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The Early Years: Creating Christmas memories

From Deb Archer

Ready or not, Lake County, the holiday season is here.  There are parties to attend, presents to buy, cookies to make, cards to mail, decorations to be hung, programs to attend, relatives to visit, meals to prepare, etc…  Orchestrating all of these activities is often overwhelming for adults, but imagine how this affects young children?

We want children to think of the holiday season with excitement and happiness, not as a time of stress, crabby parents, and a house full of items they cannot touch.  One of the best things we can do as parents and grandparents is to set realistic expectations.  With young children in the family, it’s not humanly possible to have perfect cookies, a spotless house, a Christmas tree that looks like it’s from a magazine or a Norman Rockwell painting.  If we want children to enjoy the holidays, we need to let them be involved with the preparations.  Let them help make a batch of cookies.  Put on some fun Christmas music and enjoy spending time with your children.  The cookies may not win any awards, but you had fun and your children will have a finished product of which they can be proud.  Allowing children to help decorate can also be a fun, memorable event.  Let them hang ornaments on the tree. Many years at my house found all the decorations gracing the lowest branches of our tree.  Let them arrange and rearrange the nativity set.  One year my daughter enjoyed arranging our nativity set to include her fire truck, and then told us she was taking the animals down the ladder two by two!  She had her stories mixed up but had a lot of fun with it.  What good is it to have beautiful decorations if you never let your child enjoy them?  

I have a collection of glass Santa and Mrs. Claus salt and pepper shakers.  Many years ago I made the decision to let the girls arrange and rearrange them throughout the Christmas season.  I decided I would not get upset if a few were broken, because I wanted them to enjoy the collection as well. It is still something they look forward to taking out every year.

Young children can help with wrapping gifts, too.  Once the items are boxed, let them help you put on the tape or add ribbons or bows. Again, they may not be beautiful, but your children will enjoy feeling that they are helping prepare for the big day.  They will also be working their fine motor skills.

There are certainly times during the holidays when it may be less stressful for both adults and children to have a babysitter, or to enlist the help of grandparents in providing childcare.  A day-long shopping trip could be stressful for all. Leaving the kids home with a loving caregiver will allow you to use your time most efficiently, without stressing out the kids.

As a parent or caregiver, you know your child best.  When planning out the holiday activities, try to keep your child’s nap and eating schedules as close to normal as possible.  A child who misses nap time is not going to enjoy an evening event.  Stock the diaper bag with some snacks, so if the event you are attending doesn’t have food for your child, you will be prepared.  Young children get overstimulated easily.  There may be times you need to “rescue” your child from doting relatives for a needed nap or just some quiet time in a room reading a book with you.  Too many people and too much noise can be overwhelming to a young child as well.  Besides, having a young child is the perfect excuse to bail out early if you want to!

The holiday season is full of special sounds, sights, smells, tastes and textures.  Look at the season from a young child’s perspective and enjoy the little things we sometimes overlook in our hurried lives.  Relive the magic with your child.  Lower the expectations you place on yourself for “the perfect “holiday and include your child in the planning and preparations.  In doing so you will create special holiday memories and traditions that your family will enjoy for years.

Deb Archer is a licensed teacher and parent educator. She owns Kickstart Preschool in Two Harbors.