“Even the smallest act of caring for another person is like a drop of water -it will make ripples throughout the entire pond…”
― Jessy and Bryan Matteo
Autumn brings many opportunities to celebrate and show appreciation. Hospitality and generosity are important virtues to help children develop at a young age, and they make holiday gatherings and gift-giving and –receiving situations much more enjoyable for everyone.
It is healthy for children to help plan, set-up, and cook for gatherings, so they learn the effort that goes into (and the pleasure that can be derived from) serving others and making them feel welcome. Children’s natural creativity and enthusiasm in the preparations can also add a lot of charm to an event.
You can also reinforce positive attitudes about patience, thrift and the satisfaction of a job well-done by encouraging children to make and give home-made presents rather than store-bought items.
Children sometimes need specific guidance about proper behavior in social situations, which you can provide through practice and also good role modeling.
With a little planning, patience, creativity, and perhaps some of the ideas below, hopefully everyone will enjoy the celebrations of the season—and the lessons they teach.
Party preparations and decorations–
If little ones have trouble remembering all that belongs on the table, you might download a cute free placemat which shows a proper casual place setting. http://www.positivelysplendid.com/2011/05/dinnertime-doodle-mats-ssg-idea-16.html or try your hand at some more decorative, but still instructional, mats like these. http://simplekids.net/learning-to-set-the-table
Have students channel their arts and crafts talents into projects like these that can double as party decorations, place mats, and other theme-setting items. http://www.allkidsnetwork.com/crafts/fall
For lots of cute decorating ideas and planning tips for sharing Thanksgiving festivities with children, check out Thanksgiving Kids. http://kidsparties.about.com/od/thanksgiving/tp/ThanksgivingHub.htm
Combine nature study with homemaking with inspirations from these free fall party centerpieces and other decorating ideas from Chickens in the Road. Show your children that you don’t have to be fancy to be festive. http://chickensintheroad.com/house/crafts/how-to-decorate-for-an-autumn-party-for-free
Here are cute tablecloth and trivia ideas for family dinners from Rachel Hollis (though the garland made of book pages seems like it might send a rather mixed message to young people).http://mychiclife.com/2012/02/26/nate-berkus-family-style-entertaining/
Turn cheap, flimsy window screening in festive leaf shapes http://www.crafts-for-all-seasons.com/autumn-leaf-craft.html
Later in the season you could make cute Snow-Covered Pine Trees http://www.amonco.org/creative3/montessori_fall3.pdf
Need supplies and more inspiration? http://allartsupplies.com
Home-made gift ideas—
Hostess gifts are a gracious gesture in a hectic world. Some of these are simple enough for children to help make. http://momadvice.com/blog/2009/12/a-round-up-of-homemade-hostess-gifts
A wide variety of gift projects using many different skills and techniques. http://www.llemonade.com/gifts.html
Here is a great round-up of easy gifts kids can make from the UK’s Activity Village. http://www.activityvillage.co.uk/gifts_kids_can_make.htm
Mix-in-a-jar recipes are fun gifts to make with children of all ages because there is no cooking required. Many recipes make enough to keep some and give some as gifts; but if one you like does not, have older kids do the math to make a larger batch! http://marymae.tripod.com/jarlinks.htm , http://www.razzledazzlerecipes.com/christmas/gifts , http://www.mixesinajar.com
Introduce students to the concept of felting wool with this Felt Ball Ornament project and some other felting activities. http://www.amonco.org/creative01/montessori_fall1.pdf
Use a tile, paint, and some cork to make a Kitchen Trivet. http://www.amonco.org/creative/montessori_fall4.pdf
Learn to needlepoint with a continental stitch on plastic canvas.You can make very attractive coasters with these instructions for students 8-12 years old. http://www.amonco.org/creative6/montessori_fall6.pdf
For a great back-to-school or holiday gift, try Favorite Zucchini Bread. If you wrap loaves in multiple layers of plastic wrap, you can even freeze zucchini bread for a month or two without any reduction in quality. http://www.amonco.org/creative7/montessori_fall7.pdf
It’s not too early to start work on home-made gifts for Christmas, either. http://spoonful.com/christmas/homemade-christmas-gifts
“It’s not how much we give but how much love we put into giving.” Mother Teresa
Putting on our party manners—
Here are lots of good ideas for helping children know how to behave in a variety of social situations. http://childcare.about.com/od/behaviors/a/manners.htm , http://www.eduguide.org/library/viewarticle/1132 , http://shine.yahoo.com/parenting/25-manners-every-kid-should-know-by-age-9-2480238.html
“Gracious acceptance is an art – an art which most never bother to cultivate. We think that we have to learn how to give, but we forget about accepting things, which can be much harder than giving…. Accepting another person’s gift is allowing him to express his feelings for you.”
― Alexander McCall Smith, Love Over Scotland
Enjoy your holiday gathering and giving!