It may be “the most wonderful time of year,” but the holidays are also the busiest. There are holiday parties, school programs, final exams, post office lines, and elves on shelves. We fight mall traffic to search for the perfect presents for those on our list and too often time with our children gets shoved to the side.
In the midst of this holiday chaos, early childhood development doesn’t necessarily come to mind as a top priority. However, holiday activities bring an abundance of opportunities to impact the development of our youngest learners.
With the recent launch of the Chattanooga Basics initiative, the community has heard a lot about how simple everyday activities can jumpstart our young children’s brains and prepare them for success later on in life. Using the 5 Basics can be a fun and easy way to encourage healthy brain development in young children during this holiday season.
Maximize love and manage stress. Children are affected by our emotions, whether good or bad, and feed off of our feelings. While this is a very happy time with loved ones, it can also be extremely stressful. Give yourself ten seconds as you wait to respond in a moment of irritation. Be sure to hug your children and tell them that they are the best gift you could ever receive this season! Talk to your children about various family activities that will take place during the holiday and include the names of those who will be there and how much they are loved.
Talk, sing, and point. By talking, singing, and pointing, you are giving your child context clues to the meaning behind what you are saying. Sing your family’s traditional holiday songs in the car, on shopping trips and around the house throughout the holiday season. Add some bells or wooden spoons and watch their eyes light up as you sing together.
Count, group, and compare. Teaching your child math can begin early in life. You don’t have to be a math teacher to relay the basics! Talk about the decorations you have in your home. How many are there? What are their colors, shapes, and sizes? And, of course, holiday baking is a great way to talk about measuring, comparing and sorting.
Explore through movement and play. Embrace children’s curiosity and let them explore the world around them. Turn on the holiday music and rock out! Ask children to create a holiday inspired folk dance and perform it for you. Spending time laughing, dancing, spinning, and having fun will get them moving and create treasured holiday memories.
Read and discuss stories. Find a favorite holiday book to read with your child. Or find a great movie and watch it with your child, making sure to discuss things like what is going to happen next, which character would you like to be, what is your favorite scene, etc. Or take some time out during your holiday break and visit the Chattanooga Public Library for one of the early childhood activities including story time.
The holidays can be stressful, but helping your child get a healthy start in life doesn’t have to be. Use these techniques during your holiday celebrations and watch your children grow and respond as you share in the joy of the holidays and give them the priceless gift for learning that will last a lifetime.
Jayne Griffin, Ed.D. Director of Education, Creative Discovery Museum, Member Early Matters Action Team
Robin Cayce, Ed.D. Director of Programs, Chattanooga 2.0 and Early Matters
Early Matters Chattanooga, an action team of Chattanooga 2.0, was formed to ensure access to high quality resources supporting optimal development of children from birth to 5 years old in the greater Chattanooga area.