With the coronavius pandemic still ongoing, many providers have lots of questions about how they can celebrate the festive season - Can we still hold our nativity play? What can we do instead of our usual nursery Christmas party? Are we allowed to sing carols?
Richard Knight, early years service officer at the Alliance, shares ideas for celebrating the festive season in your early years setting, while still following coronavirus guidelines and restrictions...
The festive season is fast approaching and I think we can all agree that Christmas 2020 will be a different one for all of us. Holiday season with children and young people can be a magical experience: the awe and wonder of the build-up, family traditions and people coming together to celebrate in lots of diverse ways.
Autumn is a busy time for early years providers with many becoming hives of activity and parental involvement as children work through crafts activities, stories and tales. Children may even be rehearsing performances for the eyes of proud families.
While settings and childminders might usually have their typical go-to festive activities and traditions, including parents and cares in their celebrations this year might be a little more difficult than usual in these times of ever-changing social distancing restrictions and guidance?
A different way of life
Ordinarily, seasonal celebrations in settings might involve last day of term parties for both children and parents, carol concerts, fayres or fetes, shared food and treats from home, nativity plays or favourite story book performances.
With providers still being encouraged to avoid parents and other third party adults entering the premises where possible, it is evitable that times of celebration and coming together in the early years sector are going to continue to be significantly different in the way of life we now lead.
The digital revolution
Providers up and down the country have had to embrace digital communications just like many other sectors in the pandemic. We are all working in new ways and connecting virtually with each other and families to good effect. Video and Wi-Fi calling have become the new normal for most.
Some settings are considering using their devices to record festive song sessions and other popular music and movement choices that children may use at home. These sessions could see key persons having a sing along with their key group of children or the whole setting community in a larger, spaced-out session with staff and children singing and dancing together.
Providers who are under tighter restrictions locally or are maintaining the use of ‘bubbles’ may prefer to keep to smaller groups.
Another option is for practitioners to sing inclusive seasonal songs while using props to enhance the experience. The recordings can easily be sent to individual families or, with relevant consent, can be used on social media or your setting website.
To keep the recordings as meaningful as possible, practitioners could send out a simple survey asking families which songs they would like to see in the clips.
Providers that would usually do larger scale performances such as carol concerts or plays may want to go ahead with their planned activity and use technology to record the event. Again, the recording can be shared with families who can keep it and watch in the comfort of their own homes.
Those that are feeling savvy might choose to livestream the song session of choice, giving parents and carers an opportunity to watch in real time as if they were in the building.
Other ways to share the celebration include taking photographs of children engaging in festive activities and being creative. You may wish to create a series or gallery that can be sent out to families and then be enjoyed at home with the wider family.
Don’t forget to make the most of any nursery management software you may have. You can share play and learning ideas with families remotely.
Your usual favourite activities can be given a festive twist to help parents and carers improve their home learning environment over the festive break. This could be increasingly important over the winter break if families are at home more than they would usually be due to local restrictions.
Many providers are hosting catch-ups with parents and carers using video conferencing platforms. Conversations about children’s learning and development still need to happen, despite the fact that parents are not entering the setting itself.
Why not consider a Christmas jumper or other fancy-dress parent networking event or parents evening session online? Invite them to join a virtual party, bringing their own food to enjoy while they chat.
Party like it’s 2020
Lots of providers mark the end of the calendar year with a big party to help celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah and other winter festivals. These parties don’t necessarily have to stop but they will certainly need to be managed differently to ensure they go ahead in the safest way possible.
Think about keeping your parties in house and perhaps serve food which is prepared on site, rather than asking families to bring their own dishes in.
With allergies, food intolerances and likes and dislikes to consider, you may wish to ask families for their thoughts on the menus offered.
This could be a great opportunity to acknowledge the traditional foods that parents and carers enjoy in times of celebration. Including some favourite foods from home ensures that your celebrations reflect that of the local community.
Taking lots of photos or videos and involving parents in the planning will help them feel part of the event, even if they can’t be there in person.
If you have a large number of children attending your setting, you may wish to organise several, separate smaller parties within key children cohorts or secure bubbles if you are still using them.
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