Planning Special Occasions For Young Children

By: Clairece Feagin Ed.M.

Caregivers often spend vast amounts of time preparing for special occasions, particularly for holiday celebrations.

Young children do not need -- or expect -- elaborate celebrations. Two- and even three-year-olds will have very little if any understanding of the meaning of most holidays or other special occasions. They have little if any knowledge of the customary or traditional activities associated with these occasions. Older preschoolers may remember some features of school or family observances from previous years, but their enjoyment of a celebration is not based on elaborate adult preparations.

The aspects of special occasions that children find meaningful are those activities that they themselves can participate in directly and fully. Children do need--and have every right to expect--fun, self- paced, child-centered activities every day, including special occasions and celebrations.

To make special occasions enjoyable for children,

  1. keep celebrations simple and short;
  2. plan child-centered, child-paced activities;
  3. keep preparations simple;
  4. begin preparations no earlier than one or two days before the event or holiday;
  5. involve children in every aspect of preparations;
  6. keep the agenda flexible.

New or unusual situations, unknown people, a larger number of people than a child is accustomed to, or new requirements even in a familiar place are all stressful for young children. The most successful events are those that include many familiar features.

Clairece Feagin holds an Ed.M. from Harvard University. She is author of Contemporary Books' "Stories for Parents" and "Let's Read Together" series as well as various social studies texts and teaching materials. To order the complete course listed above and other self- instruction courses for childcare providers and parents, please visit CARE Courses, at

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