In this edition of our Early Years Diary Anna McCallum looks back on an unprecedented Christmas period and the adjustments her team was able to make to give the children as good a Christmas as ever.
Christmas is quite possibly the most magical time of year working in the Early Years, the children’s excitement levels are at an all-time high, practitioners continuously return home covered in glue and sparkles and we go to bed with Christmas songs endlessly circling our minds from singing them all day in preparation for nativities. That is what we can usually expect this time of year, but unfortunately this year has naturally been somewhat different.
Because of COVID19 this Christmas is different not only at home but also in our nurseries, but I believe we are still maintaining as much magic as possible for the sake of the children in our care. Many children will be unable to see certain family members, some children may not get presents due to new and unplanned for economic pressures, and some children may even have lost a loved one. For all these reasons and more, we should make it our responsibility to make sure children still have a magical time whilst attending nursery. So what have we been doing in my setting?
We opted to cancel our nativity due to parents not being allowed on the premises, but we have still been sing Christmas songs and getting in the festive mood. The preparation of nativities is normally such a mammoth task, consisting of daily rehearsals spanning many weeks, preparing costumes and props, and decorating the nursery, so by cancelling this year we used the time we gained wisely. We still decorated the nursery in a similar fashion but changed the way we complete the children’s Christmas folders (made up of various arts and crafts) and added new activities to our planning.
We decided to make our planning throughout December more fun and interactive by creating more ‘party game’ like activities whilst still trying to make them educational. We have pinned the nose on Rudolph encouraging turn taking and being patient, we have been on a candy cane hunt in the garden tying in numeracy and counting skills, and we have been snowman bowling, focussing on gross motor skills and coordination. By creating these enjoyable seasonal games, we hope to have formed long lasting positive memories for the children this year.
In regard to the children’s Christmas folders we invested our additional time this year to produce new meaningful items that we hope parents will keep for years. For their Christmas cards we used a photograph of each child and turned them into a funny little elf-this took an exceedingly long time, but the end result was definitely worth it! The children helped decorate the cards and wrote inside them, but also painted some Christmas ornaments, made their own salt-dough tree decorations, wrote a letter to Santa, decorated their folders, made fingerprint paintings and more! This extra time has allowed us to get creative and has resulted in a more significant experience and less like a conveyer belt of children making the same tiresome Christmas crafts.
We have still been able to have our Christmas parties this year with a few minor changes, such as having to remain in our own bubbles rather than joining together, having party food brought in a week prior to the party dates and keeping party food restricted to shop-bought, wrapped products that can be wiped down. By making these minor adjustments and planning ahead, we enabled the children to have their fun Christmas parties that they love and really do deserve.
Arguably, most importantly ‘Father Christmas’ (a staff member in costume, usually yours truly!) was still able to make an appearance this year and deliver presents to the children at my nursery. Whilst they are still young enough to believe in jolly old Saint Nick, I feel it is so important to be able to give them this experience. Seeing their little faces light up with apprehensive joy and admiration is such a heart-warming event that I cherish every year. Also keeping in mind that presents may be in short supply in some households, having an extra little gift from Father Christmas himself is just so special for them.
With a few minor adjustments in place this year we have still been able to create a fun and festive environment for the children, despite a worldwide pandemic. They have laughed, they have played, and they have made some wonderful memories with us that I know I certainly will appreciate for many years to come.
We are truly lucky to have a job where we can influence someone’s life so much and I think this can easily be forgotten. As Early Years practitioners we are capable of impacting a child more than we realise, but I think this is the year to recognise what we can do. We can help a child master a skill through fun activities without them even knowing they are learning, we can make them chuckle when there may not be much laughter at home, and we can give Christmas to a child who may not otherwise have one. This magical time of year can be made all the more magical, thanks to the remarkable practitioners who can make it so.
Join the conversation and share your seasonal experiences using the hashtag #thatnurserylife