Six years ago I created Advent calendars for my girls (then 8 and 5) using muffin tins that I covered with paper attached to magnets. Each day they uncovered more pieces to a Lego set. I did not tell them what the finished set would look like, so that the anticipation could build as the days passed. They both looked forward to seeing their new pieces to add each morning.
Recently my 11-year-old asked me if I would do that concept again, so when I received a Scripture Stackers Nativity Set I decided to save it to use as an Advent calendar. I like the concept even more when it is with a set that directly aligns to the Advent season, rather than just for fun sets that I more indirectly linked to the concept of progressing towards a purpose. We no longer have the original papers that I created to cover the muffin tins. Nonetheless, I knew it was more about the concept than the design that she wanted, so I gave myself permission to simplify.
Using sandwich bags and scrapbooking cards, I used a different design for each week of Advent. Because of the way Christmas falls this year, there were 23 bags from the First Sunday of Advent to Christmas morning. At first, I thought it was perfect that the kit had exactly 23 steps, and I followed that pattern up until the last little bit when I realized that the last step was really just adding some pieces previously completed onto the main scene and that the figures were not included in the steps. Instead, I shifted a little bit so that they will add Mary and Joseph on Christmas Eve, and Jesus, the Shepherd and his animals on Christmas Day.
I also decided to remove the Three Kings’ chest to save in a separate bag with the figurines and set that aside since liturgically in the readings it comes afterward. Growing up in Mexico, my husband celebrated Three Kings Day, and though we have not typically celebrated it with any special traditions for our girls, I thought this year it would be fun to have a surprise encore to the Advent calendar days on the 6th of January. I just need to be careful that they do not see the product box or look at the instructions, or else they will glimpse the Three Kings and wonder where they are.
I had originally considered stringing the bags like a garland in our living room, but in the spirit of keeping it simple, I will likely just have them pull a new bag from the box each morning. It is also just one set for all four girls (ages 14, 11, 4 and 18 months) this time around, so they will also need to take turns with getting the bag and putting the pieces together. While we are doing this, we can make connections to the Bible and the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary.
We will likely need to keep the set someplace safe as the girls are notorious for having their Lego sets get mixed in with each other and then not being able to find pieces for individual sets soon after receiving and assembling. We won’t want to have the Nativity scene blended in with the rest before we even get it together the first time! Ideally, we will use it for the holiday season and then store it away for future Advents. We would not necessarily use it in the calendar concept again, but it would be nice to have it as a family activity as our girls grow over the years.
If you would like to connect building blocks to the anticipation of the Advent season, the concept can be used with any set. If I only had younger girls, I would likely look for a set with larger pieces, but with the range of ages and since we are not using it for independent play time, a regular building-block size is a good fit.
Copyright 2017 Amanda Villagómez