Wednesday, December 11, 2013
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Special feature from LDN's Home for the Holidays magazine

Want to make good family memories that last?

Set aside time, storybooks

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[December 11, 2013]  Do you get caught up like everyone in the decorating and planning and shopping, running here there and everywhere for everything that goes with the holidays?

How about starting a new tradition this year? Relax with the family and make small, individual memories that will be remembered fondly for years to come.

This can be easily accomplished by designating a time each day, perhaps right before bedtime, to turn off all the entertainment gadgets, and everyone stops what they are doing and spends a few moments together.

One option for what to do in this time is to pick up a good old-fashioned book, a book with real pages and colorful pictures. Then read it aloud as a family.

There are dozens of books out there that are suitable for holiday-season reading, and they are attuned to all age groups.

For the young family, here are a few suggestions:

Start the season off right with "Elf on the Shelf." If you aren't familiar with this little trick, this year could be the perfect time to get acquainted. "Elf on the Shelf" features a real elf you can introduce to your children on Thanksgiving night.

We all know that Santa knows everything about us. But do we ever wonder how he gleans all that information?

Well, here is your answer. He has elves that he commissions at the beginning of the Christmas season. He appoints one to watch over each family and report back to him who is naughty and who is nice.

Read the story, and when the children wake up the next morning, announce to them that the reading of the book brought the elf to their house. Each day until Christmas Eve, the kids will look for the elf in a new location in their home. In addition to keeping a watchful eye on them, the elf also causes a little bit of mischief on its own.

Of a night, while they are sleeping, the elf is prone to play tricks on the children. The tricks are harmless, and parents can be very creative in what tricks the elf is allowed to play, making it an activity that is fun for the young and old alike.

When Christmas Eve comes, Santa picks up the elf and takes it back to the North Pole with him, where the elf will rest up and think up new jokes to play when it returns next year.

"Elf on the Shelf" is available locally at Mary Todd Hallmark and is available in a boy elf or a girl elf. The elf and book combo may seem a little pricey, but remember that once the elf comes to stay, he or she will return year after year.

Another activity book is the "1,001 Things to Spot at Christmas." This book offers puzzle pages where children identify objects in colorful picture pages. The book provides several hours of entertainment, depending on the age level of the child, and could be spread across multiple days by solving one puzzle each night before bedtime.

Other books that can go on the list of bedtime reading could be those about the magic of Christmas: "Frosty the Snowman," "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" or more contemporary books such as "The Polar Express." And, it doesn't have to be a one-book-per-night situation. Choose longer, more complicated storylines for older children and divide the reading into nightly "chapters," timing it to come to a conclusion on Christmas Eve.

As the holiday season progresses, Santa becomes an important part of the season for children. Books such as "How Santa Got His Job" and "The Night Before Christmas" are sure to be favorites. It might even be wise to designate "The Night Before Christmas" as the special read for Christmas Eve.


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In addition, children can enjoy and relate to the birth of Christ and the true spirit of Christmas through books written especially for their age level. Stories such as "God Gave Us Christmas," "The Christmas Story" and "On This Special Night" can help children understand the true meaning of the holiday.

"On This Special Night" is a story of a journey much like that made by the shepherds. As the animals on the plain near where Christ was born see a special star appear in the night sky, they realize it has a meaning that is significant to all of them. They begin their journey, following the star to the site where the Christ Child lay. While this book, like others written about the birth of Christ, is not biblically correct, it does convey a message of the miracle of the birth, and small children will better relate to little animals than they might to shepherds.

Children's books are available in a variety of locations in Lincoln and with a variety of price tags.

In addition, the Lincoln Public Library Annex offers a large variety of books, and some are especially suitable for small children, a great target audience at this time of year.

Reading the real Christmas story from the Bible can be a solemn and important event in the family. While older children may understand the written Word on their own, don't be afraid to paraphrase the story and bring it down to an understandable level on your own for the littler ones.

At the end of a hectic day, setting aside even as little as 15 minutes of peace and quiet for the family through a family reading time may have a very surprising effect on everyone. The quiet time gets kids ready for sleep time, and it ends the day on a happy note no matter what has gone on in the hours prior.

But be prepared for a lasting effect as well. Once you get in the habit of a nighttime family ritual, you may find that it is something the kids want you to keep up throughout the year.

May your home be "elfed" and your children good.


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