The Heart of the Holidays

David Cohen

By: David Cohen

This year, Halloween and Thanksgiving are going to be different. Whether your get together or celebrate alone, the pandemic will certainly have an impact. Never fear – you can make sure that your child enjoys, and that they get the heart of the holidays. Start by deciding what makes the holiday special. Then, move on to the plan. Importantly, communicate with your child.

Why are Halloween and Thanksgiving so much fun for young children? Is it the history? I’m guessing that it’s not. In both cases, there are some pretty tough themes, if we’re being honest. Think about your own memories of celebrating as a child. You will likely come up with phrases like candy, family, costumes, turkey, visiting, trick or treating, being thankful, etc. You can make your own list and prioritize those that are most important to your family. I would encourage you to include your child in this discussion. Then, it is time for creativity!

As educators, we often think of the learning goal, then work backwards to create the experience. If I want my child to feel thankful for all that is good in their life, I need to think of a way to highlight all of those great things. If I want my child to laugh and be creative, I need to provide a canvas for those opportunities. Here are a few holiday-specific examples. Certainly, your goals and strategies may vary widely.

How can my child experience trick or treating while minimizing exposure? This is going to depend on each family’s comfort level with seeing other households. If the comfort level is zero, there are still ways to proceed. Each room in your home can become a trick or treat destination. Chocolate in the living room; chewy candies in the kitchen, etc. Have a bowl in each space, monitored by a costumed stuffed animal. Be sure to make of video of your child visiting each room. Replaying this experience with be outstanding! This can also work by using a variety of locations in your yard. If your comfort level includes a few neighbors, it’s time for open dialogue with these people. Will we knock on doors? How do we determine who is participating? What is everyone’s comfort level with close proximity? To maintain a good distance, consider a length of new tubing (cardboard, PVC, gutter). As long as the giver is higher than the receiver, it becomes a great candy dispenser!

How can my child learn to be thankful and appreciative of life and family? This may be a natural part of getting together for large family dinners. If this is not possible this year, consider starting the process weeks before. Make a list of all of the family members or friends who would have been at Thanksgiving dinner. You can be pretty inclusive, since seating will not be a problem. For each of the intended guests, make a customized card using construction paper, markers or anything else that you have handy. These cards could include simple messages that say, “I’m thankful for you because…” letting your child fill in that blank. Further, consider making it an invitation for a virtual gathering on Thanksgiving. This does not need to be a big virtual dinner. How about a 15-minute Zoom at 10am, where everyone wishes people a happy holiday and shares their beautiful card? What a way to start the day! Just be sure to get the cards in the mail during the first week of November.

These are just a couple of ideas to get the creativity flowing. Whatever you decide, keep your child in the conversation. Instead of focusing on what we cannot do this year, due to the pandemic, share your favorite memories. Share the way that you felt when you dressed up in costume or saw lots of friends. Let them know that these holidays are going to be special!

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