This winter, families in St. James Town may be wondering what the festive season will look like. Without the usual winter activities – the Calcavade of Lights, Toronto Christmas Market, Nathan Phillips Square Fair, theatres and pantomimes – parents and guardians are under more pressure to bring the magic home.
It isn’t all downsides though. We may have to survive this year without seeing all of the extended family, spending hours over a hot stove, eating too much food, and buying vast quantities of presents for distant relatives. Perhaps this year offers us the perfect opportunity for a more intimate holiday season.
Speaking with Robyn Harvey and Colleen Pakkidis from York Professional Care and Education helped to illuminate some of the positives that this year may bring. While old traditions are suspended, this year also has opened up space for families to “create traditions” anew. For example, Colleen encourages families to take the opportunity to dance outside in the falling snow or to make reindeer food and lay it outside for Santa’s reindeers. The quirkier the better! Doing things that will be memorable for years to come is what can make this season extra special.
York Professional Care and Education’s ethos centralises the outdoors as the best environment for learning and play. Colleen, the Outdoor Education Coordinator, expressed how important it is for children (and parents) to get outside, even during the colder months. Although it may not seem appealing, the great outdoors has enormous benefits for both physical and mental health.
First and foremost, being outside has a positive effect on children’s well-being and encourages a healthy lifestyle. Vitamin D exposure from the sun offers positive mental health benefits including reducing stress, anxiety, and depression. Being outdoors can also help boost your immune system and the fresh air may help you get a better night’s sleep.
Colleen and Robyn stress that instead of acting as the “entertainment” for children, it is more important to create environments where children can entertain themselves. As Colleen put it: “if they are bouncing off the walls, take away the walls”. Although you may be tempted to get cosy inside, the outside world in winter offers an abundance of new opportunities for play and to explore.
York Professional Care and Education has put COVID-19 measures in place at all child care facilities to ensure the safety of families and staff, for example, educators wear masks and face shields. Robyn and Colleen have highlighted how versatile kids have been during these tough times. They recommend that families “go back to basics” this year, strengthen family relationships, get back to nature, and make long-lasting memories.