Sharing the Christmas Story with Kids with Disabilities

In the midst of the hustle and bustle of Christmas, make time to share the true meaning of Christmas with your children.  It’s easy for children to quickly confuse Santa and Jesus. Help them understand that the Jesus birthday story is real. Some Christmas stories are just for fun, but Jesus really had a birthday. We hope the below activities will help you share and celebrate the birth of our Savior with children of all levels of ability this season and throughout the year.

Nativity Scene

Photo Credit: Jeff Weese, http://flic.kr/p/7kM1p3

  • Use figures you display in your home or environment. Let them understand that the manger scene on your mantle is actually parts of the important Christmas story.
  • Children LOVE birthdays and they typically understand how special it is – use this concept to relate their birthday to Jesus’ birthday by throwing a birthday party for Jesus.
    • Tell the story of his birthday (compare to the story of your child’s birthday).
    • Show the visitors in the hospital from your photo albums (Grandma and Grandpa, aunts and uncles, etc.) and compare to the visitors at Jesus’ birth (shepherds, animals, maybe the inn keeper – this is where you can use your manger scene figures).
    • Make a birthday cake (see below) and then sing ‘Happy Birthday’ to Jesus.
    • Jesus has His own special birthday songs just for him – sing Christmas songs special to your child.
    • Think of a gift you could get Jesus for His birthday. (Perhaps this is a card that says ‘I love you’, a special ornament to hang on the tree each Christmas, a picture of the child decorated in a frame because that child is so special to Jesus, etc).

A Birthday Cake for Jesus

Jesus birthday cake

One variation of the Jesus birthday cake from the Happy Home Fairy: http://ow.ly/rw51a

Here is a “recipe” for a birthday cake for Jesus. Depending on the developmental level of the child, you may just want to have the same cake you would have on any of your family member’s birthdays. This special cake may take on more meaning as the child gets older. (Other great examples of this can be found from Mary Rice Hopkins and Keepers Ministry.)

Use your favorite cake recipe to make this multi-layer cake.

  • The bottom layer of the cake is brown for our sins.
  • The middle layer is red for Jesus’ blood which was shed for our sins.
  • The top layer is green for life. We have new life in our heart if we accept Him as our Lord.
  • The frosting is white which stands for Jesus’ purity & righteousness.
  • Make a gold star in the middle of the cake top with frosting. This represents the Star of Bethlehem which led the wise men to Jesus. (Make a star with six points to represent the Star of David, the Jewish nation in which Jesus was born.)
  • Place a big red candle in the middle of the Star of David – this symbolizes Jesus.
  • Light the red candle in the middle and have kids light small candles from the red candle and stick them in the cake. Let our lights shine before men!
  • Then sing Happy Birthday to Jesus!!

Not sure how to talk to your friend with special needs about Jesus? This post has some ideas and activities for sharing Jesus with a child with Down Syndrome that might be helpful. Our friend Jolene Philo recently shared on her blog, Different Dream, some creative ways to teach kids with special needs about salvation.

You might also find The Christmas Book from Friendship Ministries and Max Lucado’s The Crippled Lamb helpful as you talk with your child or Sunday school class about the true meaning of Christmas.

 How about you? Are there any activities you’ve used to share the story of Jesus with your children, class, or church group? We’d love to hear!

Barbara J. Newman photo

Barbara J. Newman is a church and school consultant for CLC Network and a special education teacher at Zeeland Christian School. She is the author of numerous books, including her latest Nuts and Bolts of Inclusive Education. She is a frequent national speaker at educational conferences and churches. Check out Barbara’s guide for supporting persons with disabilities through the holidays.

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Sharing Jesus with a Child with Down Syndrome, Part 2

Earlier this week, Barbara J. Newman introduced us to a few tips for sharing the love of Jesus with a person with Down syndrome (if you missed it, read it here). She will continue with some fun & helpful ideas for sharing your faith. 

Be creative. How can you use the areas love and interest we brainstormed earlier this week to make the introduction? While the possibilities are endless, here are a few ideas to get your creative juices flowing.

  • Church Drama TeamMake a photo album. Put in a photo of Jesus and then pictures of you doing things with Him and for Him. Share this with your child often and explain how Jesus gotto be your best friend and your Savior. Perhaps as your child develops that relationship, he can have his own photo album to share. Some images you could include in the album:
    • Raising your hands as you sing to give him a hug,
    • Kneeling beside your bed to talk to him each night
    • Reading the Bible and learning all about His life
    • Hugging a sad person because Jesus asked you to do that for Him
  • Does your teen enjoy playing Capture the Flag? Put out one of the jail bases and the middle line that separates the two teams. In the Jesus capture the flag, we all get sent to jail for the things we do that make God sad (sin).  Jesus is the only way out of “jail”. When we say, “Jesus I love you. I don’t want to stay in this sin jail. I’m sorry”, Jesus comes to tag us and give us a free walk back to His team. Once we are on the Jesus team, we always get to stay on that team.
  • The Easter Book imageFind a Bible or Bible story at the interest level of your child. Read the salvation story, watch it on a video, act it out with wooden figures or puppets, or discover some iPad applications that help your child interact with the story. Make sure you treat this story differently than any other on your shelf. Treasure the book or item in front of your child. Let them know it’s the very best book ever – and it’s all true. Show the adoration and love you have for Jesus as you get ready to recreate that story of what Jesus did for us.

Keep the celebration going. Here are a couple of ideas:

  • Friends at a CelebrationAs your child says “yes” to Jesus and to loving Him, remember the date. Let your child know that every year you will celebrate 2 birthdays – the day she was born in the hospital and then the day she was born with Jesus. This gives you a time each year to celebrate that relationship in a special way.
  • Use holidays such as Thanksgiving, Christmas, or Easter as a chance for your child to think about getting Jesus a present. What might Jesus like? Sing a song that tells Jesus “I love you.” Make a video of your child dancing to a favorite worship song. Take a photo of your child and let her know that if Jesus had a refrigerator, this picture would be on it!

It’s my hope and prayer that this list of ideas will be a place to begin as you think of meaningful ways to introduce Jesus to your child. Remember, as God created each and every person, He also made each one able to connect and enter into a relationship with Him. I am encouraged daily by my students and friends with Down syndrome who have a vibrant and living relationship with Jesus Christ. 

Barbara J. Newman photoBarbara J. Newman is a church and school consultant for CLC Network and a special education teacher at Zeeland Christian School. She is the author of numerous books, including her latest, Nuts & Bolts of Inclusive Education. She is a frequent national speaker at educational conferences and churches. Contact Barbara at bnewman@clcnetwork.org.