Happy Holidays from everyone here at Education from the heart to you! It’s finally December, and with that, we have so many fun and exciting holidays to look forward to. We've created a list of some really festive activities that are not only entertaining, but can help teach your children all about the holidays!
1. Holiday Research (School age)
For this first activity, children will research the different holidays that occur during this time of year, to learn all about them! For younger children, this is a great chance to introduce them to the concepts of holidays and traditions. This also gives you a chance to explain to them some of the history behind what's being celebrated and why.
Start by making a list of some different holidays the children recognize. Ask them questions that relate to each of the holidays. This can include subjects such as:
- "What do we do on this holiday?"
- "What do we eat on this holiday?"
- "Are there any special colors you think of when you think of this holiday?"
-"When do we celebrate this holiday/ for how long?"
When they create their list, you can then expand on it, by introducing holidays they might not recognize. For this activity, we focus on different holidays that occur during December. This includes Hanukkah, Christmas, and Kwanzaa.
Have your children make an additional list for the holidays you want them to research, then generate questions for them to look up the answers to. Some helpful questions can include:
-"What is this holiday about?"
-"How is this holiday celebrated?"
- "When does this holiday occur?"
- "What is the history surrounding this holiday?"
-" What are some traditions related to this holiday?"
Here are some links to a couple of awesome books about the different holidays.
1. Daddy Christmas and Hanukkah Mama by Selina Alko
- This bright and interactive book dives into what it is like to take part in two holidays and all of their traditions and celebrations. Follow Sadie as she explores her family's Hanukkah and Christmas customs. This book includes vibrant pictures that depicts Sadie's fun and educational holiday experience.
2. Grover's Eight Nights of Light (Sesame Street) by Jodie Shepherd
- An incredible book that informs the readers all about Hanukkah. There's themes of friendship and kindness, as children follow the sesame street characters in learning and celebrating this holiday. This a simple and easy to read book that also includes stickers, cards and a very special Hanukkah game.
3. My First Kwanzaa (My First Holiday) by Karen Katz
- This a fun picture book that is incredibly helpful in teaching your young ones all about Kwanzaa. This book includes colorful illustrations from the perspective of our young character, as her family celebrates the holiday. Fun and educational traditions are explored and depicted; guaranteed to be loved by your children. Another bonus, is multiple vocabulary words, that are broken down and explained to help understand the holiday as well.
4. Li'l Rabbit's Kwanzaa by Donna L. Washington
- Join our character Li'l Rabbit on his adventure as he is determined to have a great Kwanzaa. Your children will love this adorable story, as we follow Li'l Rabbit and learn about Kwanzaa's customs and traditions, and the meaning of family, friends, and coming together.
5. The ABC's of Christmas by Jill Howarth
- In this incredibly festive board book, we follow along the alphabet, as we learn about different items related to Christmas. Adorable illustrations helps children grasp knowledge of Christmas, as well as practicing their ABC'S.
6. The Berenstain Bears and the Joy of Giving by Jay Berenstain
- Young readers follow the beloved Berenstain bear family, as brother bear and sister learn an important meaning related to Christmas. This book is great, in the way that it presents the message of the importance of giving to others, especially during the holiday season.
We've also include a couple of links to some helpful websites:
2. Candles and their meanings (preschool+)
Learn the importance of candles and all of their meanings in this activity.
Why do we use candles?
What do the candles represent?
What are the names for the specific candles?
There are many special traditions and customs that are related to the holidays. When teaching your children about these traditions, it can also be useful to incorporate fun activities that help teach them. This can include focusing on certain items that are used for these traditions. For this activity, children will learn all about the different candles that are used throughout the holidays.
Starting off, ask your children to identify different items that are associated with the holidays. If they are younger children, this is a great opportunity to help introduce these items. We recommend including small inexpensive replicas of the items. This can include an ornament, dreidel, an advent calendar and most importantly, candles. Discuss with your children what each item is, and how it pertains to which holiday. Ask your children questions about items they are most fond of and why. This introduction and discussion allows your children to reflect on why certain items are important to them, as well as other people and traditions.
keeping the candles as the last item to discuss. When you introduce the candles, make it a point to talk about how each holiday uses candles in some way, and that they all have a very special meaning. For our activity, we focus on Advent candles, Hanukkah candles and Kwanzaa candles. For each holiday, introduce their own respective candle(s).
If you are teaching older children, write a list of questions for them to look up answers for. The questions should surround the importance of the candles in their holidays. This can include questions such as:
“How many candles are used in this holiday?”
“Does the candles have a special name?”
“Does the candles have a special meaning?”
“Does the candles each symbolize a different subject and if so what are they?”
“Are the candles arranged in a specific way and why”
“What does the candles look like, (color, size, shape)
“Do you light the candles, is there a special way to light them?”
For younger children, you can have another discussion with them, as you both write and answer the questions together. Afterwards, you can choose to have them draw their own picture of the candles, or color a print out coloring page provided down below.
Here are some helpful links as well that include more information on the history and uses for different holiday candles.
Children will practice gift wrapping and giving in this activity. We explore the meaning of why we give gifts and why it's important to remember the act of giving.
To start, ask your children questions about all the celebrations in which we give people gifts. You can help them make a list of these celebrations, focusing on holidays. Try to point out reasons why we give each other gifts. As a tip, it can be helpful to add to the list some of those reasons. This can include things such as:
- To celebrate an achievement
- To show affection for another person
-To mark a specific and important milestone
Brainstorm the reason with your children as well as having them write or even draw their explanations. This can include drawing them having a happy birthday, celebrating mother's day, or the holidays. Ask them question about how it makes them feel when they not only get, but give gifts. This can include asking if they are excited to give gifts, and why it may be important for them to display their own feelings within the exchange. Ex: "How do you feel when mommy reads your hand-made card?" etc.
For our gift wrapping activity, have your children practice their coordination and motor skills. First, come up with different items to wrap. You can include recycled items such as:
-paper towel tubes
-small empty boxes
If you want, you can also keep the focus on D.I.Y handmade items the children will be able to make and decorate. Place the items in the middle of a table. Lay out the wrapping paper, and demonstrate each step of wrapping an item. Cut small pieces of paper for each item. Let the children observe you, and then talk them through the steps of wrapping the items themselves. The wrapping doesn't have to be perfect, as long as the children demonstrate the concept of wrapping and tapping their gifts. Children can build on to their hand- eye coordination skills, and gain more large and fine motor skills as they tape, wrap and fold. Being able to wrap their own gifts, will give your children a sense of accomplishment, as well as add to their excitement for giving the gifts to their loved ones.