If you have very young children, you know what I’m talking about when I say there is so much they don’t understand. I often find myself stuttering as I try to “re-size” my instructions, descriptions, and even my excitement, to a level they can comprehend! And Christmas is no different. Teaching toddlers the story of Jesus’ birth can be like trying to…well, teach a toddler anything: tough.
Have you said any of these lately?
- We don’t touch the Christmas tree! Even though it’s big and twinkle-y and just randomly appeared in our living room?
- Look! It’s Santa! Ohhhhk, well who are the other 25,000 people hovering around him? And you want me to sit on his lap???
- What’s a manger? Well, it’s a trough…a feeding…a plate for horses. Why didn’t you just say so?
- The Wise Men came to worship the baby Jesus! Why?
Christmas has suddenly become so much more fun with children – even though they’re too young to make much sense of it all. And because Christmas is far more than peppermint mochas, gifts, and Christmas trees, we want our children to be taught early what it is that we are celebrating this month!
For the triplets‘ first Christmas, we gave them The Jesus Storybook Bible (by Sally Lloyd-Jones). I had read many of the stories beforehand and knew that I wanted it in our home ASAP. Why? Because it’s amazing. The tag line for this book is “every story whispers His name.” It’s so true! Most of the stories bring me to tears and give me goosesbumps because the Gospel is broken down into such simple terms that any child – even very young ones! – can understand.
And, while the stories are understandable, they remain biblical. This is very important to us because we want to be careful that we don’t detract from the words God spoke through men. So our children hear Gospel truths in simple sentences. I love it!
Teaching Toddlers the Story of Jesus’ Birth
In order to help them understand what Christmas is all about, I have begun reading one of the three stories related to the birth of Christ each day. After we read the story, I use the Little People Nativity Set to act out the story we just read. This is reinforcing what they’ve heard by giving them another visual and audible account.
I usually do this after a meal (our “family worship time” is pretty basic these days ). Throughout the day, they run over to the hearth where their nativity is set up. We play together and they get hands-on time to act out the story. They love it.
Breaking it Down, Making an Impact
I am really just focusing on one simple (yet packed!) truth as I teach these stories to them:
Baby Jesus loves us and came to help us – He can help us obey.
This communicates, I think, so much about Who He is and why He came to earth. I can already see them trying to connect the dots! Soon after I began reading the stories and acting out the nativity scene, Noah was finishing dinner and trying to spear some green beans with his fork. Frustrated by multiple attempts that got no food to his mouth, he looked at me with a worried look and said in a whiny voice, “Jesus – help. Fork!” I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry as I saw him putting together what I was reading to him. Ahh! I love it.
P.S. I usually buy several copies of The Jesus Storybook Bible each year – I give them as baby shower gifts and for when our church organizes toy and gift drives. There is also a Spanish version, too! Our church is very active in a mainly Spanish-speaking community and I love that there are now families who have access to this incredible resource in their language!
And the Little People Nativity Set makes a great gift for toddlers or from grandparents for them! It’s one of my favorite things to unpack each Christmas season – thanks, Yaya and Papa!
Do you use any special resources to help your children understand the reason we celebrate Christmas? I’d love to hear!!