Teaching the Meaning of Christmas to Young Children

Four ideas for telling very young children the truth in a way they will understand.

by Kennisha Hill

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“So, Kellus. Tell Mommy. What is Christmas about?” I waited eagerly for my son's answer, wondering if he would remember what I taught him last year.

“Christmas is about Christmas tree and lights and decorations and presents!” he answered. His voice was roaring with excitement and he jumped up and down all around the living room floor.

“Oh, I see,” I answered. “Well, can I tell you what Christmas is really about? Christmas is really about Jesus!”

“Awhh, OK,” he said. Then he quickly changed his answer. “Christmas is about Christmas tree and lights and decorations and Jesus!”

Hours later. “Kellus, what is Christmas about?”

“Jesus!” he answered.

I laughed at his quick answer, which was probably to appease Mommy. But I knew it was a great start.

The next assignment was to explain the full story. In my heart, I knew it was time for my husband and I to get down to the nitty-gritty about what the true meaning of Christmas is, and especially since most of everything in our American culture tells us Christmas is all about Santa, reindeer and elves. I wanted to figure out how I could teach him the truth and do so in a fun way that a young child could understand.

Since my husband and I are both followers of Christ, it’s important to us that we teach our children the real meaning of Christmas—that it’s a season where we reflect on the birth of our King and do our best to show our appreciation by giving. Now, explaining that to a two- and four-year-old—with short attention spans—means I have to do so in the most creative ways.

Here are a few ways I thought might be helpful to my kiddos.

1. Be animated. My kids love story time, except when it’s evident that momma is tired and not really there in storyland. So I try to make a habit of hopping into character, even when I’m bone tired.  Or I become loud, silly and cartoonish. How cool is it that three wise men follow a huge star to find Jesus! Kids tend to remember a story when it’s exciting.

The moment momma becomes boring, the crickets chirp and suddenly I hear an exhausted voice yawn, “Mom, can I play Super Mario?” or “Can I have some juice?”

2. Be intentional. I like to focus on the moral of the story once we’re done. When talking about Jesus, I like to make sure it’s clear exactly who He is—how He came, lived and is coming back! This paints the picture well in their eyes and helps them understand—even on their level.

“Jesus is the son of God who came to earth because God loves us sooo much.” My son responds, “Really, Mommy? God loves us sooo much?”

I’ve learned that the more intentional we are about sharing the gospel to our children, the more interested they become in learning more. “But why, mommy?” is usually the next question from my son. I just love the dialogue. I’ve noticed that when he prays at night he thanks God for Jesus. I believe he’s catching on.

3. Softly explain the truth about Santa. When I was younger, my parent’s didn’t hesitate to tell us the truth about Santa. In our home, it was not a big problem because we were taught young. By sharing with my toddlers early, they have a lesser chance at being hurt when they learn how unreal Santa is. Children are captivated by the rosy cheeks and red suit (hey, it is a fun costume). But they could be even more excited to learn about a baby who came to love and save them.

4.  Get them involved. Last year I took my children out into the community to pass out Christmas cookies and a small message of hope. This helped teach them how to be loving and giving—that the holidays are not all about receiving gifts.

5. Give Christmas cards, videos and drawings. My children love to color. I think it’s a sweet idea to work on a gift for a loved one (or a stranger) and allow the children to help. This would truly brighten up someone’s day and teach them how to be giving. 

Copyright ©2011 by Kennisha Hill. All Rights reserved. Used with permission. Originally appeared on MomLife Today.

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