Unless you work in a faith-based program, the holiday season should be almost nonexistent in your classroom. Some of the December holidays are rooted firmly in religious teachings and others are celebrated by specific cultures. None of them have a place in diverse and publically-funded programs.
That does not mean we should ignore them altogether. Children will come each day with stories of the comings and goings of extended family members, hopes for expected gifts, or reasons for missed school days. They may be exhausted, irritable, bleary-eyed, or wrung out. They may be overly excited, or revved up. All of these emotions will require a steady hand and a caring ear. This is the time of year when hopes are inflated and dashed, when food is overeaten and tummies hurt, and when bedtimes are ignored and exhausted children still have to get up and get to school.
So, I have come up with my Top 10 List for Keeping it Calm this holiday season.
10. Stick to your normal schedule. Avoid the temptation to have special celebrations. These can wait until the New Year.
9. Keep the meals and the snacks the same as usual. Don’t accept special holiday treats. Children are getting plenty of junk at home around the holidays.
8. Keep large group time to a minimum. There are increased expectations for children to sit and behave at this time of the year at Grandma’s house, at Church, at special parties. Don’t expect them to do this MORE at child care.
7. Let the children play. They need this more at this time of the year so let them play for as long as possible.
6. No special projects. Stop insisting that the children engage in developmentally inappropriate art activities that result in some sort of “gift” for the family. Let them create art if they choose. Let it be what it is.
5. Let the children talk about it. Some of your kids may want to talk about the exciting happenings at their homes. Let them and then let them get back to playing.
4. Find time for gross motor play. Even though the weather may be less-than-ideal, try to get outside as much as possible. Children need fresh air and they need to run around, now more than ever.
3. Create an island of calm in your classroom. Play soft music. Lower the lights.
2. Don’t allow your own holiday madness to creep into your work. Let the workday work in your favor. Your classroom may be the only place where you feel calm and collected.
1. Manage everyone’s expectations. Tell the parents in advance, that your program/classroom will be business as usual and they can count on calm consistency for their children. I guarantee they will thank you.