I love to teach our little ones the real reason we celebrate Christmas. We don’t do Santa (nothing against him, we just don’t focus on that part of Christmas). Instead, we talk about Jesus all season. Last year we started a new family tradition of working on decorating a Jesse Tree.
My husband and I “designed” our tree and cut it out of paper grocery bags. We stuck it up on our sliding glass door that leads to the back yard. This year we are planning on doing something a little bit different – using a tree from the store. We will likely learn new things each season that will inform our decisions for the next year. Each year, we will probably change-up the tree a little bit for variety. I was thinking it would be great to find a long branch to hang the ornaments from in a future year.
Last year, we did our Jesse Tree as an advent thing and each night we shared a little bit of the story and then colored an ornament to hang on the tree. We did our Jesse Tree project just before bedtime and G loved to say goodnight to the Jesse tree. It was a wonderful way to get a family devotion in before bedtime and also introduce favorite Bible stories to her. Last year she was 18 months old during the holidays and started to understand some of the basic concepts of the story.
Each night, we reviewed the ornaments we had hung in the previous days as we hung the new ornament. The simple pictures – we got ours through Ann Voscamp’s site for free (although the links don’t seem to be working this year) – were easily recognizable to G to tell each story and make them memorable. By the time we got to Christmas Day, I hope G had a good understanding of the reason we are celebrating this special and miraculous day.
If you haven’t yet gotten to the Jesse Tree, you are not too late! We haven’t started ours yet, either! With little ones attention spans can definitely be a little too short for a 24 day project. This year we will be using a different devotional. This year we are working on these principles for sharing the true meaning of Christmas with our two toddlers.
Keep it simple!
If your toddlers are not into coloring (like one of mine), just make print out or make a small ornament yourself and show it to them as you talk about the story for the day. You can also create a tree on any surface, making it as simple as drawing a tree on a piece of paper and adding ornaments to it each night at the dinner table after dinner or in the morning after breakfast.
Cut it down
We are taking the Jesse Tree devotional and making it fit into a 12 day schedule instead of the 24 day schedule. We are picking the “important” stories that are easily understood by our little ones and sharing those.
Extend the season
We are always going to want to point our little ones to the truth of Jesus, so if we don’t get to the Jesse tree each night (due to the busyness of the season), we will just extend the time we spend on our Jesse tree. Last year we didn’t take our tree down until after the new year and G still loved to talk about it and revisit it every day. In fact, sometime in the middle of the spring, G mentioned the Jesse tree and pointed to where it had been on the back door.
Set some sort of routine
We did find it was good to have a specific time to do our Jesse tree devotion last year. Picking a time of day and sticking with it as much as possible helped G to know when to expect our devotional time. We chose doing it before bed so that Daddy could be part of the process.
Pick one memory verse for the entire season
Instead of sharing lots and lots of verses with G and never mentioning them again. We are going to try to help her memorize just one Bible verse about Jesus this season. We will mention what God’s word says each evening, but we will work on just one verse each day.
I look forward to helping my children catch the joy of our Savior’s birth through this special tradition! It also keeps me focused on the meaning of Christmas in the midst of the busyness of the season.
Are you thinking about starting a Jesse Tree tradition with your little ones this year? My sister-in-law, Sarah over at Frugal Fun for Boys, created a new Jesse Tree Devotional for kids! I love it and look forward to sharing it with our girls.