In the Yew Chung International School of Beijing ECE Learning Community, Christmas is a magical time of the year. The classrooms are adorned with holiday decorations, and students join in Christmas activities every morning during Together Time. During last Friday’s ECE Christmas Concert, there was even a surprise visit by Santa, and parents were invited to join their children for a festive holiday lunch.
Many members of the YCIS Beijing community will travel back to their home countries for the holidays to celebrate with their family and friends. Yet during this time, there are also many wonderful learning opportunities in which young children can partake. Writing stories together with parents, drawing Christmas scenes, cooking, making decorations, singing Christmas songs and taking photographs can all be a part of the holiday season and help stimulate a child’s learning and development.
For additional ideas, K4 Co-Teacher Tilly Asafu-Adjaye offers tips for parents to engage their children in fun holiday-themed learning.
A great activity for kindergarten-aged children is to write letters to Santa. As with any activity, it should be something that children are interested in and is not forced upon them, but this is an activity in which all children are generally excited to participate.
The first step that parents can take is to provide children with a letter template. There are many children’s websites that have templates with holiday-themed border designs and illustrations that will help to attract children’s attention and allow them to feel engaged in the activity from the outset. Whether or not the template will have lines or a blank white space for writing should depend on the individual child’s current development and fine motor skills.
Within the letter itself, children can begin by writing “Dear Santa, Please may I have…” This will help to get the child’s language going and will teach them about the concept and process of letter writing in general. Meanwhile, it’s important also to always be mindful of children modelling their parents, in which case parents can write their own letter to Santa as a prompt for their children to follow along.
Learning Their Letters
If children aren’t yet able to write, they can dictate the letter and have their parents write it for them. Parents can act as a scribe for their children, but it’s very important for children to speak and for the letter to be in the child’s own voice.
Some children will already be familiar with letters of the alphabet, in which case parents can reinforce their letter learning. For example, if a child says that they’d like to add Lego toys to their list, parents can ask them what they think the first letter should be. Ask them to sound the word out. If the child finds that it sounds like an L, ask them what an L looks like and ask the child to write the letter themselves.
Some children will be very interested in copying letters but don’t yet know how to form them independently. In these situations, it’s helpful to first write the letter for them and for the child to then copy it in their own handwriting. This is a great way to develop their fine motor skills.
The Spirit of Giving
Finally, as when doing any activity, there are ways that parents can reinforce positive character traits in children. When writing letters to Santa, discuss with children the meaning of Christmas and the importance of giving to others. Ask children if they would like to include any items on their list that would benefit someone else.
Yet with this or any activity, ultimately, it’s important to not make the activities laborious, but instead to follow students’ interests. It has to be natural for children, and fun. After all, it’s Christmas.