It’s the annual rituals that make Christmas special for children, writes Helen O’Callaghan.
WHEN your children are adults with kids of their own, they might remember the Furby Boom or the VTech InnoTab 3S you got them this Christmas. But chances are the memories that bring back the magic of Christmas are going to be about something else.
Even in a time of scarce resources, there can be a real focus on material gifts, says Early Childhood Ireland CEO Irene Gunning.
“Yet, when we make more time available to indulge in rituals and traditions, this is what makes memories.”
Seasonal activities repeated year after year in the run-up to Christmas are what build tradition and turn the ordinary extraordinary, says Gunning, who suggests making festive cakes with children, asking them how we can decorate the tree and having them make Christmas cards.
“Even if it’s just involving them in making a few select cards, such as for grandparents. If you’ve kept old Christmas cards, children can cut out scenes, glue them on coloured paper and add glitter, put them in the envelope and post them. Ask them to name the special people they and you together can make gifts for.”
She suggests thinking about how activities can become meaningful. Go out in the countryside and collect holly. Talk about what holly means. Get the children to put glitter on the leaves and place it around a picture or hang it on the door.
Put a candle in the window, ask them what they think this Christmas ritual means, talk to them about how in former times it was put there as a light shining out on wanderers in the dark. Ask them how they think the candle can be made safe so the curtains don’t go on fire.
“It’s about building up all that tradition and doing things together and shared memories,” says Gunning, who likes the idea of a Christmas calendar. “You can make lovely cloth ones with pockets. Put treats or little trinkets in the pockets, one for each of the 12 days of Christmas to help children count down. On Christmas Eve, you can include a very special tree decoration.”
Gunning recommends involving children in being responsible for making something happen, such as the pre-Christmas tidying of the house. She also says it’s worth having a conversation on you can recycle toys. “Do a toy audit,” she recommends.
¦ Create memories by keeping each year’s special tree decoration. Hang kids’ artwork on tree.
¦ Read special book of Christmas stories that goes away after the holiday and reappears each festive season.
¦ Switch off TV and play old-fashioned games — charades, board games, jigsaws.
¦ Get out to the park, go for walks.
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