In early learning centers, educators strive to create an environment where every child feels welcome and included. Children benefit when they can connect with and see themselves in the learning as they develop their sense of who they are. And, preschools provide a wonderful opportunity for students to meet a diversity of peers and learn about experiences that are different from what they themselves have had.
During this time of year, many early learning centers plan lessons, activities, and events to celebrate the holidays. Finding ways to teach about many different holidays from various cultures and geographic locations communicates that all children and families are valued. Efforts to recognize and honor each student and family’s experiences work to build a dynamic, supportive, and collaborative school community. Consider building in the steps below to your holiday curriculum and celebration planning.
Consider surveying parents to learn which holidays their families celebrate at home. When creating the survey, ask families which holidays they celebrate. Leave the survey open-ended to make sure parents and families are not limited by a particular list. When you get the feedback from families, encourage teachers to familiarize themselves with the different celebrations (This resource lists many common holidays and celebrations by month and includes short descriptions about each after clicking on the holiday). This can help them be prepared to answer questions that might come up in conversations with students. While sending out school calendars, choosing books for classroom libraries, and planning celebrations, make sure to include a diversity of holidays celebrated by your students throughout the year.
Invite Families to Share about Their Holiday Traditions
Families in a school community can be an incredible resource for introducing students to new information, ideas, and experiences. This can include holiday traditions and celebrations. Invite families in to talk about the traditions and holidays they celebrate or are knowledgeable about. Encourage family guests to make presentations interactive and include pictures, decorations, and samples of traditional cuisine. These presentations create memorable learning experiences for all students and communicate to families that they are deeply valued as part of the school community.
Connect to Academic Learning
Even when certain holidays are not celebrated by students in a particular class or school, it is still valuable to include learning about a diversity of holidays from different backgrounds and cultures. When introducing different holidays and traditions, focus on the historical and cultural components. This creates a great on ramp for talking about different cultures and languages. Consider reading books and singing songs as you learn. A multicultural curriculum helps students to learn and appreciate the diversity of our communities and global world.
Teach and Model Inclusivity
Teaching and learning about a variety of holidays and honoring different cultures and backgrounds within a classroom is a great way to model how to ask questions and learn about differences in an open and respectful way. As young children learn about others, they grow to be open-minded and curious about their environment. Teachers of young learners have an important role in showing that when we share different experiences and perspectives, we can learn from one another and enrich our own lives. As you embed holiday learning into your classroom, invite students to ask questions and to share about their experiences.
Beyond the holidays, all of these actions help to open communication channels between teachers, families, and students. They foster stronger connections among peers and families. And, they create a powerful sense of belonging for all students where they feel seen and valued. All of this works to inspire curiosity, promote openness, and teach thoughtful respect as young children learn and grow.