Tag Archives: Christmas

Six Ways Homeschoolers Can Take the Stress out of Christmas

While most of us love the Christmas season, sometimes all the busyness, activities, and things that must be done put us into overload mode. Stress levels rise, and instead of a joyful season of worshipping Christ our Savior, we become crazy women running to and fro, impatient and frustrated. That sure isn’t my picture of a godly, Christian woman, and I don’t want it to characterize my life during the weeks that are so precious in my year. So how can we take the stress out of the Christmas season?

1. Resting in the Lord

Perhaps the greatest stress reliever is to remember the words of Christ Himself. “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). When we come to Him, He gives us rest. During the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas, are we truly coming to Him? Are we continuing in our daily time to worship Him through reading His Word and praying? Are we casting our cares on Him? “Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you” (1 Peter 5:7). Perhaps a peaceful heart or lack of it is an indication of whether we are coming to Him and resting or not.

2. Writing it Down

Write down what you will be doing and want to do during the Christmas season either on a piece of paper, notebook, or your computer. Often stress overwhelms us when our minds are trying to track, manage, remember, and juggle all that needs to be done. Our memory becomes so full of all the “stuff” that we can’t handle it. Computers crash when they overload their memory, and so do we.

When you write it down, relief descends. It is in a safe place to be retrieved and referred to. You don’t have to depend on your mind to remember it. That one simple step may be your ticket to a stress-free Christmas.

3. Eliminating

The third thing you can do to help relieve holiday stress is to eliminate. Once you have that list to look at, you can determine if there are activities or duties on it that are no longer your priority. Just because you have always done it, doesn’t mean that you have to keep doing it.

What Christmas activities draw your heart to Jesus? Which ones share Him with others? Which ones teach your children to love, teach them that it is better to give than to receive, or teach them to worship Him? Have criteria in mind to help you determine what your Christmas time usage priorities should be.

I think you will find it less stressing and much more enjoyable to focus on the activities for Christmas that bring you the greatest joy than to try to do everything that is available. Remember the words of the angels to the shepherds? “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men” (Luke 2:14). While the global application of this verse is the peace that Christ brings to each sinful man who receives Him as Savior, I can’t help but wonder if it isn’t also ongoing peace in my heart. That peace lets me have joy each day as I anticipate celebrating Christ’s birth.

I would rather have a peaceful heart and do half as many Christ-related traditions and activities than to do the full measure of them feeling and acting stressed. I expect my family would vote for that as well.

4. Planning

Next you will want to take the list of Christmas activities and duties that have been prioritized and pared down, and write out steps that are needed to accomplish each one. Perhaps there are supplies to be purchased and gathered. Maybe a date should be put on the calendar to reserve the time. It could be that others are to be invited. What exactly should happen so that this activity is accomplished?

When I have steps written down for my holiday activities, they are much easier to achieve. With available time, I look at these lists, and I choose what I will tackle during that time frame.

5. Dedicating Time

I can have the best-prioritized list of Christmas activities, including the plan to getting them done, but if I don’t have any time to do them, I can assure you that I will feel stressed. How does a busy mom find time for doing more than she currently does in her normal daily life?

I would suggest starting with just one hour per day in the month of December for Christmas preparations—a specific hour that you know you can consistently be committed to keeping. If you are a homeschool mom, shorten your school day by one hour for the month of December, and use that extra time for what you want to do to get ready for Christmas. You will be pleasantly surprised with the progress you can make on things like Christmas cards or letters, online gift shopping, gift wrapping, meal planning, and make-ahead baking in just one hour.

Seeing your progress and checking off what is done—those are wonderful ways to relieve stress and bring peace to your heart. As you get closer to Christmas, you will know what one hour a day has done for you and increase or decrease the time according to where you are in relation to your goals.

For homeschool moms, I would suggest taking at least the last two weeks of December totally off school. However, be careful to have a plan in place for how you will use that time so it doesn’t fritter away.

6. Practicing Gratitude

You can let each stressor you face eat at your mind, robbing you of your joy and peace. However, you can also trade away the stress by doing one very powerful thing: cultivate gratitude! For example, if gift shopping stresses you, thank the Lord for the wonderful gift of Jesus Christ. Be grateful for the finances to purchase gifts or the supplies to make them. Each time the stress wants to return, praise God and thank Him for Jesus and His bountiful provision for you. Find something you can thank God for with any and every stress that wants to rear its ugly head so that you change the curse into a blessing. “In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you” (1 Thessalonians 5:18).

Personally, I don’t like to feel stressed, and I don’t like the person I become when I am stressed. Christmas is the last time of year when I want to be a stressed woman. This Christmas season I choose to set aside Christmas stress and pick up the joy, peace, and rest of the Savior, Whom I celebrate each and every day.

Here are four resources that I recommend to help you with holiday de-stressing or any-time-of-the-year de-stressing:

Managers of Their Homes
Managers of Their Chores
Homeschooling with a Meek and Quiet Spirit
Sweet Journey

Teri Maxwell

The Heart of Christmas

With Christmas on the horizon, our thoughts usually shift toward what that season means to us personally and to our children. Not growing up in Christian homes, Steve and I have had to develop our own traditions for celebrating the birth of Christ that would reflect the reality of Jesus Christ in our lives.

Knowing that December 25th was likely not the actual day that Jesus was born and realizing the pagan roots of a December 25th celebration, some Christians choose not to celebrate Christmas. If that is the case for you, this would not be a Mom’s Corner for you to continue reading. Our family chooses to celebrate Christmas because it focuses on the magnificent miracle of the birth of our Savior. Plus it is one of two holidays in which even the world expects Christians to participate. Here is a link to an article Steve wrote about why our family celebrates Christmas.

Santa Clause or Not?

After our salvation, one of the first things we eliminated that had to do with Christmas from our childhoods was Santa Claus. We didn’t want our children believing in Santa Claus only to find out later it was a lie. Some would say it is all in fun, but the reality is that it is deceitful. “Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds” (Colossians 3:9). We continued putting up Christmas stockings because of my heart attachment to each of the children’s Christmas stockings. Even though Santa Claus was no longer a part of this aspect of our Christmas, a couple of years later we simply wanted to be free of any association with Santa Claus in our Christmas celebration, so we even set aside the stockings.

Many years ago, we also realized that when one entered our home at Christmas time, the Christmas tree was the center of attention. However, we had a desire for the decorating in our house to reflect our worship of the Lord Jesus Christ and draw our hearts more closely to Him during this season.

So we began to cull out of our Christmas decorations any that were not Christ centered and to look for new ones to replace those we were no longer using. We also decided to stop getting a Christmas tree. While we wouldn’t say that Jeremiah 10:3-4 is talking about a Christmas tree directly, there are many similarities that are too powerful to ignore. In addition, I know I sometimes sat and admired the beautiful Christmas tree rather than worshiping my worthy Savior. “For the customs of the people are vain: for one cutteth a tree out of the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with the axe. They deck it with silver and with gold; they fasten it with nails and with hammers, that it move not” (Jeremiah 10:3-4).

Christmas Shoe Box Outreach

As a family, we like to participate in a shoe box outreach where we purchase small toys and personal items to be placed inside a shoe box and given to a needy child in a third world country. We began doing this when a national ministry started a shoe box Christmas program. In more recent years, two missionaries to Mexico whom we support, have begun their own small-scale shoe box ministry. They collect the shoe boxes and then personally distribute them to children in their towns. That has made the shoe box shopping and giving even more special to our family because we have been able to see photos of our gifts being given to children.

It is a ministry our children have undertaken by financing it, doing the shopping, packing the shoe boxes, and getting them shipped to the missionary. The shoe box outreach affirms our goal of teaching our children the joy of giving. “I have shewed you all things, how that so labouring ye ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35).

About twenty years ago, I began saving the yearly Christmas letter and family photo that I was sending to others. Each year I would put the letter and photo into a scrapbook. This scrapbook has become a precious treasure summarizing the highlights of each year of our lives and documenting the changes that were occurring as the children grew. It is something I would have liked to have begun in my first year of marriage.

Christmas Caroling

Our family also has chosen Christmas caroling as a special way to share Christ at Christmas. We carol in our neighborhood as a family. The girls spend a great deal of time planning something to bake and give to those homes where we carol. Some years it has been a plate full of homemade cookies, while other times it was fresh baked cinnamon bread or poppy seed loaves. We also include a homemade card with a salvation Scripture. It is our heart’s desire that all of our neighbors would come to a saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).

Our children love to give gifts to their family members. They group into teams of two or three and invest much time, thought, and prayer into their gift giving. They enjoy their shopping outings and gift-wrapping afternoons while keeping secrets, looking forward to pleasing the recipient of the gift. Through the years, we have monitored the children’s hearts, watching for greediness that focuses on what they get versus what they give. We have observed that the children’s greatest joy is in what they are giving to their siblings and other family members rather than what they will receive.

We have made a tradition of planning an evening near Christmas to take the family out to eat and then to drive around looking at Christmas lights. “Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life” (John 8:12). While we drive, we listen to a powerful, dramatic presentation from Back to the Bible called the Twelve Voices of Christmas. We have done this for the past fifteen years, but we never tire of hearing the Christmas story through the hearts of the characters who were a part of it.

During Christmas week, Steve moves the reading during our family Bible time to the passages of Scripture from the Old Testament that are prophetic of Jesus’ birth and to the chapters in the New Testament that tell the story of God becoming a man. On Christmas night, we have a tradition that has been in place for a little over twenty years. My dad and mom started it for their grandchildren. It is now carried on to include the great grandchildren. My mom has a nativity that she sets aside for use only on Christmas night for our family Christmas program. The program includes reading Christmas-related Scriptures from both the Old and New Testaments plus singing Christmas carols that would relate to each passage of Scripture. My dad would narrate the program, and when he called out a Scripture reference, the person who had been given the slip of paper with those verses would read it. All of the pieces of the nativity set have been wrapped in tissue paper and numbered. At the appropriate place in the program, the little children get to come one by one to receive a part of the nativity set to be unwrapped and placed wherever in the nativity they want it to go. My mom keeps all of the supplies for the Christmas program—nativity, numbered tissues for wrapping the figures, Scripture reference slips of paper, carol word sheets, and the narrator’s paper together in her Christmas supplies. If you are interested in this homemade Christmas program, here is a link.

We have our family Christmas on Christmas Eve day. This began when our children were little, and we would spend Christmas Day with my parents who were our next-door-neighbors. Having our family’s gift giving on Christmas Eve freed up Christmas Day to spend at Grandad and Grandma’s. Now Grandad and Grandma’s health is such that all the celebrating is at our house so they are part of our Christmas Eve day. Opening our presents and having our Christmas meal on Christmas Eve now allows us time to go to the nursing home on Christmas Day. It gives our daughter-in-law, whose family lives close, freedom to spend Christmas with her family.

While the Christmas season can become hectic and focused on what has to be done, I want to encourage you to use that busyness to put your heart on worshiping your Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. “Give unto the LORD the glory due unto his name; worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness” (Psalms 29:2). When I worship the Lord Jesus while I prepare for the celebration of His birth, my heart is set on things above. “If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth” (Colossians 3:1-2).

May I suggest that you evaluate with your husband what is important for your family during the Christmas season and make sure that your time is invested in those priorities. Be sure Christmas is purposefully utilized to draw your children’s hearts to Jesus Christ and to serving Him.

Christmas Decorating

“If someone walked into your home this Christmas season, would they know by your decorations that you were celebrating the birth of your Savior, Jesus Christ?” Many years ago, this was a question asked of the congregation by our then pastor during his Sunday sermon. Upon hearing this statement, our whole perspective on Christmas decorating changed. “And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him” (Colossians 3:17).

Prior to this, our Christmas decorating reflected what we thought looked nice and Christmassy. No thought was given to the importance of visibly making Christ’s birth the central theme of our decorations. The nativity was a part of our Christmas decorating. However, it was also made up of a menagerie of items that had been given to us through the years. Santa Clauses, reindeer, and stockings were sometimes themes of these decorations. “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things” (Philippians 4:8). This verse was good encouragement for us in leaving behind the worldly trappings of Christmas decorating.

Decorations that Focus on Jesus

That question challenged my family to reevaluate the Christmas decorations we put up. Was the birth of Jesus evident, even at a casual glance? Would someone else, who didn’t know us, be able to see that we worship Jesus Christ? Would they know He was preeminent in our hearts and home? We realized a guest would observe some evidence of Christ since we had a very nice nativity set. However, the whole feeling of our Christmas decorating was closer to what the world thinks of when they think of Christmas than it was a celebration of the birth of Christ. We began a purging of our decorations to eliminate the ones we did not feel fit with the emphasis we wanted to have—celebrating the birth of Jesus.

The weeding-out part was easy except when there was sentimental attachment to an item. At that point, I would think about what I wanted my children’s hearts endeared to through the years of putting up the Christmas decorations. Did I want them excited about pulling out the reindeer from the Christmas box or delighted about opening the little glass nativity that sits on a mirror? Where would their joy be—in the cute little Santa or the wall plaque that says, “Jesus is the Reason for the Season”? The items that had heart attachment but no longer fit with our new decorating scheme were easier to let go of as I focused my mind on those thoughts.

I have to admit that, even with thinking right thoughts about eliminating decorations we no longer wanted to use, there were a few things that stayed in the boxes rather than coming out for the first couple of years. I simply couldn’t get rid of them. Finally a year came when I was ready. The heart attachments were truly broken. They were pitched in the trash. “If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth” (Colossians 3:1-2).

We also began to pray for the Lord to show us where to find decorations that would have Him be the focus. What exactly would those decorations look like? The acquiring of replacement decorations was hard since so many Christmas decorations have nothing to do with the story of the birth of Christ.

It was just a year or so later that I saw an ad in a Christian catalog for a fireplace mantle garland with a large ornament hanging from the middle of it that said, “Name Above All Names.” There were smaller, scroll-shaped ornaments hanging on the sides with words on them such as, “Truth,” “Bread of Life,” “Emmanuel.” It was perfect for our new Christmas decorating theme. This became the focal point of our Christmas decorating, with our nativity set sitting on the mantle right above the “Name Above All Names.” One “name” a year was added to the collection until the mantle displayed as many names as it could hold.

The girls and I try to go to a Christmas craft bazaar each November with Grandma. As that date approaches I begin asking the Lord to give me two or three new decorations to add to the collection. We visit booth after booth, searching for any decoration that refers to Christ or the Christmas story. Sometimes we find this very discouraging because so little of what we see glorifies Christ and much more of what is available is focused on the world’s idea of Christmas. However, every year the Lord has provided those two or three special decorations. I rejoice in God’s goodness to give us decorations that keep our mind on His birth during the Christmas season.

One year I found a large ceramic ornament with the nativity scene painted on it that can be hung on the wall. I also found a wooden plaque with an image of Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus painted on it, and the words, “Remember the reason for the season.” The third item was another wooden plaque with an angel on one end and “Joy to the World” written on the other.

Each year I come home from the bazaar with our purchases, hang them in my bedroom until the time comes to decorate the house, and delight in looking at them. They truly put my focus on Jesus Christ during His special season.

Changed My Outlook on Decorating

This change in our Christmas decorating has filled my heart with joy. I love the excitement in our children’s eyes as they pull out their favorite decorations from the Christmas storage boxes. Each item puts our thoughts on Jesus Christ in some way. There are no more mixed messages being sent to our children. When a guest enters our home at Christmas, he will no longer wonder what Christmas means to the Maxwell family. He will see Jesus Christ everywhere he looks.

In the years since making our Christmas decorating change, we have been excited to see how God has answered the prayer of our hearts and provided decorations that glorify Christ. Because we have only added one to three new Christmas decorations per year, the expense has been minimal. If we hadn’t had the finances for this or simply wanted craft projects, we could have made our own decorations. With Christmas fast approaching, may Jesus be known to our children even by our decorations. May we use them to draw our children’s hearts into a deeper love for Jesus as they experience the excitement year after year of getting out those Christmas decorations that remind them of His birth. May our decorations also bring joy to our hearts because they encourage us and our families to reflect on the magnificent miracle of the birth of our Savior.

Homeschool Mom Christmas Stress

With the Christmas season upon us, the “have-to’s” of traditions can become consuming. Then we find ourselves stressed out rather than enjoying the celebration of the birth of our Savior. Personally, we have several goals for our family through our Christmas activities. In an effort to keep the season pleasant and worshipful, we try to keep our traditions simple, fitted to our spiritual goals.

Changes

After Steve and I were saved, the Lord directed us to some changes in what we did at Christmas. We first eliminated Santa Claus from our home. For a while we continued hanging up stockings for the children and telling them that Dad and Mom filled them during the night. The children’s Christmas stockings were too cute to throw away and too much a part of our family tradition. After a few years, though, we felt that we were compromising as the Israelites sometimes did. We decided to stop any vestige of Santa Claus.

We no longer put up a Christmas tree. The first year without this traditional Christmas trimming was because we didn’t want the frustration of trying to keep a toddler safely away from the tree. However, before the next year rolled around, we read Jeremiah 10:3-5 and realized how much the cut tree in the passage sounded like a Christmas tree. Because we wanted to make sure there was no possibility of the tree taking an out-of-proportion role in our Christmas, we chose no longer to have a Christmas tree.

When we made that change, we also decided to make all of our Christmas decorating distinctively Christ focused. That meant quite a purging of the Christmas decorations.

Simple Yet Meaningful Christmas Traditions

Without purposing to do so, we have created some family Christmas traditions that have become very meaningful to us, kept us Christ focused, and built family memories. We have found that it is important to keep these traditions simple and easy to carry on each year. There have been years when we added Christmas traditions that were a burden rather than a joy. It doesn’t take very many of these “good” ideas to make Christmas a dreaded time rather than one to expect with excitement.

We want our children to learn the importance of giving to those who have need. We participate in Samaritan Purse’s Operation Christmas Child shoebox outreach. On an evening in November, we will take the children to Wal-Mart where they all excitedly give suggestions on what to purchase for the boxes. On another night the children open the items that are to go in the boxes and fill each box up.

This year, one item for the girl’s box was a cute little doll. Our six-year-old, Mary, carried that doll throughout Wal-Mart with her. When we came home, she stood by the kitchen counter, where the boxes were temporarily set, holding the doll. We were so pleased, though, that she never once asked to keep the doll. She understood its purpose.

One goal for our family’s Christmas is that our children learn, “. . . It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). The tradition in our home that reinforces this goal revolves around the children planning and buying gifts for family members. This has become very special to each of them. We will frequently hear them discussing how much they love to choose, buy, and give gifts to their parents, brothers, and sisters. Often they will make great financial sacrifices to do this.

We take the month of December to focus our family Bible time on Christ’s birth. We will spend some time in the Old Testament looking at the prophecies of Christ’s birth. Then we go to the New Testament and read the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ birth. We learn about, discuss, and ponder the miracle of Jesus Christ and His birth.

Another desire of our hearts is that our children would learn to serve and minister with no expectations. On an evening near Christmas, we go caroling to the nursing home and also to our neighbors. Last year the highlight was a dear old man confined to his bed in the nursing home and appearing to be almost unconscious. His eyes were closed and his blanket pulled up under his chin. When we started singing “Silent Night,” he couldn’t open his eyes, but almost immediately he began an agitated moving of one of his hands. As we continued singing, he struggled with his arm and the blanket. Finally, he pulled his hand out, eyes still closed, and lifted his arm in praise to the Lord. I don’t think there was a dry adult eye as we left that room.

We want our children to be drawn into worshipful thoughts of Jesus Christ. On Christmas Eve, we look forward to a family ride in the van to look at Christmas lights. While we drive, we listen to the Twelve Voices of Christmas, a dramatic presentation of the key players in the Christmas story. It is moving and awe inspiring, raising all of our hearts in praise for the sacrifice Jesus Christ made for us.

Christmas evening is set aside for reading Luke’s account of the birth of Christ. Many years ago, Grandma made up a program for this that we have used ever since. Each person who can read is given, on a slip of paper, a reference for a prophetic or Gospel verse relating to the birth of Christ. Grandad is the narrator, with people reading their particular verses at the designated time. We also have appropriate Christmas carols interspersed. This simple Christmas program is available for anyone whom it might bless.

To increase the excitement and interest level for the children, Grandma has an empty Nativity sitting out on a shelf. All the figures that go into the Nativity have been wrapped in tissue paper and are waiting in a bag by her side. Throughout our Christmas program, one by one, the children will come and take a figure from the bag and set it in the Nativity scene.

Sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ is high on our list of priorities. Christmas affords us an excellent witnessing outreach time for Jesus. Each year, Steve, Nathan, and Christopher choose Christmas cards that are overtly Christian and glorify Jesus Christ to send to their clients. We have the opportunity of giving homemade goodies, which include notes with truths from God’s Word, to our neighbors.

We want what we do on Christmas and the days before it to have purpose and meaning. It is a special day and season—one of joy for the Maxwell house. We pray that as your family evaluates its Christmas traditions and activities, you, too, will make it as free of stress as possible with a continual focus on Jesus Christ.

Worthwhile Toys or Should it Be Tools?

Regularly I receive e-mails requesting that I write a Mom’s Corner on a specific topic. Here is part of one such note:

There were a couple of areas I would really appreciate Teri tackling in future Corners. One area has to do with toys and suggestions for timeless, durable, worthwhile toys.

With Christmas quickly approaching, I thought this might be an appropriate subject for the December Mom’s Corner. Considering we have eight children in one family, we have had plenty of experience with toys!

Let me begin by sharing some of our goals for our children’s playtime that in turn translate into goals for toys. As we began our parenting adventure, Steve and I did not realize that the toys our children played with had an influence on their character development and even their future appetites. If we allowed the children to have a toy with an evil face, they played with it as an evil individual and their play took on an evil bent. If we gave our children an electronic game, they spent hours sitting and playing with it. They lost interest in any type of active or creative play. Your goals, even for how your child spends his playtime, are important.

We choose to shield our children from as much worldliness as possible. 1 John 2:15 tells us: “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” Therefore, we desire that our children be involved in pure, wholesome types of play. For example, we give the girls baby dolls rather than Barbie dolls. We would like for our daughters to desire to be nurturing mommies rather than possibly giving them a hunger for dating relationships.

We want the children to develop skills while they are playing. That means we will invest in puzzles, games, quality reading books, and even tools. Creativity is on our list of goals for playtime. Therefore, we avoid electronic toys with lots of “bells and whistles”—the kind with a never-ending thirst for batteries. In addition, we choose to avoid toys that are faddish. We didn’t have to decide if some of the Star Wars toys were okay or not. They fit into the category of faddish and therefore weren’t even considered.

We desire for the children to be developing hearts toward families and service even while they are playing. This, then, needs to be taken into consideration when we are picking out toys. Will this toy help my child toward the goal or hinder him?

Trikes

Tricycles. We would much rather our children ride trikes for outside playtime than to ride around in a battery-operated sidewalk vehicle. Outside play is the time for exercise to build strong bodies and release energy!

Educational Games

Playing educational games is an activity I enjoy doing with my children. I feel like my time spent with them is not only quality time, but also time invested in their future. I schedule a half hour each afternoon to spend with just one child. We almost always use this time to play games together. Here are our favorites.

Takeoff. Takeoff is a game that teaches the names of countries, their major cities, and flags. Even my six-year-old can play it with a little bit of help. There is some strategy, but not much. My children will often beat me!

Muggins Math games. We have Knockout and Muggins. It is a two-sided wooden game board using marbles, numbered dice, and numbered game-board holes. Any child who is able to add and subtract can play these games. All of my children regularly request this game, even the one who can’t add or subtract. “You tell me where to put my marbles, Mommy,” she says.

Sum Swamp. Sum Swamp is a board game for children learning to add and subtract. It has cute little plastic swamp characters such as a frog and snail for game pieces. We have played this game so much that the numbers have worn off the dice.

Name That State. Name That State is a board game to teach the names of states and capitals. The younger children simply have to name the state. Older children and Mom have to give the state and its capital. They love it when Mom can’t remember the capital of Vermont or South Dakota!

Puzzles

Each year when I order school curriculum, I also order two to four new puzzles for the preschoolers. I have a wonderful collection of puzzles that my children love to work. Most are floor puzzles. We have puzzles of varying levels of difficulty. Some of the puzzles make for playtime after they are put together. One is a city just the right size for Matchbox cars. Several become props for other play. One is a rainforest. As we put it together, John will say, “Mom, what is this animal?”

“Well, I’m not sure I’ve ever seen anything like that. Let’s look inside the box where it shows all the animals with their names on them.”

Our puzzles are kept in a closet, and they are only allowed out by permission. That helps to preserve them and to keep interest in them high each time they come out. I expect to have my puzzles be regularly asked for by my grandchildren in future years when they are at my house!

Legos and Playmobils

Legos are the timeworn standard in the Maxwell house. Sons and daughters, older and younger play with them day after day after day. We purchase the city, police, fire, rescue, and arctic sets. There are many sets that aren’t acceptable to our family’s standards. Usually this is because of an evil theme, or because they encourage play that we wouldn’t allow in real life. We were even able to purchase a large wooden display table from a store going out of business so the children can keep permanent Lego set-ups.

The children have spent hours and hours of playtime during cold winter and hot summer days with their Legos. They build and build; then they enjoy what they have made. The buildings and vehicles are redesigned and rearranged. A new play theme is begun. While many toys the children have had stay stuffed on a shelf, Legos are forever used in our home.

Playmobils are the second long-standing favorite of our children. While the sets are expensive, they are played with for years and years. We often rotate having Playmobils out or Legos. Every few months when the changeover occurs, the children will have an added excitement in their play.

As our boys enter their middle elementary grades, we begin looking for tools we can give them as gifts. Because we are training our children for their lives as adults, we want them to begin to see value in work and find it rewarding, even as a child. Our boys are given age-appropriate work tools such as hammers, screwdrivers, and even cordless drills. Of course, it is important to use discretion as to when a child is mature enough to safely handle the tool he would be given. Also, rules as to the tool’s usage and adult supervision while the child is handling it are musts!

One year when John was seven and Joseph was nine, they were each given a cordless drill for Christmas. They were thrilled. Steve had a project planned for after Christmas that he knew they could help him with, using their new drills. Over the past three years they have used them often in other work projects with their dad. They have even been able to loan them to their big brother for work on his house.

By giving your son tools, he will learn valuable home-maintenance skills, develop a willingness to work, build his personal tool supply, and have as much fun as playing. Collecting tools will provide a young man with the supplies he needs to help him maintain his home, yard, and vehicle when he is married with a home of his own.

Set Your Goals and Make Your Choices

Our children have grown up without television. They have enjoyed parental sheltering even in the toys they are allowed to play with. While some would mock such choices, we are watching pure, wholesome, delightful children grow into the same kinds of adults. Appetites are developed in childhood. Consider well what appetites the toys you are giving to your children fuel within them. May I encourage you to pray and seek the Lord for the biblical goals He would give you for your children’s playtimes. Then translate those goals into the toys you allow your children to have.