In ancient times, the week before and the week after the winter solstice was celebrated.  It was a time to celebrate the fabled halcyon bird (hal-cee-on) who calmed the wind and waves.  It was a time to celebrate the calm and tranquility after the hectic pre-winter days.

In today’s culture, the time before the end of December, has unfortunately turned into a very hectic time.  We might well learn from the ancients that this can and should be a time of calm.  We can try to take the hectic out our children’s lives by encouraging them to do calming activities before the holidays.

Listed below are some quiet time activities for young children.

HOLIDAY STORIES – If you have a recorder, tape your favorite holiday stories for your children.  You might also include your own personal holiday stories to share.  You can also check out holiday stories from the Library.

WATER PLAY – Water play always has a calming effect on children.  Set out a dishpan full of warm water on a low table or on the kitchen floor.  Add a few drops of liquid detergent for bubbles and a few drops of food coloring (if you want color).  Give your child empty plastic measuring cups, straws, small plastic containers, etc.  Children should wear old clothing and an apron of some sort.

MUSIC – Music can excite or calm.  Choose calming CD’s or search for calming music on the radio.  Drawing and painting to soft peaceful music usually has a calming effect on children.

SAND PLAY – If you live where it is too cold to play outside in a sandbox this time of year, you can create a sand box for your child indoors.  You will need a low sided sturdy box or a plastic dish pan.  Fill the pan half full with cornmeal, crumbled cork, or washed coffee grounds.  Put small cars, plastic people, spoons, cups, craft sticks, etc.  into the pan.  Do not expect children to share a small pan or box.

– Make up a large coloring book for your child during the holidays. Staple together large pieces of blank paper.  Draw a simple holiday shape on each page.  Include lots of empty space for your child to draw whatever she wants.

FELT BOARD – You can make a felt board by covering a heavy piece of cardboard or light board with felt or flannel.  A carpet square or a piece of indoor-outdoor carpeting can also be used.  Cut felt story pieces.  You can cut out a felt person and some felt clothes, or you can cut out a felt house and some felt windows and doors.  You could cut out a felt Christmas tree and some felt circles for colored bulbs and a felt star for the top.  You might also include felt squares and rectangles for gifts.  Store all felt pieces in a zip-lock bag to keep them safe when not in use.

BIRD WATCHING – Winter time can be a fun bird watching time.  Help your child to make a bird feeder.  Fill it with bread crumbs or bird seed and set it out where your child can observe it from indoors.  Bird feeders can be made by cutting large windows in plastic bottles or milk cartons.

PLAY DOUGH – Children can usually play peacefully for a long time with a batch of play dough.  Look through your kitchen draws for small gadgets that your child can use with the play dough.  Small craft sticks make great cutting knives.  Doll plates and pans are great for playing with play dough.  Small cookie cutters and birthday candles are also fun additions.

OLD PICTURES – Take time to look with your child through old snap shots of friends and relatives.  Children under four will probably only be interested in snap shots of people they can readily identify but older children are fascinated with baby pictures of themselves and others.