‘Oh, I wish it could be Christmas every day’? Chances are if you work in childcare this is not the case! Retail and the media try to start Christmas straight after Halloween, sometimes earlier. And while the festive period is undeniably a magical time for young children, weeks of overstimulation and nervous energy can have a detrimental effect on behaviours. While Halloween and Bonfire Night are one-off events, Christmas can last months if you start too early.
Young children often struggle to channel the energy they can sense around them, particularly if the payoff takes a while. Under -fives are not known for their patience and may become over-emotional, fractious and even distressed in the run-up to Christmas.
You may notice regression in terms of toilet training, sleeping habits, and general behaviours such as sharing and teamwork. Parents may also inform you of similar behavioural changes at home. In such times, it’s important to keep in contact with worried parents and provide regular updates. Our digital learning journals help you to stay in touch with primary caregivers and track milestones together so that you can see when progression or regression occurs.
It is important to be understanding and ease both the child’s and their parents’ worries concerning any ‘backsliding’ in terms of behaviour. Talk to the child about how they are feeling and suggest coping mechanisms. This may take the form of ‘taking a minute’ to themselves when they feel angry or overwhelmed, channelling the energy into physical activity, or doing something creative.
Working with Parents
Children may have some trouble sleeping or feel overtired. Children who no longer require naps may need a short nap in the afternoon. Discuss these arrangements with the child’s parents and form a plan of action together, such as ‘ the child can sleep for 20-30 minutes during the afternoon but no longer’.
Be sensitive to the strains changing the routine may put on bedtime at home and remember that you are all advocating for the child. Our ‘Partnership with Parents’ short course can help you to feel more confident in how to engage with all the primary caregivers of the children in your care. As you learn more and get to know each other better, you can suggest home activities to complement the EYFS learning you are providing.
Create a Sanctuary
We cannot control the media images the children are constantly exposed to, but we can create an oasis of calm and build up to Christmas gradually.
We recommend scheduling Christmas related activities from the first week of December at the earliest. Naturally, the business’ overall schedule will dictate your calendar to some degree.
For example, if you are performing any kind of show at the end of the term, you may need to start rehearsals and costume fittings at the beginning of December.
There are a few activities that hit EYFS markers but don’t require too much concentration.
Making snow globes together is a perfect activity for a cold December day. Whether you are likely to see real snow in the coming weeks or not, snow globes are magical and, once you have made them, you can shake them and watch the snow fall an unlimited amount of times. They’re also easy to make and you probably already have everything you need.
Themes can be ‘winter animals’ such as penguins and polar bears, Disney or TV characters, cars or dinosaurs. Use whatever the children like that you can pick up a small version of at the pound shop. Unscrew the lid from a good-size jar and glue the figure or car to the centre. Fill the jar with cold water and stir in a couple of teaspoons of glitter (preferably biodegradable in case the globe ever gets smashed) and a few drops of glycerine. You can swap glycerine for baby oil if that is easier. Screw the lid back on and seal it to prevent spillages. There you have it, personalised snow globes the children can enjoy throughout the festive season and beyond.
If you want to create snow globes as a present for parents, you can use a photo of each child in place of the figure.
When children are over-emotional, they can also become more tactile. This is a great time to up the sensory play. You can make ‘snow’ with baking soda and shaving cream or hair conditioner. Cotton wool,
white rice, pom-poms, smooth glass beads, and solid polystyrene balls are all great materials for winter sensory bins too.
You can also add plastic snowflakes to a scented water trough – lavender and camomile have added calming benefits – and see if the children can fish them out using nets, tongs, or tweezers. This kind of activity helps children hone their fine motor skills, and you can include a maths element by counting how many snowflakes there are.
Yoga is probably one of the activities in your typical schedule, but you may find scheduling in more sessions can help keep the children calm and happy in the run up to Christmas. Yoga is non competitive, inclusive and restorative and can help young children with their physical and mental health. Stretching improves flexibility, while the stillness and mindfulness of moving through simple child-friendly poses can help improve concentration and better breathing
Introducing yoga through play helps children to see it as a fun activity and they learn valuable tools to take into later life.
Deck the Halls?
Whether you want to put up Christmas decorations, and how early you choose to do so will be informed by the children in your class or nursery. If the group includes children who are on the autism spectrum, the sudden appearance of lost of decorations and twinkly lights may cause overstimulation. Instead, go slowly and look for autism-friendly alternatives such as static lights, or no lights, and make sensory decorations with the whole group to promote inclusion.
In all cases, limit the time the lights are on the tree, and look for learning opportunities such as a homemade igloo with arctic stuffed animals leading to a discussion or game matching animals to their habitats.
By starting your festive activities a little bit later, you can lean into the joy of Christmas and help the children to feel more balanced so they can enjoy it more too!