Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Advent for Little Ones: Truth in the Tinsel

Christmas is coming. I've recently begun blogging with another blogging team, and I was working on an article yesterday. This is how I introduced my love of Christmas:

"I love Christmas. Like, Deck the Halls til the beams are sagging, start Christmas Carols in October, Clark Griswold, collect dozens of nativities love Christmas. It’s second only to Easter in my list of favorite days. I always loved it as a child because there was something about the child Jesus that made me able to identify with Him. “Hey! He’s a baby like I was a baby! He’s little like me!” He always seemed more understandable to me than “old” “grown up” Jesus.  As I grew up and developed a deep love of Hymns, Christmas Carols quickly became some of my favorites. They’rso rich in theology. “Veiled in flesh the godhead see, hail the incarnate deity!” How amazing is that? One of my primary love languages is gift giving, so that part of me especially loves Christmas.
Suffice it to say, we make a BIG deal of Christmas in our home. Because Christmas IS a big deal. What God did in coming to earth as the Christ Child is the biggest deal the world has ever known. I love to flood our home with light that reminds us of The Light, of Music that sings of His love, of gifts that remind us of his generosity.  My house sort of looks like the Christmas section at Target threw up all over it."

I want to make a big deal of it, but I want Matthew to know WHY we make a big deal of it. Sure, it's pretty, and festive, and fun to do everything, but I really want to impress on him exactly what it is we're celebrating.

A friend introduced me to Truth in the Tinsel, which is a daily advent activity for small children. It's an affordable, downloadable e-book full of devotions and instructions for teaching advent. To be honest, I had never done daily advent before, so I was sure I was going to drop the ball. However, the wonderful thing about Truth in the Tinsel is that it's manageable, even when you have limited time and little ones with limited attention.

The basic format of TinT is that you read the relevant scripture from the Bible with your child, and then you create an ornament, so at the end of the experience, you have 24 ornaments to retell the Christmas story. I added a reading of the same part of scripture from a Children's story Bible so that I could correspond pictures to what we were doing.

We didn't get through all 24, but we got all of the major players. That's one thing I really like. We didn't get all 24 done, but it's not an "all or nothing" kind of program. A few days are a little redundant and a few went a little over his head, but he still came away having a very good grasp on the Christmas story. This is a video I took of him when we had completed a few days.

The crafts are simple and quick, and use basic materials that are easy to find at most stores.  The author, Amanda, even provides a checklist of supplies so that you can plan all at once. Last year, I bought a 3" notebook and some page protectors and printed out the entire book. Then I put one day on each side of each sleeve, and I put in as many of the supplies necessary for that day in each sleeve with the instructions for that day. I also used a dry erase marker to make any notes on that day. This was especially useful if I planned to deviate from the author's plan at all, which I didn't do often, but I did do a few times. I kept a small box that had glue, scissors, crayons, and the few bulkier items like bells and toilet paper tubes.

Every day we got out the box, the notebook, and the Bible, and worked through our lesson. Matthew really loved it, and really retained it. He was excited to see the book each day. He was not even 3 years old at the time, and he can still tell me salient parts of the story based on what we learned. He was able to do most of the activities. I adapted a few to be more concrete and age-appropriate for a 2 year old literal thinker but for the most part, we were able to just follow the instructions exactly. But it wasn't so young that we can't use it again this year, or probably even next year. My friend Hannah had the good idea of photographing the year's ornaments, but then tossing them so you can start over the next year.  I'm too much of a packrat to actually execute that, but I'm with her in theory!

If this sounds a little overwhelming, think of this. Last year at Christmas, we were living in a hotel. Providentially, I had created the notebook before our house damage, so I just took the notebook and box of supplies with us. But the projects were manageable enough that we were able to do them in a hotel room with limited space and resources, and without damaging the hotel. If I could do that, I think anyone can do this. And if it's still more than you want to bite off, Amanda also offers printable ornaments that you can just have your child color after the story each day. Matthew doesn't love coloring enough that coloring an ornament each day was interesting to him, but it may work for you.

The other recommendation I have is to like Truth in the Tinsel on Facebook, where you can see ideas and reminders from other TinT parents and from the author.

If you're a Sunday School Teacher, there's also a TinT program formatted for church.

I investigated a few other advent programs this year, including Melk the Christmas Monkey, but TinT still wins hands down for us so we'll be using it again. Truth in the Tinsel doesn't start for almost another week so there's still time to jump in if you want to join us!

What do you do in your family to prepare for Advent?

*Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.


  1. Easter is my favorite too! But I also love advent - the older I get the more I love advent than Christmas itself. There is something beautiful about this season of waiting.

    I've not tried truth in the tinsel, but usually print off free child friendly advent readings / mini devotionals. I have a great wooden advent calendar with little doors. I put a devotional, a decal sticker and an M&M in each box. The decal stickers build the nativity scene one sticker at a time through out advent. This will be our third year doing this and it's so far been great.

  2. Lara, I'd love links to your favorite readings!