Early in the morning on teaching days as I was getting my classroom ready for first grade, I’d hear the feet of one little fellow running down to the classroom. This child greeted me every day with a big “good morning” and would settle down in his desk to embark on early morning assignments with a huge smile. Even though this child had some challenges, his cheerful good morning was a medicine of joy to this teacher’s heart.
I know with the uncharted waters of COVID-19 and quarantine we all can use a bowl of daily cheer.
How can we instill an attitude of cheerfulness in our children? Going back to Classroom Observer’s article on ‘Rolling Out the Play-Doh’ one of my favorite spots in the early childhood classroom is the Play-Doh center. I love all the bright colors Play-Doh now comes in. Children love to squash it, smash it and splat it.
Young children are moldable and bendable by the words we say to them. They need clear rules and boundaries and words of encouragement in order to learn, grow and know how special they are. Like Play-Doh, they can be shaped into objects they don’t desire to be or into objects that radiate the bright colors. It is so heart-warming to see a smile or a twinkle in a young child’s eyes when they are praised or encouraged for being who they are or what they do.
We as parents, grandparents and adults have to be good examples and models of cheerful attitudes that bring happiness and joy to children because as we all know, children are good observers and they are going to discern and copy your moods, whether you are having a good day or bad day.
This is where we have to step back and think of what is happening to us on any given day. Not all days are going to be full of happiness, sunshine and beautiful rainbows. How we respond to the good and the bad days is a good lesson of making lemonade out of sour lemons.
I absolutely love being among young mothers and fathers and seeing how they spend time with their young children in helping them explore their emotions, whether being sad or happy. Time spent talking with children bolsters emotional stability and well-being when implemented early in their lives. We are their motivators and cheerleaders. This promotes good physical, emotional and health benefits. Also, it boosts confidence in a child, which equips them in social interactions with other people.
I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made, marvelous are your works, and that my soul knows very well. Psalm 139:14
Each child is so unique and special to God. He made us all so different. The greatest gift of cheer that parents can give to children is to discern and allow them to do what they love to do. It may be art, singing with music, building with blocks and Lego, imagination play with dolls, stuffed animals and toys, observing nature and more. Providing an atmosphere, environment and freedom to do what they love to do pours cheer into children’s lives. Don’t we love to see a young child truly engage in projects that make them happy?
One activity I would like to share with you that has proven to bring on happiness and cheer every summer is celebrating Christmas in July in the heat of the summer. I have done this with young children as well as seniors and it truly brings a glitter of cheer to young and old. This can be done so simply.
No, you don’t have to go to the attic, basement, or storage closet to pull out a Christmas tree, wreath or other annual Christmas decorations. I’d like to share a few ideas of activities that I have done that definitely brings on Christmas cheer to the young at heart.
• When children have complained about it being so hot when I am teaching, whether it’s been in children’s ministry or summer school, as a class and group we have sung Frosty the Snowman, Let It Snow and yes, even Jingle Bells. I ask them to close their eyes and imagine that it is the cold of winter. This works every time to cut down on the complaining of it being hot. We sing Christmas worship songs with seniors, such as Joy to the World, Silent Night or Away in a Manger. Singing truly brings on feelings of joy and hope no matter what season it is.
• Christmas in July crafts are so much fun. Successful projects that I have done with children and seniors is to decorate summer visors with Christmas stickers. Children love to use markers to draw Christmas pictures on beach balls and sand buckets. Another favorite of mine is to do sand “snow”-men and -women. The sand has to be moist to do this project but the moistness allows for rolling and molding the head and body. You can decorate your snowmen with hats, sunglasses, a stick for nose and whatever else your child desires to use. Some folks even build snowmen on the beach with sand. Play-Doh can also be used to roll and mold a snow-man or snow-woman.
• For Christmas in July foods ideas, ice cream is always a favorite and a winner to please everybody. You can set up a Christmas sundae bar with crushed peppermint, red and white sprinkles, make simple Christmas ice cream sandwiches with red and green ice cream. I suggest you buy the Neapolitan ice cream, mint ice cream or strawberry ice cream. You can bake simple sugar cookies to place the ice cream between or to make it easier, Neapolitan ice cream sandwiches are sold too.
• Why not have a Christmas theme picnic or cookout? You can give Christmas nicknames for the different summer foods. Using Christmas cookie cutters you and your children can make Christmas-shaped sandwiches or do this with fruits, such as Christmas tree watermelon. Wednesday is National Hotdog Day, so you can do a Christmas-in-July-themed cookout for this.
• There are so many simple Christmas games that you can enjoy and play with your family and friends even while social distancing. Hang home-made ornaments on a tree outside or play a variation of Pin the Tail on the Donkey by pinning a star or ornament on the tree. Do an inexpensive gift exchange with all the gifts just being a dollar. Try Christmas relays by using an ornament, make Christmas decoration or even play musical chairs outside. You can social distance inside by playing Christmas music.
I hope these few suggestions bring you cheerfulness and joy. We all know that at Christmas we try to reach out to those who need cheer. You and your family can send cards, send a text or give a phone call to someone you know who might need to be cheered up right now in the heat of the summer.
Showing compassion to others always instills cheer in the heart of a child. That little first grader who brought me daily joy is all grown up now and is a cheerful young man who greets me when I see him with a cheerful “Good Morning.” It brings this teacher joy.
Classroom Observer, Beth Pinyerd