Catholic Activity: Religion in the Home for Preschool: December
This section for the month of December covers the following areas: Practice: Complete the "Our Father," if possible. Lesson: The story of Christmas Things To Do: Make the crib, pictures in Scrapbook, Nativity prayers in prayerbook, Christmas Play Pedagogy: Sorrow for Sin Virtue For Parents: Virtue of hope. Books For The Month: Christ-centered Christmas books, My Parents, Home, My A B C, My Talents, My School Hymns For The Month: Adeste Fideles, O Come All Ye Faithful, Dear Little One, How Sweet Thou Art, Angels We Have Heard on High Music And Song: Singing together with the family Special Reminder: Christmas is the birthday of the Son of God.
REMINDER FOR THE YEAR We learn to pray by praying.
REVIEW Prayers to be said daily:—
Morning Offering. Evening prayer. Grace. Hail Mary. Love and "Thank You" prayers. Acts of Faith, Hope and Love.PRACTICE Complete the "Our Father," if possible.
LESSON The story of Christmas will occupy the whole month, a month of joy. The household looks forward to and plans for the birthday of Jesus, Who is going to show us how much He loves us. God is going to come from Heaven as a little Baby. The whole Christmas story can be told over and over with the help of a good picture book or a series of pictures. Make a habit of stressing the word "love" so that your child will grasp the fact forgotten by the world today that Christ came on earth out of love for us.
THINGS TO DO Christmas suggests many plans for keeping little fingers busy.
The Crib The child will love to make a crib for himself, even if the family buys a regular crib set. A cardboard box makes a perfect stable. Straw or crushed paper help the scene. And the statue of our Lady from the altar can be put into the stable. Make a tiny straw bed and leave it empty until Christmas morning. Then lay in it a tiny Christ Child. Baby dolls are easy to get for a few cents in the 5 and 10 cent store. If you can cut out or make shepherds, lambs, ox and ass, so much the better, but the essentials are the Mother and Baby.
The Scrapbook For the scrapbook get a picture to be pasted in, a Nativity by a great master: Fra Angelico, Correggio, Botticelli, or Da Vinci.
The Prayer Book The prayer book must be remembered, too, with the words, "Thank You, dear Lord, for the love that brought You from Heaven to me."
The Christmas Play No Christmastide is complete without a play or tableau. If the baby is alone in the family, of course, one small child cannot act a play, and on Christmas Day little friends do not come to visit. But if the pre-school child has brothers and sisters of six or seven who play with him, they can all have a lovely play of the Nativity. We have in these pages often mentioned the acting of home plays,—a practice which is becoming more and more general. Children love to act religion. Do we not often see little boys pretending to be the priest at the altar? It is our business to help the children to act out many religious subjects. And if we give just a little thought to the matter, we shall find that the labor involved is very slight. Once given a start and shown how to proceed, little children get on wonderfully well. Anything elaborate is, of course, not desired. To start the play:
- Read aloud a story from the life of Christ or from the Bible, or from the life of a saint. Or, better, tell the story.
- If the children want to, and have time, let them dress up. Couch covers and bed spreads make fine flowing robes.
- Choose parts and then tell the children to make up their own conversation. The most important remarks in the Gospel story ought to be memorized, especially the actual words spoken by our Blessed Lady or an Angel or our Lord.
The giving of a play does all sorts of good things for a child besides just teaching him the particular story. He learns to work with others, to fit himself in, to await his turn—all good moral habits.
PEDAGOGY—SORROW FOR SIN In ending this pamphlet for the year, we think that we should say a few words on the subject of sin.
In all the suggestions we have made on such matters as truthfulness, overcoming tantrums, honesty, obedience, we have made the point that we try to train the child to be good because he loves his dear Lord Jesus. Such is the highest motive.
When the child misbehaves, we try to make him yield for Jesus'' sake, and every time he conquers himself for Jesus'' sake, he has really experienced a little of what we call sorrow for sin.
By the time a child is five years old, this sorrow for having acted in a way that our Lord would not like, or for having failed to "copy Jesus," can be expressed in an Act of Contrition.
Seize upon some occasion when the child has been naughty and is feeling sorry, and have him say after you, "Dear Lord, I am very sorry for having displeased You. I will try to be a better child." Repeat this on occasion, and the little one will soon realize that he must ask pardon for naughty deeds.
Even before the age of five, from three up, parents can often have the child say even simpler words, like, "Dear Jesus, I am sorry; I will be good." The habit of repentance can begin quite early.
VIRTUE FOR PARENTS This is the month for practicing the virtue of hope. Believing that God loves us so much that He sends His Son to us in the form of a Baby, we naturally hope in Him. This means that we trust Him, no matter what troubles and sorrows come to us.
BOOKS FOR THE MONTH There are many Christmas books, so many that parents will want to look at them in the stores and select one themselves. Insist on a book that has to do with the birth of Christ and that has religious pictures. There are many so-called Christmas books which really have nothing to do with Christmas, except that they have been given a fancy holiday "jacket."
Parents who have not been able to secure the books mentioned month by month will, we hope, get some of them for Christmas gifts.
My Parents, Home, My A B C, My Talents, My School, make up a set of pamphlets for very little children. The set of five would make a useful and attractive gift, as each booklet contains several child-pictures.1
HYMNS FOR THE MONTH
Adeste Fideles Come All Ye Faithful Dear Little One, How Sweet Thou Art Angels We Have Heard on Highare a few of the hymns every Catholic family should be singing at Christmas time. Look them up, or any others you like, in your hymn book.
MUSIC AND SONG One of the happiest experiences of parents and children is to sing together. Even babies respond to music. What it is we do not know, but there is something in music which affects the nervous system and makes people happy or sad or calm. A child who is irritable can "snap out" of his bad humor if he can be made to sing or even to listen to a song. Music in the home is a very great benefit also because it is something in which the whole family can take part. Hymns which the whole family sings not only make for good religious feeling, but make the children feel themselves one of a solid family group. Indeed, hymns sung in childhood are remembered in old age, long after most things are forgotten.
SPECIAL REMINDER Christmas is the birthday of the Son of God, a religious feast. Do not exhaust yourself over presents and cooking so that you lose the beauty of the day.
1 My Parents, Home, My ABC, My Talents, My School, by Marcella Conrad. New York: The Paulist Press. [Editor's Note: This book is out of print.]
Activity Source: Religion in the Home: Monthly Aids for the Parents of Pre-School Children by Katherine Delmonico Byles, Paulist Press, 1938