Best-Selling Parenting and Children's Book Author

Christmas

The Great Santa Claus Debate

[By L.R.Knost, best-selling author of The Gentle Parent: Positive, Practical, Effective DisciplineWhispers Through Time: Communication Through the Ages and Stages of Childhood and Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages available on Amazon and through other major retailers.]

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Christmas wonderSt.Nicholas was just a man, but he was a man with a mission.  Born in the third century, he grew up to be an intensely kind-hearted man who was especially devoted to children’s issues and helping the poor. He was a Greek Bishop who defied the established Church in order to go out among the ‘unwashed masses’ and live his life as the ‘heart and hands of Jesus.’ While many miracles and legends about him evolved through the centuries, his penchant for leaving secret gifts is the one that captured the hearts and imaginations of people world-wide, leading to the present-day legend of Santa Claus.

I, like many new parents, struggled with the idea of perpetuating a ‘false belief’ and thus undermining my children’s trust. But then I turned to the Bible and saw how Jesus, who spoke absolute truth always, often spoke that truth in stories. He knew something about people’s hearts that I needed to learn as a young parent. He knew that the human mind is logic, analysis, reason, and that the human heart is imagination, creativity, love. He knew that sometimes you have to bypass people’s minds and speak straight to their hearts, those well-springs of wonder, for true understanding to occur and that often the deepest truths are the ones that are too big for the human mind to receive and can only be grasped by the heart.

When it comes to the breathtaking gift of the Christ-Child, the Eternal Creator born of a woman, God Himself wrapped in swaddling clothes, the I AM in a manger, what better way to share such an absurd and immense truth Kneeling Santathan Jesus’ way…with a story? How else would my little ones be able to grasp the concept of such a gift? How would they embrace the wonder? How could I possibly break down the impossible into a pedantic lecture? Would the improbable make more sense in a dissertation?

And so I chose the way of the parable. I embraced Christmas in all its glory, decorated and baked and showered my little ones with gifts, all while sharing the story of the birth of a Baby. Woven through every event, every tradition, every memorable moment of our family’s Christmas, is the celebration of the wondrous gift of a Savior. We watch Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Santa Claus is Coming to Town, and all the other fun Christmas shows together. We read bedtime stories about Christmas elves and magical toys and talking animals. And when my children ask me if Santa really exists, I tell them yes, because it’s true. Every parent who carries on St. Nicholas’ tradition of leaving secret gifts, of being the heart and hands of Jesus, of sharing the wonder, excitement, and glory of the most extraordinary Gift ever given to mankind, every one of us is Santa Claus.

I believe in Santa Claus because I am Santa Claus…and you are, too!

Note: I don’t ever use Santa Claus as a threat (i.e. “I’m calling Santa right now if you don’t…” or “Santa’s watching, and you won’t get any presents for Christmas if…”) first because a parable’s purpose is to teach, not to manipulate or control, and second because what I am teaching is the wonder and miracle of receiving a free gift, one that can’t be earned because it is freely given! Manipulating my children into ‘performing’ might work temporarily, but am I really trying to raise works-driven Christians, or am I trying to teach my little people about the incredible gift of grace?

Here are some of the ways we focus on Jesus for Christmas:

Children learn best and most happily through play, so letting my little people ‘play Santa’ (i.e. wrapping up their toys and ‘surprising’ each other, making ornaments and delivering them to a nursing home, shopping at the dollar store for Operation Christmas Child, etc.) is a very important part of our Christmas traditions. And the best part is…they’re playing Santa for Jesus!

Leading up to Christmas, we marvel about how Jesus loves us so much He wants us to get presents on His birthday (truly awe-inspiring to children and a lesson in sacrificial giving!) because all He wants for His birthday are smiles and happy hearts.

Then we brainstorm ways to give Jesus as many ‘birthday presents’ as possible (a lesson on generosity). We work together to share Christmas cheer with everyone we meet, but focus our best efforts on the grumpiest people because they don’t smile as often and so their smiles make really special gifts for Jesus (a lesson on unconditional love!).

We have a 12 Days of Christmas tradition where everyone gets a small present (chocolate, a coloring book, etc), and we read Christmas picturebooks every evening, building excitement for the Christmas morning celebration of the BEST GIFT EVER!

On Christmas Eve, we go to a special church service and then, after celebrating Christmas with family, we go home and make a fire in the fireplace (in Florida weather!) and make s’mores and hot chocolate and read the story of Jesus’ birth from Luke.

On Christmas morning, we have a ‘Happy Birthday, Jesus’ party before opening presents, complete with a birthday cake and candles and singing ‘Happy birthday to  Jesus!’

Here are some other resources on making the true meaning of Christmas central to your celebrations this year (I’ll be adding more as I find them!):

The 12 Elves of Christmas: An Advent Storybook

Celebrating Jesus with a Santa Claus Christmas

A Very Toddler Christmas 24 Tips for a Safe, Stress-Free & Jolly Holiday

7 Tips and Traditions to Make Giving a Standard of Living

 

What traditions does your family have to keep Christ in Christmas? Share them in the comment section!

L.R.Knost is a best-selling parenting and children’s book author and founder and director of Little Hearts/Gentle Parenting Resources, an online resource for gentle parenting education, articles, and research. Books by L.R.Knost include Whispers Through Time: Communication Through the Ages and Stages of Childhood ; Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages ; The Gentle Parent: Positive, Practical, Effective Discipline ; and Jesus, the Gentle Parent: Gentle Christian Parenting (Release date: May 2014) the first four books in the Little Hearts Handbook gentle parenting series, as well as her children’s picture books Petey’s Listening Ears and the soon-to-be-released Grumpykins series available from Amazon and other major retailers.


A Toddler’s 12 Days of Christmas

On the first day of Christmas, my toddler gave to me
A necklace of macaroni.

On the second day of Christmas, my toddler gave to me
2 peek-a-boos and a necklace of macaroni.

On the third day of Christmas, my toddler gave to me
3 bear hugs, 2 peek-a-boos, and a necklace of macaroni.

On the fourth day of Christmas, my toddler gave to me
4 ‘pwitty’ weeds, 3 bear hugs, 2 peek-a-boos, and a necklace of macaroni.

On the fifth day of Christmas, my toddler gave to me
5 belly laughs…
4 ‘pwitty’ weeds, 3 bear hugs, 2 peek-a-boos, and a necklace of macaroni.

On the sixth day of Christmas, my toddler gave to me
6 scribbled pictures,
5 belly laughs…
4 ‘pwitty’ weeds, 3 bear hugs, 2 peek-a-boos, and a necklace of macaroni.

On the seventh day of Christmas, my toddler gave to me
7 sticky kisses, 6 happy giggles,
5 belly laughs…
4 ‘pwitty’ weeds, 3 bear hugs, 2 peek-a-boos, and a necklace of macaroni.

On the eighth day of Christmas, my toddler gave to me
8 books at bedtime, 7 sticky kisses, 6 happy giggles,
5 belly laughs…
4 ‘pwitty’ weeds, 3 bear hugs, 2 peek-a-boos, and a necklace of macaroni.

On the ninth day of Christmas, my toddler gave to me
9 silly dances, 8 books at bedtime, 7 sticky kisses, 6 happy giggles,
5 belly laughs…
4 ‘pwitty’ weeds, 3 bear hugs, 2 peek-a-boos, and a necklace of macaroni.

On the tenth day of Christmas, my toddler gave to me
10 thumbprint snowmen, 9 silly dances, 8 books at bedtime, 7 sticky kisses, 6 happy giggles,
5 belly laughs…
4 ‘pwitty’ weeds, 3 bear hugs, 2 peek-a-boos, and a necklace of macaroni.

On the eleventh day of Christmas, my toddler gave to me
11 happy giggles, 10 thumbprint snowmen, 9 silly dances, 8 books at bedtime, 7 sticky kisses, 6 happy giggles,
5 belly laughs…
4 ‘pwitty’ weeds, 3 bear hugs, 2 peek-a-boos, and a necklace of macaroni.

On the twelfth day of Christmas, my toddler gave to me
12 excited squeals, 11 happy giggles, 10 thumbprint snowmen, 9 silly dances, 8 books at bedtime, 7 sticky kisses, 6 happy giggles,
5 belly laughs…
4 ‘pwitty’ weeds, 3 bear hugs, 2 peek-a-boos, and a necklace of macaroni.

 

Related posts:

The Spirit of Christmas… The Great Santa Claus Debate

The Reason for the Season… Celebrating Jesus with a Santa Claus Christmas

In a twist on the Advent theme, here is A Very Toddler Christmas~24 Tips for a Safe, Stress-Free & Jolly Holiday

Some of my all-time favorite book-related and crafty ideas for a fun and meaningful Advent… Bookish & Craftastic Advent Ideas

Making gratitude and generosity a standard of life… 7 Tips and Traditions to Make Giving a Standard of Living

A happy childhood sends a child into adulthood with a baggage of confidence and kindness instead of disillusionment and anger. 200 Ways to Bless Your Children with a Happy Childhood

The human brain needs time to process, categorize, prioritize, analyze, and otherwise make sense of all of the trillions of bits of information that it receives each day. Non-structured playtime for children functions much like sleep does for adults, giving their brains the time and space they need to move short-term memory to long-term learning. 25 Reasons NOT to Keep Children Busy

In the world of a child wonders are as simple as sticks and sheets, leaves and books, boxes and giggles, and the promise in a rainy day. The Seven Wonders of the World of Childhood

Children who love to read…READ! Engaging children’s hearts in the wonder of reading instead of just training their minds in its mechanics. Raising Bookworms

From hitting to defiance to tantrums to testing the boundaries and more, here are gentle parenting tools, tips, and techniques…Practical Gentle Discipline

Get the scoop on tantrums from a toddler…The Taming of the Tantrum~A Toddler’s Perspective

Sharing a love of reading…If You Give A Toddler A Book…

L.R.Knost is a best-selling parenting and children’s book author and founder and director of Little Hearts/Gentle Parenting Resources, an online resource for gentle parenting education, articles, and research. Books by L.R.Knost include Whispers Through Time: Communication Through the Ages and Stages of Childhood ; Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages ; The Gentle Parent: Positive, Practical, Effective Discipline ; and Jesus, the Gentle Parent: Gentle Christian Parenting (Release date: May 2014) the first four books in the Little Hearts Handbook gentle parenting series, as well as her children’s picture books Petey’s Listening Ears and the soon-to-be-released Grumpykins series available from Amazon and other major retailers.


Bookish & Craftastic Advent Ideas

The countdown to Christmas is about to begin, so here are some of my all-time favorite book-related and crafty ideas for a fun and meaningful Advent!

Book Advent~Every year I put away all of our Christmas and winter-themed books and then pull them out on the 1st of December to make a Picturebook Christmas Tree. We read one each evening for a bedtime book Advent tradition that my little bookworms look forward to year after year.

Another idea (from Detail Gal Blog) is to wrap books and put them under the tree so that as you read them and the space under the tree empties, excitement for Christmas morning builds!

 

 

Wrapping just the covers of picturebooks and lining them up on a mantle or bookshelf like a colorful little Christmas tree forest is another awesome Advent idea from Reading Confetti!

Here are some Christmas and winter-themed book suggestions:

Source: holyspiritledhomeschooling.net via Melissa Taylor, ImaginationSoup.net on Pinterest

And these free, printable Advent activity cards…

Source: addapinch.com via Melissa Taylor, ImaginationSoup.net on Pinterest

or these service-themed Advent cards…

Source: aliedwards.com via Melissa Taylor, ImaginationSoup.net on Pinterest

would be awesome with these vintage-looking library book pockets.

Source: notonthehighstreet.com via L.R. on Pinterest

This year we are making an ornament a day to give as gifts to family and friends in what I hope will become another fun and creative Advent tradition for our family. If you want to give it a try, too, you can find some cute ornament craft ideas here.

And for more ideas about how to make the holiday season fun-filled and meaningful, as well as keeping the joy and wonder of childhood alive for your little ones year round:

In a twist on the Advent theme, here is A Very Toddler Christmas~24 Tips for a Safe, Stress-Free & Jolly Holiday

The Spirit of Christmas… The Great Santa Claus Debate

Making gratitude and generosity a standard of life… 7 Tips and Traditions to Make Giving a Standard of Living

The Reason for the Season… Celebrating Jesus with a Santa Claus Christmas

A happy childhood sends a child into adulthood with a baggage of confidence and kindness instead of disillusionment and anger. 200 Ways to Bless Your Children with a Happy Childhood

The human brain needs time to process, categorize, prioritize, analyze, and otherwise make sense of all of the trillions of bits of information that it receives each day. Non-structured playtime for children functions much like sleep does for adults, giving their brains the time and space they need to move short-term memory to long-term learning. 25 Reasons NOT to Keep Children Busy

In the world of a child wonders are as simple as sticks and sheets, leaves and books, boxes and giggles, and the promise in a rainy day. The Seven Wonders of the World of Childhood

Children who love to read…READ! Engaging children’s hearts in the wonder of reading instead of just training their minds in its mechanics. Raising Bookworms

From hitting to defiance to tantrums to testing the boundaries and more, here are gentle parenting tools, tips, and techniques…Practical Gentle Discipline

L.R.Knost is a best-selling parenting and children’s book author and founder and director of Little Hearts/Gentle Parenting Resources, an online resource for gentle parenting education, articles, and research. Books by L.R.Knost include Whispers Through Time: Communication Through the Ages and Stages of Childhood ; Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages ; The Gentle Parent: Positive, Practical, Effective Discipline ; and Jesus, the Gentle Parent: Gentle Christian Parenting (Release date: May 2014) the first four books in the Little Hearts Handbook gentle parenting series, as well as her children’s picture books Petey’s Listening Ears and the soon-to-be-released Grumpykins series available from Amazon and other major retailers.


A Very Toddler Christmas~24 Tips for a Safe, Stress-Free & Jolly Holiday

[By L.R.Knost, best-selling author of The Gentle Parent: Positive, Practical, Effective DisciplineWhispers Through Time: Communication Through the Ages and Stages of Childhood and Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages available on Amazon and through other major retailers.]

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a little elfWhat do you get when you cross a curious toddler and a Christmas tree covered with glittering, dangling ‘toys’ and enticing, shiny lights? At the very least, a season of toddler chasing and redirecting, and at the worst a season of shattered-glass hazards and tree-scaling, toppling nightmares. So what’s a parent to do? Must we scrap the tree so we can have a merry Christmas while we have little ones in the house? Not at all! Here is an Advent list with a twist…24 Christmas safety tips for parents with tiny people who love to explore:

Christmas tree play yard (2)1.) A Christmas tree plopped down right in the middle of a child’s playspace (i.e. family room, living room, den) is just too much temptation for any little person, so one solution is to place the tree in a lesser-used room such as a study or office or even a covered porch where the tree can be seen but is less accessible to little explorers.

2.) Another option is to place the Christmas tree in a play yard like the one pictured to keep the tree safe while still having it in a central location in the house for everyone to enjoy.

3.) A tabletop tree is also an option. Keep the tree away from the edges and watch out for dangling tree skirts and light cords so little hands can’t pull the tree down on top of little heads.

4.) For some families (like ours!) who have lots of little ones toddling around year after year, a child-proof tree may be the answer. We used fishline to anchor our tree to the ceiling after one tiny climber toppled the tree over on herself a few times, and non-breakable ornaments (homemade ornaments are great alternatives) tied to the tree with ribbons instead of metal hooks (choking hazard!) are the solution to our current little spelunker who loves to crawl under the Christmas tree and lay looking up at the sparkling lights from her little hidey-hole.

5.) Be sure to check that your artificial tree is fire-rated or your real tree is fresh (i.e. easily bendable branches, no dropping needles) and keep your real tree well-watered to reduce fire danger.

6.) Always check lights for broken, loose, or missing bulbs, and make sure wires aren’t frayed and sockets aren’t cracked. Turn lights off when leaving your home or going to bed.

7.) For outdoor lighting/decorating, be sure to use extension cords rated for outdoor use, and don’t overload the outlet by stringing together more lights than the instructions allow. Elevate cords to avoid them sitting in water or on dry leaves. Have lights on a timer or turn lights out when leaving your home or going to bed.

8.) When decorating, place figurines and keepsakes out of reach of little hands to avoid constantly chasing giggling toddlers who find your reaction to their snatch-and-run game a great source of holiday entertainment.

9.) Avoid decorating with real holly or mistletoe in areas accessible to small children, as both are toxic if eaten.

10.)  Never decorate your tree with candles, and keep candles separated from pine branches on tabletops and mantles by placing them in deep glass votives. Never leave a small child alone in a room with a burning candle.

11.) Keep snow sprays out of reach as they can be toxic if inhaled and can cause injury if sprayed into eyes.

12.) When entertaining, keep hot plates away from the edges of tables and remind guests not to leave hot or alcoholic beverages within reach of small children.

13.) House guests may not be used to having small children around, so be extra vigilant about medicine bottles, unattended purses, open luggage, and other dangers that may visit along with your guests.

14.) When purchasing gifts, check labels for age recommendations. Keep in mind that even if you think a little one is advanced enough to enjoy a toy that is recommended for an older child, the toy may contain choking hazards or other dangers to a small child.

15.) Unless you like wrapping presents over and over and…well, you get the picture, avoid setting wrapped packages out under the tree if the tree is accessible to small children. Keeping your expectations in line with your child’s developmental stage is a key element to avoiding conflict in your parent/child relationship and making your holidays less stressful and more enjoyable!

16.) In the flurry of gift opening on Christmas morning, small objects from ripped open packages (like the 423 little plastic tabs to hold a $5 rattle in a cardboard box!) can end up scattered amongst the toys and boxes and paper, creating a sea of choking hazards. Keep a big box handy to throw packaging and wrapping paper into, and choose one or two toys to remove from their packaging for immediate play while putting the other opened presents away in another box to be opened later.

17.) Never let children throw wrapping paper into the fireplace, as this can cause a dangerous flash fire.

18.) Keep a close watch on your little one’s diet throughout the holidays. In the busyness of the season, nutrition often takes a backseat to convenience, and an overload of junk foods and sweets can cause tummy aches and crankiness which won’t help them or you to have a jolly holiday.

19.) Another nutritional danger of the season is unintentional weaning. If you’re nursing a little one, the constant changes in schedule, the busyness, the stress, and the baby being passed from one relative to another can result in missed feedings and reduced milk supply. Making a conscious effort to take regular nursing breaks in a quiet room with your little nursling will give both of you a chance to reconnect and de-stress a bit and keep your nursing relationship intact.

20.) Also, be very aware of your little one’s sleep patterns during the holiday season. All of the disturbances mentioned in #19 can wreak havoc on a small child’s sleep schedule and, along with the almost inevitable over-stimulation of the music, lights, and visitors, that can make the holidays a miserable time for a little person.

21.) Fireplaces should be regularly inspected to prevent chimney fires, and protective fire-screens and/or baby gates should be used to keep little ones safe.

22.) Space heaters are a well-known fire hazard. Make sure you are using them according to the manufacturer’s specifications and that they are in good working order. Never leave a small child unattended in a room with a space heater.

23.) Keep in mind that, while you know and love those visiting relatives your little one has never met, expecting a small child to instantly let a person who is a total stranger to them hold and kiss and play with them is unrealistic. If we want our children to exercise restraint and caution with random strangers at the park/mall/etc., we need to allow them to set limits they are comfortable with when it comes to physical contact and interaction with the ‘strangers’ in our homes, as well.

24.) And, last but certainly not least, while pictures of their little ones with Santa may be every parent’s heart’s desire, small children often don’t share that desire. Instead of forcing your child to sit in a strange man’s lap (not exactly a precedent we want to set for our children!), if your child isn’t comfortable with the idea, get creative and try getting pictures of your toddler standing near Santa while he plays peek-a-boo with them or try kneeling on one knee next to Santa, yourself, with your little one on your other knee. You never know, those pictures may end up being your all-time favorites!

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More ideas about how to make the holiday season fun-filled and meaningful, as well as keeping the joy and wonder of childhood alive for your little ones year round:

The Spirit of Christmas… The Great Santa Claus Debate

Making gratitude and generosity a standard of life… 7 Tips and Traditions to Make Giving a Standard of Living

The Reason for the Season… Celebrating Jesus with a Santa Claus Christmas

A happy childhood sends a child into adulthood with a baggage of confidence and kindness instead of disillusionment and anger. 200 Ways to Bless Your Children with a Happy Childhood

The human brain needs time to process, categorize, prioritize, analyze, and otherwise make sense of all of the trillions of bits of information that it receives each day. Non-structured playtime for children functions much like sleep does for adults, giving their brains the time and space they need to move short-term memory to long-term learning. 25 Reasons NOT to Keep Children Busy

In the world of a child wonders are as simple as sticks and sheets, leaves and books, boxes and giggles, and the promise in a rainy day. The Seven Wonders of the World of Childhood

Children who love to read…READ! Engaging children’s hearts in the wonder of reading instead of just training their minds in its mechanics. Raising Bookworms

From hitting to defiance to tantrums to testing the boundaries and more, here are gentle parenting tools, tips, and techniques. Practical, Gentle, Effective Discipline

 

L.R.Knost is a best-selling parenting and children’s book author and founder and director of Little Hearts/Gentle Parenting Resources, an online resource for gentle parenting education, articles, and research. Books by L.R.Knost include Whispers Through Time: Communication Through the Ages and Stages of Childhood ; Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages ; The Gentle Parent: Positive, Practical, Effective Discipline ; and Jesus, the Gentle Parent: Gentle Christian Parenting (Release date: May 2014) the first four books in the Little Hearts Handbook gentle parenting series, as well as her children’s picture books Petey’s Listening Ears and the soon-to-be-released Grumpykins series available from Amazon and other major retailers.


7 Tips and Traditions to Make Giving a Standard of Living

[By L.R.Knost, best-selling author of The Gentle Parent: Positive, Practical, Effective DisciplineWhispers Through Time: Communication Through the Ages and Stages of Childhood and Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages available on Amazon and through other major retailers.]

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As we head toward Thanksgiving and Christmas this year, I wanted to share some of the wonderful ideas I’ve been gathering about making gratitude and giving a standard of daily living along with a celebrated part of the holidays. Some of these ideas are ones we’ve done in our family for years, and some are new ideas I’m excited to try out!

1.) I believe the best way to raise generous, empathetic human beings is by being a generous, empathetic human being. So the first and most simple idea is just to live what we want our children to learn. If we want our children to be kind, we need to treat them and everyone else kindly. If we want them to be thankful, we should thank them regularly for the things they do and the blessings the are to us and to the world and let them see us being thankful for our own blessings. If we want them to be generous, we need to share what we have freely with them and let them see us giving to others. And if we want them to have the desire to serve, we must meet their needs fully so they will be free from focusing on trying to get their own needs met, and we should let them see us serving others on a regular basis.

2.) I absolutely love the idea of painting ‘Blessing Stones’ and scattering them around town for people to find. They don’t serve any specific purpose, and you’ll probably never know if they’ve been found. They’re simply a little blessing to brighten someone’s day unexpectedly. Your children can stamp or write words or even Bible verses on smooth stones, or they can paint hearts or smiley faces on them. You can even pray over the stones with your children first if you like, then simply take a walk around town and let your little ones ‘hide’ the rocks. What a fun way to share some smiles!

3.) Another idea I fell in love with was ‘Blessing Bags.’ The idea is to fill gallon sized ziploc bags with essentials such as soap, deodorant, toothpaste, a toothbrush, etc. and add in a water bottle and granola bar and whatever else you think someone in need might find helpful, then keep the bags in your car to give out whenever you come across anyone in need. Also, clicking on the ‘Blessing Bag’ pictured will take you to Kids With A Vision, a site filled with year-round ideas for helping children use their natural empathy to help others. Love it!

4.) Operation Christmas Child is a family favorite in our home. Every year we fill shoeboxes with small toys, pads of paper, coloring books, crayons, and more for children across the globe. It’s a wonderful Christmas tradition and a beautiful way of keeping the spirit of giving at the center of our celebrations.

5.) Another fun tradition that helps all of us to focus on giving during the holidays is playing ‘Secret Santa.’ I buy dollar store items for each of my children to open before bedtime on the twelve days leading up to Christmas, and they also get twelve dollars to spend on each other for ‘Secret Santa’ gifts. The joy and excitement they get from making each other happy is so touching and a great sibling bonding experience, too!

 

 

 

6.) Nursing Home Elves~Many years we’ve gone Christmas caroling at local nursing homes and have always been warmly welcomed by the residents and staff alike. We always bring homemade gifts like cookies, ornaments, or Christmas cards which are a labor of love from my children that bring tears to the eyes of the sweet elderly residents who receive them.

7.) We’ve also participated in special service opportunities such as passing out flyers in our local Christmas parade to help raise funds for a baby in need of a liver transplant and serving dinner to the families of terminally ill children at the Give Kids the World Village in a nearby city.

What are some ways your family focuses on giving during the holidays or year round?

Related posts:

The Great Santa Claus Debate

Celebrating Jesus with a Santa Claus Christmas

24 Tips for a Safe, Stress-Free & Jolly Holiday… A Very Toddler Christmas

200 Ways to Bless Your Children with a Happy Childhood

25 Reasons NOT to Keep Children Busy

Fairy Tales~The Lost Value of ‘Once upon a time…’

The Seven Wonders of the World of Childhood

 

L.R.Knost is a best-selling parenting and children’s book author and founder and director of Little Hearts/Gentle Parenting Resources, an online resource for gentle parenting education, articles, and research. Books by L.R.Knost include Whispers Through Time: Communication Through the Ages and Stages of Childhood ; Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages ; The Gentle Parent: Positive, Practical, Effective Discipline ; and Jesus, the Gentle Parent: Gentle Christian Parenting (Release date: May 2014) the first four books in the Little Hearts Handbook gentle parenting series, as well as her children’s picture books Petey’s Listening Ears and the soon-to-be-released Grumpykins series available from Amazon and other major retailers.


Celebrating Jesus with a Santa Claus Christmas

[By L.R.Knost, best-selling author of The Gentle Parent: Positive, Practical, Effective DisciplineWhispers Through Time: Communication Through the Ages and Stages of Childhood and Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages available on Amazon and through other major retailers.]

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***I Believe in Santa Claus***

Who does this describe?

  • A bearded, good-hearted man
  • A generous man who is well-known for giving to others
  • A  gentle man who is often pictured welcoming smiling children
  • A man who, it is said, “sees you when you’re sleeping. He knows when you’re awake. He knows if you’ve been bad or good…”
  • A man we believe in without ever having to see
  • A man with amazing, awe-inspiring ‘magical’ powers

If you answered ‘Santa Claus,’ you’re right! If you answered ‘Jesus,’ you’re right, too! The parallels are striking, aren’t they? And with good reason…

One is the symbol of the Christmas season. The other is the reason for it. One is the parable. The other is the reality.

“I, like many new parents, struggled with the idea of perpetuating a ‘false belief’ and thus undermining my children’s trust. But then I turned to the Bible and saw how Jesus, who spoke absolute truth always, often spoke that truth in parables. He knew something about people’s hearts that I needed to learn as a young parent. He knew that the human mind is logic, analysis, reason, and that the human heart is imagination, creativity, love. He knew that sometimes you have to bypass people’s minds and speak straight to their hearts, those well-springs of wonder, for true understanding to occur and that often the deepest truths are the ones that are too big for the human mind to receive and can only be grasped by the heart.” [The Great Santa Claus Debate]

Flights of fantasy, wonder, and awe are vehicles through which all of us, not only children, can grasp the inexplicable, understand the unimaginable, embrace the extraordinary.

I want my children to dance with excitement as the Christmas season begins with the ringing sound of carols and the glitter of decorations filling our home. I want them to wonder and imagine as we read Christmas stories and watch Christmas classics together under warm blankets with bowls of buttery popcorn and piping hot mugs of hot cocoa. I want them to gasp in awe at the brilliant abundance of presents under the Christmas tree as we gather on Christmas morning and sing ‘Happy Birthday to Jesus’ before the tumble-bumble, joyful chaos of gift opening begins.

I want these things for them so that as they grow up they’ll take these memories of joy and laughter and wonder and awe with them and always be able feel the beauty of the Gift we were given in the Christ Child instead of just having head knowledge of Him.

“I chose the way of the parable. I embraced Christmas in all its glory, decorated and baked and showered my little ones with gifts, all while sharing the story of the birth of a Baby. Woven through every event, every tradition, every memorable moment of our family’s Christmas, is the celebration of the wondrous gift of a Savior. We watch Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Santa Claus is Coming to Town, and all the other fun Christmas shows together. We read bedtime stories about Christmas elves and magical toys and talking animals. And when my children ask me if Santa really exists, I tell them “Yes,” because it’s true. Every parent who carries on St. Nicholas’ tradition of leaving secret gifts, of being the heart and hands of Jesus, of sharing the wonder, excitement, and glory of the most extraordinary Gift ever given to mankind, every one of us is Santa Claus.”

I believe in Santa Claus because I am Santa Claus!

That, to me, is the true reason for the season~sharing the truth of the most unimaginable, unattainable, unfathomable Gift ever given, and the way we choose to do that in our family is to celebrate Jesus with a Santa Claus Christmas.

How does your family celebrate the holidays?

[Click here for more ideas about how to keep a spirit of giving at the center of your family’s Christmas celebrations. Happy Holidays!]

This video of Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton singing ‘I Believe in Santa Claus’ makes me cry every time I see it.

Related posts:

The Spirit of Christmas… The Great Santa Claus Debate

24 Tips for a Safe, Stress-Free & Jolly Holiday… A Very Toddler Christmas

Making gratitude and generosity a standard of life… 7 Tips and Traditions to Make Giving a Standard of Living

A happy childhood sends a child into adulthood with a baggage of confidence and kindness instead of disillusionment and anger. 200 Ways to Bless Your Children with a Happy Childhood

The human brain needs time to process, categorize, prioritize, analyze, and otherwise make sense of all of the trillions of bits of information that it receives each day. Non-structured playtime for children functions much like sleep does for adults, giving their brains the time and space they need to move short-term memory to long-term learning. 25 Reasons NOT to Keep Children Busy

In the world of a child wonders are as simple as sticks and sheets, leaves and books, boxes and giggles, and the promise in a rainy day. The Seven Wonders of the World of Childhood

Children who love to read…READ! Engaging children’s hearts in the wonder of reading instead of just training their minds in its mechanics. Raising Bookworms

From hitting to defiance to tantrums to testing the boundaries and more, here are gentle parenting tools, tips, and techniques… Practical, Gentle, Effective Discipline

Fairy tales in childhood are stepping stones throughout life, leading the way through trouble and trial. The value of fairy tales lies not in a brief literary escape from reality, but in the gift of hope that goodness truly is more powerful than evil and that even the darkest reality can lead to a Happily Ever After. Fairy Tales~The Lost Value of ‘Once upon a time…’

L.R.Knost is a best-selling parenting and children’s book author and founder and director of Little Hearts/Gentle Parenting Resources, an online resource for gentle parenting education, articles, and research. Books by L.R.Knost include Whispers Through Time: Communication Through the Ages and Stages of Childhood ; Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages ; The Gentle Parent: Positive, Practical, Effective Discipline ; and Jesus, the Gentle Parent: Gentle Christian Parenting (Release date: May 2014) the first four books in the Little Hearts Handbook gentle parenting series, as well as her children’s picture books Petey’s Listening Ears and the soon-to-be-released Grumpykins series available from Amazon and other major retailers.


The Great Santa Claus Debate

[By L.R.Knost, best-selling author of The Gentle Parent: Positive, Practical, Effective DisciplineWhispers Through Time: Communication Through the Ages and Stages of Childhood and Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages available on Amazon and through other major retailers.]

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St.Nicholas was just a man, but he was a man with a mission.  Born in the third century, he grew up to be an intensely kind-hearted man who was especially devoted to children’s issues and helping the poor. He was a Greek Bishop who defied the established Church in order to go out among the ‘unwashed masses’ and live his life as the ‘heart and hands of Jesus.’ While many miracles and legends about him evolved through the centuries, his penchant for leaving secret gifts is the one that captured the hearts and imaginations of people world-wide, leading to the present-day legend of Santa Claus.

I, like many new parents, struggled with the idea of perpetuating a ‘false belief’ and thus undermining my children’s trust. But then I turned to the Bible and saw how Jesus, who spoke absolute truth always, often spoke that truth in stories. He knew something about people’s hearts that I needed to learn as a young parent. He knew that the human mind is logic, analysis, reason, and that the human heart is imagination, creativity, love. He knew that sometimes you have to bypass people’s minds and speak straight to their hearts, those well-springs of wonder, for true understanding to occur and that often the deepest truths are the ones that are too big for the human mind to receive and can only be grasped by the heart.

When it comes to the breathtaking gift of the Christ-Child, the Eternal Creator born of a woman, God Himself wrapped in swaddling clothes, the I AM in a manger, what better way to share such an absurd and immense truth than Jesus’ way…with a story? How else would my little ones be able to grasp the concept of such a gift? How would they embrace the wonder? How could I possibly break down the impossible into a pedantic lecture? Would the improbable make more sense in a dissertation?

And so I chose the way of the parable. I embraced Christmas in all its glory, decorated and baked and showered my little ones with gifts, all while sharing the story of the birth of a Baby. Woven through every event, every tradition, every memorable moment of our family’s Christmas, is the celebration of the wondrous gift of a Savior. We watch Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Santa Claus is Coming to Town, and all the other fun Christmas shows together. We read bedtime stories about Christmas elves and magical toys and talking animals. And when my children ask me if Santa really exists, I tell them yes, because it’s true. Every parent who carries on St. Nicholas’ tradition of leaving secret gifts, of being the heart and hands of Jesus, of sharing the wonder, excitement, and glory of the most extraordinary Gift ever given to mankind, every one of us is Santa Claus.

I believe in Santa Claus because I am Santa Claus…and you are, too!

Note: I don’t ever use Santa Claus as a threat (i.e. “I’m calling Santa right now if you don’t…” or “Santa’s watching, and you won’t get any presents for Christmas if…”) first because a parable’s purpose is to teach, not to manipulate or control, and second because what I am teaching is the wonder and miracle of receiving a free gift, one that can’t be earned because it is freely given! Manipulating my children into ‘performing’ might work temporarily, but am I really trying to raise works-driven Christians, or am I trying to teach my little people about the incredible gift of grace?

 

Here are some of the ways we focus on Jesus for Christmas:

Children learn best and most happily through play, so letting my little people ‘play Santa’ (i.e. wrapping up their toys and ‘surprising’ each other, making ornaments and delivering them to a nursing home, shopping at the dollar store for Operation Christmas Child, etc.) is a very important part of our Christmas traditions. And the best part is…they’re playing Santa for Jesus!

Leading up to Christmas, we marvel about how Jesus loves us so much He wants us to get presents on His birthday (truly awe-inspiring to children and a lesson in sacrificial giving!) because all He wants for His birthday are smiles and happy hearts.

Then we brainstorm ways to give Jesus as many ‘birthday presents’ as possible (a lesson on generosity). We work together to share Christmas cheer with everyone we meet, but focus our best efforts on the grumpiest people because they don’t smile as often and so their smiles make really special gifts for Jesus (a lesson on unconditional love!).

We have a 12 Days of Christmas tradition where everyone gets a small present (chocolate, a special pencil, etc), and we read Christmas picturebooks every evening, building excitement for the Christmas morning celebration of the BEST GIFT EVER!

On Christmas Eve, we go to a special church service and then, after celebrating Christmas with family, we go home and make a fire in the fireplace (in Florida weather!) and make s’mores and hot chocolate and read the story of Jesus’ birth from Luke.

Then, on Christmas morning, we have a ‘Happy Birthday, Jesus’ party before opening presents, complete with a birthday cake and candles and singing ‘Happy birthday to  Jesus!’

Here are some other resources on making the true meaning of Christmas central to your celebrations this year (I’ll be adding more as I find them!):

Celebrating Jesus with a Santa Claus Christmas

24 Tips for a Safe, Stress-Free & Jolly Holiday… A Very Toddler Christmas

7 Tips and Traditions to Make Giving a Standard of Living

 

What traditions does your family have to keep Christ in Christmas? Share them in the comment section!

L.R.Knost is a best-selling parenting and children’s book author and founder and director of Little Hearts/Gentle Parenting Resources, an online resource for gentle parenting education, articles, and research. Books by L.R.Knost include Whispers Through Time: Communication Through the Ages and Stages of Childhood ; Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages ; The Gentle Parent: Positive, Practical, Effective Discipline ; and Jesus, the Gentle Parent: Gentle Christian Parenting (Release date: May 2014) the first four books in the Little Hearts Handbook gentle parenting series, as well as her children’s picture books Petey’s Listening Ears and the soon-to-be-released Grumpykins series available from Amazon and other major retailers.


A Craft-astic Holiday or One Craft-aster After Another (and loving it!)

 

This is for all you mamas who see the creative projects and crafts and cute baking on Pinterest and wish you were the kind of ‘crafty mama’ who could whip together such adorableness for your little ones. I, too, wish I was a crafty mama and have pinned so many great ideas and tried a few with…let’s just say less-than-stellar results, lol. But my children have loved every flub, giggled at every failure, and laughed their way through every project regardless of the results. There’s joy in the journey, mamas, so take heart and grab some of these ideas and flub and fail your way to a happy, craft-astic holiday!

Here’s a project that didn’t turn out as intended. (From the creative genius Play at Home Mom, who made a beautifully flat and festively decorated ice rink which mine doesn’t remotely resemble, haha. Head over to her site for some really great ideas!)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

But, even though my ice rink somehow ended up with a mysterious growth, my little people loved it just the same. In fact, they really enjoyed the ice mountain (aka ‘growth’) and used it for some Florida sledding!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And here are some other ideas I’m planning to ruin, er…try out for some Christmas fun!

This site has some really cute Advent ideas for using picture books! 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

~And these cute ideas are from Pinterest!~

My most recent craft-aster: setting Christmas gifts on fire last night! So, fyi, coffee beans are flammable (who knew?). The candle needs to be in a glass votive and high enough out of the coffee so the beans won’t fall in and catch fire. Mine didn’t even vaguely resemble the adorable ones pictured below (pre or post fire, lol), so click on the picture to get instructions if you want to make them! 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
  
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

L.R.Knost is a best-selling parenting and children’s book author and founder and director of Little Hearts/Gentle Parenting Resources, an online resource for gentle parenting education, articles, and research. Books by L.R.Knost include Whispers Through Time: Communication Through the Ages and Stages of Childhood ; Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages ; The Gentle Parent: Positive, Practical, Effective Discipline ; and Jesus, the Gentle Parent: Gentle Christian Parenting (Release date: May 2014) the first four books in the Little Hearts Handbook gentle parenting series, as well as her children’s picture books Petey’s Listening Ears and the soon-to-be-released Grumpykins series available from Amazon and other major retailers.