When I first learned that Christmas was celebrated in the “summertime” in Australia, I was a little confused. Even now as an adult, it is a little confusing that Australia is nice and warm during the Unites States winter season and cold and wet during our heated summers. Then, I moved to Houston, Texas, and now I know exactly why Australia does what they do. Christmas is just a couple of weeks away and the temperature is almost 80 in the afternoon. No snow has been seen in this city for over 5 years. While I may miss a bit of the white stuff on Christmas day, it certainly gives me a new appreciation for the summertime weather that Australia has during our winters.
Geography: Show your child a globe. Even your toddler can appreciate looking at all the colors on the globe, seeing how far apart the “pictures” are, and the use of the globe also reinforces their opposite skills as they can see big “places” and little “places” close together. Of, course; I am using terminology your child would understand.
Story time: See Weather and Just for Fun. For books, you may want to read “Christmas around the World,” by Mary Lankford and Karen Dugan.
Weather: This is a great lesson plan for reinforcing the weather concepts you may have already completed earlier in the year. Exhibit to your child (or classroom) hot and cold and if possible show them different weathers like rain, sun, wind and snow. Some suggestions for teaching them weather are: the DVD, Elmo and the Great Outdoors (there is a weather segment) and “Oh Can You Say What the Weather is Today” by Aristidez Ruiz and part of the “Cat in the Hat Learning Library.”
Science: To teach the children about warm, place mittens on their hands and see how warm they get. You can also get the gel packs in the sporting goods sections of most stores like Wal-Mart. You snap them and they become warm. Athletics use them to keep there hands and feet warm. To teach your child about cold fill a small bowl with ice and allow them to touch it. If they are older allow them to place the ice cube in their mouth to feel what cold is.
Snacks: This lesson plan calls for ice cream. Not only is it fun and taste great but you can use it to reinforce the concept of cold and winter as well as how snow or cold items melt as they become warmer. Another traditional holiday treat in Australia is chocolate truffles. You can make your own with your children by following this easy recipe:
3/4 cup sweetened condensed milk
1 cup walnuts, chopped
12 oz. chocolate chips
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
Directions: Melt chocolate. Add all the other ingredients. Mix and cool in refrigerator for 10 minutes. Roll into balls. Then roll in toppings of your choice. Topping suggestions: coconut, nuts, non-pareils, candy sprinkles
Fine Motor Skills: Many people in Australia do not like artificial Christmas trees or chopping down a real live tree only to use it and throw it away. In Australia, people will plant a live tree in a pot and decorate it, while keeping it in their house. Help your children plant their own “trees” by using small pots and plant their own “trees” in the form of herb gardens. If you have a classroom, each child may take home their herbs with a small note about traditions in Australia. If you are home schooling, you and your children now have a wonderful herb garden to cook with.
Music: Christmas carols are a very important holiday tradition in Australia. Beginning in Melbourne in 1937 outdoor concerts of Christmas carols used to be held in every park. This tradition is called Carols by Candlelight as the people attending sing the carols by the light of candles. The reason for joining together in the parks so long ago was because a community leader by the name of Norman Banks realized that many people were all alone at Christmas and he wanted to do something that would provide them with Christmas joy and company. Sing Christmas carols with your child or classroom and play holiday music throughout the day. I created a CD of favorite quiet Christmas songs that are played while the children nap. One alternative for your home or classroom is to turn down the lights and use plug in lighted candles, put blankets on the floor and sing carols together.
Art: Each year at Christmas time Australia designs a special series of Christmas stamps with a reduced rate. (I could appreciate a reduced postage rate in the US during the holidays!) Your child can make their own stamps too. Cut a piece of 8 ½ x 11 paper into four equal squares. Then give your children either stamps with stamp pads or stickers and they can create their own “stamps” to use when mailing cards to mom and dad.
Create your own Christmas cards and envelopes. Or if you are home, let your children help you sign, seal and stamp your holiday greeting cards. My daughters even helped “sign” them this year.
Imagination: Play post office. Or allow your child to drop the mail into the mail box this week. My two year old thinks it a great adventure to go to the mail box and get the mail and drop the outgoing in it. You can make your own mail box with a shoe box and then use colored note cards that they children can write or color on before they “mail” them.
Just for fun: Santa Claus, is also Father Christmas, in Australia. They use both names for Santa. Also, Santa’s sleigh is pulled by eight tiny – white kangaroo! Both wear a red suit and are the exact same thing. You can explain to kids different names, like some call their mother, “Mom” or “Mommy.” A wonderful treat that has all Santa’s different names in different countries is the classic cartoon movie, “Santa Claus is coming to Town.”
Costs: DVD and books are free at the library, Santa is Coming to Town can be rented in video store or DVR/TIVO or purchased for $14.99. The average book cost is $9.99 or you can check them out at the library. Snacks are approximately $3.00 for ice cream and $5.00 for the chocolate truffle supplies.
Many of their celebrations are like ours for the 4th of July. They visit the beach and have large BBQ’s. I can’t image a celebration on the scale of Christmas in the summer time, but I guess living in Houston, I better get used to it. After all, just down the street my neighbor has their decorations out, stating, “Let it Snow, Let it Snow,” so why not?
For more holiday information visit my articles on Hanukkah, Christmas in Mexico and Unique Gifts for you to make with your children, complete with cost and instructions. Just click here.