Kids' holiday energy and enough love to go around

Heng Swee Lim, illustrator and graphic designer.
Find his Hugs Keep Us Alive print on Etsy. His website, tees, and blog

I open the door to Starr's House (a neighborhood preschool) and feel a buzz of energy. More than usual.

Holidays ask a lot of parents and the celebrations ask a lot of our children. I remember that the best gift to give a preschool child right now is order and routine. 

So we sit in a circle and practice breathing like we always do.

I say, "Let's breathe in and out to be with ourselves." We close our eyes, put our hands on our thighs, and breathe. We keep breathing even though the youngest, Jax, loudly whispers like he always does, "Susan, open your eyes." 

After about three minutes, I say, "Okay" in a quiet voice and remain still for another minute, smiling as I slowly gaze around the circle taking in each child's eyes one at a time. I know they like this because they smile back.

Next, we sing. 

I teach a new version of Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star. With one child I model the movement.

Twinkle, twinkle little star, (I take the child's hands, hold them up, and move my fingers for the twinkling star.)
What a wonderful child you are, (I hug the child.)
With sparkling eyes and rosy cheeks, (I point to their eyes and cheeks.)
Talented from head to feet, (I touch their head and then their feet.)
Twinkle, twinkle little star,
What a wonderful child you are. (I hug the child.)

We try it. Elijah exuberantly lifts Mason off the ground at the hugging part. Mason doesn't mind. But Peyton does. Mason accidentally kicks her.

We sit.

I ask, "Does anyone know the story about the woman who lived in a shoe?" Hands fly up. I tell them a revised version:

"There was a wonderful woman who lived in a school (this time it's about Starr, who owns their school; I point to her when I say it). She had so many children she knew exactly what to do. She held them, she rocked them, and tucked them in bed, 'I love you, I love you' is what she said." 

And that little nursery rhyme sets us up for a lesson about love. 

I hold up a card I made. “Love” is written in large print letters. 

“Who can read this?” The children exclaim, “Ansel can.” Ansel says, “Love!” 

What does love mean?” I ask. The children tell me: “Kisses, presents, playing with each other, helping, saying ‘I love you.’”

Mason says, “I have a lot of energy inside me. 

His self-aware proclamation gets my full attention. 

When a child is wildly active, I say, "Oh, it looks like you have a lot of energy inside of you. Let's get it out. (We take a walk.) That might help you settle. 

Who else has a lot of energy?  

Everyone does. I'm not surprised. I have an activity planned, but I decide it is a good time to go outdoors. 

Children pick up energy from the extra holiday activities and duties. They also feel others' anxieties. It helps to go outside to expend energy and let nature blow a settling breeze through our hearts. 

Outside we go.

The children run and role-play.  Ansel is a cowboy riding a horse, and Elijah and Mason are a pet-owner and a dog going for a walk using sticks for animals. Maggie is a scientist searching for caterpillars. Peyton is gathering pretend blueberries and tomatoes for her mud-kitchen stew.

Just before it's time to come inside, I call the children to a circle. 

I pass out candles and we begin the Love Candle Activity, an activity to discover how much love is inside of us. The children are captivated by the lit candle in the middle of our circle which represents ALL LOVE. One by one I use my lit candle to light their candle and say, "I give you all my love." I call attention to my still-lit candle and say, "And look, I still have all my love to give."

A child says, "If I give my love 100 zillion times, do I still have love to give?"

"Yes, you still have all your love to give. That love inside of you is unchanging. And if one person gives you love, you can still receive love 100 zillion more times." 

No one says anything so I'm not sure if they understand their innate capacity.

I'm happy and relieved that nothing is aflame except love. 

We went inside to do an activity.

The activity? Love necklaces! 

"Every bead represents someone you love." 

I call out a name with every bead I string. I begin by calling each of their names.

They string necklaces. This takes concentration. The room is silent except for a staccato-name-call-out here and there.

And now it's time for me to go. 

Just before I leave Brennyn runs over and says “I love you, Miss Susan” as she hugs my legs. I tell Brennyn, “I give you all my love and look, I have all my love to give Maggie as Maggie and I hug.  Brennyn laughs, “Like the fire in the candle.” Then Elijah hugs me while I say, I give all my love to you…and look…!”  Mason is next. 

One by one, they say goodbye and then head back to their work.

NOTE: I'm a retired Montessori teacher who volunteers. I visit Starr's House one day a week. The children are 3 to 6 years old.