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'Teacher! Leave those EYFS kids alone (to make Christmas cards)'

Teachers stepping in to create ‘nicer’ Christmas cards rob the children of learning opportunities, says Nicky Clements

It is important to give early years children the freedom to create their own Christmas decorations, argues this teacher

Teachers stepping in to create ‘nicer’ Christmas cards rob the children of learning opportunities, says Nicky Clements

It looks cute: 30 Christmas cards hanging merrily on a washing line on sparkly little pegs in the EYFS classroom. 

In between them fly angels with silver wings and pipe cleaner halos. 

And the windows are adorned with pretty paper-plate wreaths decorated with pre-cut holly leaves and berries. 

But take a closer look. 

Genuine learning?

Do they reflect the creativity and skills being developed in early years? Is it child-directed art work? Or is it actually more of a production line of feet dipped in brown paint with a hand guided towards the centre of the footprint to splodge on a red nose? 

If it is the latter, why have we abandoned the learning processes we hold dear at a time when we have more access to glitter (environmentally friendly!) and paint than you can shake a bell at?

In 2008, Professor Anna Craft, who discussed the idea of "Possibility Thinking", said in a paper that “nurturing children’s creativity involves close scrutiny of processes of meaning-construction for each learner, recognising the sheer creative engagement manifest by young learners, as they move beyond the given, or ‘what is’, to the possible, or to ‘what could be’”.

In that respect, how much meaning does the foot-print reindeer Christmas card have to the individual child? 

Five tips for a 'learning' Christmas in EYFS

At other times of the year, we are quite happy to appreciate the dripping explosion of colour on sugar paper defined by the child as "My Mummy". Time is a real issue when we have so much to fit in, but with a little bit of planning we can make the Christmas card a real learning experience.

1. Gather the children's ideas of what they know about Christmas. Encourage them to talk about celebrations with their families and community. Christmas is a great theme for capturing children’s experiences and interests. and introducing new vocabulary.

2. Share a wide selection of real greetings cards and props with children first. Engage with them in a similar way that you would with a picture book. Support them to notice detail such as colour, texture, shape, print, photographs and pictures.

3. Allow children to explore the range of materials at their disposal before embarking on creating the card. Model to them how the materials can be used and the tools that can change the effects. We’ve all experienced the child who first encounters a tub of glitter and empties the entire contents on to their creation without even using glue! But then why would they know any different if they have not been exposed to its uses?

4. Encourage the children to decide what they would like to create and the materials they would like to use. A little insert with the child’s voice about their picture or design is a lovely way to share this with parents.

5. Let parents know that every card is unique and has been designed by the child themselves. Parents may be able to contribute to the initial conversations about Christmas at home, particularly for children who may find communicating difficult.

Nicky Clements is head of EYFS at Victoria Academies Trust. She tweets @nickyclements71

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