What’s a birthday party without cake??
We wanted our neighborhood party to have a sweet ending. After the kids were finished with games and crafts, we invited them into our living room for a story. This was a great “settling down” activity before we enjoyed a treat. I read a different story each year that we had this party, but I want to share two of my favorites:
Why Christmas Trees Aren’t Perfect, by Richard Schneider, is a beautifully illustrated fable. The story ties the Christmas message in at the end, but is not preachy, so it is a gentle choice when building relationships with new neighbors, and a nice introduction to the concept of Christ’s devotion and sacrifice. For a group of younger children, you’ll want to “story tell” this book rather than read it word-for-word…the language is beautiful, but it’s a long story, and you may lose the kids’ attention unless you abridge it.
The next story is A Tree for Christmas by Dandi Daley Mackall. This is a “pattern book,” which means that a line repeats throughout the story. (the kids will learn this quickly and they’ll be able to help you “read” by repeating the line on each page.) Mackall ties the tree theme to the life of Christ; his birth, childhood, ministry, death and resurrection are all mentioned with clarity and age-appropriate detail. Younger kids will be able to follow this rhyming story easily, and older kids will enjoy the lyrical stanzas as well. The illustrations are lovely, and include silhouettes that tie past and present together. I believe this book is out of print, but some copies are available on the web.
Thank you, Mitzie, for your assistance.
After our story time, we talked about our neighborhood service project. When we handed out invitations, we requested that the children bring a new, unwrapped book or toy to the party to donate to the local children’s hospital. We asked each child to show the gift he/she chose and then place it in a large gift bag. We talked about how much the children who were spending Christmas in the hospital would appreciate the caring gesture!
We also had an opportunity for children to share their gifts with each other! One year, a young boy played Christmas carols on his violin. Another time, a girl taught some simple sign language to the group. This is a great way for kids to get to know one another and appreciate each other’s strengths!
Finally…we sang a rousing chorus of “Happy Birthday, dear Jesus,” and enjoyed blowing out candles and savoring cake! (Please note: When planning a party like this, be sure to ask the parents if their children have any dietary needs/allergies/restrictions.)
It’s important to note that each time we had this party, we had a mix of “typical” kids and kids with disabilities…we planned carefully so that every child had enough support. In addition, we made certain that quiet spaces were available, as well as choices for activities…it was very important to us that no one felt left out…when Jesus was on earth, he clearly said, “Let the children come to me!” We felt certain that He would want everyone included at His birthday party.
Happy Birthday, dear Jesus!