Heart FELT Truth’s New Pocketed Advent Calendar

 

This year we are debuting a new pocketed Advent Calendar in the Heart FELT Truth’s Etsy Shop. You may be wondering why we have waited until our third Christmas Season for such an item. Well, let me share with you…

All of our products are tested by my family with my children!

The Heart FELT Truth’s original felt calendar was the design I used with my own children. They were very young when I began using it and we didn’t need pockets on our calendar. I knew if I left the pieces within reach, they would be out of the pockets by Day 3. Our pieces have always been safely tucked away in our folder, out of reach from curious fingers. This past year we decided to add pockets to our family’s Advent Calendar. I was pleased with how it looked, and my kids (patiently, yet eagerly) waited to take the pieces out of their pockets each day.

We are budget conscious-just like you!

I know my customers come from families just like mine. That means you are budget savvy and careful with your money. Last year we debuted the DIY Advent Calendar kits for those of you trying to save a little time and without having to go to the expense of purchasing a completed Advent Calendar. This was top priority for us last year-because we want you to be able to afford great traditions and teaching tools for your family. The Deluxe Calendar is a luxury item. Because of the time it takes to add the pockets, this calendar is priced at $100.00. I know that’s a pretty penny for some of you. That’s why our Original Advent Calendar and our DIY Calendar Kits were first priority for our product line. We believe the Deluxe Pocketed Advent Calendar is priced well compared to other similar hand-made items. If you choose to invest in one, we hope it will be a beautiful addition to the holiday decor in your home, and  a lasting tradition for your children to enjoy for many years!

We hope you will stop on over to the store and check it out!

 

Laying out your Advent Calendar: What to do with the pieces

I received a question from a customer today that I thought others might have. She asked…

Do you put all of the pieces on the felt at one time and let the kids find the right one when you’re reading each day’s verse? Just wondered how this part worked or how you found it to work the best. … When you say start from the beginning of the story, do you mean to take off all the pieces or just start reading from the beginning?

Son placing pieces on Advent Calendar

Son placing pieces on Advent Calendar

These are great questions, and the simple answer is “Yes!” There are many ways to do the Advent Calendar. Here are the options we have used in the past:

  1. Place all pieces across the top and bottom of the calendar. The first year we used our calendar, our oldest son was only two. We didn’t want him to be able to mess with the pieces during the day so we hung the calendar high enough on the wall that he couldn’t reach it. Then we took all of the pieces and lined them across the bottom and top of the banner. As we read the line from the story each day, we would take the piece out of the row and place it on the “Correct” spot on the banner. The pieces that we’ve already used stay on the banner and the nativity scene gradually fills in each day.
  2. Keep all the pieces in the folder. Last year we took a more interactive approach with our 2 year-old and 3.5 year old. We put the backdrop within reach of the children and kept all of the pieces in a folder with our story and song lyrics. We would put them up at the end of each time at the calendar to avoid losing them. Each day we pulled out all the pieces we had used up until that point and divided them between the two kids. As we retold the story (up to whatever day we were on) we would have the boys place their pieces on the calendar to recreate the scene.
  3. Traditional pockets: This year we are taking a new approach. I sewed pockets on my Advent Calendar and put all the pieces inside. The kids will take turns getting to take the new piece out of the pocket and adding it to the display. I plan to offer a pocket calendar backdrop next year in the store if this trial goes well.

*I think its good to be flexible too. My husband likes to put the stable and houses on one side of the banner for the first week or so, and we “act out” in a sense Mary and Joseph going across the calendar to Bethlehem. If you really want to, you can even pull the angels out early and have them on the display to declare the news to Mary & Joseph. But I’m a stickler for following procedure so we don’t use the angels until its time :).

*The pieces are not designed to be played with by young children as they do present a choking hazard! However, I do let my older kids play with the pieces that are already out on the calendar if they are supervised.

***If your friends are wanting to do an Advent Calendar too, I have several completed calendars ready to ship. It usually takes 2-4 days to arrive USPS Priority Mail so orders placed by early Monday morning can arrive by the end of the week. Order in our Etsy Shop.

Selecting Christmas Music for Family Worship/Advent Calendar Use

In my last post on “Where to Begin” with your Advent Calendar, I mentioned music as an important component of family worship and time together around your Advent Calendar. Let’s look at a few things to consider when selecting Christmas music for your children to use during Advent. We will look at the content, style,  act-ability, depth, and quantity.

Content

First, when selecting Christmas music, you will want to select music for your children that accurately reflects the truth of Scripture. Christian music, and especially Christmas music, can be prone to speaking things with excessive artistic license. Read through the lyrics of your song carefully and make sure that it is not teaching your child something that you do not wan to “unteach” later on.  You can ask yourself questions like “Does this music have clear Scriptural thoughts and events interwoven in it?” or “Are there phrases and concepts in this song that are foreign to my understanding of God’s Word?” Some favorite theologically rich Christmas songs of mine are “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” & “O Come, O Come Emmanuel.”

Style

Be sure to pick a song that can be easily sung by your family. If no one in your family sings well, some melody lines will be too cumbersome to stay in key. In our family, we always sing a capella. Some of our favorite contemporary music does not work well a capella  so we forgo using it family worship.

Act-ability

I always try to make sure one or two of our songs is act-able…that is, one can sing it with hand motions. This is fun for the kids, and it also helps them remember the words to the song. Our favorite “act-able” hymns are “Go! Tell it on the Mountain” and “Away in a Manger” (We omit some verses from the latter that we don’t like as much.)

Depth

When selecting music for especially young children (ours are 4, 3, and 1) you may get caught up in selecting songs that are right at their level. When considering the depth of the music we sing, I always like to have a song or two that is easily understood by my children, right at their level. These are often the same songs that work well with actions. However, I do not steer away from “heavy” songs with advanced words and concepts. Why? Their little minds are easily able to memorize these songs now, and I am delighted to store up these things in their minds to draw from later on.

Quantity

How many songs do you need for Advent? That depends on your time, your family, and the ages of your children. For our season in life we pick FOUR Christmas songs: two with actions and simple words, and two that are especially meaningful and rich for Mom and Dad. We try to sing two of the four songs every evening unless we are in a hurry. And we don’t always worry about mastering ALL the verses.

I hope these are helpful tools for selecting music for your family this Christmas season, and for any other time of the year.

Setting the Stage: First Thoughts on Using your Advent Calendar

Some of you may be wondering where to begin when introducing the Heart FELT Truth’s Advent Calendar into your home this Christmas season. Let’s talk a little about introducing the calendar into daily family life.

In our home, our Advent Calendar is part of our family worship time. (Most) every evening throughout year we have a short time with our young children called “Family Worship.” We sit together on the couch and Daddy prays. Then we read a short passage of Scripture and the rest of the family members pray. Afterward we sing a song or two. It takes about 10-15 minutes. At Christmas time we start using our Advent Calendar in addition to these things. For our Scripture reading, we will often read the Scripture passages that correspond to whatever is mentioned in the Advent Calendar, and we select Christmas songs to sing for the month (more on that coming soon!).

If your family currently has a time of Bible reading and prayer together, you will find it easy to incorporate the Advent Calendar. If this is new to your family, you will find the Advent Calendar a great way to establish this beneficial habit in your family year round. Even with the business of the holiday season, your children will help you remember “Family Worship Time” because they will be very eager to add the next piece to the calendar. Here are some thoughts:

  • Pick a consistent time when everyone is usually home (right after dinner or right before bed work well in our family)
  • Pick a comfy place without too many distractions. Make sure your Advent Banner is hung nearby
  • Don’t worry if you miss a day! You can catch up tomorrow.
  • If your kids are especially little like ours (4, 3, 1), keep prayers and Scripture reading short.
  • Children may be wiggly at first, but they will learn quickly if you are consistent.

I would encourage you to go ahead and hang the plain backdrop of your Advent Banner up. If your child is older, their curiosity can build leading up to December 1 when you begin using it!

More helpful posts coming soon! If you have questions, please send them my way (standlea@gmail.com) and I will try to answer them.

What’s new? Heart FELT Truths’ Christmas Season begins

As we are now underway on the busy Christmas Season at Heart FELT Truth’s, I thought it appropriate to give an update on what is happening around here and what’s new for this year’s Christmas Season.

Last year marked Heart FELT Truth’s debut with our Advent Calendar. After searching many hours for Noel Piper’s “Noel Calendar” (which is no longer made), I finally made my own version. After enjoying it so much as a family, I posted the patterns online. Many women in a situation similar to my own were very excited to find the patterns. As Christmas 2011 approached, I bought some extra supplies at the craft store and decided to open up an Etsy Shop for busy moms who couldn’t find the time to make one. I bought supplies to make and sell four calendars last year. Twenty-five sales later, we deemed it a success and prepared a little better for our kick-off Easter season with the Heart FELT Truth’s Easter banner. This year we are a little more prepared and would love to share with you what’s happening around here!

Updated Design
We have slightly modified our calendar design. Some slight alterations in our story text have changed. This has eliminated the use of one of the two donkeys found in the 2011 banner. Two attached angels from the 2011 banner have been separated to fit the new story and maintain 25 distinct pieces. We also changed our cow pattern. I do think he is a lot cuter now! You can see the cow with my son in the photo below.

Updated Patterns, Instructions, and Photos
Minor changes with the design meant new, new, new! We added beautiful new product photos and our instructions and patterns have been updated to match. You can find our free patterns over on the Advent Calendar section of the blog by clicking here.

NEW Product!
To help out those on a budget (and those with a knack for crafts), we have added the DIY Advent Calendar kit. This kit saves you a trip to the craft store, and the sewing for the backdrop has already been completed for you.

We look forward to partnering with many of you as you teach your children about the birth of Christ. We will continue to post reminders, resources and recommendations on the blog to help your family celebrate Advent in a Christ-centered way. If you would like to stay up-to-date on these things, please subscribe to our e-mail updates in the sidebar to your right. Or you can like us on Facebook (just be sure to select that our posts show in your newsfeed!) We are blessed to be a part of your family in this way!

Sincerely,

Whitney Standlea

Tips for Travel: Keeping up with your Advent Calendar

If you are like us, the holidays are filled with traveling to see family, parties, special church events and more. Trying to stay consistent with your Advent Calendar can be ab it challenging. Here are some quick tips to help you out based on our experiences.

  • If you miss a day, keep going!
  • Sometimes if we have missed too many days, I will add a new piece during the day with the children, and then we will all add another one together in the evening when Dad is home from work.
  • Don’t be afraid to travel with your calendar. Roll all the pieces up inside, and bring it with you. The kids’ grandparents and great grandparents are often excited to see what the kids are learning.  Just be careful not to leave it somewhere! Use it, then return it back to your vehicle as soon as you are finished. [I had to drive 45 minutes round trip to pick up ours this weekend!]

December 1-3: Here we go!

We pulled our Christmas decorations out and unwrapped our advent calendar from last year. [If you made or ordered one you’ll notice that my original design was a little bit different.] It was a little wrinkly and I was so busy getting others’ last minute calendars ready to ship off that I still haven’t ironed it yet. Last year we hung ours on the wall with 3M photo mounting strips. This year my husband discovered that the felt sticks very nicely to our large brick fireplace-no mounting, no strips, no dowel!

We celebrated our first day of the Christmas season with a brief reading in Luke chapter 1 and the songs “Come Though Long Expected Jesus” and “Go Tell it on the Mountain.” The kids love doing “Go Tell it…” with fun actions to the chorus and verses. Here they are putting Mary up to start the calendar….

Merry Christmas!