Truth in the Tinsel – Hands-on Family Advent Fun

Three things before we begin:

  1. This is last year’s review of Truth in the Tinsel, before we got into it much. I’m reposting this, because we really liked it, and I share things I like with you…because I like you.
  2. This post contains affiliate links. In fact, I think all the links are affiliate links. Whoa. Intense.
  3. If you want to skip my review and just go check out Truth in the Tinsel, I won’t take you off my Christmas list. (That was an affiliate link. And so is this next one…and the next one….and…)

Check out Truth in the Tinsel here!

I love Advent. I love Advent wreathes and Advent calendars and Advent activities.

Unfortunately, many of the Advent activities I see are either too deep for my younger children or involve far too much preparation and work on the part of the parent. And I’m definitely not doling out chocolate or gifts every day in Advent. I mean, I’ll eat chocolate every day, but I’m not doling it out.

Last year I was tempted to try Truth in the Tinsel. I had heard quite a bit about it, and it sounded great for my hands-on kids. Still, with a brand new baby, a very sick child, and a music mission to launch, I wasn’t going to tackle anything more than I already had. Instead I opted to feed all seven children and my husband three meals a day for the entire month of December. [Insert applause here.]

Now this December is rolling around and the Advent tickle has struck again. This time I have a plan. The plan is to let someone else do all the planning and work. Are you with me?

So I bought Truth in the Tinsel, and I’m telling you people, I don’t spend money easily…except on food. I buy a lot of food…and I eat a lot of food…but not as much as I buy. I digress.

Here’s what I love about Truth in the Tinsel:

The 24 readings are straight from the Bible. I teach my children the Bible by reading directly from the Bible–how novel. Why not keep teach the Christmas story from the Source? Why not? (That wasn’t rhetorical.) There’s no reason why not! It draws from both the Old and New Testaments. Even more novel!

Each lesson includes an ornament craft which is totally doable. If you don’t have the time or energy for crafts, because of, you know, life, you can still implement the program. Truth in the Tinsel now offers a set of printable ornaments for $3.99. Set out a safety scissors, the crayons, maybe some glitter (shudder), and you’re set! Or skip the crafts. (It’s not illegal…seriously.)


If you don’t get to it every day, it’s okay. It’s okay. Hey, it’s okay! Okay? There are alternative schedules for making it work for your situation, even if that involves squeezing it in at random moments…which means I totally could have pulled this off last year after all. The goal is not completing the program; the goal is focusing your family toward Christ.


Although it’s designed for “little hands,” it can include the whole family. All ages can participate in the Bible readings, and anyone who is interested can get crafty at their own levels. Discussion questions can extend to everyone as well. My firstborn is learning to drive and my seventh-born is learning to walk, so at The Simple Home, including a broad age range is a huge deal.

Truth in the Tinsel is also available in Spanish and as a group study for churches, youth groups, homeschool groups, uh, insert your group here.

Truth in the Tinsel

Amanda, the creator of Truth in Tinsel, has a real heart for children’s ministry, and that radiates through her work.

Okay, enough from me. Visit the site, check out the sample page, and, see if it will add to your family’s advent celebration. You can download it instantly and begin using it right away.

Buy Truth in the Tinsel here.

Oh, here’s another idea! Check out Crock On – A Semi-Whole Foods Slow Cooker Cookbook, one of my favorite e-cookbooks. Let your crockpot do the cooking while you enjoy Truth in the Tinsel with your children! Brilliant!

10 Constructive Toys for Constructive (and Destructive) Kids

There are toys, and then there are toys!  Toys! are really great toys for really great kids.  Because keeping the clutter down to a minimum is important at The Simple Home, we tend to limit ourselves to toys!

Constructive Toys - Duplos

For a toy to fall into the toys! category and thereby be TSHM-approved (That’s “The Simple Homemaker approved.”  Yup, I’ve got my own approval rating system.  Sweet, isn’t it?), it must:

  1. offer endless hours of constructive play.
  2. stimulate the imagination or other sometimes sleepy corners of the mind.
  3. be useful for more than one activity.  For example, while an electronic race track is totally cool and I love ‘em, all you can do is race, so it doesn’t fit the bill…even though I have one.
  4. not need batteries…ever! No plugs either. Or solar!
  5. offer quiet constructive play possibilities (as well as the loud destructive stuff) so they can play during read-alouds or other times when their quiet presence is required, but they do not need to be still.
  6. be fun for them to play alone.
  7. be fun for me (or siblings, Daddy, uncles, second cousins once removed) to join in, because sometimes little voices ask, “Mama, will you play with me?” and Mama always tries to say, “Of course!”
  8. fit into a tub for easy storage in the garage.

Check out these terrific constructive toys!

Top Ten Constructive Toys for Constructive (and Destructive) Kids...great ideas from a homeschooling mama of seven.

 My Top 10 Constructive Toys

Constructive Toys - MagneatosMagneatos: Magneatos are neato and my children l-o-v-e them!  They are giant plastic-encased metal balls and sticks with magnetic ends.  That’s it!  The rest is up to you…uh, your children, I mean, because they will naturally be the ones playing with them.  Ahem.  The manufacturer now makes curved Magneatos, which make this fantastic building toy even neato-er.  I want some!  I mean…the kids…you know.


Constructive Toys - MagnetixMagnetix: This small version of Magneatos is also neato.  It is, however, a serious choking hazard, as are many great toys for the older set.  Nevertheless, it offers unlimited (well, I suppose eventually there would be a limit) options for design and construction.



Constructive Toys - WedgitsWedgits: Ooooo, I get all giddy just thinking about Wedgits!  A set of Wedgits will provide you with numerous rhombus shapes as well as a few diamonds for constructing whatever you want.  Wedgits cards are also available, which is a fun way to improve a child’s observation and duplication skills.  There are many expansion kits, including Wedgits on Wheels, although the wheels are tricky for the younger set, so our Wedgits generally remain stationery…and are then bombed. Wedgits are seriously awesome.

Constructive Toys - Lincoln LogsLincoln Logs: Well, of course! This is the constructive toy of all constructive toys! Build, play, bomb, rebuild.  Lincoln Logs offer endless hours of fun!  And somehow, it always gets us talking about Abraham Lincoln, so that officially classifies them as educational.  Don’t settle for imitations; they don’t mesh well with the real thing.



Constructive Toys - Tinker ToysTinker Toys: Do you remember these sticks and wheels from when you were a child?  The vintage Tinker Toys were smaller and more durable than the current versions, making the new and old sets incompatible.  If you have your heart set on the Tinker Toys of your youth, search out some vintage Tinks from Ebay, garage sales, thrift stores, or  If you’re looking for a new set, keep in mind that the smaller sets stocked on some store shelves are pretty puny, so opt for the bigger sets available online.  While I find the modern version inferior to the oldies, my children still have fun with them.  We used to make the most awesome space rovers and then, when my grandparents weren’t looking, we would launch them from…oh, never mind.

Constructive Toys - LegosLegos: Oh boy!  Be still my heart!  I remember when a bucket of Legos meant a world of imagination.  Now, Lego tends more toward (expensive) sets, telling your children how and what to build.  If at all possible, find a new or garage sale version of a big ol’ bucket of mismatched Legos and let your child have at ‘em.  Later you can move on to the sets, if you like, which, in all honesty, my whole family thinks are totally fun…but we don’t confine ourselves to the directions.  Either way, Legos are awesome…during the day.  At night, the errant Lego you step on en route to the facility is totally lacking in awesomeness.  ( has a VIP program giving you points for purchasing from them, but I almost invariably find better deals elsewhere.)

Constructive Toys - DuplosDuplos: Legos on steroids.  I love Duplos.  They don’t hurt as much when you step on them, they are only a choking hazard for a very large and determined dog, and they offer hours of constructive play.  My children like them, too, both the bucket o’ blocks and the farm sets.



Constructive Toys - Building BlocksBlocks: A big bucket of plain old blocks is a miracle waiting to happen.  Add a little collection of cars or some people, and you’ve got a world.  If your children are still at the throwing-things-at-each-other’s-heads-is-funny stage, opt for soft blocks.  (You could also try making your own blocks; TSHM absolves herself of all responsibility if you cut off your fingers!)


Constructive Toys - QuadrillaQuadrilla: The point of this set of blocks, marbles, and ramps that your children assemble is to get the ball from point A at the top of the set-up to point B, probably the floor.  Sound easy?  Ha ha!  It requires logical thought and sometimes a bit of trial and error (or the instruction booklet). I highly recommend a Quadrilla set to the non-choking-hazard crowd with one stipulation—ignore the manufacturer’s age recommendations. It is absolutely wonderful for the older set, perhaps seven and up, but not necessarily the fours and fives. The littles will love it once it’s set up or enjoy playing with a few pieces, but will easily knock it over and will likely be unable to build the more fascinating set-ups on their own.  Some sets are designed for younglings.

Constructive ToysDirt: It’s free, it’s messy, it’s everything a normal, well-adjusted child is drawn to.  Just add water and you’ve got dirt’s close cousin, mud, which is a perfect constructive toy—nice and sticky!  With a few sticks and a hose, you’ve got an afternoon of fun they’ll remember forever!  Dirt can be packaged as a Christmas gift, but I recommend dehydrating mud before wrapping.  If you have a lack of dirt, clean less often, or buy some online.

What are your favorite constructive toys?

Coming soon: TSHM-approved Toys! for imaginative play.

TSHM-approved disclosure statement: Some of these links lead to Amazon.  You are not obligated to purchase through my Amazon links—how on earth would I enforce that anyway? If you do make a purchase after following these links, I will receive a small commission.  You may rest assured that I will not spend it on toys…okay, maybe some Wedgits.   

Reading Adventures

Pierre Auguste Renoir

Curious about the reading adventures mentioned in Love in Action: Read Aloud to Your Children?

Together you’ll travel to Narnia and Treasure Island. You’ll be shipwrecked on an island and make your home in the trees. You’ll discover a noothbrush on your toothbrush and climb to the top of a tree to attend a big dog party. You’ll meet the Moffats and Pippi Longstocking and watch the five little Peppers grow. You’ll tame the mighty black stallion, cry through Black Beauty’s losses, and ride along with Marguerite Henry and the great horses of history. You’ll memorize Prayer for a Child and Dr. Seuss’ ABC. You’ll flee Egyptian priests from Bubastes and sail the seas with Odysseus.

You’ll meet the real Mary Poppins. You’ll help Charlotte save Wilbur, help Christopher unstick Pooh (again), and tag along on vet visits with Dr. Herriot. You’ll make friends with Patricia St. John and Louisa May Alcott. You’ll empathize with Beezus and root for Henry. You’ll cheer through Understood Betsy and bake through The Little House series. You’ll give a moose a muffin, a mouse a cookie, and a pig a pancake. All of it, together. Why, I’m almost envious!

Here are some of the books that will take you there.

Clicking on the picture of a book will take you to Amazon where you can read a description of it.

(Sorry for using a slow-loading Amazon widget.  I decluttered “become a tech-savvy supermom bordering on perfection” from my life queue.)

What are your favorite books from your childhood?

Picture: Renoir