Adaptability and Stability: Changing and Maintaining Traditions, Rituals, and Routines During a COVID-19 Holiday Season

Image Source: by K Kohel in Canva

Traditions, rituals, and routines are good for all of us. They contribute to a shared sense of meaning, increase our connection to others, and can even support resilience in difficult or stressful times. The winter holiday season is one that is looked forward to by many families and young children. Various traditions bring family and friends of all ages together to share meals, exchange gifts, and simply be in the presence of loved ones.

The 2020 holiday season is not exempt from the changes brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. We know this holiday season may be experienced differently by many of our readers, and we want to acknowledge any feelings of confusion, frustration, sadness, or anger that you may be experiencing. We hope this blog provides encouragement and a few ideas for connecting with loved ones and making this a meaningful holiday season.

Young children are often more perceptive of adult emotions than we expect. They may not understand why the adults in their lives are upset, but they can sense that something is not quite right. As adults, it is important that we model emotional awareness and self-regulation for young children and invite them into conversations about emotions. Read for Resilience is a Learning Child program that is free and available to all through our website. This program aims to help adults and children share conversations about difficult topics through the process of reading and discussing storybooks.

If this holiday season is made more difficult due to loss or feelings of grief, sadness, and frustration, consider a ritual that acknowledges those feelings and helps your family share them together. For example, if you have lost a loved one this year, consider making a special ornament to hang on your tree with their picture or a symbol that reminds you of their life. Use the hanging of this ornament as a special time to share memories of that person.

Although your traditions may look different this year, it is still important to connect with loved ones. If you are “gathering” with your family online, consider having a conversation with your children about why your traditions are important to you and your family. Ask older members of the family to share how some traditions have been passed down and others have changed over the years. Encourage older family members to reminisce about the holidays when they were children, and have young children talk about how things are both the same and different than they used to be. Have all members take time to share what they are grateful for. These intentional conversations help build relationships among the many generations in your family.

Finally, many families and communities of different backgrounds have special celebrations that occur throughout the year. In addition to celebrating your family’s treasured traditions – perhaps in new ways – consider taking the time to learn about the traditions and holidays of others.

Image source: by K Kohel, in Canva

For more on routines, rituals, and traditions during the holiday season, check out these other Learning Child blog posts:

  1. Teaching Kindness and Giving with a Holiday Twist
  2. Connect with Your Children this Holiday Season
  3. Tips to Manage Holiday Stress
  4. The Power of Storytelling
  5. Keeping Routines is the Secret to a Calm Holiday

And these additional resources (also linked in the blog):

  1. How Important is Thanksgiving Soup to a Child’s Wellbeing?
  2. Creating Routines for Love and Learning
  3. Let’s Use this Time to Strengthen, Not Weaken, Bonds Between Generations

Staying Connected During Social Distancing

KARA KOHEL, EXTENSION EDUCATOR | THE LEARNING CHILD

Peer Reviewed by Leanne Manning, , Lisa Poppe, and Lynn DeVries, Extension Educators, The Learning Child

Make sure to follow The Learning Child on social media for more research-based early childhood education resources!

Twitter Logo
Pinterest Logo
iconmonstr-facebook-4-icon-64

Share this:

Costume tips to help everyone have a very Happy Halloween!

 

woman wearing halloween costume
Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

 

I have many fond memories of celebrating Halloween as a child.  Carving out our pumpkins a few days before Halloween, toasting pumpkin seeds, and making little ghosts out of tissues and cotton balls.  However, the thing I remember the most are my favorite costumes!  One of the best ways to help your child have a safe and memorable Halloween is to be sure they have a safe and comfortable costume:

  • Consider your child’s gross motor skills; such as walking, running, going up stairs, turning, etc. Bulky costumes or those with accessories such as tails or wings may be difficult for some children to navigate in.  Give the costume a test run by having your child wear it around the house, or even on a walk to make sure everything fits correctly.
  • Masks, hoods or hats can really make some costumes complete, but they may not be safe, or comfortable. If your child’s costume comes with a mask or other head wear, give it a ‘test run’ and make sure they can see, breath and be comfortable with it on.  (Sometimes the elastic straps that hold the masks on cause the discomfort, so check those, too!)  If your child doesn’t want to wear a mask, hood, etc., respect their decision.  They will look great, with or without it.
  • Fashionable footwear may be a must for some adults, but for children, it’s all about function. Properly fitting tennis shoes or boots (depending on the weather) are going to be your best bet.  Avoid sandals, open toed shoes, clogs or  ‘high’ heels as they increase the risk of ankle injuries, blisters, cuts, and stubbed toes.
  • Adaptable outfits are a must in most US cities at the end of October. The record low in Omaha on October 31 is 35 degrees, and the high, 83!  Choose a costume that can maintain the ‘look’ if you have to add layers, but won’t be so warm your child is hot and uncomfortable.
  • Add a little pizazz to your child’s costume, and help make them more visible, by adding glow sticks, glow necklaces or bracelets, or little flashing lights.
  • Let your child help choose what outfit they are going to wear. The best way to help young children choose an outfit is for you to decide on two or three choices that you think will work well and then let your child make the final decision.  When children are given choices, it helps them increase their self-esteem and independence.  Being able to make the choice about their costume may also help your child be more excited about wearing the costume and attentive to adults during the Halloween festivities.

KATIE KRAUSE, EXTENSION EDUCATOR | THE LEARNING CHILD

Peer Reviewed by Lynn DeVries, Extension Educator, The Learning Child, Tonia Durden and Gail Brand

Make sure to follow The Learning Child on social media for more research-based early childhood education resources!

Twitter Logo Pinterest Logo iconmonstr-facebook-4-icon-64

Go Green This Christmas

shutterstock_536182012

Image Source: ShutterStock

Americans generate an average of 25 percent more waste, or 1 million extra tons per week, between Thanksgiving and Christmas, with the trash almost doubling right after the holidays. Isn’t it possible to celebrate without leaving a trail of trash that will stay in the landfills long after the season has passed?

Picture the bags of garbage you put on the curb last year and visualize what was inside. Then identify areas where you can prevent waste before it starts.

Holiday Waste Audit

What are all the waste-generating activities?

  • Food waste (serving too much at parties)
  • Energy waste (incandescent lights)
  • Tree and other decorations
  • Paper waste (cards, wrapping paper, and boxes)
  • Plastic waste (drink containers, packaging)

Now consider durable items that turned out to be anything but—the new stuff that ended up in the trash or forgotten in a closet over the year. What broke, wore out prematurely, or was never really used?

  • Kids toys
  • Clothes
  • Appliances
  • Other

If you receive gifts that you will never use consider re-gifting them, or donating to your favorite appropriate charity. Communicate your gift-giving preferences ahead of time to your family to avoid ending up with gifts that end up in the waste stream or need to be re-gifted. According to a national survey, more than 3 in 4 Americans wish that the holidays were less materialistic. Nearly 9 in 10 believe that holidays should be more about family and caring for others, not giving and receiving gifts [New Dream]. Yet the average U.S. consumer plans to spend more this year—$805.65—on holiday shopping. Think about these facts and decide what type of gifts you want to give and receive this year.

Recycle your old holiday lights. The annual recycle holiday light drive sponsored by Eastridge Elementary School in Lincoln is being held again this year. To find all recycling locations, visit the Eastridge website at: http://wp.lps.org/eastridge/pto/.

Low-Waste Gift Wrapping

Tearing open a gift always brings a thrill, but wrapping with virgin paper and plastic ribbons spends a lot of resources on those few seconds’ thrill. Consider that 38,000 miles of ribbon alone is thrown out annually—enough to tie a bow around the Earth. Don’t send any wrapping materials to the landfill this year. Consider the following alternatives to store-bought gift wrap:

  • Wrap with comics or paper bags decorated with markers, potato stamps, or drawings
  • Use maps, fabric pieces, thrift store cloth, old calendars, or other repurposed materials
  • Reuse gift boxes from last year or repurpose other boxes around the house (cereal, etc.)
  • Give the gift of reusable gift bags: sew simple bags that can prevent waste year after year
  • Decorate with old ribbons, ties, scarves, beads, and paper snowflakes
  • Skip the wrapping altogether and opt for a scavenger hunt with clues

Source: Center for a New American Dream (www.newdream.org)

LEANNE MANNING, EXTENSION EDUCATOR | THE LEARNING CHILD

Make sure to follow The Learning Child on social media for more research-based early childhood education resources!

Twitter Logo Pinterest Logo iconmonstr-facebook-4-icon-64

 

Connect with Your Children This Holiday Season

shutterstock_537369151

Image Source: ShutterStock

Many of us are looking for new ways to connect with our children during the holidays. If you would like to create some holiday rituals, especially for kids, here are some suggestions:

Help kids put on a holiday play, talent show, or puppet show.

Pick a well-known play or movie and assign roles in unconventional ways.

Take them caroling.

This community-building activity is particularly enjoyable when friends and relatives are visiting so that the group of children is large. Make multiple copies of song sheets!

Make kolaches, chocolates, a gingerbread house, or other treats.

Help your children prepare gift boxes for the homeless or local shelter (filled with items like food, treats, and personal care items). This can be done jointly with a few families and is a gentle way to teach kids to appreciate their own good fortune and instill the values of community service and kindness to others.

Bake easy dough ornaments, either freeform or using cookie cutters.

Basic recipe: 2 cups all-purpose flour, 1 cup salt, 1 cup water. Visit a local farm, artisan bakery, or craft shop to teach kids how food and handicrafts are made. Stamp recycled paper with a cut potato dipped in paint. This can be used as gift wrap.

Get out in nature.

Plant a tree, pick up trash by a stream, or go on a hike, go sledding, bring a nature book to identify plants and birds.

Give a present to the birds.

Make a birdfeeder out of a plastic bottle, milk carton, jug, or coffee can. Together you can look up the bird species that visit and learn to recognize them. Source: Center for a New American Dream (www.newdream.org)

Leanne Manning, Extension Educator | The Learning Child

Make sure to follow The Learning Child on social media for more research-based early childhood education resources!

Twitter Logo Pinterest Logo iconmonstr-facebook-4-icon-64

Gifts for Children Other Than Toys

shutterstock_536018332

Image Source: ShutterStock

Have you ever noticed that sometimes very young kids are happier with the wrapping paper than the present? Often, the less complicated a gift is, the more it engages a child’s imagination. So, consider stuffing a stocking with these timeless toys:

  • Bag of marbles, polished rocks, sea shells, or foreign coins
  • Magnifying glass
  • Telescope
  • Stamp and stamp pad
  • Building blocks
  • Modeling clay or homemade play dough
  • Drawing pad and crayons or other art supplies
  • Empty food boxes, play money, and a cash box for running an imaginary store
  • Old business forms, rubber stamps, and file folders to play office Scrap wood, cardboard, shingles, a hammer, non-toxic paint, etc. for building a clubhouse, and a map showing where it can be built
  • A cookbook with simple, healthy recipes
  • Gardening tools, seeds, and pots of soil for indoor gardening
  • A treasure hunt with a series of mysterious clues for children to follow
  • A subscription to a magazine that explores the larger world Silk nightgowns, wild shoes, silly ties, and hats for playing dress-up
  • Offer to throw a party in any month a child wishes, with a choice of party themes
  • Books—with skits, plays, or story of interest
  • Membership to local children’s museum or zoo
  • Adopt an animal in the child’s name

What are some suggestions you have for Christmas gifts?

Leanne Manning, Extension Educator | The Learning Child

Make sure to follow The Learning Child on social media for more research-based early childhood education resources!

Twitter Logo Pinterest Logo iconmonstr-facebook-4-icon-64

 

Teaching Kindness and Giving With a Holiday Twist

the-kindness-elves-kindness-is-contagious-pass-it-on-680x505Image Source: The Imagination Tree

The holidays are a perfect time to focus on the social emotional development of young children. We can take this time to focus on the giving, rather than receiving.  It may sound cliché, but as parents and teachers our goal is for children to develop healthy attachments and maintain secure relationships with caring adults.  We also want our children to lean to show awareness of and respond to the feelings of others.

I had the opportunity to work with an amazing professional preschool teacher who was a master at setting up a caring community of learners.  It was very apparent that a lot of intentional planning was done to set up her classroom environment in a way that children trusted the adults and were nurtured and accepted.  Many opportunities were provided for children to develop an awareness of their own feelings as well as the ideas and actions of others.  During the holidays, the class was introduced to the “Kindness Kids” and daily were involved in decisions and planning thoughtful ways they could show kindness to others through-out the school.

Check out this article that explains The Kindness Kids, an Alternative to Elf on the Shelf Tradition.

And for you busy parents and teachers here is a site that provides Free downloadable kindness elves messages.  I hope this idea will help you to model kind words, thoughtfulness and giving.  I think you will be amazed at the ideas the kids come up with on their own to thank and appreciate others in their lives.

What are some of the ways you encourage awareness of others during the holidays?

Lynn DeVries, Extension Educator | The Learning Child

Make sure to follow The Learning Child on social media for more research-based early childhood education resources!

Twitter Logo Pinterest Logo iconmonstr-facebook-4-icon-64

Dia De Los Muertos: Day Of The Dead Celebration

Screen Shot 2015-10-28 at 9.54.54 AMEl Dia de los Muertos or The Day of the Dead Celebration is a day dedicated to remembering loved ones who have passed by celebrating their lives with festivals, parades, food, and ofrendas (offerings). This celebration, that originated in Mexico, is celebrated November 1 and combines the beliefs about death of the Indigenous people, who believed that death is the passage to new life, is meshed with the Catholic traditions of All Saints Day (November 1) and All Souls Day (November 2).

Dia de los Muertos is celebrated all over Latin America and even in some parts of the United States. Some celebrations take place in cemeteries where families create ofrendas with photos, marigolds, favorite items and foods of the deceased culminating with a picnic. Some ofrendas are created in homes often decorated with paper flowers, papel picado (paper banners cut into elaborate designs), sugar skulls or paper mache skulls, and food.

Some traditional food associated with the Day of the Dead Celebration are mole (chicken or pork cooked in a red chile sauce made with peanuts and chocolate) pan de muerto (bread made in the shape of bones or people), and sugar or chocolate made into the shape of skulls.

A calaca (Spanish word for skeleton) is made of wood, paper mache, candy and sugar. They are depicted as happy and dancing in honor of deceased relatives. Calacas have become very popular in art today and can be seen in modern art, movies, on t-shirts, and even painted on faces for Halloween.

This Mexican tradition teaches us that death is not a sad occasion, but rather a time to remember, celebrate, and honor our loved ones who have passed on.

Click here to make some of these Day of the Dead crafts for kids

6a00d8341cc08553ef019b007cfba3970c-800wi 6a00d8341cc08553ef019b00901c4e970c-800wi 6a00d8341cc08553ef019b00907016970d-800wi 6a00d8341cc08553ef019b007cf77f970c-800wi 6a00d8341cc08553ef019b007d20f9970b-800wi

Jackie Guzman, Extension Educator | The Learning Child

Make sure to follow The Learning Child on social media for more research-based early childhood education resources!

Twitter Logo Pinterest Logo iconmonstr-facebook-4-icon-64

Tips For A Happy Healthy Halloween

CSpN9QGUcAAjpeY.jpgWith Halloween around the corner, grocery stores are coming out with sugary treats to hand out to the neighborhood children. Sweets such as candy and chocolate are full of sugar, high in calories, and lack many nutrients that children need. Although purchasing these sugar-filled treats may seem like the routine tradition to do on Halloween, there are other more healthful treat options to hand out to your local trick-or-treaters. Encouraging your community to have a healthy Halloween can be fun for both you and the children!

Be Creative With Food

hallloweenorangesHealthy foods, such as fruits, can be made into fun Halloween-themed treats. Mandarin orange cups or tangerines can be drawn on to look like jack-o-lantern faces. Or, decorate a the wrapper of string cheese like a ghost. These healthy treats provide fun, hands-on activities for your children!

Use Non-Food Treats

spiderringsWho said Halloween treats need to be edible? Local stores have great, non-food alternatives in bulk at the same cost as candy. Candy is there one minute and gone the next, but this list of non-food treats will bring hours of fun for children!

  • Spider rings
  • Halloween foam stickers
  • Halloween-themed pencils
  • Stretchy eyeballs
  • Plastic fangs
  • Halloween-themed erasers
  • Halloween-colored yo-yos
  • Plastic skeletons

 Be Safe

glowsticksSafety precautions should be taken on Halloween. Non-food treats such as glow sticks can provide a safety feature for children to wear while they trick-or-treat in the dark. Lip-shaped whistles are a fun way to have a child let you know they are close by.

Find Healthy Substitutions

Sugar-filled treats can be substituted for nutritious treats at a low-cost. Instead of a pack of M&M’s, hand out packs of mixed nuts. Snacks such as air-popped popcorn, pretzels, and cheese sticks make great alternatives to candy items.

Non-Food Halloween Treats at Local Stores

Walmart: 27th & Superior Street

Reward/Treat Pieces per Pack Price ($)
Stretchy Skeletons 12 0.97
Stretchy Eyeballs 6 0.97
Bat Rings 50 0.97
Foam Stickers 75 0.97
Spider Rings 50 0.97
Plastic Skeletons 12 0.97
Mini Erasers 50 0.97
Glitter Foam Stickers 50 0.97
Glow Bracelet 5 0.97
Plastic Fangs 12 0.97
Bounce Balls 12 1.97
Mini Gel Pens 12 1.97
Pencil Topper Stamps 12 1.97
Puzzle Mazes 8 1.97
Bubbles 12 1.97
Assorted pencils 28 1.97

Dollar Store: 27th & Superior St.

Reward/Treat Pieces per Pack Price ($)
Puffy Stickers 47 1
Skull Rings 50 1
Spider Rings 50 1
Assorted Pencils 50 1
Assorted Erasers 18 1
Assorted Erasers 12 1
Glow Bracelets 8 1
Assorted Stickers Varies 1
Creepy Creatures 12 1
Yo-Yos 8 1
Lip Whistles 6 1
Spin- Tops 8 1

Additional Resources & Links

This Pinterest board gives healthy ideas for Halloween fun.  

Authors: Kelsey Doerr, Jaci Foged and Dipti Dev | The Learning Child

Make sure to follow The Learning Child on social media for more research-based early childhood education resources!

Twitter Logo Pinterest Logo iconmonstr-facebook-4-icon-64

 

 

Tips To Manage Holiday Stress

Managing holiday stressHundreds of dollars in spending and calendars overloaded with extra events and commitments can turn the holiday season from merry to miserable for many Americans.

Families are dynamic and they aren’t perfect. The holidays are a high-stress time due to more obligations, the blending of families who may not get along, overwhelming financial stress, and high expectations for traditions.

Families need to practice communication techniques before the holiday season gets busier. Small things can make a big difference, and playing games together can be one way to find that quality time. By playing games together, family members get to know each other better, talk, laugh and be silly.

Tips For Managing Holiday Stress

  • Try to celebrate one good thing each day, whether it’s getting out the door on time or taking a few minutes to chat about school or work.
  • Talk with each person in the family, including children, and let them know about changes in schedules or upcoming events.
  • Remember that kind words and acts go a long way. A hug or heartfelt “thanks” are meaningful and simple ways to express appreciation.
  • Show self-respect and be nice to family members who may be struggling with changes to routines or health behaviors.
  • Be realistic and communicate up-front about what the family can do. Identify which traditions are most important and which can be skipped or delayed, whether kids or adults can help with chores or events, and when the family plans to stay home and relax.
  • Take a slow, deep breath at multiple times throughout the day.
Lisa Poppe, Extension Educator | The Learning Child

This article was previously published for Nebraska Extension by Lisa as a PDF. It is re-published here with her permission.

Make sure to follow The Learning Child on social media for more research-based early childhood education resources!

Twitter Logo Pinterest Logo iconmonstr-facebook-4-icon-64