Hello my friends, and Happy Sunday!
I'm back to talk a little more about Advent, and what I'd like to discuss today is the topic of celebrating the season with older kids ...
I was inspired by a recent comment from Michelle P., whose three boys are almost exactly the same ages as my older three boys:
I am determined this year to try to do more with my older boys to celebrate Advent. I have a huge binder of ideas (crafts, foods, and activities) that we did when they were younger. I have pulled the binder out and I am pouring over the ideas. It brings such fond memories of when they were young, however I am at a loss for ideas now that they are older. Do you have any suggestions? My boys are 21, 17, and 15.
So Michelle's question got me thinking ...
I happen to be in a fortunate place right now, with my kids spread out in all age brackets - we have a little guy (3), a middle guy (our 14 yo with autism is still very young developmentally), a high schooler (17) and gulp an adult son (21). When I'm planning out Advent activities I do try to think of the whole family, but so many of my projects are geared towards the younger two. They're the ones who have all kinds of energy to spare and are really looking for something to do every day ... that's not to say however that my older boys don't take pleasure in the Advent atmosphere and partake in the fun now and then!
When thinking about how I hope my older boys view Advent ...
I want them to experience the season with a lightness of spirit and a subtle thrill of anticipation. I want them to be open to letting go of the outside world a little and spending more time with their family, at home. I want them to understand the deep satisfaction of gift-giving and the true beauty of giving non-material things ... and/or items that have been made by hand and with love. I'd like for them to make room in their hearts for faith and trust ... and wonder. And I want their memories to be filled with good smells and yummy flavors, comfort and quiet joy ... and lots of love around them.
(There I go again with those lofty goals, lol!)
Since most older kids spend the bulk of their day busy with educational and/or work things - whether they be in traditional school or homeschooled - then you'll probably want to plan your activity time for evenings and weekends. My Crackerjack, a high school junior, has a pretty decent-sized work load and is in outside classes several days each week. I try to plan projects he can be part of for the days when I know he (and we) will have more time at home. Also, Bookworm will be returning home after he finishes exams, so needless to say that will be an extra special time for all of us. I try to take these things into consideration when planning out our Advent activity calendar.
So below are some ideas for involving the older kids in our Advent journey - I've been jotting them down for the past couple of days and I fear I've gotten a bit carried away. Yet I'm sure there are many things I haven't thought of! Dear readers, if you have some ideas for older kids participating in and celebrating Advent, I would love to hear them! Please leave a comment and I will add your thoughts to my post. This would be a great resource to grow over the years ... :)
- How about choosing a multi-chapter book to read over Advent? Something the whole family will enjoy? It could be read aloud by one or more family members or perhaps you all might listen to an audiobook. (Add extra pillows and throw blankets to the family room - create a cozy, relaxing atmosphere!)
- Perhaps each family member could take a turn finding a quote, verse, song lyrics or a bit of Scripture to share each day? This would be fun to do with a chalkboard placed in a central location, spruced up with some holiday flair.
- A nice family table tradition is to read aloud any holiday cards that arrived in the day's mail. Together say a prayer for the sender's health and happiness.
- How about encouraging the kids to send Season's Greetings of their own? They could pick out a package of cards (available any and everywhere these days) and mail them off to surprise friends! Elderly relatives, especially, would delight in receiving messages of good cheer.
- Maybe older kids would enjoy actually making the family Christmas cards this year? Leave it all up to them - organizing photos, choosing a design, creating artwork. Encourage them to begin early, though!
- Surprise community workers and volunteers (think post office, school offices, library, fire station, etc.) with home baked goodies one day.
- Revisit favorite tv shows as a family - for us it might be Northern Exposure, Downton Abbey, Sherlock or Fawlty Towers (an old British comedy). I find my older boys more willingly join us for evening television if there are some yummy refreshments involved!
- How about surprising them with a dinner out one night at a new restaurant you've all wanted to try?
- Ask one or more of your kids to join you on a neighborhood walk after supper - admire the lights and decorations around the neighborhood.
- For active families, a day of skiing, skating, snowboarding or sledding would be great fun.
- What about taking a family hike at a local nature spot? Find out if there are workshops, programs or guided walks available. Here in Massachusetts, the Audubon sanctuaries are a perfect place for this kind of experience.
- Plan a shopping excursion as a family - how about splitting up (or pairing up) to buy secret gifts for each other?
- There are plenty of parish and community events to check out at the holidays (tree lightings, Christmas pageants and concerts, outdoor nativities, etc.). Look in your local papers and church bulletins. Or call town hall!
- How about taking a train ride somewhere? This could be a transit ride into the nearest city to soak in a little of that holiday "hustle and bustle?" Pick up some goodies and a hot beverage for the ride back ...
- Help your kids use their Advent season for giving of themselves. They can offer their time and talents where there is need - how about reading aloud to nursing home residents or spending an hour playing with shelter animals? Encourage teens to call around (nursing homes, children's hospitals, homeless shelters and animal shelters) to see what is needed. Then brainstorm and organize as a family!
- Can the kids offer to help an older relative or neighbor around the house? Does Grandma do Christmas dinner every year? Could she use a hand with vacuuming and hauling out dishes? Could the kids offer to help with yard work or putting up a tree ... could young drivers run holiday errands for those who are more housebound these days?
- Babysitting services! How about offering a few hours of child care to help out busy parents?
- What about organizing a holiday play? The kids can write up a story and assign lines to each family member. The play to be performed at the extended family Christmas gathering ...
- And what about organizing a holiday party for their friends? Something festive but informal - good food and movies or music. A community service project to work on together? How about creating cards and/or packages for soldiers?
- What about investigating holiday handcrafts? So many older kids (mine included!) are all about the audio/video at this age but what about getting them to slow down a little and try something new? Or revisit something they might have enjoyed when younger? Perhaps try their hand at hobbies that were too challenging when they were little - candlemaking, soap making, wood-whittling? Bookworm used to love origami ... I bet I could get him to try his hand at it again, if only for one night.
- Why not bring out the Legos? Hold a contest - who can build the most holiday-related Lego creation? Or everyone builds "something" and then the rest of the family must guess what it is ...
- Start a family puzzle - set up a table where it can be worked on little by little throughout Advent.
- Board games are always a great source of family fun. Maybe surprise the kids with a new game to try this year ...
- What is each older child interested in? Is there something they absolutely love to explore? Rent a documentary about a favorite subject and watch it together.
- How about a museum visit? Or play tourist and investigate a local attraction.
- Attend a matinee movie on the first day of Christmas vacation ... or perhaps a Christmas concert or holiday play?
- Have the kids offer piano lessons (or something else they can teach) to someone (young or old) who would love the time and attention.
- Why not go caroling through the neighborhood one night? Surprise local friends and family? At a nursing home or hospital ward? (Obviously call ahead to ask about this idea!)
- Call your parish center and ask what your kids could be doing to help out. Where is help needed? Could they perhaps organize a teen night with cookies and a movie?
- Movie nights - each of you shares a movie you love and want the others to appreciate. These could be action, suspense, comedies, classics, etc.
- Visit a local historic site - these places often run special holiday-themed programs. For example, if you live in Massachusetts, there is "An Alcott Christmas Stocking" at the Louisa May Alcott House in Concord.
- Have the kids help make something for the yard - a creche? A birch-log reindeer or family yule log?
- Entice them with food! Trader Joes, for example, has all kinds of delicious-sounding, limited-time, holiday goodies. Pick up a few things to try one weekend. Let the kids plan out (and maybe help prepare?) their own family supper one night. Sit down and list out favorite holiday foods - plan to make one of those things together one weekend or evening.
- Work on a family scrapbook together. Plan a page for each month of the past year ... organize photos, mementos, ticket stubs ... jot down notes and memories! Reveal the final product on New Year's Eve ...
- If it seems like a lot to fit in during this busy season, work on a list of Christmas vacation ideas ... brainstorm fun family ideas for 12/26-1/6 (or until whenever your kids return to lessons). Fill a jar with ideas, and then read them aloud Christmas eve ...
So I hope this list might have sparked a few ideas but dear readers, please jump in and add to my list if you have a moment! How do you involve your older kids in this beautiful season of Advent? I think being together is what's key here so even if an activity doesn't seem very "Christmassy" to you, if it's appealing to the kids, and brings you all together, then I say just roll with it! Inevitably there will be holiday atmosphere all around you - at home or out and about - whatever you decide to do!
Thank you, Michelle, for asking this important question ... it was good for me to step back and remember that my young men are still my boys and they still look to me for guidance in many ways. As mothers, the holidays very often start with us ... what we do at home becomes memories these kids carry with them throughout life. They might have gotten taller, more informed and aware of the outside world, but that doesn't mean they don't still want to be kids again at Christmas - because don't we all?
Well, I hope you all enjoy the rest of your weekend, and thanks so much for stopping by! I will see you here again very soon ...