Young children learn about the passage of time in its earliest form from the daily cycles of morning, afternoon and night. As they grow, they begin to become aware of the yearly seasonal rhythms and cycles. As we now enter Autumn, we enter a time of year where there are many holidays and religious and cultural practices which often have a deep and intense feel about them. Perhaps this ties into ancient practices around the harvest and preparing for the harsh winter. The hours of daylight wind down and cold approaches. Seasonal rituals are important as ways to celebrate the seasons but also as a marker for the passage of time. These rituals give us comfort and create bonds within families and communities. As adults, we often reflect on the past but as children become aware, they often begin to look forward and to anticipate favorite holidays.
We sometimes forget that we don’t have to automatically follow traditions in quite the same way as our family, friends or neighbors. We can create or revive traditions for ourselves that enrich us or bring more depth and meaning to our experience. Now is a good time to reflect and ask ourselves a few questions: What is my favorite part of this holiday? What do I look forward to? What do I dread? What gives me meaning? What interferes with my enjoyment? What do I want to get rid of?
Look for new and creative ways to alter, add or pare down, and especially look for ways that children can participate such as helping to make simple homemade gifts of cookies or bath salts. Establish rituals such as eating with lit candles on the table once or twice a week or saying thanks for food before each meal (or singing a song at the end of each meal or before bedtime). In the Autumn, you can create an area where you cut out simple leaf shapes on construction paper and each family member writes what they are thankful for on a leaf and display the leaves. As the weather turns toward winter, my family enjoys cutting snowflakes. We have a stack of prepared white paper cut into 5 x 5 inch squares where each family member cuts out a few snowflakes at a time and we tape them on the dining room windows to display them. As December progresses, our snowflakes multiply in wonderful and elaborate shapes. As we do this we often reflect upon the snowflakes we created in previous years. This triggers emotions of times past and helps us to feel a connection to those times and to each other.
So take this opportunity to reflect and choose what matters the most to you and your family and create a holiday season that gives you joy. Happy Holidays!
Marla Nargundkar is a Montessori Guide at Tree of Life Montessori School in Atlanta, GA.