The November and December holidays can be a time of hustle and bustle, but also a time for learning. One way to keep the holidays from becoming holi-daze is to take some cues from teachers. Many preschool and kindergarten programs choose to focus on the true "essence" of the holidays instead of the specifics of the different secular and religious events. Educators tend to look at the values they can teach at these times. For example, at Thanksgiving they discuss helping others. The December holidays are an excellent time to encourage sharing, caring, and giving.
From Rushing to Helping
With the national focus on consumerism, many early childhood programs focus on this season of "helping and giving." How does your young child understand this? Through participating in simple acts of kindness and giving. Young children learn by doing. Many programs will choose a charity or community event to work for. Young children can be involved in everything from homemade cookie sales to coat exchanges. You can tell your child about the importance of helping and giving, but until he experiences the joy it brings (to himself and others), it will only be a concept, not an action.
You can focus on helping and giving at home too. Take a moment to think about others in need. Your child is not too young to know that there are people less fortunate in the world. What can you do? Make homemade cookies or bread for a local food kitchen or take extra toys or outgrown gloves and hats to a shelter. This simple process empowers children and gives them a feeling that there is something they can do to help.
Sharing and Giving
While young children want to receive holiday gifts, they also delight in the pleasure of giving and sharing. At this age, children are becoming more and more aware of the feelings of others. This is how she learns the "cause-and-effect" value of sharing and giving. If she can see how sharing and giving make the giver and the receiver feel good, she has taken her first steps to learning the essential emotional skill of empathy.
Your child's classroom will probably provide many opportunities to make simple gifts to share with your family. Often these sculptures or pictures become cherished landmarks of your child's development. Save them if you can.
You can create your own sharing and giving holiday activities at home. Encourage your child to make a coupon book full of things he can do around the house to help. He can draw pictures, and you can write his comments on the coupons. Don't forget at least a few coupons for kisses and hugs.
Have a joyous holiday season!