The Winter Festivities - 5 Learning Opportunities for Children

The winter celebrations are a perfect time for the child to connect with the family and develop certain skills at home, where s/he feels safe, surrounded by love and in charge of the environment.

Most of the times, between visits and attending guests or preparing traditional meals, parents have little time to prepare "special" activities for children but the fact is they don't really need to. There are different ways to involve children in all the usual activities, thus facilitating growth.

Here's a list of 5 simple things we can do to involve children and make sure they get a good share of learning moments while at home:

  1. Decorating or undoing the Christmas tree. I have seen families who do not involve the children because they might break the balls or ruin the process. Depending on the age of the child there are many things a family can do to make this tradition a wonderful family moment. Did you ever try having
    a tree decorated only with crafts made by the family members? If you have a smaller child, did u show him/her the smell of the tree? let him/her touch it? Did you buy special unbreakable child-proof decoration items so that the little ones may enjoy touching and playing with them? For smaller children, try sticking or drawing some numbers on the balls. When you undo the tree, try to find 1, then 2 then 3 and place them in boxes in the correct order. For older children, you can make this a bit more challenging by adding operations such as 45-44 instead of 1, 2X1 instead of two, etc. If your child could use more work on literacy try pasting the alphabet letters, or certain rimes or riddles to stimulate reading or imagination.
  2. Communicating with Santa. Well, older children know about writing letters to Santa, but this can also be done with toddlers. They could cut and paste the objects they desire, paint, draw, color or sculpt them. Since traditions says Santa knows if you have been naughty or nice, this could also
    provide a good self evaluation opportunity for children. Self awareness is one of the most important abilities successful adults have, and sadly enough this competency is not particularly fostered in traditional educational systems where the teacher does all the evaluation. Print images with positive and negative behaviors for your children that they could cut and paste according to whether they behaved like that or not. Have them reflect upon their actions and include their work in their letter to Santa! If they meet Santa at nursery or at home, try to prepare them for the meeting. Meeting Santa is meeting an adult of importance and if they haven't been exposed to different adults they will feel shy and overwhelmed with emotions. Try to familiarize them with what is going to happen during the meeting, with details about Santa and his life :). Once they feel comfortable with that, the encounter may get as educational as possible. Santa can ask or tell about geography, history, different cultures, etc. Once children feel comfortable with him, they might be very receptive to whatever Santa has to say! 
  3. Cooking and setting  / clearing the table. It is true that when you are in a hurry and a bit tired and
    stressed, you might want to do all the things yourself and children in the kitchen might get into the way. You can, however think of how they can help you and how much their involvement means for them! A simple task such as setting the table can help children develop their self esteem, their spatial awareness, fine motor skills, creativity and social skills. Preparing the food can be a right moment to talk about where each food comes from and how, or about the tradition of each meal. This enhances the child's knowledge about the world and gives him/her the feeling of belonging to a certain culture, and the developing sense of self confidence.
  4. Singing with the family. Each year I see pictures and clips of Christmas Concerts from nurseries and
    schools where children have to perform in front of an audience full of strangers, where they have to learn some things that they did not contribute to but were assigned to them by their teacher. This alone makes the subject of a different post. One way of making this easier and more pleasant for Children is to actually sing at home, with the family and in front of people they feel comfortable with. If you are not religious it does not have to be carols but winter songs. These warm moments bring the family together and create wonderful memories for the little ones. They also empower them to feel comfortable to give a performance when time comes :).
  5. New Year resolutions. Yes, I know, most of them are just blowing in the wind, but having a family
    moment each year until children grow when everyone thinks of what they wish to do in the future year in different roles is teaching your child another very useful skill for his/her future adulthood: that of planning ahead! It is common knowledge that planned things are more likely to occur, so this simple gesture is of great significance for your child's future life. Have them draw pictures of how they wish their future year to be, paint or write wishes or compositions! They will exercise more skills at once and eventually understand the importance of planning! And doing this with all the members of the family enhances accountability and mutual understanding and  increases the chances of everyone helping each other to succeed with their resolutions!
There are many other things to do around Christmas time: reading and story telling, guessing different Christmassy smells, or doing lots of sporty outdoor activities. Most of the times, in what concerns very busy parents just being all together, playing some board games or giving and receiving presents can be everything the little ones wish for.. I hope this post inspired you and that you all have the best holidays and the most magical family time!

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