We all know that best practice in Early Years is an ‘appropriate mix’ of adult led teaching and child initiated learning. This mix will be wholly dependent on the developmental needs of the cohort and a natural rhythm across the day will be developed from September onwards…until the Christmas show looms!
In schools the coveted hall rehearsal times are allocated with little thought to the developmental needs of a 4 year old. Children are put through their paces singing song, after song whilst managing the challenges that a hall often presents; strange acoustics, vast space, toilets miles away, unfamiliar smell…These rehearsals can often be at the expense of time that would usually be used for child initiated learning-a rich time that children look forward to where they self-select play, investigate, explore… Two songs in and there will always be at least 3 children facing the wrong way, a growing number needing the toilet, perhaps a couple have nodded off and one will certainly be struggling to resist the temptation to bang the coconuts together 4 songs too soon….
Then the day of the show arrives. Until this point staff considered it a triumph if children all went home with the correct shoes on; now children are expected to change into itchy hessian tunics, tights and wonky angel wings without a moan or a murmur. Staff will be strategically placed around the children like a military swot team; their roles are many and varied. They will be seen frantically pointing out the stage directions through eye movements, ‘demanding good sitting’ and indicating the next speaker all without missing a beat of the tambourine! Rapturous applause will signal that the performance is over and the slightly bewildered children will return to the safety of their usual space and exhausted staff will pack away the tinsel for another year whilst agreeing ‘they were much better at the dress rehearsal!’
It all sounds so horrifically exhausting. ‘But the parents love it!’ is the usual reason given for such a performance; but would they love a slightly simpler production any less? Could children learn some songs and dances in adult led sessions across the day/week? The well-being of children (and staff!) are paramount at every other point of the year so why not in December? There is a statutory requirement to meet the emotional and developmental needs of all the children in your care. So when planning a Christmas performance perhaps start with this in mind; and leave the large scale, dry ice infused, fully choreographed west end production for another year group…