Every Christmas Eve, I clearly and fondly remember the hospitality, warmth and love our Uncle Wayne Teague and Aunt Josephine provided at their home each year to the family. Our family sleigh (car) would head toward Auburn each year as we experienced a true Christmas wonderland at their home.

Even though in Alabama we don’t have much snow, when we would go to their house, there was an expectancy of a miraculous “snow” of warmth and love that my uncle and aunt provided for their families. I remember delicious Christmas Eve foods and a Christmas tree with gifts for all the grandchildren, nieces, nephews and adults, as well as stockings hung on the mantle by the chimney — all for the setting of a child’s delight as each year my uncle read “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas.” 

As children, we experienced love and relationships year after year on Christmas Eve. Similarly, our young children need love and relationships right now. 

As families approach the holidays, an activity that all young children enjoy is storytelling. Storytelling is one very effective way for opening up a child’s imagination, feelings and fun when our children are at home. Children love to hear and respond beautifully to a vital, creative and involved storyteller. 

Without a lot of money spent or abundant resources, you can provide a variety of props for storytelling. The back of a chair or couch, behind a bed sheet, a simple tagboard, a child’s imagination and perception can go anywhere. Through storytelling, children can experience many skills, emotions and possibilities such as mastery of listening skills, use of comprehension skills, extension of verbal language, practice of sequencing skills, expressions of feelings and emotions, opportunities for roleplaying, provisions of independent thinking, encouraging creative expression and providing growth of constructive socializations skills. 

Children love a variety of techniques for storytelling of their favorite books, as well as allowing them to dictate their own stories. 

You don’t need a lot of fancy props or anything when you do verbal storytelling. As you tell or read the story, use your voice, mannerisms and body movements to convey emphasis and emotions. Children are so quiet and spellbound when you show excitement in the story you are reading or telling. 

Children get excited and want Mom or Dad to repeat simple finger plays. When you are riding in the car during the holidays or having to wait on a meal in a restaurant, children love to do short rhyming stories. Make up rhymes about holiday items such as bells, gifts, trees, sleds, lights, etc. 

I know we are in the computer age, but I want to recommend that simple, homemade flannel boards are priceless in illustrating children’s favorite stories. Children love to interact with stories by moving the pieces down and replacing them, sequencing the events in the story on the flannel board and just feeling the pieces as you tell the story. This visual is priceless in telling a child’s favorite story. 

Puppets are a huge favorite with young children. Simple finger puppets, hand puppets, sock puppets, glove puppets, puppet masks, wooden puppets and clothespin puppets make the possibilities for creativity endless. 

Young children love to dramatize stories as they interact with the story. Simple costumes can be made from what you have around the house including sheets, towels, brown paper bags and other old materials. It’s awesome to see what children’s imaginations can come up with. 

Visiting our local libraries and getting guidance from the librarians on age-appropriate books is a good beginning. There are so many holiday books according to your family’s traditions. 

Storytelling for your child becomes an avenue for your child to learn and appreciate the world around them. Fill up those spare moments during the holidays and allow your child to express themselves through the art of storytelling. This will definitely make a lasting memory and gift for your child to pass on. 

With storytelling, I think about how wonderful an intergenerational activity it is for the young and the elderly to share during this wonderful time of the year. A relationship between young and old enlightens both generations. Quiet activities — such as looking at family pictures, reflecting on the present and the past, reading Christmas books and poems, watching holiday movies and television programs, singing and listening to Christmas music, engaging in simple crafts, baking, painting and coloring — provide educational opportunities for the younger and older generations to learn from each other.

Simple jigsaw puzzles, card games, board games, word searches, crossword puzzles, etc., offer objectives in cognitive development, social interaction, teamwork and cooperation. Age-appropriate games and puzzles provide enjoyable activities to keep minds active. 

Children and the elderly doing light exercises and movements — such as joining hands and taking a walk; enjoying light, outside fun in observing nature and movement; simple finger plays that our elderly can teach the younger; and just light exercises in waving hands, marching in place, dancing, swinging and pretend-play — is something they can do together. 

Also, the younger and older generations can reach out to neighbors in need. Our community is so very good at this. Children learn so much from us older adults when we reach out to others in need. A couple of ideas include dropping coins in the red kettle for the Salvation Army together and adopting a family in our community through different ministry outreaches. Just the simple act of sharing cookies and candies with a neighbor teaches young children that from the older generation to the younger generation, we care. Love, friendships and relationships are the things that matter most this Christmas. 

Merry Christmas from the Classroom Observer

Beth Pinyerd