With the festive period upon us, it is time to relish in celebrations, togetherness and the Australian summer. For some this time of year is all about the Christmas spirit, while others celebrate a variety of other traditions depending on their cultural background, religious beliefs or personal preferences.
Holiday celebrations can be a great opportunity for children to share with one another and explore how different cultures and religions celebrate at this time of year, if at all. Fostering a sense of belonging is vital for children’s development and wellbeing in early childhood, and creating an inclusive learning experience around festive period is a great way to do just that.
Early childhood education is a diverse sector that involves collaborating with educators and families from a variety of cultures and religions each and every day. Cultural competence is essential for early childhood educators, and we can also help children to develop their own appreciation of diversity through implementing positive practices.
We take a look at different activities to support educators and families in feeling festive, promoting togetherness and understanding the different ways this time of year may be celebrated within our communities.
Crafty decorations and gifts
There is no shortage of Christmas craft ideas. This craft is easily adapted to any cultural preferences and we’ve ensured that it is sustainable too — children and the planet will love it.
Tin can succulent planters
By adding together some recycled tin cans, a bit of potting mix and some succulent cuttings, you can create a beautiful houseplant decoration or gift. Before planting, paint the tin in festive colours or add string, ribbon and other decorative touches that can be attached with glue.
For many cultures and holidays, cooking and eating is central to the celebration. Help children learn some kitchen familiarity and food preparation skills by taking your holiday celebrations to the kitchen!
Cooking is a great way to share a taste (quite literally) of others’ cultures. It’s also a great science experiment, watching solids turn to liquids, liquids turn to solids and all sorts of exciting occurrences during the cooking process.
Most importantly, remember to ensure you are aware of any allergies and food preferences, and enjoy sharing some delicious food together!
End of year performance
Children have no doubt spent plenty of time together singing during the year. They have likely enjoyed many stories too. Why not put together a performance based on Christmas or a much-loved favourite story to celebrate the end of a year together?
Work on children’s memory and confidence while celebrating all the while. All you need is an idea, concept or story to base your performance on. It may be related to Santa and his reindeer, or maybe a book that children enjoyed during the year. Each child can perform as a certain character and the children can work together to create a fun expression of celebration and shared interest.
Invite families to come and watch (pandemic-restrictions dependant), and create your own end of year concert!
Themed scavenger hunt
Take your holiday fun outside with a scavenger hunt that children of any age will enjoy. Get a bunch of items and hide them around your service. These items could be festive-themed around any type of celebration, meaning you can adapt it for Christmas-related items or other celebrations such as Hanukkah, Diwali, Chinese New Year and more. You can even do a combination.
Make it a group activity where everyone can work together to find the hidden items. For younger children a list of the items is ideal, but for older children you could create fun clues about what the items might be.
Find scavenger hunt printables and inspiration here.
Get singing and dancing
Song and dance are used to celebrate across many cultures all over the world and in various religions. They are also lots of fun! Work on fine and gross motor skills, while enjoying the sheer joy of dancing and singing.
Incorporating singing and dancing into your holiday activities and celebrations can be a great way for children to share something special about their family’s approach to the festive period.
Encourage families to share a song or dance that is important to them. You can also look at festive songs or songs children have loved during the year, add some movements and create a beautiful performance of your own to celebrate a great year together.
Inclusive holiday activities: quick tips
Ask families how they celebrate the holidays
To ensure everyone’s unique culture, religion or festive preferences are included in your centre’s explorations, ask families how they celebrate during the festive period.
Focus on broader festive themes
When planning your holiday activities, try to focus on the themes of the festive period that may be shared across many cultures. For example: being with family, sharing traditional meals, enjoying the Australian summer, decorative lights or gift giving and receiving.
Make sure you do your research around each family’s approach to their holiday celebrations. Children may feel embarrassed or unsure of their family’s traditions, so having an understanding to prompt children can help them feel more comfortable sharing.
No holiday celebration is forbidden and educators and children should feel comfortable undertaking craft from any celebration. It is, however, important to offer an alternative in case a child prefers not to participate.
Keep it simple
While there are plenty of elaborate crafts or fundraising ideas that you might like to include in your holiday activities, try to keep it simple and budget-friendly. Not all families have the available time to source what may be required, or the same financial resources to participate. A simple approach with natural resources and some imagination are the way to go.
Enjoy the festive season together!
The most important thing when jumping into holiday activities in early childhood education services is to have FUN! There is so much to learn from one another and the festive period is a wonderful time to share and celebrate together.
Have a happy and safe festive season, from all of us at Practical Outcomes!