'Tis the Season – for Some Quiet
By Hedda Sharapan
A colleague of mine told me she’s already feeling the stressful effects of the holiday season in her child care. There seems to be more anxiety, tension, irritability and conflict -- from both the children and the adults. I wonder if you’re feeling the stress, too, whatever the holidays mean to you. If you sense there’s a faster pace and more noise in the roomful of children, it might be a good idea to work on intentionally slowing the pace and lowering the noise – as a gift to yourself and the children.
Finding some quiet these days isn’t always easy. Here are some ideas that can help:
Quiet time – for the ears
Have you noticed that when the room is noisy, if you raise your voice level, the children do, too? Try to lower your voice at times like that, and see what happens. Over and over I hear that it really does help when we adults set a quieter tone in the room.
Do you have a CD of some quiet, peaceful music to play? I’ve seen myself how calming music can be. One of my favorite NAEYC conference workshops is Walter Drew's block construction session. I’ve especially enjoyed how he uses “new age” music in the background while we’re building with blocks. It seems that the music creates a more thoughtful mood, and that changes the nature of the block-building…and our blood pressure!
Silence does help to restore us, so be sure there’s quiet time each day, even in your home. Fred told us that he made sure to have silent times in his programs because it’s the only way he could be sure that the children will have some quiet in their day.
On your drive home or to work, tune in to some quiet music – classical or otherwise. I wonder if you’ve found, as I have, that the news or talk shows on the radio gets us more agitated instead of calmer.
I know an early childhood educator who, on a high-energy, noisy day called for an “emergency meeting,” asking the children to suggest ways everyone can help with the problem of too much noise in the room. And they all worked together to make sure things got quieter!
Quiet time – for the eyes
Look around the room and try to think about what the environment might look like to a child. Where’s the right balance between interesting, inviting, colorful – and not too stimulating? It’s not easy to tell, but I’m reminded of one of Fred’s favorite sayings that “less is more.”
It’s December and getting darker at the end of the child care day. You might help the children appreciate the special kind of light at twilight. If you lower the lights and look out the windows, what do they see? Twinkling lights, lights of the cars going by?
Quiet time – for the hands
Think about the calming benefit of sensory activities, like water play or sand play – where the goal is the process, and there’s no pressure to “make something.” These days you might want to let the children have a longer time at those kinds of activities.
Keep in mind there’s a wide variety of sensory activities you can choose from: blowing bubbles, fingerpainting, digging holes, mixing play dough, kneading dough, bathing baby dolls or pouring water at the water table.
Quiet time – for the heart
When things are hectic, it’s hard to find one-on-one time, but try to really listen when a child tells you something that matters to him or her – a feeling, a thought, or idea. Children know when you’re really listening. As Fred said, “Listening is where love begins: listening to ourselves and then to our neighbors.”
Encourage the children to make thank-you cards for people who have been “helpful neighbors” to them during the year.