When you think of Christmas in ECE settings you may be thinking things like the tacky tinsel on mantels and sills, the ‘no-personality crafts’ where every child’s collage is the same, and some half-hearted kiddy songs about Santa. We’ve probably all seen examples of this. And even though it’s supposed to be a joyous time of year, you can see how these ‘lifeless’ attempts actually take the joy out, for our teachers and our wee people. This is why some settings have left Christmas off their yearly menu, and we can see why if these are the only seasonal dishes they know can be served.
We’d probably have done the same if we didn’t decide to home-ify our Christmas offerings, and make them more authentic, more beautiful, and really just ensure it was a whole season worth dining on!
What did we do?
We started with our attitudes. What does Christmas mean to children? Especially for children in care for long hours? What was it like for us at Christmas time? What would ‘the child us’ say if they heard we were thinking of giving Christmas a miss? If we were going to celebrate, we were going to do it wholeheartedly, with love and willingness.
Next, we thought about how we decorate our own homes at Christmas time. What makes our eyes light up? What does the same for our children? What looks good, what goes together well, what is a feast for the eyes and touches the heart? Not too much, not too little, the ‘just right’ of Christmas sprucing up. We didn’t go all garish and ‘kiddy coloured’ and plastic fantastic. We go with some rustic, some hand-made, some traditional from our own childhoods. Beauty, comfort, homely. Our environments are for the children, but we added some beauty for our adults too. Everyone is deserving of a little Christmas magic.
We decluttered our Christmas must-dos, leaving out the obligatory crafts that really are meaningless, and replaced them with open ended, optional experiences the children could choose if and when they wanted. We weren’t being forced to ‘do Christmas’ so neither would our children be.
We slowed down. Slow is always our way but the end of the year and the season that brings a lot of outside stress seemed the perfect chance to take that slow pace, and then some. No rush, no pressure, just enjoy the time together, the stories, the exploring of the Christmas treasures around. Beautiful leisurely days make the ‘silly season’ far less chaotic.
We used the beauty of words, with daily Christmas quotes in our environments and our social media, with books and story telling for the children, memories shared with our team. We enjoyed Christmas music, not just about Santa and his sack, but beautiful songs with real meaning behind them and voices to be swept up in. We wanted our children (and all of us) to really feel the specialness of the season.
It’s not just one thing that makes a beautiful Christmas setting for our wee ones. It’s a combination of several ingredients, carefully chosen and sprinkled with love. It’s a commitment to once a year believe not just in the magic of Christmas but the magic of what it means to be a child at Christmas time. This is why we said YES to the season, ‘our style’, and never turned back.
We have created The Heart of Christmas, a beautiful toolkit full of ideas for bringing magic and wonder to the Christmas season.