For adult Muslims and older children, Ramadan is a time spiritual reflection, of charity and of coming together with loved ones and friends. Long term expats and their children will gradually absorb the principles of Ramadan and develop an understanding of the meaning and traditions of the Holy Month, but for young children of all faiths, there is a lot to learn.
As one Muslim mother told us that educating her young children about Ramadan is vital for practical and spiritual reasons combined:
“As adults we are excited about the special times ahead, but I do see that for our very youngest children, Ramadan changes their routine and daily life in ways that don’t always make sense to them. These changes can make children uneasy. That is why it is so important to explain the essence of Ramadan to our children as soon as they are able to understand’.
How then are our Early Years and nursery teachers helping children to understand this special time?
The Aga Khan Early Learning Centre (AKELC), Head of Nursery and Preschool, Kelli Allen tells us that they feel their curriculum, the EYFS, gives them ample leeway to explore Ramadan. Kelli said,
“Many but not all families at AKELC are observing Ramadan, and we are all impacted by it in positive ways. We feel like this is a wonderful teaching opportunity for everyone. We use one of the objectives from EYFS - that [children learn that] they have similarities and differences that connect them to and distinguish them from others - to help us to incorporate Ramadan into our weekly plans.
"This Ramadan, the children at AKELC will sing Arabic songs, read stories, craft decorations, make date cupcakes, paint hands with henna, make cards, explore terms such as Iftar and Suhoor, and study the phases of the moon. Our parents will be involved to read stories, to make decorations and to share their traditions.”
At the Chubby Cheeks Nursery (CCN) group, children are encouraged to take part in a special programme '30 Days of Good Deeds'. The teaching team suggest ideas for these good deeds, although children are encouraged to come up with their own ideas too. Ideas range from ‘give your teacher a compliment’ to ‘tidy up your bedroom’ and ‘let others talk before you speak’. These ideas are used in all classrooms and interpreted by the teachers so that they are relevant to all age groups.
"Ramadan is a time of giving, Roshi Tandon, CEO of Chubby Cheeks Nurseries told us. "We encourage every child and adult in the CCN community to experience the joy in giving during the Holy Month. Teaching children about traditions and values is an important part of what we do year round, but even more so in the Holy Month. As an institution we have pledged to raise proceeds for three specialised wheelchairs for Rashid Centre for the Disabled this year. We are also working with www.whichschooladvisor.com on a special competition, where we will give away four annual places, one in each of the Emirates in which we operate. We see these initiatives as a way of giving back to the community.’
Find out more about our amazing competition, ‘The Gift of Giving’ in partnership with the Chubby Cheeks Nursery group. We would love to see your entries!
At Creative Nest Nursery in Al Mizhar, children of all faiths are encouraged to learn about Ramadan. “Ramadan is a ‘school’ that children of all faiths can learn from", Zeena Assam, Managing Director told us. "A very special atmosphere overtakes the UAE", she continued, adding that "all children can learn about the key teaching of Ramadan, gentleness and mercy, unity and patience".
"We focus upon character building, where children are encouraged to perform good deeds. We also encourage children to take part in charitable initiatives such as a Ramadan Sharing Fridge, the Eid Toy Inititative (where children donate toys to less fortunate children) and collections for the Red Crescent Society. All the display boards in the nursery are themed around Ramadan and charity and we held a special event where grandparents were invited in to see the children’s Ramadan art work. We also give children a Ramadan chart where they get a star for their good deeds, charity and prayers. This helps to connect efforts at home and at Nursery together”.
We also asked Zeena for her advice to help non-Muslim children understand and embrace Ramadan. She told us: “I like to tell all children that Ramadan is a special time to thank God for all He has given us, and to give back to the less fortunate. We have to avoid food and water during the way to learn patience, and to feel hungry like the less fortunate people. It is a great bonding time with the family as well”.
The WhichsShoolAdvisor.com team would like to wish all our readers and their families Ramadan Kareem.