4 developmentally appropriate ways for children to celebrate the holiday season

(BPT) – Seeing the holidays through the eyes of a child is a remarkable experience. Children take extra delight in twinkling lights, festive songs and stories, and the excitement in the air. Involving our little ones in ongoing celebrations not only offers great bonding opportunities, but it can also benefit their long-term growth.

Experts at Kiddie Academy Educational Child Care recommend using children’s excited anticipation of the holiday season to engage them in activities that will encourage skill building. Opportunities to focus on motor skills, character development, creativity, focus, memory and more are present through many different activities we do to celebrate the season each year.

Here are four activities that will subtly activate physical, emotional and cognitive development:

Baking cookies

“Think about all the steps that go into baking, from scooping and measuring to mixing and pressing cookie cutters into the dough. All these hands-on skills are beneficial to promoting fine motor and early math skills in children,” said Joy Turner, vice president of education for the Kiddie Academy brand.

Not only is this activity the most delicious of them all, but baking and decorating cookies is a great way to increase children’s upper body strength, pincer grasp, hand/eye coordination and more. Invite your children to stir, roll, touch, smell, feel, count and (safely) taste your cookie creations for a full sensory experience.

Making homemade cards and decorations

Creative growth can be realized by making crafts like homemade holiday cards or wrapping paper. Let your children color, cut out shapes, glue and write on the cards to practice dexterity, handwriting and visual processing skills.

“There are many benefits to consistently offering ways to get our children’s creative juices flowing while encouraging open-ended exploration,” said Turner. “As long as you provide age-appropriate materials, you can let your children have the freedom to create whatever they can imagine.”

Take stamps and decorate plain brown paper and ask your children to help you wrap gifts in it. Build a popsicle-stick kinara, Christmas tree or menorah to focus on engineering basics. Use a hole punch to allow tree lights to shine through cardstock ornaments while building hand strength. Find activities that are fun and that also focus on necessary abilities.

Building a countdown chain

No matter which holiday is celebrated in your home, you can create a countdown chain to build anticipation for it. Use strips of construction paper and tape or glue to build a chain with a pattern of alternating colors and one link for each day until the big event. Your children’s brains will have to access memory to remember to remove a link each day and you can prompt them to practice counting the remaining chain links as well.

Giving gifts and volunteering

Character values are a very important and easy skill to practice during the holiday season. Let your children see how it feels to select and give a special item to a family member or neighbor to build kindness and generosity. Gratitude and good citizenship can be developed by even our youngest children through helping others within the community by volunteering or donating to a toy or food drive. Because the whole purpose of the holidays is to show kindness and helpfulness, numerous benefits come from engaging children in these activities at a developmentally appropriate level.

“We see great gains in character values when children are active participants in the community,” said Turner. “Empathy comes from identifying when someone needs help and from the example of adults offering assistance to those who need it, which is why volunteering, donating and gift giving are beneficial for children to see.”

Holiday activities that serve a twofold purpose of celebrating the season while also focusing on child development abound. In addition to the benefits of physical, creative and personal growth, a completed craft or activity also offers a self-esteem boost that will keep the holiday spirit alive. ‘Tis the season to engage our children in festive fun — and watch them flourish!