Celebrating Holidays with Children
It’s the beginning of November, and around the world the next several months are often very busy. There are parties and special occasions, travel near and far, and we thought we’d share a few of our favorite tips for celebrating holidays with young children. On the next episode of the podcast, we’ll share a few of our favorite travel tips.
The only thing we can be absolutely certain of is that sometime in the next few months there will be at least one day that is thrown a bit off by a special holiday event. There might be shopping after school when we typically just head home, or an office party that means a babysitter or a late night.
That’s part of the fun, right?? The unusualness of it all! I get to stay up a bit later, eat not one but two cookies, and wear a special outfit. We’re having a slumber party at Nana’s house because Mom and Dad are at a fancy party. We’ll go find a gift but shhh it’s a surprise!
“The balance comes in preparation.”
As much as children thrive with a routine, that doesn’t mean we MUST keep the routine No. Matter. What. Holidays are special occasions, and we can enjoy these special times together even though it does disrupt the routine.
Just because it’s a special occasion does not mean things are magically going to go perfectly, and it’s not reasonable to expect our very young children to adapt just because we’ve labelled this a holiday.
The balance comes in preparation.
You know what’s coming. If this day means late nights, schedule some quiet time into the day before the big event, or pack cozy clothes for small people to change into before a long car ride home.
If this event is full of delicious unusual foods, make sure a child’s nutritional needs are met at anticipated times. While we might not eat much in order to save room for tamales or Buche de Noel, or we can fend off “hangry” because we know what’s coming, we set children up to be their best selves when we make sure to have a nutritious breakfast and lunch available. They won’t remember “missing out” on Grandpa’s black-eyed peas, but we’ll all remember the meltdown that happened when we forgot the four-year-old can’t wait most of the day to eat.
One of the great things about the predictability of holiday traditions is that we know what to expect, so we can set children up for success in spite of being out of routine.
Children love to participate. It’s a huge part of the reason for the Practical Life area of the classroom. Children want to be just like us, to emulate our behavior, and we give them the skills to participate in daily life in work such as sweeping, washing dishes, or folding cloths.
Many classroom activities can make their way home for these special events. Children can arrange flowers or evergreens for a table. If we’re exchanging gifts, maybe a child wants to create a piece of art for someone special. Children can set the table, rolling napkins to go in napkin rings, selecting votive or taper candles, smoothing out a treasured tablecloth.
A child who’s working on handwriting could write special place cards for each guest, or a child who is still pre-writing could scribble decorations on adult-written cards, perhaps with a glitter pen. An older child could compose invitations, electronic or paper, for guests to join for a special meal or event. An older child could also organize a white elephant gift exchange, or plan games to be played.
So many special occasions involve special food, and cooking and baking together is a wonderful moment for not only supporting academic skills like literacy and math, but also to create memories together. Very young children might decorate a cookie or two, once a bit older a child might help chop veggies or mix ingredients for chili, and an older child might take full responsibility for one or more dishes. Great-aunt Maggie’s Lefse might become your child’s special dish with a bit of encouragement, modelling, and opportunity to practice.
As a parent shared with us recently, even the simplest things become heart-warming as a child experiences them for the first time.
Think of your favorite part of the upcoming months. The first snow. A walk in crisp air after a delicious meal. A beach bonfire to welcome in the New Year. Whether it’s a tradition generations have enjoyed, or one you started last year, what makes a holiday special is who we share it with and the memories we make and remember. With all the hurry and push to make things perfect, remember to enjoy the newness, the passing along, the Now.
Written by:Charlotte Wood