December is a wonderful time to do many different activities with the children in your classroom. For children it is an exciting time of the year and they will be looking forward to Christmas. It is a great opportunity for children to learn about the different traditions that other children have with their families as well as to share their own. It can also be a time where young children may become over stimulated so it is a good idea to introduce the theme slowly to the children so that they are not bombarded with colourful lights, aromas and decorations all at once. By taking the time to explore the theme it will give the children a chance to understand everything and put it into their own perspective without being overwhelmed.
There are also many other non-Christmas themes that you can do in your classroom if you don’t want too much focus on Christmas for the whole month. As we are now in Winter there are so many different ideas to explore with the children as detailed below.
Winter Animals – Children love to learn about animals but do they know that many animal habits change in the winter months so that they can survive? Teach the children about how animals adapt, hibernate or migrate during the winter. They will love to learn about what animals do during the Winter months to survive the cold weather. They will be able to compare and contrast the animals to humans as we also make some changes to our own lives during the winter – such as wearing warmer clothes and more outer layers, eating more warm foods and staying indoors in the Winter evenings.
Senses – With the holiday season in December children will experience so much through their senses. You could have a week-long Senses theme with each day dedicated to each one of the senses; sight, smell, hearing, touch and taste. There are many activities that you can do for each day and children will learn so much from experiencing the senses for themselves so try to introduce plenty of activities that encourage them to concentrate on each of the individual senses each day.
Clothes – As the colder days of Winter begin, everyone’s wardrobe changes to warmer clothes to include more outer layers such as winter coats, hats, scarves, gloves and warm boots. Learning about clothes not only focuses on what children do everyday (get dressed) but it can also teach them about where clothes come from and how they are made. This will teach them about different textures, materials and colours. It will also teach them how clothes need to be cared for by washing and drying and ironing them.
Hibernation – Many animals are currently preparing for the Winter months ahead, filling up on food and preparing warm beds. A great way to teach children about animals in Winter is to have a Hibernation theme. Children can build their very own bear’s den and use some of the classroom toy animals to use in the den so that they can explore hibernation over the coming Winter months. There are many great books on hibernation that can be used to introduce the theme to the children including, ‘Time to Sleep’ by Denise Fleming and ‘Baby Bear is not Hibernating’ by Lynn Plourde.
Snow – Although we may not always get snow in Ireland a Snow theme is great for preschoolers. The children can learn about snowflakes and their different shapes, the colour and texture of the snow. They can talk about what they could wear and what they could build if it did snow, like a snowman. Discuss areas in the world where snow plays a major role in the day-to-day living. There are many different arts and crafts children can do for a snow theme using materials such as cotton wool balls, white paper plates, white pipe cleaners (to make snowflakes) to name but a few.
Evergreens – There are trees all around us and they come in many different shapes, sizes and even colours. Some trees (evergreen) remain green all year long while other trees have leaves that change colour and fall to the ground every year. A tree theme provides a great opportunity to get outside and explore. Children can spot the different trees themselves and figure out what ones are evergreen and what ones are not, providing a good opportunity for children to recognise different colours at the same time. There are plenty of things that children can learn about trees. This includes learning about the parts of a tree and what each part does, the seasonal changes for trees, animal homes and nests in trees and how important trees are for the environment.
Gingerbread – Gingerbread is a great theme to include in your December Curriculum Planning as it evokes the senses for everyone especially sight, smell and taste! The Gingerbread Man story is an old school story that children may already be familiar with and telling the story in class is a good way to introduce the theme to the children. You can then use the story to play out some of the scenes such as The Old Woman’s Kitchen. Gather some materials such as cookie cutters, spatulas, an apron, a rolling pin, buttons and some play dough and let the children make their own gingerbread men.
In the latest Winter Pack, we have some great activities to choose from taken from our Winter, Christmas and Hibernation Curriculum Planning Packs. You will have plenty of ideas to work with over the period of December and each activity links back to both Aistear and Montessori Learning, clearly outlining what area each activity covers. The pack also includes Aistear and Montessori Observation Sheets that help you to document your observations of each child’s play in relation to Aistear Themes and Montessori Learning Areas.
- December: The 12th Month of the year, 31 Days, Winter Solstice (shortest day of the year) – 21st December
- Flowers: Holly, Poinsettia
- Weather: Freezing temperatures, possibility of snow
- Birthstone: Blue Zircon, Blue Topaz
If you are already a member of the Early Years Resource Factory, the new December pack comes free as part of your membership. If you are not already a member you can sign up here. ou can also sign up for a trial which will give you access to EYRF for 7 days so that you have a better idea of what the service entails. Click here for your 7 day trial.