The festive season in nurseries is a magical time when all children are excited about extra crafty activities and, of course… glitter! But do all children feel equally as excited for the holidays? It can be challenging not to fall into celebrating Christmas and unintentionally exclude children and families from different cultures, traditions and preferences in your early years setting.
In this article, we share how to make your holiday celebrations fun for all, covering everything from inclusive activities and SEND-friendly practices, to supporting low-income families enjoying the celebrations.
What does an inclusive EYFS Christmas look like in nursery settings?
To truly understand what an inclusive holiday celebration will look like in a childcare provider, we first must look at what we mean by inclusion during the festive season. Inclusion can be considered only for supporting children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND). It is, in fact, an umbrella term that covers any person who experiences any ‘barrier’ to the traditional Christian celebration of Christmas.
This may include anyone who doesn’t celebrate Christmas (in the Christian sense), has a preference not to celebrate Christmas or experiences challenges when faced with traditional methods of celebrating holiday festivities (SEND needs). This can include the terms diversity, equality, inclusion, and equity. And, when considered, can allow all children and their families the opportunity to celebrate the holiday season in a way right for them. Inclusion should not be an add-on activity or method of integration; it should be underpinned throughout all good practices in nurseries.
Is it discriminatory to celebrate Christmas in my nursery?
Nursery managers and owners can be concerned about offending or excluding families from their festive celebrations by observing festive traditions that are associated with faiths (for example, Christmas and Christianity). It is not discriminatory to enjoy traditions linked to a particular faith in your nursery. However, it is good practice to inform your setting’s parents of your plans and aim to recognise interfaith celebrations throughout the year.
4 Inclusive festive activity ideas for childcare providers
The festive season is full of arts and crafts and fun activities for the children to participate in. But these activities can unintentionally exclude children who celebrate in different ways. We have put together 4 inclusive holiday activity ideas for you to try in your nursery setting this festive season.
1. Inclusive holiday songs for early years
Singing is a key part of every nursery provision; learning nursery rhymes with lots of repetition is one of the first stages of communication and language development. Singing ‘Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer’ and ‘We Wish you a Merry Christmas’ can be firm favourites to sing with the children. But are both linked to the Christian celebration of the holiday. Think about incorporating Makaton (simplified British Sign Language) to learn some winter-themed songs rather than Christmas-related classics.
2. Festive food for an inclusive celebration
Food can be one of the most exciting parts of holiday celebrations, with some food being used to celebrate breaking fasts, sharing meals as a family and community, and eating sacred foods involved in faith-based traditions. During your nursery celebrations, be mindful of the different dietary requirements children may have as well as catering for Halal, Kosher, vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free options. This is good practice to do at any event, and Blossom helps you keep track of all dietary requirements under the child profile.
3. Festive greeting card ideas for nursery settings
Greeting cards are a firm craft favourite during the festive period, building on children’s dexterity and encouraging creative exploration with different textured materials. Nurseries and other childcare settings can often fall into the tradition of creating Christmas-focused greeting cards. Consider choosing a secular theme such as winter weather, or animals and snowflakes using potato stencils. Or allow the choice to create a shape or pattern using fingerprints or handprint painting.
4. Inclusive book ideas for celebrating holidays
Reading should underpin your EY Literacy offer, promoting and building a love and curiosity with books. The festive season is a perfect opportunity to build excitement about the celebrations and reading. If your setting celebrates Christmas and has shared this with parents, your parents may want to re-read these books at home with their child. Consider reading books that explore the winter weather, winter animals, and secular themes of kindness, sharing and helping others.
Some book ideas include:
How to make the holiday season SEND friendly
Your nursery setting should be underpinned by inclusive practice. You may be currently prioritising making your nursery Autism-friendly with your processes, resources and staff interactions. It is important the holiday season is well-prepared to ensure a smooth festive period for children (or parents) with additional needs. Think about how you can add to your sensory play provision with the following SEND friendly strategies to help you during the festive season.
How to manage sensory overload during the festive season in early years
Reducing sound sensitivity in the nursery
This can include children being particularly excitable (screaming in tandem!) in an environment which will echo and cause challenges for children with over-sensitive hearing needs. Consider introducing ear defenders for any child who would like to use them (you may be surprised at the number who would like to!). Keep any music to a reasonable level and aim to maintain a level of calmness (where possible) in your rooms when the children may be participating in off-timetable seasonal activities.
Understanding of touch sensitivity in toddlers
Touch could be linked to new activities that include sensory play-based materials as well as the alteration to their usual clothing (the organisation of a Christmas jumper day) or a festive play outfit. Carefully review the needs of your children with your daily observations, making a note of any sensory barriers you can pre-empt.
The importance of routine for children with SEND in nursery
Routine is key for most children, but even more so for children with SEND. Routine and the expected can support those recognised as neurodiverse as well as supporting those who will benefit from trauma-informed approaches in EYFS. Prepare the parents in advance of any significant routine changes and begin to build up strategies to manage changes of routine whilst being mindful of keeping similar routines where possible.
How to include low-income families in holiday celebrations in EYFS
Inclusive EYFS Christmas and holiday season practice includes equity for those children from low-income families, ensuring no child misses out on festive celebrations due to lack of financial support. There are several ways to make your nursery setting’s festive provision centre around experiences that don’t cost money and can include all children.
Remove expectation to buy a Christmas jumper
Some nurseries and schools organise a Christmas or festive jumper day each year, unintentionally excluding those families who will struggle to buy their child (or multiple children) a specific-themed jumper to wear once and will outgrow by the following year. Consider encouraging parents to send in an old t-shirt (or provide the children with one) to decorate in a festive theme when in the nursery rather than purchase their own festive jumper.
The expectation of staff gifts
Some parents will send in generous gifts for the nursery staff during the festive period. Although very gratefully received, it can place a significant financial strain on the parents at one of the most expensive times of the year already. Consider sharing across your nursery software your nursery’s stance on staff gift-giving. Recommend they (if they are able to) donate the money to a local charity or buy some food to share with the local food bank in lieu of staff gifts.