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December 7, 2012

It’s that time of year again and the children will be getting excited about the upcoming celebrations and festivities! This provides a wonderful opportunity to focus on children’s sense of identity and belonging and to make stronger links with the parents of children in your service.Begin by finding out from families and staff members which December holiday/s, if any, they celebrate, and what they might like to share about their personal traditions.One in seven children in Ireland now comes from an immigrant background, so not every family necessarily celebrates Christmas.


Because our services are now very diverse, you may be learning about a number of different December holidays. If most of the families come from a similar  background, it could mean learning about the different ways families all celebrate the same holiday.

Through listening to children as they play, through discussions at circle time and in connecting with parents, practitioners can understand and explore ideas about celebrating different holidays, what it means to be a certain nationality and participating in festivities such as Christmas or Hanukkah for example.

We have put together a list of possible ideas that you may want to explore in your service and which link with Aistear.  Take the idea of Celebrations/Rituals/Festivals/Christmas and use it across the curriculum, at circle time, in the art area, in the book corner and in working with parents.


Circle Time

This is a great chance for children to share their experiences of  December holidays / Christmas, so start the discussion with a few open ended questions and leave time for them to think and respond. Help the children explore the similarities and differences among family holiday celebrations—whether it is the same holiday or different holidays. The aim is for children to understand that families are different, and that they each have their own ways of celebrating. 


  • What happens in December in your house? What happens in the local town?Are there celebrations going on?


  • What could we do here in the preschool to celebrate these holidays?


  • How did your parents/grandparents/family celebrate Christmas/ other holidays/ when they were small?



Books and Stories

There are books that focus on Christmas but building on the theme of celebrating and belonging, you can enhance the children’s sense of place and citizenship through selecting books and telling stories that relate to their lives in the here and now.


  Small World Celebrations   Small World Celebrations

by Jean Warren & Elizabeth S. McKinnon

Around-The-World Holidays to Celebrate with Young Children



Puppy’s First Christmas

by Steve Smallman

Something weird is happening, cries Puppy. Mom’s going wild in the kitchen; there are socks on the wall and a huge tree INSIDE the house. “Relax,” says Cat, “It’s Christmas Eve – it’s like this every year!”

   Christmas customs around the world  

Christmas Customs around the World

by Herbert H. Wernecke

Divided geographically by continent and by country, this book discusses the ways in which people from a variety of different cultures and countries celebrate Christmas. 


Lucy & Tom’s Christmas

by Shirley Hughes

This story follows the two children as they join in the traditional preparations for the big day. They make cards, wrap presents, cook a pudding and decorate the house. They watch carollers and a brass band and go out shopping for a tree at the local market.




Children can also make their own books about the celebrations they know, or about winter time, or even about where they live. All you need is paper, paints, markers, crayons and an attentive adult who will support the activity.  


Informal chats with Parents

Talk with the parents and check in, asking them which December holiday/s, if any, they celebrate, and what they might like to share about their personal traditions. Maybe they could come into the service and depending on their expertise help the children bake their national dishes, make instruments, teach songs and tell stories…
Let the parents know about the activities that the children will be doing as part of the festive season.


Building on Interests – Activities emerging from discussions

Talking with and listening to children provides us adults with a window of opportunity to understand what and how they are thinking. In listening to the children’s ideas and experiences a whole range of exciting possibilities’ may emerge.  The challenge is to build on the  children’s points of interest.


  • What are your favourite Christmas decorations/gifts/cards? How might we make these? (ie using recycled materials)

  • Designing our own small world made from a box, depicting a christmas scene such as a house with Santa coming down the chimney.

  • What are our favourite Christmas songs and stories? Maybe we could act one out with costumes and home-made instruments out of recyclables.

  • Documenting how we made our own small world/ play/ etc with stories, drawing and painting pictures , photos and video

  • Making cards for parents and family, especially those who may live away from Ireland

  • Baking Christmas goodies such as cookies in different shapes.

  • Children can tell their own stories about what they celebrate in December, and have them recorded by the adult, or maybe they would like to draw their story in pictures.

These are only suggestions and no doubt children will come up with a range of ideas from their own experiences on how to celebrate Christmas in the service. Building on children’s interests shows respect for their ideas and allows us as practitioners to extend their themes across the curriculum. The ideas outlined above help children develop awareness of their place in the community, and lays the foundations for citizenship (participating in community life).  


Links to Aistear

These activities that emerge from talking to children can be documented and linked to the themes of Aistear – the Early Childhood Curriculum Framework, by using a simple template – Aistear template

Sharing Ideas


We would love to hear your feedback on any activities and experiences over the festive season that went well for you and the children in your service, so that we can share these ideas on our website.

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