Operation Christmas Child Shoeboxes – Boys ages 2-14

“Oooo! Star Wars!”

“I like this bat and ball!”

“Mom, this toy is really cool! I want one.”

Operation Christmas Child is one of my favorite parts of the holiday season. 

Gently, consistently, I remind my son that these gifts are not for him. These gifts are for someone who may have never received a gift before.

We finish our shopping and return home to pack our boxes. I shared what we packed last year and thought it would be fun to share again!

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This year K wanted to pack 4 boxes (because he is four years old, of course!). We kept it simple and did all boy boxes – a 2-4 box, two 5-9 boxes, and a 10-14 box.

We spread out all our goodies and got to packing…

Operation Christmas Child

First, we divided everything into the appropriate categories.

Operation Christmas Child

Think it’s all going to fit?!

 

Boy 10-14

Operation Christmas Child

In this box we packed a:

Operation Christmas Child

All snug!

Boy 5-9

Operation Christmas Child

In this box we packed a:

  • Soccer ball
  • Pump
  • Marbles and canvas bag
  • Stuffed animal
  • Assortment of farm animal figures
  • Toothbrush, case, and toothpaste
  • Cup
  • Two pairs of socks
  • Hot wheels car
  • Soap and washcloth
  • Rubber ball
  • Crayons
  • Pencils
  • Harmonica
  • Plastic container
  • Twine
  • Pad of paper

Boy 5-9

Boy 5-9

Operation Christmas Child

In this box we packed a:

  • Soccer ball and pump
  • Marbles and canvas bag
  • Cup
  • Stuffed animal
  • Two rubber balls
  • Assortment of farm animal figurines
  • Soap and washcloth
  • Twine
  • Pencils
  • Socks
  • Notepad
  • Hot wheels car
  • T-Shirt (I realized after I took the picture that the size was a 4-5, so I switched it to the 2-4 box)

Operation Christmas Child

 

Boy 2-4

Operation Christmas Child

In this box we packed a:

  • Sticker set
  • Puzzle
  • Light up ball
  • Washcloth and soap
  • Toothbrush, holder, and toothpaste
  • Plastic container
  • Harmonica
  • Pencils
  • Crayons
  • Cup
  • Card game
  • Note pad
  • Farm animal figurines
  • Hot wheels toy
  • Stuffed animal
  • T-shirt

This box seemed a little empty, so I threw a few other random things in there later.

Operation Christmas Child

We used clear plastic shoeboxes for the first time this year. One thing I noticed was that it made it really easy to see empty spots you could fill better – so I’ll have to remember that for next year!

 

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Are you looking for a fun way to be intentional as you pack your OCC boxes with your kids? Check out my FREE OCC Mini devotional! To gain access to this free resource and many more just enter your e-mail below!

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Need more help packing a shoebox? Check out this ultimate round-up of great ideas!

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Did you pack a shoebox this year?

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Advent Snacks (A Truth in the Tinsel Supplement) Days 13-18

Advent Snacks for Kids

In order to extend the learning while doing Truth in the Tinsel, I wanted to come up with a simple supplement. After doing some brainstorming, I came up with Advent Snacks! They are simple snacks, themed after each day in of Truth in the Tinsel, that you can easily make with stuff you probably already have lying around.

These snacks are most definitely not food art! While I think those crazy awesome snacks and the people that make them are amazing, that is not something in my skill set – or time allotment! This is food that you’ll be able to whip together in a few minutes, making it so you can continue to nourish their spirits at the same time as you do their little bodies!

What if you don’t have Truth in the Tinsel? No problem! Christmas is Christmas, and you can just as easily use any or all of these snacks without the TNT eBook. However, if you haven’t given Truth in the Tinsel a shot, I highly recommend it! (You can read my review here)

Here’s the other week’s snacks:

Week 1

Week 2

Week 4

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Alright, are you ready to see this week’s snacks? Let’s get started!

Day 13 – Bethlehem

 

Advent Snacks day 13 - bethlehem

A house of bread made to represent Bethlehem (which means “the house of bread”). I used butter and honey toast with a little door cut out to make it. You could add some little windows too!

Day 14 – Stable

 

Advent Snacks day 14 -stable

For day 14 we made a simple stable snack. Just form the stable out of pretzel rods and add some peanut butter “dirt” and coconut “hay.” While making this snack I realized it would have been perfect if I would have had some animal crackers to add!

Day 15 – Manger

Advent Snacks day 15 - manger

This manger snack was made with a grilled cheese sandwich! Just cut in half to make the bed/trough and use the leftovers to make the legs. The baby Jesus head was made out of apple cut into a circle and it was finished off with some shredded cheese “straw.”

Day 16 – Cloths

 

Advent Snacks day 16 - cloths

Day 16 is about Jesus being wrapped in swaddling cloths. For this snack, I wrapped a cheese stick in some deli meat. However, you could also wrap cheese in a tortilla, wrap a hot dog in bread, or wrap bread/tortilla around a banana.

 Day 17 – Sheep

 

Advent Snacks day 17 - sheep

I think this is quite possibly the cutest snack we’ve made so far! For this adorable little sheep, all you need is some popcorn for the body, pretzel rods for the legs, and a pretzel crisp for the face (a regular pretzel would probably work too!). Tip for the popcorn when you only want to make a small amount – place a single layer of popcorn kernels on the bottom of a microwave safe bowl with a small pat of butter. Cover with a plate and microwave until the popping slows down. Sprinkle with a little salt and you are good to go!

Day 18 – Angels

 

Advent Snacks day 18 - angels

Okay, so these little guys are pretty cute too! To make these angels, peel an orange and separate the slices. Cut small chunks of carrot so they lay flat. Use the oranges for the wings and add a cheerio “halo”!

That’s all for Truth in the Tinsel days 13-18! Look for the next six days coming soon! Let me know about your favorite TNT supplement in the comments below!

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St Nicholas Day 2015

St. Nicholas Day 2015

When K was just a baby, we decided to add the celebration of St. Nicholas Day to our Advent traditions. We have loved observing St. Nick’s day as an alternative to “doing Santa.” We get to do some fun traditions, learn about history, and focus on giving like the real St. Nicholas did. I wrote more about celebrating St. Nick’s Day here.

This year was our third St. Nick’s day and, even though it is too late for you to try out this celebration this year, I still thought it would be fun to share what we did!

Stockings and A Special Breakfast

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For St. Nicholas day, the main two things we have done (and plan to continue doing) are stocking gifts and a special breakfast. We do stockings on this day instead of Christmas morning and it has been a great way to spread out the gift giving a little bit. I usually fill the stockings with small gifts and some chocolate coins. You can read more about what was in our stockings this year here.

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We also have a special breakfast that is a treat my mom used to make for Christmas – Scandinavian Kringler (or as we always called it, “kringle”). So yummy.

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St. Nicholas Neighbor Treat Baskets

During the time St. Nicholas lived, there was a great famine and much of the surrounding area lived in poverty. One of the things that he was known for doing was placing baskets with grain, fruit, and other food on people’s doorsteps during the night, so that they would have food to eat.

A while back I had read about remembering this act of service by putting together baskets with treats in them to give to your neighbors. This year I decided we’d give it a try!

St Nicholas Day gift baskets

For our baskets, I found these awesome metal buckets for only a few dollars on clearance at Hobby Lobby. There were four left, so I decided we’d do four baskets this year.

Over the week, K and I had fun making some Christmas treats to put in our baskets. We made chocolate covered pretzels, chocolate chip cookies, Chex mix, and a loaf of bread for each basket. We packaged everything in fun treat bags I found at the dollar store.

I finished the baskets off with a paper on St. Nicholas and a coloring page for the kids in the family. Subscribe at the bottom of this post to gain access to the free printables.

We delivered our baskets to some of our neighbor friends on the morning of St. Nicholas Day.

St. Nicholas Day baskets

Shopping for the Food Bank

One of the sweetest things happened while we were preparing our gift baskets. I asked K who he would like to give the baskets to and was surprised when he didn’t immediately start rattling off the names of his friends.

He was obviously thinking hard on the question, so I asked “Maybe to some of your friends?” In kind of a confused voice he said mentioned two of his friends and said that he wanted to give the basket to them but, “they already have food to eat.”

Then it dawned on me. “Did you think we were giving these baskets to people who didn’t have any food?” I asked. He nodded his head yes. He was listening closer than I thought!

I explained to him that while I didn’t think we could give our baskets to someone who didn’t have any food, there was something we could do. I told him about food banks and asked him if he wanted to buy some food for one. He said yes and even wanted to use his own money!

St. Nicholas Day food bank

The day before St. Nicholas Day, we pulled the money out that he had saved in his wallet and counted it. While he is getting good at counting, the concept of a five dollar bill being equal to five one dollar bills is still a little foreign to him. At first he said he wanted to use all his money, but he quickly took that back! Then, he counted out six of his bills to use, keeping two for himself. I was impressed with the decision he made, giving generously, yet keeping a little for himself. He even said, “I’m going to have to get some more money!”

We left the saved money at home, and took his wallet to the grocery store. After roaming the aisles making his choices (aided a little bit in choosing healthier options), it was time to pay. I could feel the tension in him as he handed the money over, but in the end I had one joyful little giver.

The items he bought are loaded in a box, ready for us to drop off at the food bank next time we are out. The whole experience was such a fun time and great learning experience. I think this will become a new St. Nick’s day tradition!

PS Since he is still young enough to not know any better, I did take the little fella’s hard earned money and slipped it back in his wallet. 🙂

Do you celebrate St. Nicholas Day? What are your traditions?

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Advent Snacks (Truth in the Tinsel Supplement) Days 1-6

Advent Snacks for Kids

It’s December 1st, can you believe it?! I’m so excited because that means it’s Truth in the Tinsel time! This is our first year participating in TNT and I know it’s going to be awesome! We did our first ornament today and K was begging to go on to the next day!

In oder to extend the learning a little bit, I wanted to come up with a simple supplement to Truth in the Tinsel. After doing some brainstorming, I came up with Advent Snacks! They are simple snacks, themed after each day in of Truth in the Tinsel, that you can easily make with stuff you probably already have lying around.

These snacks are most definitely not food art! While I think those crazy awesome snacks and the people that make them are amazing, that is not something in my skill set – or time allotment! This is food that you’ll be able to whip together in a few minutes, making it so you can continue to nourish their spirits at the same time as you do their little bodies!

What if you don’t have Truth in the Tinsel? No problem! Christmas is Christmas, and you can just as easily use any or all of these snacks without the TNT eBook. However, if you haven’t given Truth in the Tinsel a shot, I highly recommend it! (You can read my review here)

Here are the other week’s snacks:

Week 2
Week 3
Week 4

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Alright, are you ready to see this week’s snacks? Let’s get started!

Day 1 – Light

Advent Snacks - day 1 light

Day one is all about Jesus being the Light of the World. This snack is super simple. Just stick a birthday candle in whatever you’ve got handy. We used a muffin.

Day 2 – Kingdom

Advent Snacks - day 2 kingdom2

Day 2 is about how Jesus is the king of all the world. For this snack we made a graham cracker and peanut butter castle (where the king lives!). You can set up the snack like the above picture if your child is older and let them assemble the castle. Or, assemble it yourself and give it to them. My castle is below for an idea.

Advent Snacks - day 2 kingdom

Day 3 – Zechariah

Advent Snacks day 3 zechariah

If you’ve got any experience with kid snacks, you’ve probably seen these apple teeth. I had actually never made them before, but I decided they’d be perfect for Zechariah and him not being able to talk!

All you have to do is cut two thin slices of apple, spread some peanut butter on one, stick on some marshmallow “teeth,” and put the other apple on top. It’s not exactly the prettiest looking thing, but when we were testing these snacks out, K thought it was awesome. 

Day 4 – Gabriel

Advent Snacks - day 4 gabriel

Day four we learn about the angel Gabriel coming to visit Mary. For this snack, I cut an angel shape out of a cheese quesadilla. It was pretty easy! Just cut in and down on the top, making a circle shape in between for the head. On the bottom, cut up and in two lines and slightly separate, making the body. The halo was made with a “string” of string cheese.

 Day 5 – Mary

Advent Snacks - day 5 mary

Day 5 we learn about Mary! For this snack we made a simple Mary out of pretzel rods and apples. First, break the pretzels and arrange into a triangle shape, adding arms and legs. Then, slice of the side of an apple and place on the triangle for Mary’s pregnant belly. Slice the apple again, cutting a circle for the head. We added two chocolate chips and a small piece of string cheese to make eyes and a mouth.

Day 6 – Mary and Elizabeth

Advent Snacks - day 6 mary and elizabeth

Day 6 is about Mary and Elizabeth’s time together. For this, we made a snack representing Mary traveling to visit Elizabeth – A PB&J road! All you do is make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich (or whatever kind of sandwich you want), cut off the crusts, and then cut into narrow strips. Then arrange your pieces into a road. You can leave it like this, or use peanut butter to stick on two small pretzel “people” to represent Mary and Elizabeth.

That’s all for Truth in the Tinsel days 1-6! Look for the next six days coming soon! Let me know about your favorite TNT supplement in the comments below!

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Teaching Your Kids the Christmas Story (Truth in the Tinsel Review and Giveaway)

REVIEW and GIVEAWAY

Christmas is one of my absolute favorite times of the year. Christmas music, shopping for gifts, decorating the tree, cookies and hot chocolate – I love it all. And of all the great things that the Christmas season brings, there is nothing that compares with finding memorable ways to share the true meaning of Christmas with my kids. (In fact, I had a whole series devoted to it last year)

That is why I am so excited to share with you today this amazing Advent resource – Truth in the Tinsel!

truth in the tinsel cover

I have actually known about Truth in the Tinsel for a few years now. I thought about trying it with K last year, but he was only just turning three and, being pregnant, I was keeping things extra simple. So, I knew this year was finally going to be the year we were going to do it!

I purchased my copy a few weeks ago, so that I’d have time to read through it and get everything prepared for the coming Advent season. As I read through the crafts, K would look over my shoulder – getting more and more excited and wanting to know when it would be time to get started.

So What is Truth in the Tinsel Anyway?

Good question! Well, let’s get the the down low straight from the source. On the Truth in the Tinsel website it says…

“Each day Truth in the Tinsel will lead you through a passage of scripture, a corresponding ornament craft and talking points for you and your kids. It’s more than a devotion — it’s a meditation and hands-on learning for kids. It’s more than a craft-book — it’s a memory-builder for your family. It’s more than an e-book — it’s an experience and adventure in God’s Word!”

You can also read more in the guest post Truth in the Tinsel author, Amanda White, wrote last year or go to the Truth in the Tinsel page!

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Things I love about Truth in the Tinsel

Great Directions
Everything is so perfectly laid out for you. Supply lists, clear instructions, tips, alternate calendars, links to all the templates you’ll need – it couldn’t be any easier.

Simple Crafts and Activities
We love to keep things simple around here. I want crafts that my child can actually do, not things that I have to do for him. These fit the bill perfectly. Simple enough for a little one, yet fun enough for an older child too, these crafts are perfect for the whole family.

Although I encourage you to give them a try even if you think you’re not the crafty type, you can also get printable ornaments to decorate. Perfect for those extra busy days (cause who doesn’t have those during the holiday season!?) or when you’re just not feeling like doing a craft.

truth in the tinsel ornaments cover

Tells the Whole Christmas Story
Starting in Isaiah and ending at the cross, Truth in the Tinsel tells the grand story of Christmas in a way that is perfect for helping kids to remember. If you’ve been around here for any length of time, you’ll know that I love doing Bible activities that help my kids to really experience the story with all their senses.

Oftentimes I have to come up with these activities on my own (like Play Through the Bible or Hero Training!) , but with Truth in the Tinsel all the work is done for me and all we have to do is have a blast doing it.

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A Few Truth in the Tinsel Tips

Get the book early
I know, I know, it’s not even Thanksgiving yet, so why are we talking about Christmas already anyway? Well, for me at least, the key to a smooth Christmas season is taking some time pre-Christmas to get prepared.

By downloading the ebook a few weeks early, you’ll have time to read it through and make a plan for how and when you’re going to do it. This will help you feel less rushed and let you be able to enjoy the process more.

Prep the crafts
To make things go even smoother, I’m hoping to take an afternoon and prep all the Truth in the Tinsel ornament crafts at once. I’ll put all of the ready to go supplies in individual bags and store them together in a tub. That way, when it’s time to do the day’s craft, it’ll just be grab and go!

It’s the process, not the product
The point of doing Bible crafts with your kid’s isn’t to end up with a magazine worthy ornament in the end. The point is to let the crafting be a way to help impress God’s word upon your child and to use the experience to open up time for great discussions.

Don’t worry if your ornaments turn out looking a little wonky, your child is just going to love that they made it themselves!

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Well, are you ready to get your copy yet?

Then you’re in luck! Amanda has generously offered a copy of Truth in the Tinsel AND a copy of the printable ornaments to go to one lucky Simple Life. Messy Life. reader! For your chance to win, all you have to do is enter the contest below.

However, if you think Truth in the Tinsel is something that would be great for your family and you are ready to get started – don’t hesitate to go grab it now!

I know exactly how it goes where you’re like “Yes! That sounds awesome. I will get that later for sure.” Then you blink and it’s halfway through December and you completely forgot (oh wait, maybe that’s just me!). Don’t let that happen!

The good news is that Truth in the Tinsel is super affordable. Plus it is great for all ages in your family and you can continue to use it for years to come.

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Affiliate links included. Thank you for using your purchases to help support Simple Life. Messy Life.