Christmas: Are perfection and disaster your only choices? Of course, not. There’s a happy holiday medium for every family with small children!
Everyone’s short on time these days; we’re all over committed and running as hard as we can. With the holidays approaching, the stress multiplies even faster. Everyone has memories of family holidays when they were growing up. I know in our house, through my eyes, everything was perfect! Every single thing! No creatures stirring on Christmas Eve and my mother did not allow mice!
One Christmas when I was probably around 8, my brother was getting this enormous garage from Santa. (My parents had it stored in our attic because it was already assembled and there was no room for it on the sleigh on Christmas Eve so it had been dropped off early by some pre-positioning elves.) So, when both of us were nestled all snug in our beds while visions of Christmas toys danced in our heads, Santa had to go up in the attic to bring down the garage. He fell, the garage broke, I can only imagine my mother’s reaction… Because my brother and I were nestled with the sugar plum stuff going on, we did not hear a thing! Was this a crisis? Not in our house! Santa got a new garage delivered and assembled (all the stuff about playing with time that night really must have come in handy) and there it was under the tree. And my mother was smiling and so was Dad and everything was perfect! (I know now that Santa’s local distributor of that Texaco garage was my dad, he always carried their Christmas trucks at his corner gas station and just happened to have an extra, unassembled, in the box, no stickers on yet. Handy, huh?) Could have been the end of a perfect family holiday, but it wasn’t. (Many years later, it became part of our family’s Christmas story.) The adults in charge of the family took responsibility and made it work. And if we (the adults in charge) believe it’s going to be a great holiday, our children will, too.
But… if you’re looking for a little extra insurance for a lifetime memory kind of family time, you’re in the right place! Get Ready 4 Kindergarten is here to make the grown-ups in your family look good!
You know those Hallmark cards where everyone is perfect in a perfect house with a perfect yard with perfect snow and their family car is a horse drawn sleigh? It’s not reality for many families – many of us are hovering around a National Lampoon/Griswold family experience. But if you want to have some special quality time together as a family that you will think back on with happy thoughts – you’re in the right place.
You might not know where to start to pull off this magnificent day, but we’ve got your back and we will get you on your way step by step, piece by piece, right up to your post peak experience nap!
But first, let’s talk about the why. Why is family time so important to children? It centers them. Special times spent together become happy memories of being a family. And during the holidays, stress abounds so centering your children and your family is even more important!
What can you accomplish in one short morning?
- Talk with your child
- Read a special story
- Play a game
- Think about important stuff
- Do something together as a family
If you are already part of the Get Ready 4 Kindergarten family, you know these are the 5 Building Blocks for Early Learning that we use for all of our programs and materials.
There are 2 ways you can set up your special family time:
- One action packed morning
- Spread over several shorter sessions
Three big rules guide both choices – plan ahead, be flexible, no trophies.
Start by planning ahead. It really will make all the difference in your stress level and it is hard to have a high-quality family bonding experience when you are flipping out because the 2-year-old washed the toilet with the paintbrushes.
Third: See how much you have around the house and how little you can buy. The recipes need some chocolate chips, but you could use raisins if you have them. But you only need a fifth of a cup or so. You need paint, but can you find some in the bottom of a jar? You can get by with one paint brush, you just have to wash it a lot. Make your list.
Then: Go shopping with your list. And check out the local library for one of the books, one may be available for download from your library’s e-zone. Or order it fast on Amazon. If you can’t find one, substitute a holiday book you do have.
Part of planning ahead is pre-positioning. Get your work areas staged for a smooth process.
Plan how you will clean up before you start. Maybe a sink full of soapy water will help when you are cooking. Or covering the table with newspaper before you spill paint. Always start with an empty garbage bag.
And, plan for when you are done, plan a quiet activity like a nap or quiet time with books or maybe a short, calm video. If you need to run off steam, head the family outside for laps.
It all starts with talking. Talking and listening to words will grow a child’s vocabulary. Have you heard about the word gap? American children can have a 30-million-word difference in the number of words they have heard by the time they are 3 years old. This affects their speaking and their understanding. For the holidays, focus on those once a year words. (Christmas, candles, sleigh, carol, tree, manger, stocking) Next year when they are used again your child will remember some of them.
Have you heard the saying a picture is worth 1,000 words? Let’s give that a little push. Find some pictures of family members, spread them out on a table and talk about them. We did this a few years ago at a family reunion and it was a wonderful way to connect with our shared history and a chance to hear stories, old favorites and new ones. You can do this with your child and give them an idea of who they are. Lay out pictures in a family tree with your child as the trunk. Your child will feel so safe in their connections to so many people that love him or her.
Ask family members to share memories with your child. Facetime and grab those memories of Christmas Past; write them down- this is your child’s heritage. (In January, make a 4-square memory page for family members – email to those who are electronic, hard copy to those that aren’t. Ask family to complete and send back to you; put in box with wrapping paper and cards you buy on sale on the 26th so you’ll know where they are next year.)
Probably most important: read every day! We’ve picked out some less trendy holiday books to share, but they are just ideas. Use any holiday book you find. But try using some of these ideas for reading with your child:
Tree of Cranes by Allen Say. A Japanese boy plays in a puddle in winter and gets wet. Mom makes him do what every mom makes their child do: hot bath, warm jammies, hot soup, toasty bed. But in Japan things look a little different. We lived in Japan for 3 wonderful years and these pictures are so authentic! Start a conversation with your child as you look at the clothes he wears outside to play, the yard he plays in has no grass or dirt or play set, the house is very different, the doors are paper and they slide where our doors are wooden and they are on hinges, his bed rolls out on the floor and the next morning it is rolled up and put in the cupboard, when I was cold and wet as a child I got chicken noodle soup and saltines he gets soup with rice and pickles, and the bath tub is amazing! This book gives you a very realistic look into a traditional Japanese home and a sweet story of sharing family customs and traditions.
Christmas Lights by Ann Fearrington is about … Christmas lights and going for a drive to look at them. Looking at lights at night is much more fun in your jammies and then your children are ready for bed when you get home. (Have beds ready to toss tired children in before you go look at lights. Prior planning prevents parent meltdowns!)
One Starry Night by Lauren Thompson is about the animals who watch over their babies in the hills around Bethlehem while a human family watches over their child born in a manger. Trace your child’s hand on a round piece of paper then trace your hand over top of it. Decorate and hang on your tree. (This would make a wonderful grandparent gift, hands of their child and grandchild.)
Night Tree by Eve Bunting takes a family out in the woods at night to decorate a tree for the birds and animals. Decorate a tree or put up a bird feeder in your yard. Have cocoa and celebrate your good deed like the family in the book. Hide and watch who comes to eat.
Counting to Christmas by Nancy Tafuri is about a young girl counting down the days to Christmas. She makes cards, bakes cookies, decorates, wraps gifts, dances in a recital, and makes gifts for the animals while she counts. For a fun activity, string popcorn and cranberries just like the little girl in the book. Hang them on our tree inside or outside for the birds.
When we talk about play at GR4k, we usually mean involved and elaborate dramatic or imaginative play. Basically, you set up a situation for your children to play in and they take parts and act out stories with each other. An only child is often happy to use stuffed animals or dolls to play other roles in their story. These two suggestions are both about elves: set up a toy workshop or an elf café and let the play begin. Because this is a special family day, it is important for you to take a part in this play, also. Be an elf. Be a toy inspector. Be a clumsy elf. Be an elf with an accent. Or work in the café or be a customer in the café. Anything works, the only rules are to have fun and TALK TO EACH OTHER.
When you need some outside time, play in the snow, blow bubbles, play tag or catch or swing. On Family memory day you cannot stay inside and watch out the kitchen window!
Thinking is very important! Each month we give parents ideas and activities to teach and practice the math and language skills for the month. Our monthly boxes and newsletters have had our families working on different kinds of patterns and this math activity works with an AB pattern, red/green. Help your children make the traditional paper chains, being careful to keep the ABAB pattern going.
Once made, they can be hung on the tree, from a curtain rod or from a ceiling light. Older children could make more complicated patterns like AABCCAABCC. Patterns help children with both math and language skills as they work through different skills.
You’ll need red and green paper cut widthwise in 1-inch strips, glue sticks or tape or staples
For language, we’ll write letters. Last month, one of our Foundations Language goals was to learn about electronic communication, that could be used here also to Skype or facetime with a family member to talk about holiday memories or share pictures. But, we want to work with the old-fashioned pen to paper idea. Explain why people send letters and cards. Check out the mail today. Look at the envelopes (even a bill will work) and point out the address, return address and stamp. Tell your child you can tell who an envelope is from without even opening it. If your child is 3 or 4, they should be able to make some kind of drawing on the paper. Ask them what they would like to say and write it for them. DO NOT ask them to write or even copy writing at this age. It’s about using the words in conversation. Write the letter to a loved one or friend. You’ll need markers, paper, crayons, envelopes, addresses, stamps.
For science, you’ll need a world map and a ball or a globe. Our goal is where is the North Pole and where am I? Point to the north pole on the map and say its name. Now hold the ball in your hand and point to the top say the world is round and this is where the North Pole is. Now point to where you live or use the mouse if you are on the computer. If you have a globe, you have the map and ball all in one. That’s it, you are just introducing ideas and vocabulary.
And now, the fun part – doing! The art project is a handprint candle and you will get an email with the directions document. You will need several things, but the basic idea is to paint your child’s hands green and lay them palms together on the bottom of the page. After that dries, paint finger tips red and print them on the green hands (leaves) like holly berries. A drawn candle with yellow flame finishes the candle. Be sure to date it. Make extras because grandparents will want one, too.
Santa and Rudolph pancakes will make a great special breakfast, or lunch, or even supper! Put ingredients on your shopping list: pancakes, frozen ones will work, strawberries, whipped cream. Chocolate chips and bacon. Cocoa. Yummy!
And then for a fun family trip either after time out today or another afternoon, check out a tree farm or go look at Christmas lights. For Christmas lights, get beds ready to pop kids in before you leave and dress them in jammies before you go. Visit a tree farm for the experience even if you use a fake tree. There is so much to see and smell. And great tools: saws and balers and car straps and rope. Look for animal evidence and baby trees. If there’s an open field, run like the wind!
The most important thing is: have fun. Do one or some or all of these activities for a very special family memory to remember forever. It’s all about building special memories for the future, what could be better than doing that with your child? Our children grow up so fast, don’t miss out on the magic!
Happy Holidays from Get Ready 4 Kindergarten!
For more ideas, look on our website: http://getready4kindergarten.com