Tag Archives: holidays

Stick to your classroom routine—especially during the holidays!

The holidays are upon us and no matter which holidays you celebrate, I would guess that you have some family traditions built in that include food. In my family every celebration that we have includes food. There are birthday celebrations with homemade pastas and sauces. There are Christmas and Thanksgiving gatherings with homemade pizzelles, a special Italian cookie that is only made for very special occasions. And, I can honestly tell you that the meals we serve are not the healthiest or the most balanced.

Stick to your classroom routines--especially during the holidays!

The challenge for me is that food is connected to so many of my family traditions and I also know that food is fuel for life. When I think back to my time in a classroom after certain holidays, I know that children behaved differently than normal because their food and sleep habits were disrupted. Within our child care programs, it’s important that we maintain consistent routines and schedules and food so that we can set children up for the highest success rates possible. We need to be certain that we include the appropriate amount of fruits, vegetables and whole grains to provide their bodies with the right fuel. When children have the right combination of sleep and nutritious meals to get them through their days, they have a better chance of handling the holidays with ease.

As you approach this holiday season inside of your classroom, I hope that you take time to talk with the children about the various traditions that are celebrated within their families. I hope that you share with them the traditions that you and your family celebrate as well. Most importantly, I hope you provide a consistent environment for the children you work with. As a mom, I truly appreciated the work of my children’s teachers to bring a sense of normalcy during a time when the world can seem upside down and inside out to a little one. As a teacher, normal during the holidays may seem a bit boring, but I would bet the children in your classroom will appreciate it more than you may know.

—Angie G.

For Children, Family is Culture

After writing my blog on the tourist approach to holidays in the classroom and reading the comments, I was inspired to have a conversation with 4C’s Debra Chin. She had enough to say on the subject to write a blog of her own…

As a mom who is raising two American-born Taiwanese/Chinese children in the mid-west, I do my best to pass down my family’s traditions and partner with schools to enhance my boys’ exploration of their heritage.  When they were little, I fostered their learning with an environment where they could continue experiencing our family culture and language through many daily activities. They went to the weekend Chinese language school. They learned to play Kong-Fu and lion dance. I took them to all of the Chinese festivals, walking from stand to stand, hoping they would learn about the culture where they came from.

When my parents lived in Cincinnati, I took the boys to their home during the Chinese New Year,  following our family traditions to have them worship our ancestors. They would Kou-tou to dad and mom (juniors do a kou-tou to their elders to respectfully express their gratitude or wish elders happy new year; in our family, kou-tou consists of two bows in kneeling positions) and respectfully receive the red envelopes from them (red envelopes are mainly presented at social and family gatherings such as weddings or on holidays. The color of the envelope symbolizes good luck and is supposed to scare away evil spirits. Inside of the envelope, money is placed as a gift).

Despite my efforts to include aspects of Chinese culture in their lives, one of my boys wrote a poem about his family years later that shocked me. I thought for sure he was going to mention something about the Chinese New Year, but I was so surprised to read of the many other experiences that he had embraced! He wrote, “ I am from a kitchen with awesome smells of big, juicy watermelon slipping in my throat, and cheesy, sausage pizzas… I am from a family full of laughing Thanksgivings ripping turkey from each other… I am from a family with terrific Christmases with lots of presents in enchanting wrapping paper….”

What children have experienced about their family culture could be very different from what we might expect.  My boys have not witnessed a so-called real life Chinese New Year. The loud sounds of firecrackers and dragon dance are foreign to them, as are many of the other things that we have seen in the media about the Chinese New Year.  Having a theme about Chinese New Year in their preschool program based on what we might learn from books or media, thinking that would support their family’s culture, would not be relevant to their experiences. Other preschool children might develop misconceptions about the cultures that are foreign to them . As Kim stated in her blog, a celebration that is merely a “generic understanding of a culture communicates to children that all Jewish people must do this, or there’s only one way to celebrate Christmas or Kwanzaa. It’s not accurate, and it’s not developmentally appropriate.”

What my boys remember about the holidays is what we have been doing here in Cincinnati.  We gathered together with our friends who came here as foreign students; they had no family around, so they joined my husband and I and our children. We took turns hosting potluck parties. That’s what the boys remember, these holidays with friends. Chinese New Year is just another school day for them.

Some first generation families celebrate differently than families in their homeland, and every family is different.  I agree with Kim that “a better way to enrich your program with culture is to find out what holidays the families of the children in your program celebrate.” In a comment, Jenni suggested that  “you might include a book whose primary topic is not the holiday celebration, but in which the celebration occurs.” This is a meaningful way to integrate cultures into everyday experiences for young children. Through this type of learning environment, children are encouraged to share and explore their family’s culture as well as those of their friends.

What an honor to learn from each of you. Have a great new year!

Don’t be a Tourist! Celebrating Holidays in Preschool

‘Tis the season, or rather, ‘tis the week to celebrate the holidays in preschool classrooms across the state. Which holiday? All of them! Regardless of when they actually occur or relevancy to any of the children in the class, preschool curriculums often incorporate a celebration of as many holidays as possible in an attempt to be multi-cultural.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not judging any early childhood program that does this. I, too, once thought that I was being inclusive of other cultures and doing the right thing by including a “tour” of the holidays with potato pancakes and dreidels on Monday for Hanukkah, decorating a Christmas tree on Tuesday and even when I didn’t have an African-American child in my class, a celebration of Kwanzaa on Wednesday. When we had four days of school before our winter break I would add Chinese New Year to the week of holidays, though it wouldn’t happen in the calendar year until January or February. What I didn’t know about the holidays that were unfamiliar to me, I looked up on the internet.

I truly believed that I was being multi-cultural. Even as an administrator of a large program, I had the whole staff include these holidays in their lesson plans, whether the children in their classrooms were infants or school-aged children. While I did give them the freedom to come up with their own activities, we all did the same holiday on the same day the week before Christmas. I never stopped to think that the children who might be celebrating Hanukkah at home could have done so as early as November, and the children whose families celebrated Kwanzaa wouldn’t do so until after Christmas! We were being sensitive to the celebrations and traditions of all cultures, weren’t we?  The honest answer is, “NO!”

What messages were our celebrations sending to the children about people who do celebrate these holidays? Do all Jewish people make latkes? And who exactly celebrates Christmas? Do they all decorate a tree or believe in Santa Claus? (Parents over on our sister blog have some ideas about this).  Some people may celebrate Hanukkah or Christmas and celebrate Kwanzaa, just as some may celebrate Hanukkah and Christmas. Making a day where we celebrate a generic understanding of a culture communicates to children that all Jewish people must do this, or there’s only one way to celebrate Christmas or Kwanzaa. It’s not accurate, and it’s not developmentally appropriate.

A better way to enrich your program with culture is to find out what holidays the families of the children in your program celebrate. Ask them when they celebrate it, how they celebrate it and if their families have any special traditions that they would like to share. Have families share a special dish or treat with the class along with the recipe, or bring in pictures of their holiday celebration(s) and make an album or a storybook with them. The child can dictate what is happening in the picture and the teacher can write it down, or the child can draw pictures of what their family does for the holidays they celebrate. These can be put in the reading area for all to see and use.

Celebrating holidays isn’t wrong, but how you celebrate them can be so much more meaningful to the children in your class when you find out about their family’s cultures and traditions.  When you make a blanket statement about a particular holiday by something that seems as harmless as having Santa Claus visit your center, you miss out on the uniqueness of each child and family in your program.