Holiday Tips with Dr. Mary Manz Simon

Nov 4, 2019 2:00:00 PM / by Dr. Mary Manz Simon


What is Countdown to Christmas?

Countdown to Christmas provides a daily action and prayer that a child can count on happening during weeks that tend to be chaotic. It allows a child to see how much time remains before Christmas. The book focuses a child’s energetic anticipation into quick and easy reminders of the real meaning of Christmas.

What if you do the countdown, and by December 20th your child is still only looking forward to getting presents?

That’s normal child development! Young children are egocentric. Everything is about them. Of course they want the most presents and the biggest and best presents! But the Countdown to Christmas activities will help your child gradually understand that Jesus is God’s best gift. Countdown to Christmas offers the first steps in a process that will extend over several years. 

Emphasize giving by making a giving list, not only a getting list. When the ad blizzard hits, give your child a marker to circle things in the newspaper they’d like to buy for others, or pull up ads on your device and help your child choose items to give. Reinforce that giving is the other side of getting.

What is the ideal age for kids to start shopping for others for the holidays?

Any age is ideal because what children learn will change as they grow. Children will learn from you long before they shop for themselves. For example, a toddler will watch as you compare products. In the produce department, you’ll say to a toddler, “This fruit basket costs more than the smaller fruit basket.” A preschooler can find the price on the ticket. A six-year-old will say, “Let’s get this basket. Grandma likes oranges better than grapefruit.” We’re so busy during the holidays that it’s easy to forget that December offers a crash course in how to care about others.

There are so many donation programs around the holidays. How can you get involved as a family?

Talk with your children before the holidays. Which charities and programs are most important to your child? Which fit with the time and money available? Charitable giving is great because kids get to see how giving actually doubles the delight. For example, if your child donates dog food to a shelter, your child has the joy of giving, and the shelter dog eats supper! 

How can children give to others if they haven’t saved money?

Joy comes in giving and serving, not in an amount of money. We know that the gift of time is most likely to make a memory, because time is a gift from the heart. For example, your child might offer to FaceTime with a grandparent once a week for a month or every Sunday for the coming year. As a grandmother, I would reserve those dates on my calendar––that would mean a lot to me.

Help your child look at their skills. Did they make a car for the pinewood derby in Cub Scouts? Perhaps they can make a birdhouse for the neighbor. Has your child become a Junior Chef? They can bake batches of pumpkin bread to give to teachers. Giving from the heart feels so good inside that a child will gradually become self-motivated toward giving.

Is a Christmas countdown worth the time?

Much of the pre-holiday busyness prepares our homes. The activities in Countdown to Christmas help prepare our hearts. Invest in two minutes of daily fun to prepare for the coming of Jesus and the season of giving as a family. 

BB Countdown to Christmas flat

To learn more about Countdown to Christmas, click here.

Topics: Holidays, Parenting

Dr. Mary Manz Simon

Written by Dr. Mary Manz Simon

Dr. Mary Manz Simon is an early-childhood educator, consultant, media personality, and award-winning author. She has consulted for a wide variety of entertainment entities, publishers, and companies, including Walden Media, Sony Home Entertainment, and the Fred Rogers Company. Mary has also developed materials for leading entertainment companies, including work with Charlotte's Web, The Prince of Egypt, and The Berenstain Bears. Mary earned a bachelor's degree from Illinois State University, a master's degree from Erikson Institute for Early Childhood Education of Loyola University, Chicago, and a doctorate from St. Louis University. Mary and her husband, Hank, a recently retired Lutheran pastor, are the parents of three adult children and grandparents of five boys.

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