By Beth Pinyerd
“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.” Ecclesiastes 3:1.
Welcome to December. During this advent time, teachers and parents will feel joy as they spend Christmas around young children. Their joy and excitement is contagious in bringing us hope.
This is a time that we can allow children to be children in creating simple holiday memories with their hands and hearts. 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.
The holiday season in December always seems quite busy for teachers, as well as for families. In our families, we may have different aged 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 as well as anxiety.
We want our families to truly enjoy the holidays. The following list is very simple and to the point when sharing heart gifts with our children. I hope this list helps as we embark on December happenings and holidays.
Heart gifts equal love. Infants, toddlers, twos, threes, fours and on up in age just know emotionally the secure, peaceful feeling of being loved unconditionally. They love to hear their name said or called out and to be accepted for how God made them. 1 Corinthians 13:13 — and now abide faith, hope, love, these three, but the greatest of these is love.
During this holiday season, take advantage of this extra time to really listen to your young children. Come together face to face, eye contact and totally focused on what they are saying. We as parents and teachers learn a child’s thought processes, we can truly listen to what they are sharing with us.
Plan easy, simple chores for your young children to help you with over the holidays. Children love to help when they are instructed on what and how to do, like picking up toys after play, cleaning up their room, helping set the table for meals with parents’ oversight, folding laundry or simple dusting. Confidence, another heart gift emerges when children accomplish a task and praise is offered. Too, we have to gently remind ourselves that we praise children as the unique person whom God has created. Praise is a simple heart gift which brings true joy and happiness to a child that is a solid foundation for a child to spring from when things get tough.
Allowing children to play and use their imaginations is another heart gift we can give our children. Allowing young children to dream and to use their creativity to explore their world is a wonderful heart gift that encourages enthusiasm for life and what it has to offer each and every day. I love to look at the excitement children display when playing in centers as well as outside. We teachers and parents definitely see that play is a child’s work.
This year with everything being so different and at times challenging, flexibility, resilience and contentment are heartfelt gifts that we can model and encourage for our young children to experience.
One of the greatest heartfelt gifts we can provide for our children is an age appropriate discipline plan. When simple rules are explained to young children, this is a heartfelt gift. Too, they clearly understand the consequences if they don’t abide by school or family rules.
What a wonderful time of the year for our young children and our elderly population to share Christmas joy with each other. The National Council on aging defines intergenerational programs as activities that increase cooperation and exchange between two generations. “It has been shown that a relationship between young and old enlightens both generations.” Over the holidays, families coming together at home provide wonderful opportunities for young children and seniors to come together to enjoy simple holiday fun. In planning ahead for young and old over the holidays, keep things simple. 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, engaging in simple crafts, simple baking, painting and coloring provide educational opportunities for the younger and older generations to learn from each other.
The greatest heart gift we can extend to our young children is hope. This gift encourages our young children to be optimistic no matter what the circumstances are. Children with the gift of hope look at the bright side of circumstances. Young children’s smiles as they delight in life is a heart felt gift that we can all embrace.
Classroom Observer, Beth Pinyerd