How is Easter Celebrated Around the World?
Have you ever wondered how Easter is celebrated in different countries? Read on for all the unique ways Easter is celebrated around the world!
Easter is one of the most widely celebrated holidays in the world, with at least 95 countries embracing the chocolate eggs and hot cross buns. Although it’s often associated with Christian traditions and Western culture, it’s also observed in various cultural contexts. From Easter egg hunts to religious processions, the celebration of Easter is a rich tapestry of customs, beliefs, and practices.
In this post, we look at some of the unique ways Easter is celebrated around the world.
They love Easter in Germany! One of their most famous holiday traditions is that of the Easter Egg tree, otherwise known as ostereierbaum. This tradition involves decorating trees and bushes with hand decorated eggs, creating colourful displays from the natural landscape.
Branches are also used and decorated in homes (similar to a small Christmas tree), while larger trees are displayed in local parks.
The biggest Easter Egg tree stood for 50 years in Saalfeld, Germany, which held up to 50,000 eggs – all hand decorated by one German family.
In Sweden, Easter is celebrated with the tradition of the Easter Witch. Children (and even some of the grown-ups) dress up as witches, complete with broomsticks, headscarves and painted faces. The ‘witches’ then go door-to-door, offering painted eggs in exchange for sweets, similar to Halloween trick-or-treating. The tradition dates back centuries and is still observed by Swedish locals to this day!
For many Catholics around the world, Easter is the most important time of year. In Rome – one of the most devout cities in the world – Holy Week is a particularly significant event, with various processions and religious ceremonies occurring throughout the week.
On Good Friday, a procession takes place in which the Pope leads the fourteen stations of the cross from the Colosseum, with thousands of people following behind, carrying candles. The children get involved in the festival by singing songs and assisting in church services.
4. South Africa
Easter in South Africa is a time for faith, food and family. Locals typically gather for an afternoon church service on Easter Sunday, followed by a family get together to enjoy traditional South African foods such as roast lamb, pickled fish and braai (South African barbecue).
However, since the 1980s, the day after Easter Sunday is recognised as Family Day. This is an official public holiday which is observed to encourage families from all faiths to spend the day with their loved ones.
In Greece, Easter is celebrated with the Orthodox Christian tradition of the Holy Fire. The night before Easter Sunday, a flame is lit at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem and flown to Greece, where it is used to light candles in churches across the country.
This tradition dates back 1,200 years, and is celebrated widely as the flame is believed to be a symbol of the resurrection of Christ. Crowds of up to 10,000 gather around the Holy Sepulchre for the event, chanting ‘Kyrie eleison’ which translates to ‘Lord, have mercy.’
When you think of Easter, kites probably don’t come to mind. However, in Bermuda, no Good Friday is complete without the locals getting out into the fresh air and flying homemade kites around the natural landscapes.
The origin of this tradition dates back to a Bermudan Sunday school teacher explaining the resurrection of Christ through a kite demonstration. Ever since, kites and Easter have become intertwined in Bermuda.
On Easter Sunday, Poles get up bright and early (6am) for the Resurrection mass. Following the service, families gather for a hearty breakfast of cold meats, eggs, bread and pâté. Cakes, sweets and cheesecakes are enjoyed throughout the day, making Polish Easter one of the tastiest around the world!
The Monday after, however, takes an interesting twist with children throwing buckets of water on each other in a tradition known as Wet Monday (they take water fights very seriously!).
In Brazil, the town of Ouro Preto is known for its elaborate Holy Week celebrations. The town’s churches and roads are decorated with flowers and lights, making brilliant artwork throughout the streets. Additionally, processions take place throughout the week, with participants carrying images of Jesus Christ and the Virgin Mary.
Easter is a holiday that is celebrated in many different ways around the world, each with its unique traditions and customs. Whether it’s a religious procession, the decoration of Easter trees, dressing up as witches or just enjoying some hot cross buns, Easter is a time to come together with family and friends, celebrate the arrival of spring, and reflect with those closest to you.
Healthy (and Tasty) Easter Treats for Children
Easter is a time for family, fun, and treats! However, it’s also a time where we can get carried away with sugar-filled, highly processed chocolates. Read on for our comprehensive list of 7 creative treats for your child’s basket this Easter!
Easter is a time for family, fun, and of course, treats! A little chocolate won’t hurt, but it’s easy to get carried away and load up the little one’s baskets with sugar-filled, highly processed eggs and chocolate bunnies.
If you’re looking for a healthier option this year, there are plenty of creative options for making an Easter basket that’s still filled with fun and tasty treats. Here are seven healthy Easter treats for your child’s basket!
1. Rabbit-Shaped Sandwiches
Sandwiches are a great way to get creative while also providing a healthy meal for the little ones. Simply use a bunny-shaped cookie cutter over multigrain sandwiches filled with delicious fillings like ham, turkey, cheese and plenty of veggies.
You can also incorporate the Easter theme into the fillings like egg salad, cucumbers and shredded carrot! Feel free to make them as creative as possible, as children are more likely to engage with healthy eating when it’s colourful and fun.
2. Carrots and Hummus
Carrots are a fitting snack for Easter, as they’re the Easter Bunny’s favourite treat. Experiment with veggies to make little bunnies, creative platters or baby carrot flowerpots. Additionally, hummus comes in a range of flavours and variations for even the fussiest of eaters.
Best of all, hummus is full of nutrients, fibre and protein which are essential for growing bodies. If you’re going for storebought, just avoid anything too spicy for the little ones! There’s loads of recipes online to make your own, which can be a wonderful bonding experience.
3. Fresh Fruit
Fill your child’s Easter basket with a variety of colourful fruits, such as sliced apples, bananas, oranges, berries or grapes. Fresh fruit is rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants which are vital to children’s physical and psychological development.
Additionally, fruits – especially grapes and berries – are naturally sweet, making them a great alternative to lollies and chocolate. Just add a small container of grapes or berries to your child’s basket, or even freeze them for a fun and refreshing treat.
Popcorn is an underrated healthy snack. It can be salty or sweet and it’s full of fibre and important antioxidants. Pop or your own or opt for store bought, just be sure to read the labels carefully. Many store-bought popcorns are filled with sugar, butter and salt.
You can then portion out the popcorn and get decorative with colourful packaging, ribbons and cards!
5. Homemade Easter Treats
Children love helping out in the kitchen – they just don’t like to clean up the mess! Get the little ones involved in the kitchen to make a whole range of healthy easter treats such as carrot cake bites, hot cross buns, muffins, biscuits, banana bread, energy balls or fruit leather.
This is a great way to get creative in the kitchen while also providing children with a healthier alternative to store-bought treats that are often filled with loads of sugar and nasty preservatives.
6. Chocolate Covered Fruit
Remember, creating a healthy Easter basket is all about balance and moderation. Therefore, coating healthier foods like strawberries, bananas, kiwi fruit or watermelon is a great way to get the best of both worlds. It’s still chocolate, but not in the dense blocks or eggs you’ll find in a typical Easter basket.
This is also a great opportunity to get creative with platters, colours and designs. And remember – you don’t need to cover the entire fruit. A half-covered strawberry or the tip of a mandarin slice is a tasteful, and aesthetic, way to manage your child’s chocolate intake.
7. Sugar-free Chocolate
If pure chocolate is a must, consider a sugar-free (or low sugar) option. These are made with natural sweeteners such as stevia, without comprising the taste. The lack of sugar will result in less hyperactivity, sugar crashes, and trips to the dentist in the long term.
In recent years, sugar-free alternatives to everyday treats have exploded in popularity. Most supermarkets now stock ample sugar-free and low sugar alternatives in their health food aisles.
Just remember to always get your little one to brush after eating even these sugar-free treats. For tips on how to get your little one brushing, check out our blog post here.
Overall, Easter baskets don’t have to be a pit of sugar-filled, processed chocolate and sweets. In fact, they’re an opportunity to teach children about healthy eating and to broaden their palette. Through a mixture of homemade and storebought Easter basket treats, you can ensure your child indulges their sweet tooth.
5 Fun Ways to Celebrate World Wildlife Day
Happy World Wildlife Day! This day raises awareness for global conservation efforts. Read on for our 5 fun ways to celebrate this important day!
World Wildlife Day is observed annually on 3 March to raise awareness for global wildlife conservation efforts. Likewise, it’s a chance to celebrate the amazing biodiversity of plant and animal life which inhabit our planet.
Each year, World Wildlife Day has a specific theme that focuses on a different aspect of wildlife preservation and protection. This year’s theme is ‘Partnerships for Wildlife Conservation.’
To celebrate World Wildlife Day, we’ve listed five fun ways you can get your little one out in nature and learning about the importance of sustainability.
1. Make a Garden
Not only does gardening get children active, but it also teaches them about responsibility as they learn to care for a living thing. You can create a special space in your backyard for your little one to plant seeds, water them and watch them grow. Additionally, you can incorporate different plant species, build birdhouses and add homemade decorations like coloured rocks and little signs. This is a wonderful way to teach children the beauty of natural spaces and how they can help protect them.
At Explorers, we encourage budding green thumbs through our One World, One Planet program. Our Garden and Sustainability Teacher regularly visits the Centres, introducing children to the joys of gardening, sustainability and watching things grow.
2. Go on a Nature Walk
A nature walk is a great way to get your little one exploring the world. Take your child to a local park, nature reserve or lake and encourage them to observe the plants and animals in their natural ecosystem. To help out, Museums Victoria has a Field Guide smartphone app to help you identify different species. Try making a game of it by seeing how many you can find!
3. Make Wildlife-Themed Crafts
Arts and crafts are perfect for engaging children’s creativity and teaching them about wildlife. You can make animal masks, bird feeders or even create a mini ecosystem in a jar. All you need is a clear bottle, some patches of moss, soil and small rocks!
Otherwise, loose parts and recycled materials are ideal for teaching children about recycling, while also letting them flex their creative muscles. At Explorers, we gather loose parts through our Recycle Stations and repurpose them in new and exciting ways. These experiences teach children about sustainability, recycling and waste reduction.
4. Visit the Zoo or Aquarium
A trip to the Melbourne Zoo is a fun and educational activity to help children learn about different species and their habitats. Not only is the Melbourne Zoo globally recognised in zoo management, but it also offers a host of child-friendly activities. There are picnics, toy animals, maps with fun facts, interactive activities and educational programs for the children.
Alternatively, the Melbourne Aquarium is the perfect weekend activity. In fact, the World Wildlife Day theme just a few years ago was, ‘Life below water: for people and planet.’ The Aquarium regularly champions conservation efforts through their partnership with SEA Life Trust.
5. Read Wildlife-Themed Books
Reading wildlife themed books introduces children to different species and their habitats while also stimulating their imagination. You can read them as a family and discuss the themes and lessons of the story. Thankfully, there are many wonderful children’s books from Australian authors available that teach about animals, their behaviour and their environment. Just a few examples include:
🐭 Bilby Secrets by Edel Wignell and illustrated by Mark Jackson
🐟 Saving the Spotted Handfish by Gina Newton and illustrated by Rachel Tribou
🦘 Jumping Joeys by Sarah Allen
🌏 Big World, Tiny World: Reef by Jess Racklyeft
In conclusion, World Wildlife Day is the perfect opportunity to teach children about the significance of conservation and the amazing diversity in nature. With these child-friendly activities, you can engage your child’s curiosity about the natural world and pave the way for the next generation of world leaders. After all, 2017’s World Wildlife Day theme was ‘Listen to the Young Voices’, which speaks volumes about the wisdom of even the littlest among us.
11 Sensory Activities in Melbourne this Summer
Looking for some summer activities for the little ones? Read on for our list of 11 sensory activities to check out in Melbourne this summer.
Summer is upon us in Melbourne which means sunny days, kicking off the blankets, the odd thunderstorm and some great opportunities to get out and explore with the family.
Whether it’s indoors or outdoors – sunny or raining – there’s so much to do in summer to get the little ones moving and interacting with their environment. Moreover, the early years are essential for developing children’s creativity and sensory perception, so we’ve listed some fun activities around Melbourne to engage the little one’s senses this summer!
MoPA is an interactive learning experience for children of all ages. Accordingly, the museum has child-safe play spaces, rainbow tunnels, craft stations, cityscapes, confetti slides and an onsite café! Additionally, MoPA is Reggio Emilia inspired, referencing Loris Malaguzzi’s focus on ‘the importance of play and creativity in early learning.’
MoPA, located in Melbourne and Geelong, is open 9am-5pm seven days a week over the school holidays.
Scienceworks is a science and technology museum designed to inspire and educate young minds. Although the museum is suitable for ages 5 and up, Scienceworks and Baby Sensory have teamed up this summer for an immersive experience for ages 0-13 months. These sessions, as part of their Little Kids Day In program, are filled with ‘gentle exercise, much-loved games, and end with a sensory filled celebration.’
Imaginaria is a walk-through play experience for children of all ages. They can freely roam this interactive indoor display filled with soothing sounds and multi-dimensional light. Above all, Imaginaria is a shining example of how art and audio-visual play spaces encourage creativity and imagination in children. These skills are vital for success later in life.
There’s always something happening at the Melbourne Museum. Their daily exhibitions feature all kinds of cool science and historical displays such as skeletons, fossils, artefacts and interactive displays.
Additionally, this summer the Melbourne Museum are showcasing the Pauline Gandel Children’s Gallery. This autism-friendly exhibition features ‘hands-on exploration and discovery, open-ended play-based learning, extraordinary immersive environments and unique museum collection objects.’
We love art at Explorers – especially impressionism. Therefore, our Little Impressionist program encourages children to explore the impressionist (and post-impressionist) styles of Monet and Van Gogh to express themselves through art and colour.
To see the power of this art for yourself, why not take your little one to the Monet & Friends exhibit at THE LUME? Overall, this exhibition of life, light and colour feels like you’re stepping inside one of his famous paintings!
LEGO is a fantastic way to improve children’s fine and gross motor skills, hand-eye coordination, problem-solving and teamwork. Moreover, LEGO has psychological benefits, as children imagine, plan and build intricate creations.
Lastly, LEGOLAND’s enclosed spaces and interactive environments are suitable for children aged 3 – 10, just remember to always supervise younger children to prevent choking hazards.
Summer is the perfect time to visit SEA LIFE Melbourne to enjoy the interactive Pirate Treasure Hunt. This journey takes you around the aquarium, seeing and learning all about the ocean, its creatures and the delicate ecosystem which binds it all together.
Moreover, a trip to the aquarium is a wonderful way to teach children the importance of sustainability and preserving the natural world.
8. Jurassic Park High Tea
Is your child going through a dinosaur phase? Langham Melbourne are hosting a one-of-a-kind, Jurassic Park themed high tea for the little ones. You’ll find Dinosaur Trifle, Jungle Nasturtium Ham and Cheese Sandwiches, Black Rock Arancini and so much more!
Dietary alternatives are available, but the most spellbinding part of the experience is the atmosphere and attention-to-detail. For instance, you’ll find dry ice mist, leaves, toy dinosaurs and earthy tones, making this a truly immersive prehistoric experience.
9. Pixar Putt
Toy Story, Monsters Inc, Soul, Luca and The Incredibles. Are any of these movies playing on repeat in your household? If so, this Pixar-themed golf course is a must-visit this summer! With a range of terrains and environments, the whole family can enjoy a day of mini-golf featuring your favourite Pixar characters.
Pixar Putt is located in Frankston, with a choice of either 9 or 18 holes. Just remember that this family-friendly outing is only available until February 5, so get in while you can!
10. Hire a Boat
What’s more Melbournian taking a cruise down the Yarra River? The sound of the water, the gentle sway of the boat and seeing the city from a completely different point-of-view is the perfect summer activity!
GoBoat, and other businesses like ON A BOAT and Melbourne Boat Hire, allow you to hire and drive your very own boat for the day (no boating licence required)! These trips are pet-friendly and suitable for newborns, so you can bring the whole family on this nautical adventure.
No list of immersive summer activities would be complete without Christmas! Each year the City of Melbourne hosts the annual month-long Christmas Festival. Naturally, the city goes all out and the CBD comes to life with the festive spirit.
Alternatively, you can always take your little ones to see the Christmas lights around your local neighbourhood! Above all, there’s nothing like a summer evening walk with the family, taking in the lights, the sound of cicadas and the starry night.
How is Christmas Celebrated Around the World?
Ever wondered how Christmas is celebrated across the pond? Read on for some unique ways the festive season is celebrated around the world!
Christmas is one of the most celebrated holidays in the world with over 2 billion Christians taking part in the occasion. However, that doesn’t factor in those who celebrate it for family, friends or just out of love for the festive season.
But as cultures differ, the way this eclectic holiday is celebrated goes far beyond Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. In this article, we explore some interesting ways Christmas is celebrated around the world!
It may sound unusual, but KFC is a Christmas mainstay in Japan. Up to 3.6 million locals enjoy KFC ‘Party Buckets’ on Christmas Day with bookings required months in advance, not to mention lining up for hours to pick them up. This is remarkable considering that Christmas isn’t an official holiday in Japan as just 1% of the population identify as Christian.
The tradition dates back to the 1970s when Takeshi Okawara managed the first Japanese KFC. Okawara marketed fried chicken to the locals as a common American alternative to turkey on Christmas with the slogan, ‘Kentucky for Christmas.’ Although untrue, the campaign took off and KFC on Christmas is going forty-seven years strong in Japan!
If you think shopping centres set up decorations early in Australia, they’re amateurs compared to the Philippines. They begin the festivities in September and continue all the way until the first week of January!
Over these four months, the islands essentially become the real-life version of Christmas Town from The Nightmare Before Christmas (minus the snow). Children sing carols, the locals dress up, festive songs flood the radio and Christmas movies play on every station.
Christmas falls in summer for Argentina. Naturally, this means Christmas BBQs in gardens and backyards are commonplace. Likewise, family is everything in South America, so feasts and gatherings with extended family mark the occasion.
The festivities ramp up in late November and officially begin on December 8 with the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. Christmas Day involves Mass and religious ceremonies, which isn’t surprising as nearly 80% of Argentinians identify as Christian. After Mass, families get together for a late night feast and party into the night!
You’ve probably heard of the 12 Days of Christmas, but what about the 13 Days of Yule? The traditions are quite similar, but instead of putting stockings out each night, Icelandic children place shoes on their windowsill in hopes of being visited by the 13 Yule Lads.
The Yule Lads, who look similar to Snow White’s seven dwarves, leave small gifts in the shoes of well-behaved children. The naughty children, however, get something even worse than coal – rotten potatoes! If that doesn’t motivate children to behave, we’re not sure what will.
In Ethiopia, Christmas is a time for reflection and spiritual connection between family and community. Preparations begin on November 25 with pious locals taking part in a 43 day Nativity Fast. The fast ends on January 7, the day Ethiopians celebrate Christmas. Locals only consume vegan foods during this fast and abstain from alcohol.
Gifts are not typically exchanged during this period, as it’s more about the communal experience and devotion to faith.
6. United Arab Emirates
Although Christmas isn’t an official holiday in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), it’s embraced in Dubai. The sprawling city is filled with festivals, musicals, light shows, parades and plenty of Christmas trees (some reaching 21 meters tall)!
The festivities are similar to those in Australia, with Santa paying a visit to the shopping centres, Christmas movies playing in the cinemas and decorations lighting the night all through December.
In Mexico, the festivities begin on December 12 and end on January 6. However, an additional holiday is celebrated on February 2 known as El Día de la Candelaria (Candlemas).
Children lead the Posadas on December 16, a nine-day celebration ending on Christmas Eve. They carry candles and re-enact nativity scenes while parading through the streets. The festival ends with the breaking of a seven-pointed star piñata, which is filled with sweets!
Christmas Eve involves more celebrations and mass, ending with a midnight feast. As you can imagine, Christmas Day involves leftovers and recovering from the previous night.
They love Santa in Finland. He greets families at shopping centres, airports, train stations, town squares and just about everywhere else.
Finland is also the location of Santa Claus Village. There you’ll find Santa’s workshop, Mrs. Claus’ Cottage, real-life reindeer and even a full-service post office. Each year, up to half a million letters are sent to this post office from all over the world!
Lastly, no Finnish Christmas is complete without rice pudding. It’s traditionally eaten as the final meal and is often mixed with fruit or sugar. An almond is then hidden in the mix and whoever finds it is blessed with good fortune.
Overall, no matter where you are or what you celebrate, this is a wonderful time to reflect on all that you and your little one have achieved this past year. Importantly, it’s also a time to cherish those close to you and to show them how much they mean to you.
We would like to wish all our families, children, support staff and Educators a very merry Christmas, a Happy Holidays, and a wonderful New Year. We can’t wait to see you all in 2023!
7 Aussie Children’s Books to Read this Christmas
Need a new read for the little one? See below for our list of 7 Aussie children’s books that are sure to get your child reading this Christmas!
Christmas is just around the corner, which means books, movies and carols filled with snow, woolly sweaters, pecan pie and mugs of piping hot cocoa. However, you’ve probably noticed that these Christmas conventions hardly represent a typical Australian Christmas.
So, to get your little ones into the Christmas spirit, we’ve listed our favourite children’s books that tell the story of how it’s done in Australia, complete with BBQs, summer, backyard cricket, party hats and (too many) Christmas cracker jokes. These books are perfect to read with children, while also supporting local Aussie creatives!
1. Bin Chicken and the Christmas Turkey by Jol Temple, Kate Temple and Ronojoy Ghosh (Illustrator)
In recent years, the humble Australian white ibis – better known as bin chickens, tip turkeys and picnic pirates – has become something of an Australian icon. Bin Chicken and the Christmas Turkey hilariously chronicles the journey of one such bin chicken – and his feathery friends – as he learns the magic of Christmas.
2. An Aussie Night Before Christmas by Yvonne Morrison and Kilmeny Niland (Illustrator)
If you’re wondering why this is such an Aussie Christmas classic, look no further than the blurb:
Christmas in the middle of an Australian summer means Santa has to find new ways to deliver his presents. The obvious solutions are to don a sunhat, shorts and a pair of thongs, not to mention ditching the sleigh and reindeer in favour of some roos and a ute.
Morrison’s charming depiction of Australian Christmas pairs perfectly with Niland’s vibrant illustrations to produce a captivating image of Christmas down under.
3. Christmas Wombat by Jackie French and Bruce Whatley (Illustrator)
Christmas from a wombat’s point of view – what’s not to love? French is at her brilliant best with this playful story of a wombat’s quest for carrots. Reindeer, chimneys and even Santa himself won’t get in the way!
This is the perfect story to get children reading and thinking about healthy eating.
4. The Twelve Days of Christmas Island by Teresa Lagrange
The Twelve Days of Christmas Island is beautiful in its simplicity. Lagrange, who wrote and illustrated this wonderful book, cleverly adopts the format of the twelve days of Christmas to explore Australia flora and fauna. Naturally, this forms a memorable page-turner that you’ll be reading over and over again with the little ones!
5. An Aussie Christmas Gum Tree by Jackie Hosking and Nathaniel Eckstrom (Illustrator)
An Aussie Christmas Gum Tree stars possums, kookaburras and kangaroos as they venture through the great outback. Possum, and his Christmas crew, then embark on a noble journey to spread the Christmas spirit by decorating a gum tree with trinkets, ornaments and all sorts of quirky objects. Eckstrom’s artistic style and Hosking’s brilliant story bring the outback to life in this fanciful tale of Australian Christmas.
6. Christmas Always Comes by Jackie French and Bruce Whatley (Illustrator)
Christmas Always Comes also takes place in the familiar Australian setting of the outback. Santa, not one to give up on his promise to deliver presents, searches the dusty roads of the outback for farmer’s children. Little Joey, however, knows that Christmas always comes. Whatley’s beautiful illustrations perfectly embody the Australian bush and French’s story brings this story of belief and perseverance to life.
7. What Do You Wish For? by Jane Godwin and Anna Walker (Illustrator)
Bestselling duo Godwin and Walker team up again to create this touching Christmas hit. What Do You Wish For? is an exploration of children’s tendency to wish and dream, but Ruby isn’t like her friends. While some children wish for skateboards and puppies, Ruby understands that Christmas is about more than just the presents. Through this story, Godwin and Walker teach children to appreciate what they have, as well highlighting why the truly special things in life can’t be granted by a wish.
Overall, any form of reading is a wonderful way to bond with your child, as well as developing their emotional and creative skills. Additionally, reading improves children’s cognitive functions, intelligence and understanding of the world around them. Be sure to check out our blog on Book Week to learn all about the importance of reading at an early age.
What does Halloween Really Teach Children?
Ever wondered if Halloween goes deeper than the scary costumes and trick-or-treating? Read on to learn the fascinating history and educational value of this spooky holiday.
Halloween is exploding in popularity here in Australia. While you might have balked at the idea of trick-or-treating a decade ago, Australians are embracing the pumpkins and sweets with both hands.
At Explorers, we consider Halloween a wonderful learning opportunity to teach children about literacy, maths, child safety, creativity and other cultures.
What is Halloween?
Although Halloween is typically understood as an American holiday celebrated each year on October 31st, its origins date back to the Irish Samhain festival over 2,000 years ago!
Samhain is a Celtic festival which celebrates the end of harvest season – November 1st – and the beginning of the ‘dark half’ of the year. The Celts believed the ghosts of their ancestors visited for this transition between seasons. To celebrate, they lit bonfires, danced, dressed up and left treats on doorsteps for their ghostly visitors.
However, with the spread of Catholicism throughout Europe, Celtic and Catholic traditions combined, and so did the evolution of Samhain.
Samhain → All Souls Day → All Saints Day → Alholowmesse → All Hallows Day → All Hallows Eve → Halloween
When Irish settlers landed on the shores of the Americas in the 1600-1700s, they brought Halloween with them. Catholic, Irish and American traditions combined which spread Halloween to the rest of the country, then to Canada, and then to the world.
Trick-or-treating originated on All Souls’ Eve in Ireland, where children went door-to-door asking for a treat in exchange for a prayer. Back then, soul cakes were the treats. Soul cakes are small round cakes baked with raisins, mixed spices and marked with a cross, not too dissimilar from hot cross buns.
The tradition evolved into what we know today as trick-or-treating. Consequently, groups of family and friends dressing up and venturing into the night on October 31st is becoming commonplace. Above all, this is a wonderful confidence building exercise for children to develop their social skills.
Moreover, it’s the perfect opportunity to teach the little ones some vital safety tips. Before the big night, be sure to explain some key child safety principles:
- Never go into a stranger’s home or car.
- Always check food labels for allergens.
- Stay off the roads (wear reflective tape if possible for visibility).
- Always stay under parental supervision.
- Ensure costume is well-fitted to avoid tripping.
Spark the Imagination
Creativity is a key component of the Reggio Emilia approach and Halloween is the perfect opportunity to stimulate children’s imaginations. They can choose their costume from their favourite book, movie, story or just make something up!
If they decide to be something more common, like a ghost for example, encourage them to write a story about their character which you can then read together. Literacy is a fundamental life skill for the little ones, so finding new and exciting ways to teach it outside the classroom is essential.
Lollies for Learning
After you and your little ones finish trick-or-treating, you can use the hard-earned treats as a wonderful (and tasty) learning tool. Ask them to lay their plunder on the table and count how many treats they’ve collected. Then, separate the different kinds by shape, colour, and size.
Ask your child to describe the tastes and textures. Is it sweet? Sour? Chewy? Toddlers are at a delicate age in their development which is largely dependent on sensory information and experiences, so be sure to nurture and encourage their sense of exploration.
Just be sure not to overindulge and always be mindful of your child’s sugar intake. Moreover, keep an eye out for allergen labels and nasty preservatives. Thankfully, there are loads of fun alternatives to hand out to trick-or-treaters if you want to give the sugar-high a miss, such as fruit skewers, popcorn, cheese and crackers, pretzels, and frozen yogurt sticks.
Halloween Around the World
While we love Halloween, it’s important to note that it’s a Western holiday. At Explorers, we embrace all cultures, and acknowledge that although many countries celebrate Halloween, they also have their own unique holidays.
Here are just a few examples from around the world:
- Día de Los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, is a Mexican tradition that takes place each year on November 1st and 2nd. Although the name may sound ominous, this festival celebrates the beauty of life. Festivalgoers partake in candle-lit walks through the cities, dress up in colourful costumes, paint their faces and share baked treats.
- The Hungry Ghost Festival is a Chinese festival celebrated on the 15th day of the seventh month of the Lunar Calendar. It is believed that during this event the gates of the underworld open. The day is celebrated by burning incense, hosting elaborate performances and preparing traditional meals with family.
- Gozan no Okuribi is a Japanese festival celebrated each year on August 16th. Giant bonfires are lit on mountains surrounding Kyoto to signify the moment when souls of past family members return to the spirit world. These fires create enormous symbols, which are a natural marvel to behold.
Overall, if you choose to celebrate Halloween, it’s a wonderful opportunity to teach your child some handy life lessons while also expanding their cultural awareness. Be sure to encourage their creativity, join in the festivities and relish the memories just as much as the sweets.
Teaching Children to Look Up – Space Week
Teaching children about space is important for stimulating their imagination and sense of wonder. Read on for some some fun Space Week activities!
Space – the final frontier. We’re all familiar with the sun, the moon, the milky way, and we’re all still quietly mourning the loss of Pluto’s planetary status, but do you remember learning about space? It feels like it’s something we all just innately know. As it turns out, teaching children about space at an early age is an important phase for stimulating their imagination – a key pillar of the Reggio Emilia philosophy – and helps them work through feelings of isolation and anxiety.
For Space Week, we’ve listed a few ways you can teach your child about outer space in an engaging way to get them dreaming of the stars!
1. Get Crafty
While older children are better equipped for discussion, younger children – especially infants – can’t simply be told about space. Rather, at this age, they’re more sensory and learn through touch and feel. Space is perfect for sensory projects as it’s full of colour, shapes and the night sky is a vast, natural canvas.
Paper mâché planets, plush stars, finger painting and cardboard spaceships are just a few DIY ideas. If your child is too young for craft projects, a sensory kit is the perfect alternative. They’ve blown up in popularity in recent years, and for good reason. Children learn through all their senses, and space provides a range of environments and terrains. To make a sensory kit, simply:
- Find a container, tray, bucket or bowl.
- Fill the base with your desired sensory material, e.g. smooth pebbles, marbles, mud, dry pasta, grass, sand, seashells, etc.
- Add space-themed ornaments such as toy planets, astronauts, stars, spaceships, satellites, etc.
- Invite your child to engage with the kit – just make sure you supervise to avoid any choking hazards.
2. Read a Space-Themed Book
Children love reading, and it’s a vital part of their development. Pop-up and picture books are perfect for teaching children about space as you can read them together, enjoy the colourful photos and share the experience while encouraging their intellectual curiosity.
Here a few of our recommendations from Australian authors:
- The ABC Book of Rockets, Planets and Outer Space by Helen Martin and Judith Simpson, and illustrated by Cheryl Orsini.
- Space Kids – Sabotage by Aleesah Darlison and illustrated by Nancy Bevington.
- Give me some Space! by Philip Bunting.
3. Make a Day of It
Arts projects, pop-up books and sensory kits only get you so far. Although you can’t exactly travel into outer space, there are loads of places you can take your child to show them the wonders of space.
Museums, observatories, exhibits and planetariums are a wonderful way to get your child gazing at the stars. Additionally, tours are often available by professionals who can teach your child some mind-boggling facts they can share with their friends.
4. Get a Telescope
While trips to state-of-the-art facilities and dedicated exhibits are a great excursion, you can’t do them every day. Telescopes give children the agency to explore space on their own and ignites their curiosity of the natural world. Moreover, they’re a perfect Christmas or birthday present that you can pair with star charts or calendars of orbital patterns.
Lastly, telescopes teach children about weather patterns and seasonal changes, as overcast weather will impact visibility. Overall, this teaches children about the interconnected nature of the universe.
5. Write a Story
Space is awe-inspiring for children, and they can sometimes feel a sense of yearning as they can’t physically venture out into the stars. While books and museums inspire a sense of discovery, why not use this desire for adventure as an opportunity to explore their imagination?
Writing is a fantastic way to teach children about literacy, as well as expressing their emotions and creative flare. It won’t be H.G. Wells, but physically writing their ideas onto paper is a huge cognitive boost for children, as research suggests writing by hand may make them smarter.
Here are a few writing prompts to get them thinking:
- You are the captain of a voyage to Mars. It’s all going well until there’s a mutiny! What happens next?
- Write a short story about discovering a crashed spaceship in your backyard.
- Your best friend turns into an alien! What happens next?
Why is Space Week Important?
Space Week, and the galaxy more broadly, teaches children a fundamental lesson – the world is bigger than themselves. In their early years, children may feel isolated and even lose their sense of imagination as they mature and learn about responsibility and their role in a broader community. Space, through its impossible vastness, beautiful planets, swirling blackholes and brilliants stars is a venture into the great unknown and by its very nature invites fantastical scenarios and creative thinking.
However, outer space isn’t as fanciful as you might think. The space industry grew 9% year-over-year in 2021. At the current rate of growth, the space economy is expected to increase to $634 billion by 2026 and exceed $1 trillion in revenue by 2040, creating numerous jobs and career paths in the process.
Consequently, the idea of your child working in the space industry, or even travelling into outer space, isn’t as far-fetched as it seems. Likewise, who knows what technology will exist in the near future? Don’t forget, it only took 66 years between the Wright Brothers embarking on the first ever plane flight (December 17, 1903) to humans walking on the moon (July 20, 1969) when Neil Armstrong uttered the famous words – ‘that’s one small step for man. One giant leap for mankind.’
5 Proven Ways to Boost Positivity – R U OK? Day
R U OK? This simple question can mean the world to another, whether big or small. Read on to see how this day can boost your little one’s positivity and emotional development.
Over the past decade, discussions around mental health and positive affirmation have increased dramatically, chipping away at age-old taboos in the process. In honour of R U OK? Day, we’ve compiled some easy ways to boost positivity that you can pass onto your little ones. We understand these methods won’t make problems magically disappear, but something as simple writing down your thoughts can have astonishing results.
1. Start a Gratitude Journal
Writing down what you’re grateful for each day is a surprisingly effective way to reduce negativity in your life and all you need is a pen and paper. Next, write down just three things you’re grateful for. At first, it can feel a little uncomfortable, but the trick is you must write down three things every day. This is a wonderful experience to share with your little one because it equips them with vital tools to establish constructive mental health habits.
In the beginning, it can be as simple as, ‘I’m grateful for my toothbrush,’ or ‘I’m grateful for my bed.’ However, the more you do it, the more you’ll see certain things keep appearing. Better yet, you and your child can use this time to build on each other’s reflections:
- ‘I’m grateful for my friends that play games with me.’
- ‘Every day I’m thankful for my daughter who I love very much.’
- ‘I’m so lucky to have my family who always support me.’
Training your brain is like any other skill – it takes practise. Over time, you’ll get better at recognising and cherishing the positive things rather than focusing on the negative. Lastly, you’ll have pages of positive reflections to look back on over the weeks, months and years to come.
2. Limit Screen Time
Overusing screens is a sure-fire way to overstimulate your brain – and that goes doubly for your children. On average, we’re exposed to more images than ever before. And this is affected even more by smartphones and social media apps that are flooded with images, videos, updates, and endless news.
Smartphones and computers are remarkable pieces of technology which have connected us in ways never believed possible, but they need to be monitored.
Ultimately, overstimulation makes our brains work overtime, especially right before bed when it’s time to unwind. Research suggests that limiting screens an hour before bed can significantly boost mood and sleep quality. So, the next time you read about limiting screen time for children – try it for yourself!
If you haven’t tried meditation before, you may have a preconceived image of robed figures softly humming in a circle at a forest retreat. However, this is a rather narrow view of meditation. Rather, meditation takes many forms and can be as simple as taking five minutes out of your morning to close your eyes and ground yourself in the present. Don’t think about tomorrow or next week or even an hour into the future – focus entirely on the moment you’re in and let your senses guide you.
Being out in nature has repeatedly proven an effective technique to enhance meditation. ADD (attention-deficit disorder) expert, Dr Zylowska, outlines that ‘nature is such an inducer of awareness in the present moment,’ making it ideal for calming fidgety children. Laying in the grass and looking at the sky is a fantastic way to soothe you and your child.
4. Increase Mindfulness
Have you ever found yourself in bed aimlessly scrolling your news feed? You don’t even really know why you’re doing it, but you’re filling your mind with all kinds of information you don’t actually need.
The best way to break this habit is to be aware of it and to consciously work to change it. This is something you can practise with your child to prevent them from developing similar habits as they develop into adolescence and become more exposed to technology. Some simple ways to practise mindfulness with your child include:
- The Five Senses Game – sit down and ask your child to describe each of their senses in order of: sight, touch, hearing, smell and taste.
- Deep Breaths – sit down together and take a deep breath through the nose, hold for five seconds, then slowly breath out through the mouth. Repeat as many times as you like.
- Listening Walk – get out into nature and invite your child to identify the sounds and sights of nature. The key here is to limit your responses where possible, so your child focuses on their senses.
- Story Time – ask your child to close their eyes as you read (or make up) a story, preferably in the second person. Pay particular attention to sensory details – ‘you’re walking along a beach. You feel the sand tickling between your toes.’
5. Tell Them How You Really Feel
Expressing your deepest feelings is as powerful as it is daunting. Having a dedicated family talking time can do wonders in helping children articulate their thoughts and emotions. It’s beneficial to get into this habit at an early age to entrench positive thought patterns before adolescence.
In 2013, a psychological study analysed the relationship between happiness and gratitude. Firstly, researchers gathered a group of volunteers and asked them think of the person who influenced them the most. Secondly, they were instructed to write a letter detailing why they were grateful for that person. Lastly, they were invited to call that person and read what they wrote, resulting in the following:
- The group that only wrote down the letter showed an increase of happiness between 2% to 4%.
- The group that wrote the letter and made the phone call showed an increase of happiness between 4% to 19%.
- Notably, the volunteer that showed the biggest jump in happiness began the experiment as the least happy.
Above all, what’s most important is identifying and responding to how your child feels. These techniques all serve to better help your child express their emotions, so they can be unpacked and worked through in an open and honest way. You’ll make mistakes along the way, so be prepared to learn and grow together. Remember, there are no shortcuts in this shared journey. Children’s mindfulness expert, Susan Kaiser Greenland, sums it up best:
‘Learning mindfulness isn’t like piano lessons, where you can have someone else teach it to your children. You have to learn it yourself.’
Don’t forget to ask your child, teachers, educators, co-workers, family and friends if they’re okay this R U OK? Day!