We are talking about 45ish kids ranging in age from preschool to 8th grade, so it is always interesting to plan something that hits them all. I am a big fan of multi-age activities, though, because there is such a great opportunity for the bigs to teach the littles and the little to learn from the bigs, even without them knowing it is happening.
"My Soul Magnifies the Lord," so I am playing off of the magnifying glass idea. The concept is that the kids are looking for clues during Advent, leading them up to the real meaning of the season, which is to prepare our hearts for Jesus, not to celebrate Christmas starting the day after Thanksgiving. We are doing the whole night complete with lots of little hands-on activities, but this could also be adapted to be a take home activity by just using the coloring book, or to a more classroom-friendly activity by using the coloring book as a group and looking up all of the scripture references.
All of the paper items are free printables- you just have to click on each document to go to the link.
All of the crafts are intentionally simple and mostly very inexpensive. I have included basic directions for each station.
Here is the mini coloring book with each of the "clues" leading up to the reason for Advent. It includes at least one Scripture reference for each clue, a question to think about, some Old Testament Prophecy connections, and a place to record their "detective" work.
Click here for the link to the coloring book:
Here is a link to the printable Clue Collection bag label:
A Family Tree: Isaiah 11:1 & Matthew 1:1-16
Have the kids trace their hand and arm on brown construction paper. Write their family name on the trunk and family members on the branches/fingers. Connect to Jesus' family tree and that the prophets told us what family the Messiah would come from.
***(Keep in mind that not all of these activities are safe for all kids. I am using several choking hazards, but our preschoolers are at least 4, and we have lots of adult supervision. Keep that in mind if you adapt this to use with your group.)
Because of our format, I went easy on this one. Pre-cut out crowns, markers to decorate, and sticky jewels -which will be strictly rationed by the adult manning the table :). If you have more time, go for glitter or gluing on jewels because it is a lot cheaper. Our format doesn't really allow for wet glue, so we are going with the stick-on ones.
Cue the cool thing for this station-
We had cross sections of wood cut like this:
The Love of the Blessed Virgin Mary: Luke 2:19 & Isaiah 7:13-14
Mary pondered all things in her heart- so we are going to make a heart to remember her and her love.
The kids will cut out a heart of fun foam,
A Little Town Called Bethlehem: John 7:42 & Luke 2:1-7 & Micah 5:2-5
Printable of a big B with Bethlehem landscape inside. All the kids can use a coloring break at this point.
A Humble Manger: Luke 2:6-7 & John 6
I am making these simple mangers ahead of time because it involves hot glue. These are mini popsicle sticks, but you could do the same thing with big ones.
Glue together two slightly squished x's.
A Bright New Star: Matthew 1:1-2
Thank you, last year's mega after Christmas sales. The bright new star is just an ornament.
The Sound of Angel Wings: Luke:2:13-14
The kids will collect a feather and a bell at this station, representing that angels are swift messengers from heaven (feather) and that they sang in the skies over Bethlehem (bell).
The Visit of the Shepherds: Luke 2:!5
Brown and white pipe cleaners twisted together. Pretty simple.
The Gift of the Wise Men: Matthew 2:10-11 & Psalm 72:10-11
On-sale small boxes, decorated with markers and stickers and tied up with a bow. (I am sure the kids will be much more creative than me.) Inside the box, the kids will write on small slips of paper the gift that they want to give Jesus. This is a great time to remind them that Jesus really wants our whole hearts, not gold, frankincense and myrrh.
And we wrap up with a bag stuffed with clues and a coloring book to bring it all together. The last page of the coloring book has some thinking questions for the kids about what they can learn about our Savior from the clues they have collected, as well as what Advent really means.
***After a couple of requests, and while getting ready to run this with ten or so volunteers, I made a Discussion Guide with directions/questions/answers/etc. Click here for a copy.