The Christmas season traditionally lasts from the day after Thanksgiving until New Years. Utilize this season to connect with your grandchildren through teaching, crafts, engaging in activities, serving, celebrating together as a family, giving gifts, and reflecting on Christ. Have fun and strive to put Christ at the center of all you do.
- Early in the Christmas season, have a discussion with your adult children about Santa Claus and what their plans are to tell their children about Santa. Regardless of how your adult children choose to approach Santa, teach your grandchildren about St. Nicholas, the early Christian bishop who devoted his entire life to help the sick and needy.
- Sing together! Choose a traditional hymn to focus on each year. Teach your grandchildren the words, sing it with them, and play it when you celebrate as a family. Bless others by Christmas caroling in your neighborhood.
- Explain the significance of the Christmas tree and what it represents. The tree represents eternal life in Christ. The branches remind us of Jesus’ arms outstretched on the cross. Lights represents Jesus as the light of the world. The star represents the star the wise men followed to find Jesus. Gifts under the tree represent the gift of Jesus Christ. The tree itself looks like an arrow that is pointed up toward heaven. Wreaths made from tree branches represent the crown of thorns that Christ would wear at his crucifixion. Angels and ornaments represent the angles that sang Glory to God in the Highest after he was born. Candy canes represent a shepherd’s staff. Jesus is known as the good shepherd who laid down his life for his sheep.
- Sing the genealogy of Christ by learning the song Matthew’s Begats by Andrew Peterson.
- Purchase a set of gold, frankincense and myrrh online or from your local Christian book store. Grandchildren of all ages will appreciate being able to see, feel, and smell what the wise men presented to Jesus at his birth.
- Study Christ’s birth from the perspective of Isaiah. Isaiah prophesied Christ’s coming 700 years before He came. Read Isaiah 7:14, 9:6, 11:1 and 40:1-11.
- Act out the Christmas story. This is particularly fun for preschoolers. Dress up using bathrobes, use a box or doll crib as the manger, a baby doll as Jesus and have fun reenacting the entire story.
- Read The Legend of the Candy Cane by Lori Walburg, which tells the story of how the candy cane represents Christ. Follow your reading with a mug of hot cocoa using a candy cane as a stirrer. This is a delightful book and activity that will be delicious for grandchildren of all ages!
- Read If He Had Not Come and discuss what the world would be like if Jesus did come to earth as a baby. Discuss the questions in the back of the book.
- Display a nativity scene in your home. Purchase a Fisher Price Little People Christmas Story nativity for little ones to play with.
- Cut snowflakes from white paper and hang them on the windows. Use the time to teach how God created each of us individually and in His image.
- Prepare an Advent Tree. Grandchildren will un-decorate the tree, one item at a time while you discuss the meaning and significance of Christmas. Wrap tiny symbols of the Christmas story and hang them on the tree for grandchildren to unwrap. If your grandchildren visit for a short time, then wrap a couple of Advent items or one per child to open. As the children unwrap each tiny gift, explain the spiritual significance. Send an advent tree to grandchildren who live far away and have your grandchild open each advent item by video chat.
- Make garland together for the Christmas tree. Use berries, popcorn, cotton balls or paper chains.
- Bake, decorate, and eat Christmas cookies!
- Visit a Christmas tree farm and cut down a tree for your home or theirs.
- Celebrate Advent, the season of preparing our hearts for Christmas. Purchase an Advent wreath or make your own using five candles. Help your grandchildren light each of the five candles on the Sunday’s leading up to Christmas. Send Advent candles to grandchildren who live at a distance.
- Demonstrate the distance Joseph and Mary traveled from Nazareth to Bethlehem. Use a map to locate a town or place that is approximately forty miles away from your home. Take your grandchildren on a road trip to the place you located on the map, stop for lunch or a snack when you arrive, and then return home. During the drive, explain that is as far as it was from Joseph and Mary to travel from Nazareth to Bethlehem, around 80-90 miles. Bring a map of Israel and Egypt to show where Joseph and Mary traveled.
- Attend a Christ-centered Christmas concert at a local church, college or performing arts venue.
- Go for a drive to see Christmas Lights! Include the entire family if there is room in the vehicle for everyone. Turn on Christmas music in the car, pack yummy snacks, and stop at a local coffee shop for warm drinks while you are out.
- Watch classic Christmas movies together such as It’s a Wonderful Life, White Christmas, Charlie Brown Christmas, The Nativity Story, and Home Alone.
- Offer to have grandchildren work around your house to earn money to bless a pastor, missionary or ministry with a Christmas gift.
- Find a place to serve together and bless others at Christmas. Ring the Salvation Army Bell, bake Christmas cookies for homebound church members, or buy gifts for an Angel Tree.
- Involve your grandchildren in Christmas food preparation. Ask them to help you set the table for dinner. Give them a role preparing food. Show them the techniques you use as you cook.
- Have festive snacks available such as Christmas cookies, charcuterie boards, chips and salsa, crackers, veggies, and popcorn balls.
- Serve meals together at one table if possible, with everyone eating at the same time rather than excluding grandchildren to be alone at a kid’s table.
- Serve foods that are both delicious and traditional for your family. Pass down recipes to your children and grandchildren and teach them how to prepare these foods.
- Pray together and thank God for sending his Son Jesus to be born on Christmas to die for our sins.
- Read the Christmas story from the book of Luke. Start a tradition of serving hot chocolate and cookies as you sit together and talk about the meaning of Christ’s birth. Plan the activity for a time that children can focus on the Bible and linger over their drinks rather than rush to open gifts.
- Have a birthday party for Jesus! Serve cake or cupcakes, blow out a candle, and celebrate his birth in a way that little ones can relate to.
- Invite family members to bring their musical instruments to sing and play Christmas music for each other.
- Ask your adult children when would be the best time of day to open gifts. Do your best to accommodate all of your grandchildren, even little babies who need naps.
- Resist the urge to go overboard with toys. Be intentional to give gifts that will be fun as well as practical, such as tools for boys and cooking or sewing supplies for girls.
- Give a personalized ornament for baby’s first Chrstmas.
- Ask your adult children to make a gift list for their children. If it would be helpful, have them curate their lists on Amazon.com or in a Google document.
- Make gift values equal if you have many grandchildren.
- Make it a tradition to give your grandchildren a book every year.
- Consider a gift for the entire family such as museum or zoo memberships, an item they can enjoy together such as a canoe or bike carrier for toddlers, a piano, a trampoline, or money towards something they have been saving for.
- Give the gift of paying for music lessons, swim lessons, cooking lessons, camps or special activities they are interested in.
- Splurge and buy the entire family matching Christmas pajamas. Stores such as Hanna Andersson and Amazon sell matching pajamas in both children’s and adult sizes while many big-box stores sell matching pajamas for both boys and girls.
- Keep a Christmas memories journal. Record your memories from each year, what you ate, what gifts were given, who was attendance, and any memorable moments. Take the book out each year for grandchildren to remember the memories you made together in previous years.
The ideas from this article are an excerpt from Discipling Your Grandchildren by Dr. Josh and Jen Mulvihill and Linda Weddle.