Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Managing a toddler’s excitement over the Christmas period

The build up to Christmas seems to begin earlier each year. A few years ago, the shops replaced Halloween stock with Christmas stock, but this year the first Christmas chocolate selection boxes appeared in our local supermarket as soon as the Back to School stock was cleared. Rehearsals for the pre-school Nativity play began at the start of the September term.

Because of this, it’s difficult for young children to really understand how long they have to wait until Christmas. Small children want everything immediately, and they can’t appreciate that there is still a long time to wait until they go to bed on Christmas Eve listening for the magical sound of sleigh bells.

An Advent calendar is a really good way to help children understand about counting down to Christmas. Of course there are lots of different types of Advent Calendar to buy, or you could help your toddler to make your own Advent calendar, which you can personalise to their interests and tastes. It’s also a nice idea to start some traditions at an early age, so you might want to purchase a sturdier Advent calendar that is designed to be used year after year. We have a gorgeous wooden Advent calendar, and I love thinking of ways to fill the Advent calendar boxes each year.

It’s nice to be able to involve your toddler in the Christmas preparations. They can help ‘write’ the Christmas cards, and then take them along to the post box. You might have some Christmas baking to do, and there are lots of Christmas crafts that you can involve your child in – for example making cards and decorations. You can discuss what gifts friends and family members might like, and explain to your child that Christmas is not just about receiving presents.

All families celebrate Christmas in a different way, but there is likely to be an increase in social activity, and perhaps a bit of moving around - either visiting relatives or being visited. This can all be disruptive for young children, who very much thrive upon routine. Try to minimise disruption if you can, keeping meal and sleep times consistent and making time for some quiet time out. When children come together they can egg each other on and whip each other up into a frenzy, so if you will have a house full of children it’s worth thinking of some quiet activities to do, and if all else fails then you need to get out of the house and burn some energy.

If you have young children, don’t become too focussed on trying to create a perfect Christmas for them. If you become stressed, they will pick up on it and it will affect their behaviour. You don’t need to buy lots of presents – young children are easily pleased and will be delighted with a stocking containing a few small gifts. They also won’t remember the lovingly cooked turkey and roasted vegetables that they threw on the floor.

My family spent our first Christmas Day together as just the four of us when my two children were almost 3 and 7 months. Our Christmas dinner was a selection of heated up prepared party food and snacks. Instead of spending hours in the kitchen preparing food we spent the day playing with our children, then we put them to bed and ate chocolate on the sofa in front of the Christmas television. It was really fun and relaxing, with no stress.

Try and find a balance between involving your toddler in the Christmas preparations, without causing yourself unnecessary work and commitments. In the end, whatever your beliefs and however you choose to celebrate Christmas, it’s all about the little family that you have created.

Managing a toddler's excitement over the Christmas period

If you are looking for some seasonal craft and activity ideas to entertain small children, have a look at my Seasonal page.

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