Pre-schoolers do best when they are actively engaged in holiday activities. Being whisked from one place to the next reduces the value and enjoyment to be gleaned from each event.
So make sure to plan fewer activities, but include time for children to respond to what they’ve done. Parents can furnish props, for example, that allow children to play the characters in The Nutcracker. Children who have time to dress and play as Clara or the Grinch will better remember the experience over the years.
Decide what your focus for the holiday season will be. If parents make a list of priorities for themselves and their children, the activities that are important to both will be included. One mother surveyed her list and found that tradition and family were the values she wished to instill, while religion was not as important. As a result, she stopped trying to hustle her kids to midnight Mass, where they invariably fell asleep, and relaxed into making cookies, decorating, singing carols, and visiting friends.
Families may also want to think about rotating holiday activities on a yearly basis, rather than trying to do everything every year. For example, baking could be emphasized one year, plays and concerts the next. Children may enjoy choosing each year’s “theme,” and that will help them to feel engaged with all the activities.
Children like to know what will happen the next day. Predictability is calming, so try to keep to the daily schedule as much as possible. Children (and parents) can easily become overstimulated during the holidays.
Take a look at your holiday calendar and reserve tranquil evenings at home intermingled with your evenings out. Also, consider making bedtime a half-hour earlier for the six-week holiday period — for parents too! It improves everyone’s mood.
The holidays leave rich imprints on children’s imaginations and memories. Ultimately, parents want children to have memories of being loved, joyous, and carefree. Through sensitivity to the needs of their children, and careful planning of a child-friendly season, parents can achieve these goals.