Finding Joy during the holidays is sometimes a daunting task for young children. Every day activities are magnified as their senses are on overload from all of the excitement surrounding the holidays. Not that this in itself is negative , the problem arises when children become too over stimulated and are unable to cope with the day to day tasks such as brushing their teeth or following simple directions that they normally would not have any trouble with. As mothers and teachers we can choose to let our children’s behaviour get the better of us or we can remind ourselves that a cranky child is usually on overload and remember to tone down the holiday festivities if it seems to be too much for the little ones to handle at this time. Too much of anything can have a negative effect on us all. For example, I love chocolate, but too much chocolate can make me sick..so I have to really watch that I don’t over eat around the holidays. The same can go for children. Too many gifts, lights, parties, shopping trips, etc can have a negative effect on a child. I remember one Christmas in particular when my middle daughter was two years old. She had so many Christmas presents to open from both sides of relatives that by the time she got to the last few she started crying and saying “ No more Christmas!” I think at that moment we all realized that we had lost the Joy of the season by buying into the commercialism of the holiday. So the question is: How to keep Joy in the holidays for the young child? Balance and moderation are the key! Little ones can only sit through so many Christmas events. So pick and choose the few that you want to participate in. Gift giving does not have to be extravagant. In my many years of working with young children I have found that they are usually just as excited about the box and wrapping paper as they are the gift itself. Educational and home- made gifts are always appreciated and so much more meaningful that the latest fads.
Also playing soft music during the holidays tends to work as a subconscious calming tool.
Serge Mazerand’s beautiful piano music is my go to for background music when needing to calm a cranky preschooler (or parent!). You can download his music here:
Another wonderful element in finding Joy during this busy time is to stop and take time to read and cuddle with your child. This will allow them an opportunity to calm down and focus on the story rather than the chaos going on in the world around them. Here are some of my favourite books for the Holidays that young children love to be read to over and over; “Merry Christmas Big Hungry Bear” by Don & Audrey Wood, “You Are Special” by Max Lucado, “Dream Snow” by Eric Carle, and “The Polar Express” by Chris Van Allsburg.
For those children that need to be more active taking quiet walks together works wonders as well as having a time to allow them to explore and create their own holiday cards and gifts. Keeping scraps of wrapping paper, stickers, empty boxes and ribbon on hand for children to use as pretend play can keep them busy for hours!
One particular activity that my preschoolers have always loved is making salt dough ornaments and pretend cookies from home made Christmas play dough and cook cutters. Don’t forget to add in a generous amount of peppermint extract for a wonderful holiday aroma!
1 Cup of Flour
1 Tablespoon Oil
1 Cup Water
½ Cup of Salt
2 Teaspoons of Cream of Tartar
2 Teaspoons of peppermint extract
- Mix all ingredients together in a saucepan with a whisk to remove lumps.
- Cook over low heat stirring with a wooden spoon. The mixture will thicken and become a big blob.
- Take play dough off of the heat and place on floured surface.
- Knead until smooth.
- Play with your child and watch the joy happen!