A huge aspect of the Montessori curriculum is emphasis on a consistent reliable schedule and predictable routine. As children are constantly bombarded with information about the world around them, a routine and schedule provide normalcy and safety creating an ability to try new things because one always has a dependable place to land.
In the classroom environment, there is freedom to choose lessons and explore but we also have a relatively firm routine. For instance, at circle time we sing our gathering song, we sing a greeting song and we sing candle for peace… in that order everyday. Then we add in our songs that rotate from week to week but we always end with a ‘Prayer for Peace’, offering hugs to friends, and a dance party. Everyday. The children know what to expect and if they want to pass the candle at circle, they put their shoes on during the gathering song because they know that the song is coming up next. It does not only apply to children, we all love a good schedule- whether it is knowing you have a weekly meeting with the staff at your job, an exercise class every other day, or a favorite show every Thursday night.
The holiday season, is beautiful, don’t get me wrong (it is my favorite), but it literally messes up the one thing we rely on – our schedule.
A holiday party here and a holiday party there, events all over town at all hours that we just can’t miss, trips to the store, stores that are overflowing with toys, visits from family, visits to family, and the dreaded TWO WEEKS OFF OF SCHOOL.
From the littlest change to the biggest change, it effects everyone and do not be surprised if your toddlers begin to act differently as their schedules and routines are altered. Anticipate more frustration, boundary pushing, tears over what appears to be nothing, more sleep, less sleep, separation issues, and a change in eating or toileting habits.
I do not mean to scare you and I do not suggest that you avoid all events and visits and celebrations, but I do share this with you to help you become more present and aware of how it may alter your child’s temperament. Your child will love the cookie decorating party at 1:30 and it may turn into his/her favorite memory of the season, but it may also be paired with a refusal to put on shoes at 1:00 and an overly tired toddler who screams the whole way home because their regularly scheduled nap did not happen as usual.
They are not throwing fits because they know how much you prepared for the party and they just want to rain on your parade. They are reacting to a change in their predictable lifestyle and because they are creatures of habit, it affects them on an emotional level. To young children schedule and routine equal safety and security. So they may literally be feeling scared- not of the boogie man- but of the unknown. Scared because usually ‘this happens’ but it didn’t, so does that mean something else unexpected will happen?
Here are some tips to help you navigate the ever-changing, unreliable, non-schedule schedule of the holiday season.
1. Stay as close as possible to your normal sleeping routine, even while traveling.
2. Prepare your child. Tell them where you are going and what you are likely to see and do. Maybe also tell them things may not go as planned. Share the revised schedule with your child at the appropriate time (day before, morning of).
3. Let them be part of the process. They should help pack their bags, both clothes and busy bag. As soon they are able, they should roll their own luggage and carry their own stuff. It gives them independence and ownership of their own things.
4. Still have time that your children can just play…. free time is when they can decompress and we can observe from afar.
5. Offer hugs in times of stress. Sometimes they just need a touch from a familiar loved one to help recenter themselves and find comfort.
Enjoy the season and enjoy your children by remembering to find the balance.
Ms Liz and Ms. Leci