As the song goes “It’s the most wonderful time of the year!” Holidays are a time for celebrations, togetherness, and relaxation. All the fun activities, shopping, and baking keep everyone busy. Along with the excitement comes a great deal of preparation and scheduling. As a result, it is easy for parents to get caught up in it all and forget that the holiday season is overflowing with authentic opportunities to help children develop physically, intellectually, emotionally, and socially.
However, the season creates opportunities for parents to help their children with physical development. Fine motor skills are easily improved by allowing children to help with wrapping gifts and decorating cookies. This is especially important for younger children who are just developing those skills. And many of the bigger holiday projects are good for older children to help with. Strength and balance can be improved when they assist with things such as putting up a tree or outdoor decorations and lights or carrying a stack of gifts.
There are also opportunities to help children develop their intellectual skills during the season. Reading holiday stories with younger children is a great way to work on language and reading skills. They can also benefit from going grocery shopping by helping pick out items at the store and reading price tags. For older children, it may be beneficial for them to assist with making food and baked goodies, so they learn how to measure and add in the correct amounts of ingredients. It is also good for them to begin learning more, about family traditions and culture.
Since time with family and friends is such a huge part of the holiday season, emotional development can be fostered easily, and empathy is an ideal place to start. Children tend to get so caught up in the anticipation of parties and gifts this time of year that they often don’t think of how the holidays may affect others. Taking time to talk to them about giving will initiate more emotional intelligence. Having younger children help choose a toy to donate to an organization for another child is a great starting place. For older children, donating items and helping at a local food bank will help them begin tapping into a deeper part of their emotional development.
And while there are chances for different types of development everywhere during the holidays, we shouldn’t overlook opportunities for children to develop socially by focusing on communication and social skills. While social gatherings might be limited this year, younger children might have parties to attend, with games and fun activities. Helping them work on sharing with others, taking turns, and using good manners at these events will help them develop good social skills. For older children, taking part in conversations with different people as well as being a “host” for an event will help them work on more mature social skills.
With the freedom and overabundance of events of the holiday season, fostering children’s developmental needs can feel overwhelming. But by changing how we view routine holiday activities and viewing them as developmental opportunities, it becomes easier. Taking time to make this a new holiday tradition can have lasting benefits for everyone.