“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.” Ecclesiastes 3:1.

During Advent, being around young children brings JOY to hearts of teachers as well as parents. Their JOY and excitement are contagious in bringing us HOPE even during a challenging year.

As I enter early childhood classrooms in the community, I love the ways the teachers are allowing their children be children in creating simple holiday memories with their own hands and hearts. Children find great joy and pleasure in making and creating their own gifts to give. Children truly exemplify the quotation, “it is more blessed to give than receive.”

As I glance across the different classrooms, I have observed closely as the children express themselves through drawing pictures, finger painting, cutting shapes, making objects out of unusual materials, etc. Children have the basic need to be creative, and I am awed at what they produce. They love to create from the heart, which expresses their love.

During the regular school year schedule, whether it be virtual or in class, we families truly have to multi-task in order to meet the needs of our children. Over the holidays we look forward to our schedule slowing down. But to be honest, the holidays are busier than regular days. In our families, we may have different-age children with many different needs because of different personalities. We love to celebrate the holidays with seasonal-delicious foods, cheerfulness, singing, bright lights and gifts. But as parents of young children we have to balance all this in order not to push our young children into sensory overload and anxiety. We want our families to enjoy the holidays as memory-makers. During Christmas this year, many of us will be celebrating Christmas on a shoestring budget. But we want our children to learn and internalize during the advent of Christmas that it is not about material gifts but about people, family and relationships. Here are a few ideas and resources that I would like to share during this Advent.

Provide the gift of time with your child. Plan out a slot of time during this busy holiday season where your undivided attention can be focused on your child or children. Time spent with children spells love and nurtures creative memories. Our community offers beautiful sightseeing adventures downtown, in our parks and in our neighborhoods. Taking time to walk, bicycle or drive your children around is a memory-maker. The holidays provide opportunities for you to talk with your children. Make productive the time you spend with your children by really “focusing in” on what they are saying. Listening to our children as they express themselves is a gift to them of love and significance. Find joy and happiness in your children and grandchildren. Children who enjoy each day are those who feel loved and accepted for who they are. Taking time in noticing what your child is doing spells LOVE. Verbalize how much you love them.

Keep materials around the house to be creative. Someone else’s trash is an early childhood teacher’s treasure. I am not talking about garbage, but things like scraps of material, yarn, toilet paper and paper towel tubes, giftwrap, buttons, etc. Children of all ages hop on the creative train when it comes to creativity during Christmas. Also it is a parent’s treasure to encourage their children to be creative. When it comes to creativity during Christmas, creative food crafts such as icing and decorating sugar cookies, building gingerbread houses, making food ornaments out of simple sugar cubes, marshmallows, pretzels, etc., is fun. Their little hands enjoy making Christmas decorations to display through the home. Allowing them to freely create builds cherished memories.

Free yourself up and play with your  child.Spend time playing with toddlers with a blanket or quilt spread out on the floor. Spending time with your infant or toddler increases their verbal and curiosity skills. Elementary-age children love to do pretend play, but they also love to engage in board games or computer games.

One gift that seems to be loved by parents is the task and chore Christmas Coupons books. As a teacher I have seen my young students love making and drawing coupons of chores that they will do in helping the family over the holidays. Examples are cleaning their room, simply wiping tables or chairs, sweeping, setting the table for meals, etc. A parent tears off a chore for each day that needs to be done. This is a gift of love from young children to their families.

During the Christmas season, invite your children to help you make Christmas cards to send to family and friends. Allowing children to help you mail letters stresses giving love to others.

When children ask “why” and “what” questions, be sure to spend time answering them. Children ask so many times why we do certain Christmas symbols. I have shared these with Classroom Observer readers in earlier years, but I would like to review them, as they provide a wonderful learning time for children and adults.

Children love to hear about the origin of the Christmas tree, which is attributed to Martin Luther, the leader of the Reformation. It is said on Christmas Eve, Luther was walking through the wooded forest near his home. He was awestruck by the snow-covered branches of the trees shining brightly in the moonlight. He wanted to recreate this beautiful scene for his family, who was waiting for him at home. He cut down the tree, set it up in his home and decorated it with candles. As we see, Christmas trees are usually the very center of a home and community’s celebration of decorations.

Young children love to squint and gaze at the beautiful lights that surround us during the Christmas season. “You are radiant with light, more majestic than mountains rich with game. God is resplendent with light and the true light who came into the world is Jesus Christ,” Psalm 76:4.

Candy canes are a delicious treat for children and others. The cane is shaped as a shepherd’s crook, which reflects that Jesus is the Good Shepherd. The red represents the blood that Jesus shed for us and the white represents His purity.

The beautiful Christmas wreaths that we see everywhere demonstrate the never-ending symbol of eternal love that God connects.

Gifts tied with a bow reminds us of gifts that the wisemen brought to Jesus. The ribbon that is tied around gifts symbolizes that all people should be tied in bonds of love and unity during the holiday season.

Poinsettias are seen everywhere during Christmas. The Poinsettia is a native plant of Mexico and is called “Star Flower.” Their star-shaped leaves remind us of the star of Bethlehem and Christ who is called the “bright morning star.”

At Christmas we usually see the colors of red and green. The color red is used at Christmas to represent the blood of Jesus when he died on the cross. The color green signifies light and life.

All of us love to hear Christmas music; children love to sing Christmas music such as Jingle Bells. They learn quickly the simple songs of the season and they sing with excitement and a gleam in their eyes as they realize that Christmas has arrived in our community.

I hope these few suggestions help you get started in celebrating Christmas in our community. Enjoy the gift of each day.

Beth Pinyerd
Classroom Observer