Introducing toddlers and preschoolers to the joyous energy of the Christmas season is so much fun. Whether you’re a preschool educator, a daycare worker, a homeschooling mom, or a mom that wants to do entertaining and educating activities with your child, sometimes you need a few ideas for what to do to feed those curious little minds and put a smile on their faces.
1. Rip It Up
When I wrap presents, I always have little (and sometimes big) scraps leftover from trimming the excess wrapping paper from the gifts. If you are not so great at eying the size of wrapping paper that is needed like I am, don’t throw those scraps away. Instead, put them in a plastic bin. If you don’t have a medium-sized plastic bin (lid not required), you can get one for a good price at most discount stores. You could also utilize a small round laundry basket. Put your scraps in the bin and put it up where your curious little person or people can’t get to it.
When it’s activity time, take the storage container out. Those little eyes will be attracted to the bright and cheerful colors that Christmas wrapping paper always has, especially if you’ve been wrapping gifts with wrapping paper that has their favorite characters on it. Toddlers love ripping up any type of paper. Give them the bin and let them rip all the scraps up. Have a small garbage can nearby. This will be a good lesson in disposing of trash properly and not just throwing it on the ground.
2. Big as Me Christmas Tree
This will be a fun activity for your toddler or preschooler, but it will take some prep time for you. You will need a few supplies. You can get big pieces of felt from most craft stores that are at least 36″ x 36″. The only piece you will need that is that big will be the green to make the tree. You will also need fabric glue or two-sided tape, low-temperature hot glue and gun, various other colors of felt (suggested colors: white, yellow, and red), fabric markers, glitter glue, an X-Acto knife, lots of foam board or cardboard, black yarn, wall-mounting velcro strips, and gold glitter foam paper with one long pipe cleaner (which will be used to make the star).
Step 1. Making the Tree
Fold the large piece of green felt in half. Use a black fabric marker and draw one half of a Christmas tree on the felt. Use the scissors to cut the tree out. When you unfold it, you will have a whole tree. Save your scraps for future projects. Next, you should use your low temp hot glue gun to adhere the tree to a piece of foam board or cardboard (which makes the activity much more cost-effective). Using your X-Acto knife, cut around the edges of the tree. If you are a stickler for perfection, you can opt to use a piece of thick green yarn and glue it around the edges of the tree so that the surface you are gluing the tree form on does not show through.
Step 2. Make the Bulbs
Next, cut out various size circles from the other colors of felt. These will be the lights and bulbs for your little hands to put on the tree to decorate it. You should glue these to cardboard or foam board the same way you glued the tree and utilize your X-Acto knife to trim them down. Be sure that curious hands are not around when you are using this tool, and if the little ones are around, keep it away from their reach.
Step 3. Twinkle Twinkle
Shape your pipe cleaner into a star for your tree topper. Once you are satisfied with the shape, use your glue gun to apply dots on each point carefully. Glue the star to the glitter foam paper. You don’t need much hot glue for it to stick. If you like, you can apply one point at a time. Once all the points have adhered to the paper and are dry, lift each of the straight lines and apply a very thin line of glue so they will adhere as well. When the star has dried completely, use your scissors to cut the excess glitter paper from the star. Use your glue gun to attach the star to the top point of the tree. You will want to glue it where two of the straight lines meet rather than at a point so that it will stick easier due to even weight distribution.
Step 4. Start Decorating the Tree
Initially, start the activity with the tree on a table. Help your little ones to decorate the Christmas tree with glitter glue. You may want to opt to glue your piece of black yarn back and forth across the tree as the string for lights instead of having the little ones do it, as it can be rather messy. Help them make a few dots of glitter glue around the tree for “twinkle”. If you’re in a preschool or daycare setting and you don’t have assistants, you may want to do this part before the kids get started on decorating the tree(s). The advisable drying time for the glitter glue to dry all the way is 24 hours. If a hand gets rubbed across the glitter glue before it has dried all the way, it will definitely smudge and smear.
Step 5. Put Your Tree Up
Stick the velcro mounting tape to the back of the tree. One at the top, two on each side in the middle, and one at the bottom is advised. I find it easiest to put the two pieces of velcro together, stick them to the board, then peel all the paper off the outer piece and stick your tree to the wall where you want it. Remember your people are little, so you want the bottom of the tree close to the bottom of the wall. Once the tree is up, apply either fabric glue or double-sided tape to the back of each circle one by one. The only guidance you should give is being sure the circle is put on the tree and not on the wall. Allow your little people the experience of free-thinking. If you opt to, you can sit at a table and let them decorate the circles with fabric markers before you get started.
3. My First Christmas Wreath
This activity is fairly simple. You will need a paper plate for each child, washable green children’s paint, paint sponges (you can get kitchen sponges at a dollar store if you like and cut them into squares), multi-color tiny pompoms, glue, foam plates, an X-Acto knife or scissors, and any color yarn for hanging purposes.
Before you get started with the kids, you will want to cut the center circle out of the paper plates. You can do this with scissors or a blade. If you have a crafting foam board, just put it beneath the paper plate and cut the circle out. Use foam plates for pouring a small amount of green paint on. You may want to spread some newspaper out to protect any of the surfaces where you are working. You can also get plastic table cloths at the dollar store.
Ready, Set, Paint!
Guide the kids to lightly dip their sponge into the paint and dab it all around the circular form from the plates. Once they are done, set them aside to dry. You can come back to them later on that day, or the next day. When they have dried, help them apply glue to their wreath to attach the pompoms as ornaments. You can try to use glue sticks, but they don’t normally create enough adherence for the soft pompoms to stick.
Have Fun with the Activities
No matter which activity you choose, just be sure to have fun. The idea is to let your toddlers or preschoolers be creative and show their flair.