Aroha mai, aroha atu | Love received, love returned.
The festive season is fast approaching! After a year which has seen many changes at Mairtown kindergarten, this time provides an opportunity to pause in the midst of all the busyness and reflect on how grateful we are to share our beautiful space with such wonderful tamariki and supportive whānau. We are also grateful that together we continue to experience and celebrate the aroha held within our familiar festive rituals and traditional events as our kindergarten year draws to a close.
Aroha is not something anyone can expect to command from others because they imagine it’s their right. To accept and enjoy the loving, the sharing, the caring of aroha means you give back a little more than you received. This keeps the networks of aroha alive and functioning. (Tilly Reedy, 1979).
The Christmas tree festival at St Johns Church is a community event our tamariki have enjoyed being part of for a number of years now, and preparations for this much anticipated event begin in November. The tamariki of Mairtown kindergarten love to sing, and practicing our Christmas songs marks the beginning of our festive activities. Christmas decorations with a theme of sustainability are created to adorn our tree, and this year we were blown away by the creativity demonstrated in the beautiful peg fairies, gold and silver painted shells and leaves and twig stars which were carefully crafted. When all were complete, the teachers took them to the church and decorated our beautiful Mairtown kindergarten tree.
Another special festival ritual at Mairtown kindergarten is the creation of our gratitude tree, which celebrates the specialness of our tamariki. We offer whānau the opportunity to write on the back of a beautiful photo of their child, sharing with them their thoughts about why they feel grateful to have them in their lives. This card is then displayed on our special tree until the end of the year, when it is gifted to the child to take home and hang on their own tree. Tamariki love spending time looking at these cards, and hearing the heartfelt words shared on them. The messages reinforce to them the aroha which surrounds them.
As we count down each day of December, a child opens the appropriate drawer of our advent calendar to reveal a beautiful bauble, which they then hang on the gratitude tree. So as the days pass, our tree becomes ever more lovely.
Modelling thankfulness can help instill the character trait of gratitude and caring in your child’s life. Don’t miss an opportunity to model and teach kindness, gratitude and compassion. These are character traits that can enhance your child’s overall growth and development and can buffer your child against a culture that often concentrates on “me” first (Innis, 2013).
Manaakitanga is the bedrock of Mairtown kindergarten, and we believe the Christmas season provides an important opportunity to reflect on and be grateful for the special people and gifts in our own lives; and in some way to offer our support to those less fortunate in our community. This year we invited our kindergarten whānau and tamariki to join us in providing a gift of food to an organisation supporting families in need this Christmas, and we were overwhelmed with the generosity of the response As a result, the tamariki were able to participate in preparing hampers for both Women’s refuge and Soul Food. When we showed them the food which had been gifted during whānau time, their responses were heart-warming, for example “We already have enough, now someone else can be happy too”.
He aroha whakatō, he arohaka puta mai. | If kindness is sown, then kindness is what you shall receive.
Aroha is giving with no expectation of return. Aroha is the basis of strong whānau [who] let each member know on a daily basis, through words or actions, that they are loved and appreciated (E tū whānau).
Another favourite festive outreach for our tamariki is visiting a local retirement home, Abbeyfield House, and singing Christmas songs to their residents. They have limited space so we can only take our twenty most enthusiastic singing children, and again we were so grateful to have amazing support provided by their whānau for the walk.
On the day, it was wonderful to see all the children show great confidence and courage. They sang beautifully and also shared conversation with the residents, despite not having an established relationship with them. The residents looked joyful as the children sang, and seemed to really enjoy chatting with them. This is always a lovely opportunity to get out in our community and spread some Christmas joy.
Learning dispositions, including reciprocity, manaakitanga and aroha, enable children to construct learner identities that travel with them into new contexts and across time, in this way supporting lifelong learning Te Whāriki (2017).
So as we now farewell our tamariki for their summer holiday – and some who are about to begin the next step of their learning journeys; we hope they leave with their buckets full and a deeper sense of connection and contribution to their community. To our whānau; Thank you, Thank you, Thank you! Nothing we do is possible without your aroha and unwavering support. We hope you have a joyful holiday break, surrounded by those you love; and we look forward to seeing you again, ready for the new year – and a new decade!!
Children feel the results of our care and it is through these, and other, rituals that they grow a deep sense of connectedness to all. If we put energy into the place, the space and the pace, we have a much better chance of knitting our communities together. Rituals bring richness to all who partake. They can be very magical and bring a sense of connectedness (The Heart School).