Christmas in our settings is a fun, joyful time for the majority of children – even if it’s exhausting for us! However, Christmas preparations can sometimes be difficult for children and they tend to show us they aren’t coping well in the only way they can: through their behaviour.
I sometimes wonder who many of the Christmas experiences within our settings really benefit. I’ve witnessed many productions where children became distressed, particularly when they’ve had to sit through lengthy rehearsals in unfamiliar rooms and learn songs with complicated vocabulary which they didn’t understand. Even if they aren’t visibly upset, are they really enjoying the experience? I’ll always remember a three-year-old girl during a rehearsal sadly asking me, “When are we going to play?”
I appreciate that in a school setting, children in the early years might be part of a larger Key Stage 1 production but surely it is our responsibility to speak out on children’s behalf if we think something isn’t appropriate for them? I’m sure most parents would be only too happy to see their son or daughter happily singing familiar songs and rhymes, particularly if there was a mince pie or cake on offer at the end!
For some children, our setting is the only stability they have in their chaotic lives. It might be very confusing for them when they enter it one day to see it completely transformed into a Christmas wonderland with resources in different places, quiet corners no longer available and Christmas carols blasting out in all directions. The phrase “What is it like for a child in this setting?” applies equally at Christmas and, in my opinion, should be asked very regularly.
For children with social communication difficulties/autism, the impact of Christmas can be huge – particularly if we consider the additional sensory experiences of texture, taste and smell and the dramatic change in routine. The National Autistic Society has produced some useful advice and, like most strategies for children with special educational needs, the ideas will benefit all children.
So, enjoy your Christmas preparations and celebrations but remember each Key Person’s statutory duty to ‘help ensure that every child’s learning and care is tailored to meet their individual needs’ (Statutory Framework for the EYFS, 1.10).
About the author
Kathryn is a specialist early years teacher and trainer who has worked with children for nearly 25 years, including 10 years as an Area SENCO. She is an ELKLAN Speech and Language Trainer and regularly writes and delivers courses for early years practitioners on all aspects of SEND. You can follow her on Twitter @kathrynstinton, find her on Facebook or visit her website for more information.