Christmas is a wonderful time to continue — and build upon — family traditions. Traditions help to make an occasion special and help to strengthen the family bond — something you will value as the years progress, through thick and thin. Making these traditions sensory-friendly can make that connection stronger, and give each family member a way to feel included.
Tactile children will adore the more ‘physical’ type of traditions. They will beg to go pick out the Christmas tree, or to select lights, decorations and stockings. They will insist that Santa needs a clear passage so he can deliver the presents easily — expect your tactile child to inspect the chimney and worry whether Santa will fit. Your tactile child will have an opinion about snacks for the reindeer, and whether there will be room for all the presents around the tree. To add new traditions, look towards the physical — a game of indoor Christmas “volleyball” — using red and green balloons, or building a sleeping fort in the living room to sleep in on Christmas Eve.
Visual children will thrive in the very visual nature of Christmas. While getting the tree may not be their idea of fun, decorating it and creating unique ornaments will be right up their alley. Making their own ornament each year, and hanging up past yearsí treasure will be exciting, and they will love to organize the nativity display as well as other visual scenes. They will be very helpful in wrapping presents and in placing them attractively. Consider creating a Christmas or Advent calendar, containing pictures or drawings of activities they can do in preparation for the big day. This will help alleviate some of the frustration of waiting for Christmas to come.
Auditory traditions tend to focus around the atmosphere of sound. Christmas carols, Christmas stories and the endless conversations about presents will be what your auditory child will associate with the joy of the season. Lever this interest to promote learning: build reading skills by having them read aloud their favorite Christmas story, or develop writing skills by asking your child to transcribe family members’ Christmas lists. Now is the time to talk about the meaning of Christmas and also reflect verbally about how fortunate we are to be able to have a family and live in such a free country.
Making and decorating gingerbread houses, hanging candy canes and fresh Christmas trees are all smells that your taste and smell child will appreciate. Baking cookies for Santa, helping to prepare the Christmas dinner and making sure each person has a special spot at the table and the perfect present will all be things they will take great pride in. They will, as always, love the family aspect of Christmas and (uniquely) will prefer giving to receiving presents. Have your taste and smell child hand out the presents — it will provide them great joy, and help lessen the excitement that can make a taste and smell child a little emotional.
Remembering Christmas with fondness and great memories is a gift we give our children, often under estimated. As our children grow older it will be family traditions like Christmas that will help them feel secure, loved and part of the family.
Priscilla Dunstan, creator of the Dunstan Baby Language, is a child and parenting behavior expert and consultant and the author of “Child Sense.” Learn more about Dunstan and her parenting discoveries at www.childsense.com.