Agony Artist: How do I celebrate an emotional literacy and wellbeing Christmas?

1 December 2021

This Christmas, as part of Wee People, Big Feelings, Scots Corner Early Learning and Childcare Centre are exploring the story of The Gingerbread Man, focussing on creativity and emotional literacy

Christmas can be a stressful time of year in lots of ways, and some of the more traditional festive activities, like nativity performances, step-by-step craft activities and rote learning songs, can add to the stress. These kinds of activities aren’t always age and stage appropriate and can be difficult to deliver in a child-centred way, so the idea of a build up to Christmas that centres feelings and wellbeing feels like a welcome change. 

Over the month, we’ll be sharing Wee Inspirations based on the ideas being explored in the setting, finishing with a short film at the end of the month telling the story of the Gingerbread Man and showing some of the amazing experiences the wee ones have been enjoying.

And while we’re using these ideas during the festive period, a lot of the ideas can be adapted to any story, at any time of year. 

Emotional literacy is all about being able to identify, and (appropriately!) express how you feel.

What is emotional literacy?
If you want to plan your own creative experiences that help support emotional literacy, here are some things to think about.

Emotional literacy is all about being able to identify, and (appropriately!) express how you feel. It’s important to remember that our brains don’t finish developing until our mid-twenties(!) so working on emotional literacy isn’t about setting up unrealistic expectations for wee ones. It’s normal for all of us to feel a wide range of emotions, including sadness and anger, and we all have moments when we don’t express those emotions “appropriately”. As with everything, in early years we’re aiming for progress, not perfection.

It’s also not about wheeling out these ideas in the midst of someone struggling with their emotions – emotional literacy is a skill that’s developed over time, and requires regular opportunities to explore emotions and how they can be expressed. 

 Finally, emotional literacy isn’t just about vocabulary. While it’s definitely useful to explore and understand the words associated with different emotional states, being able to tune into what our bodies are telling us, and exploring lots of different ways to express ourselves, is just as important. 

 Remember: feelings often begin as physical feelings in our bodies. 

Watch The Gingerbread Man video here:

The Planning Process

Once you’ve chosen your story or theme, you can start by drawing a mind map and adding in all the ideas you have. It can be helpful to group them into broad categories: 

Imaginative/Drama Experiences
Getting the chance to play with and “try on” different feelings can be a great way of developing emotional literacy. Think of different ways wee ones can explore the story, the characters, and how they might be feeling at any point in the story – role play and small world play can be great for this. Check out previous Wee Inspirations like Between The Lines as inspiration and wonder aloud how different characters might be feeling – this could be a conversation, or an opportunity to “show” how characters feel using our faces or bodies. 

Movement Experiences
Tuning into our own bodies, how they feel and what they can do is an important part of emotional literacy that’s often overlooked. Grounding is an important part of mindfulness, but while for adults that often involves focussing on breathing, for wee ones still developing gross motor skills and impulse control, becoming more aware of your body is often about exploring all the different ways it can move

Sensory Experiences
As you might expect, this is another way to tune into sensations in your body – and if the sensory experiences link to the story you’re exploring, they can also be a great way to bring stories to life, deepen understanding, and spark new conversations. Often the best chats happen when you’re creating and exploring together, away from the pressure of circle time or direct face to face conversations. 

Musical Experiences
Anyone with a favourite song can tell you how emotive music can be. Listening to music, singing and exploring musical instruments give us opportunities to explore, express and chat about different feelings. Sometimes there are songs or particular pieces of music associated with certain stories, or instruments can be used to represent characters or as a soundtrack to a story, helping to highlight and amplify different emotions at different times.

We’ll be sharing examples of these different experiences over the next few weeks – follow @StarcatchersCS on twitter and search for #WeePeepsBigFeels to find out more about the Wee People, Big Feelings project.