It’s official. There is only a month until Christmas, and whether you celebrate or not, this time of year becomes absolutely manic in many households, schools, early childhood services, and workplaces. The whole community has a buzz about it. Our calendars demand so much from us – end of year parties, graduations, the finishing of assessments and paperwork, school assemblies, work functions… the list goes on.
So many adults often lament the busy-ness of this time of year, yet most are able to keep calm and carry on. But what about children? What impact does this time of year have on their wellbeing, on their time to play?
Think about what might be going on for the young children in our lives right now:
– End of year parties/celebrations/graduations
– Orientations for those going off to “big school”
– Transitions – from and to new classes or rooms and school (includes new people, places, routines, expectations)
– Christmas stuff (for those who celebrate!) – parties, Santa visits, photos, extended family visiting, the general buzz of the festive season.
At this time of the year, children (and often adults!) are hot (summer is upon us here in Australia), tired and busy. School-aged children might jump in the car at 3 pm and commence whining, fighting and crying. Toddlers might protest at the constant go-go-go, by plonking down on the floor of aisle three at Woolworths and refusing to budge. Preschoolers may suddenly not want to separate from mum at drop off. However this manifests in our children, it’s our job as educators, parents, and carers to support them to slow down, to connect and to PLAY.
So, how do we do that? There are a lot of things we can do to help… but here are a couple.
- Make our spaces (services, homes) calm spaces. Turn off the loud Wiggles music, avoid lots of “activities” and transitions. Just allow children to play
- Listen – really listen. Take time to have a conversation with children, and really listen to what they have to say
- Spend more time outdoors. Many indoor places (shops, homes, centres etc) are decorated at this time of year. This can be overstimulating for some children. Reconnecting with nature can help to restore a sense of calm.
- Say no. Not to the children! Say no to all of the extra, unnecessary things that simply add to our workload and subtract from children’s play. Say no to “Christmas craft” (you know the old “everybody come and make a Christmas tree from a handprint” thing that I wish wasn’t still around, but one look at Facebook and Pinterest tells me it is!) Say no to graduation ceremonies and performances that put children on show. Say no to things that don’t respect the child’s right to play.
- Just BE with children. Lay on the grass and look for shapes in the clouds, read books together, build with lego, dig in the sand, have a cuddle, go for a bushwalk. Ensure that children have long, uninterrupted blocks of time to just play.
- Meet their basic needs. Sometimes, in the peak of this busy-ness, old Maslow can be forgotten! Tune in to children and assess their needs for sleep, food, comfort, safety.
So there you have it. A few simple things we can do for children at this busy time of the year. And you can almost guarantee that slowing down and creating calm, with a focus on connection will not just benefit the children, but us adults too!