Looking for tips that will help you put on a successful Christmas program with your children?
1) Select a Christmas script that will be a good fit for your children.
. . . If you have a lot of young children, purchase or write a narrated program. With a narrated program, your children will get to do a little acting & wear a costume & carry a prop – but they won’t have to memorize any lines.
. . . If you have a lot of 3rd-6th graders that enjoy a speaking part, purchase or write a program with lots of speaking parts. Speaking parts should be short and conversational – no long monologues! Kids speak memorized lines better than they read them. Encourage them to memorize their parts and be sure to have a prompter ready to help out if they get stuck on a line.
. . . If you have a lot of preschoolers, purchase or write a program with rhymes. Use your older children or an adult to read the rhymes as your pre-K children add the finger plays & motions.
. . . Use PowerPoint or videos with a narrated script. All of the pictures and videos are taken in October and November. On the day of the program, all your kids have to do is stand up front and sing. They love seeing themselves on the big screen!
. . . If you don’t have many children, consider inviting the parents to do the program with their children. It will be fun for the whole family! And if your parents aren’t up for it, invite the choir!
. . . Everyone likes to do a little something “special” in the program, so be sure in include parts for children who are shy or in need of extra support. Carrying the baby to the manger, holding up a candle or flag, pulling a donkey on wheels up the aisle, holding a stuffed animal at the manger, moving the props . . . . the list goes on and on.
2) Pick Christmas music your kids will sing.
. . . Select songs with a vocal range that is accessible. Middle C-D is a good range for most children. Avoid songs that are really high . . . you want your 5th grade boys to sing, too!
. . . Select songs that are packed with motions & hand rhythms & sign language and lots of extras. It gives your non-singers a way to participate.
. . . Include lots of styles of music. Be sure to include 50’s, blues, island, waltzes, 6/8, country, marches, rag-time, rap, rock, contemplative and the list goes on and on.
. . . Select songs that include kid-friendly language and catchy phrases. Songs with lots of verses and tons of words make it difficult for kids to be successful.
. . . New music is a must, but be sure to sing some familiar songs, too. Christmas carols work well. They have lots of words, but you can invite the audience to sing along on a verse or two.
. . . Feature duets and trios on the verses of the songs. A solo can be frightening for many children, but they love to sing with a partner or two. Have your small ensemble sing the verse and then invite all of the children to join in on the refrain.
3) Add a little something “extra” to your Christmas songs.
. . . Play kazoos for a verse.
. . . Add sun glasses to your kids’ blues number.
. . . Add bandanas and cowboy hats to the children’s country-western number.
. . . Hum a verse.
. . . Whistle a verse.
. . . Use flowing scarves or streamer sticks and make sure you have lots of room for large arm movements. (See the Instructions page for details on making your own streamer sticks.)
. . . Teach sign language for the refrain of a song.
. . . If a children’s song includes motions, invite the children to do one verse with motions only – no singing.
. . . Dust off those rhythm instruments and let the children play and sing.
. . . Change claps in a song to snaps or stomps or leg pats – or better yet, use tambourines!
. . . Add jingle bells.
. . . Invite the congregation to sing along on those familiar Christmas carols . . . it takes the performance pressure off the kids!
. . . Distribute white gloves for the children to wear when they do sign language or a 50’s number.
. . . Split your choir. Invite side one to sing the first phrase of the song and then side two will sing the second phrase of the song.
. . . Invite children to create their own motions or hand rhythms for a song.
4) Get organized – you agreed to direct the Christmas program (YIKES)!
. . . Christmas programs are a lot of work, but you don’t have to do everything! Surround yourself with adults and teenage volunteers who will handle the details for you!
. . . Make a prop list. Recruit a volunteer to purchase, make or round up all the props you need for the program.
. . . Make a costume list. Recruit a volunteer or two to measure and fit your characters in costumes & accessories (head pieces, belts, sandals, halos, crowns, etc). Necessary supplies include: iron, masking tape to tape up hemlines & sleeves, needle and thread, hangers & markers, full-length mirror. Each character should have a hanger that holds their costume & accessories. Using a piece of masking tape, tape the name of the character & the child’s name at the top of a hanger. With a personalized hanger, every child will know exactly where to find their costume & accessories!
. . . Set your rehearsal times and get the word out. Use e-mail, letters, hand-outs, the church newsletter and weekly bulletins to communicate rehearsal times. The more communication, the more informed everyone will be.
. . . Keep your accompanist in the loop. If you have an accompanist, you are blessed! Get copies of the sheet music & script & rehearsal schedule to your accompanist as soon as you have the program written or purchased. If you use accompaniment tracks, recruit an adult to play the sound tracks.
. . . Select an assistant director loves kids and knows how to support you. Recruit someone you can count on to help run lines, give direction to your volunteers, help with crowd control AND take over if you are sick.
. . . Include the parents. If you need snacks, help with crowd control, help hauling the risers, help cleaning up or setting up . . . ask your parents to give you a hand. People love to be needed!
. . . If you are using a sound system, be sure to get the script & rehearsal schedule to the sound person.
. . . Pray! It won’t fix everything, but it will remind you that God is with you every step of the way. And don’t panic. God always helps things come together . . . always!
Of all the stories in the Bible, I know the Christmas story the best! Why? Because, as a child, I got to tell that story to the congregation every time we put on another Christmas program.
God’s blessings as you teach children the Christmas story and create Christmas program memories for the children you work with!