must-dos, make a plan for how you'll celebrate Advent. Choose a certain number of days a week to do a special activity and decide the activities before Advent begins. The only part I recommend making a priority every day is reading scripture and talking about God’s story leading up to the coming of Jesus.

Advent Wreath with Candles for Kids

The most common way to celebrate Advent using an Advent wreath with candles and a short scripture and devotional reading. There are many Advent wreaths you can purchase or you can make your own. My favorite is the Cradle-to-Cross Wreath made and sold by Ann Voskamp's son. For a fun project with your kids, you can also make your own candles with this Beeswax Advent Taper Candle Kit.

The Advent wreath is appropriate for children of all ages as long as safety precautions are taken when lighting and burning the candles.

Advent Devotionals for Kids

There are so many Advent devotionals that you can find one to match your preferences and the ages of your children. Pinterest contains Advent reading plans created by moms, too. A few of my favorites have been:

1. Shadow and Light by Tsh Oxenreider

For the past few years, Tsh Oxenreider sold a digital version of an Advent guide she wrote. It is my favorite because it is simple. Each day includes a music playlist and a piece of art that represents each day's theme. Unfortunately, the guide isn't available this year in digital format because it is being published next year. I mention it here for you to be on the lookout for it, and because you can get a free copy of week one delivered to your inbox. It's really wonderful!

This devotional can be used for the entire family, however, it is probably best used with children who are in elementary school and older.

2. Come, Let Us Adore Him: A Daily Advent Devotional by Paul David Tripp

This devotional is straightforward and easy to read. It also includes a "For parents and children" section at the end of each day's reading with ideas to further the discussion and help your children understand it better.

This devotional can be used for the entire family, however, it is probably best used with children who are in elementary school and older.

3. Jesus Storybook Bible Advent Guide by Sally Lloyd-Jones

You are probably familiar with the Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd-Jones. This children's Bible tells God's story through vivid imagery and colorful illustrations. Each year there is also an Advent reading plan that corresponds to the Bible. Also included in the plan are coloring sheets and a soundtrack of Christmas songs.

This devotional is wonderful for preschool-aged children to the early elementary ages.

Jesse Tree for Kids

The Jesse Tree tradition is new to me. I had not heard of it until a few years ago. In this tradition, each day your family reads a different story about the people in Jesus’ lineage and hangs an ornament on a tree to represent that story. By the time Advent concludes, you have read through the history of how God brought Jesus to earth through generations of people.

I like this tradition because it shows God’s redemption story as a whole. We see God use broken people, men, and women, to rescue the world.

My favorite Jesse Tree devotional to read from each night during Advent is Ann Voskamp’s Unwrapping the Greatest Gift: A Family Celebration of Christmas. You can print the ornaments on cardstock and hang them on the tree with yarn, or you can purchase ornaments to use.

This year I discovered The Jesse Tree: Complete Guide and Toolkit. It also looks like a great resource.

The Jesse Tree tradition is wonderful for the entire family, but I think it especially works well with preschool and elementary-aged children.

Advent Crafts for Children

A fun devotional that includes a craft ornament for each day of Advent is the ebook Truth in the Tinsel. Each day there is a picture or word “clue” - or a keyword - that the children listen for as you read the scripture reading. The clues represent key ideas in the Christmas story. After you read the scripture passage for that day, and the children identify the clue, then you make an ornament of the clue to hang on your Christmas tree. Included are discussion points to talk about the story further and even more ideas if you want to extend that day’s lesson.

What I love about this devotional and the crafts is that they’re fun and correspond well to the daily story. In the book there is a list of supplies you’ll need for the ornaments, however, the patterns are included for you to photocopy. This devotional and the crafts are probably better suited for grade-aged children first-grade and up. I tried to do some of them with my preschooler several years ago, and they were a little too difficult.

One other disclaimer, I felt overwhelmed with the feeling that I had to do the craft every day. My advice is don’t sweat it! Choose the ornaments you want to make and stick to those. Or choose a set number of days during the week you’re going to do the craft. Leave the other days for just the devotional.

Children's Advent Books

Do you share my love for children’s books? Christmas books are even extra special! A few years ago I heard the idea of borrowing from the library or buying one Christmas book for each day of Advent - 25 books. Then, you gift wrap each book and every day of Advent your children choose a book to open and read. If you don’t want the extra work of wrapping each book, you can also label each one with a number 1-25 and read the book that corresponds to the number. Another idea is to have your child choose a random number from a jar and read the book that corresponds to the number.

My favorite resource for book lists, including Christmas books, is Sarah Mackenzie’s website, Read-Aloud Revival. Here is her post of Advent and Christmas books.

Random Acts of Kindness

Another popular idea for the Advent season is Random Acts of Kindness. Each day your children do something special for people in their community. Again, doing this every day can become overwhelming. It might be best to choose certain people to serve or complete activities only a few days a week. There are many ideas for Random Acts of Kindness, but a few of my favorites are:

  • Giving hot coffee to police officers directing traffic in the morning on the way to school.
  • Making a sign and leaving a baked goody for the sanitation workers and postmen and women when they visit your house.
  • Save coins all year and cash them in on Christmas Eve. Then eat at a Waffle House on Christmas Eve, and leave the money as the tip (hopefully it will be a substantial amount). After that, head to your car and watch through the window as the wait staff who served you opens the tip gift.