Are Nativities and Christmas concerts beneficial to children in the Early Years?
At this time of year the Early Years is filled with Christmas nativities and concerts, getting the children to put on a performance for their parents and families. These can be lovely memories for the children and parents, with photos and videos that are treasured for years. However are these too much pressure on little ones?
There is no denying the joy that parents get from watching their child in a performance, dressed up in Christmas costumes and showing off what they have learnt. Nativities and Christmas concerts are becoming increasingly popular in Early Years settings, with the majority of pre schools putting on a special show at this time of year. However this experience can, at times, be very distressing for young children; especially those who are shy and find it difficult to be the centre of attention. It is important to never force a child to take part if they do not want to; instead they may feel more comfortable sitting with a practitioner or being given a ‘backstage’ role such as handing out instruments.
As adults, we can find it unnerving or scary to stand up in front of a large group of people and this is the same for children. It would be difficult to find a pre school concert that did not include at least one child who gets upset or refuses to take part on the night. It can be a great deal of pressure to put on a child, with lines or songs to remember with a large number of adults watching. This feeling of being ‘put on the spot’ can continue into adulthood, with most adults fear of being on stage rooted in their childhood. Lots of rehearsals can help the children to feel more confident. Perhaps having some of the practitioners and other children from the nursery to come and watch the children’s rehearsals, will help them to build their confidence.
Dressing up can also be great fun for the children, however some children may not enjoy wearing costumes, causing another upset if the nativity requires the children to dress as particular characters. Early Years practitioners may alter the costumes for these particular children, perhaps using just a prop instead. For those settings whose funds are very low, parents may be asked to provide a costume; this can have an impact on families who are financially stretched. Christmas is a very expensive time of the year and some parents may not be able to afford these costumes; this can have an effect on the child, leaving them feeling ‘left out’. If this is the case for your setting, it may be a good idea to ask parents to make costumes using old t-shirts, material and tea towels, rather than accepting bought outfits.
Financial strain and work commitments can also cause problems with nativities or concerts, with some parents unable to attend. This can be very distressing for a child who has witnessed their friend’s parents but are unable to see their own. This can have a negative affect on their self esteem and leave them feeling unwanted or forgotten. Early Years settings will often vary showing times; with some settings choosing to do their show in the morning or afternoon and others having an evening performance. It is a good idea to offer a range of viewings to best meet the needs of working parents, ensuring everyone is given the opportunity to attend.
Finally you may find that some children will get upset seeing their parents during the show and not being able to go straight to them; this is especially apparent during daytime concerts when the child is in nursery. It can be distressing for children to see their parents come to the nursery and then leave again without them, leaving them unsettled for the afternoon. This may be eased by giving the children lots of warning about what will happen at the concert, and allowing some time after the show for the children to spend some time with their parents having a snack or a small party.
Nativities and Christmas shows can be a heartwarming and positive experience for all involved; however it is important to take the above points into consideration and ensure the child’s needs come first.