The holidays, age to age

Holiday times are filled with lots of excitement and activities. Children each respond differently to the changes in their routines.


It is important for parents to be aware of their young children’s need for understanding during this busy time of the year. Preschool children respond to the holidays differently as they grow. Here are some helpful ideas for parents as the holiday season is close.


• Two-year-olds really need to be with their families for holidays. That is how they “catch” the excitement.

They are only now beginning to even understand what each holiday is about. In fact, most holidays can be overwhelming and even upsetting because their regular routines are so changed.


• Three-year-olds think everyone in the world celebrates just like they do. The only way for them to learn about other families is for you to talk about how others celebrate holidays. They are likely to be more excited about opening packages than about what is inside of them. Actually the excitement about the holiday is more of what they understand than the reason people are celebrating.


• Four-year-olds may remember a celebration from last year and look forward to the coming holidays. They are only now beginning to realize that some people celebrate holidays other than their own and celebrate in different ways. At this age they now understand simple (and accurate) information about the meanings of holidays. Even now they want to open everyone’s presents.


• Five- and six-year-olds enjoy celebrating holidays with friends as well as with families. They are now more likely to want to help prepare for the holiday by making special foods and decorating. They want this year’s celebrations to be consistent, “just like last year.” (This reoccurs in adolescence). By now they understand that people celebrate different holidays and they even enjoy learning about them. Now they understand more about the reasons their family is celebrating. This still isn’t a time that patience kicks in; they have difficulty waiting for others to open presents and may be very openly disappointed when there are no more.


Holidays can be wonderful for children or they can be completely overwhelming. What they become is very much up to parents. Plan ahead what you want to have happen but keep in mind that children need to keep their normal routines as much as possible or they easily can become overstimulated.


For you to most enjoy the holidays, remember where your child is developmentally and plan accordingly.


Cynthia Martin is the founder of the First Teacher program and now director of Parenting Matters Foundation. The foundation publishes newsletters for parents, care-givers and grandparents. Reach Martin at or at 681-2250.

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