In past experience, when I searched for “Christmas activities for kids” most results came back saying activities, but they were really just crafts. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love fun crafts. But sometimes I just want the kids to do something without having to haul out a ton of art supplies, try to make sure nobody eats them, and of course clean up.
While I can’t guarantee that no one will eat during these activities, I can say that this is an actual list of things to do and not just make. Plus, materials include things we are already using throughout the holidays or can be easily found or purchased.
However, after all that, I am including a few keepsake crafts because I am a sucker for a good project. Even though I know we all have precious craft projects coming out of drawers, closets, and boxes everywhere, these 3 will be easy, cute, or one you will cherish.
Even if you choose to skip the crafts, you will find a substantial, detailed list of Christmas activities for kids that won’t add to the stress of the holidays.
Christmas Sensory Bin
There are many aspects to Christmas that can be put into a sensory bin. Christmas, itself, is a major sensory experience: lights, smells, sounds, textures, and all the yummy tastes. To downsize all of this into a sensory bin, simply take some of your favorite parts of the holiday and put them together in a bin.
For my bin, I have used garland pieces, jingle bells, bows, mini candy canes, and shatterproof ornaments. To help explore these items, add ribbon for threading ornaments and tongs for extra fine motor practice. My toddler played with this for hours!
This can be done with a real tree or a paper or felt tree. If you are using a real tree at home, simply tape letters and numbers onto shatterproof ornaments. Encourage children to place them on the tree in alphabetical or numerical order.
For younger children you can make it into a matching game. Write the numbers/letters on the paper/felt tree and have children match the ornaments to the tree. Practice uppercase and lowercase with older preschoolers. Infants can play with shatterproof ornaments with letters on them as you say the names of the letters.
Pass the Present
Christmastime is usually a social time of year. Encourage some of that social play by doing a pass the present activity. Since one of the traditions is to give and receive gifts, this activity will help familiarize children with the process.
To make it extra fun, put a jingle bell inside a small box and wrap it up. Then encourage the children to share the gift with someone else. Keep passing the gift until everyone has had a turn to give and receive. Praise the children for giving the gift to another person.
At the end, preschoolers can talk about how they felt when they received the present and how they felt sharing it with others.
While toddlers may not be able to communicate or even fully understand their feelings, you can facilitate that by observing their emotions and identifying those for them, even if passing the gift makes them upset. This will help them become familiar with their own feelings and be able to label them so they can communicate their needs.
Model gift giving to infants while verbalizing your actions. Ask older infants to give you the gift in return. Remember your manners!
Whatever you are working on – be it letters, shapes, or numbers – you can use garland to practice.
For beginners, start with a drawn object on a full sheet of paper. Children can use the garland to trace and lay over the lines to complete the goal. To make it more challenging for children already familiar with shapes or letters, you can tell them which to make or have them choose a pre-made card with their task and practice from memory.
When they complete the activity, encourage them to make their own pictures and see what they come up with!
A fun way for infants to play with garland is to tie a short piece or two to their activity mat. While supervised, allow them to reach and grasp for the new shiny object.
You can stuff just about anything into a bottle. Jingle bells are a common sound this time of year, but did you know you can change their sound?
Toddlers and preschoolers can help to build the bottles, while infants will just enjoy shaking the finished product. You can use as many empty bottles as you’d like, but try to use at least two. With the first one, only put in small jingle bells, then cap. With the second, layer in some puff balls, then bells, then puff balls. If you decide to use more bottles, vary the amount of bells and puff balls between them. Have the children notice the difference in sounds. For preschoolers, make a chart and see which bottle the children like the most.
Gather up some simple items like large blocks, small boxes, books, and even balls. Provide wrapping paper scraps or newspaper and pre-cut strips of tape. Encourage the children to wrap the paper around the objects and tape it closed.
Perfection is not the objective here. The goal is to practice spatial recognition when deciding which paper will fit the object. Children will also work on their coordination and fine motor skills as they manipulate the paper and tape around the items.
When finished, pass the gifts onto the infant room and allow them to practice opening them. If you are doing this at home, the wrapper can enjoy unwrapping it as well.
Christmas bows come in many sizes and colors, so they make a great manipulative to use for sorting. Dump out a bag or two of bows and begin to separate.
Older children can practice counting and decide which color has more. Toddlers can work on their color identification. Infants can have fun squishing or reaching for them while you name the colors. Ask preschoolers and older toddlers to create patterns either on their own or by copying a card.
A scavenger hunt at home can be incredibly easy to do. That might be why it is one of my favorite Christmas activity for kids. If you are decorated for Christmas, there is no set up required. I often make up scavenger hunts on the fly because the kids find them entertaining and I don’t have to do much. A Christmas themed scavenger hunt might take a bit of extra prep in a classroom setting.
Use these clues below or make up your own!
- A man in a red suit
- Something cold and white that falls from the sky
- An object that is homemade
- Something sparkly
- A sweet treat
- Something that jingles
- An item that is red or green
- What we put presents under
- A gift from a pine tree
- Something shiny
Paper Tube Play
The empty wrapping paper tube was always fun to play with as a kid. Much like a stick or a box, it can be anything you imagine.
Use them as tunnels for cars or little animals. Put a bunch together to make a raft or a fence or even a column. Throw in some paper towel and toilet paper tubes to vary the sizes. Stuff wrapping paper scraps or colorful scarves inside and encourage young ones to pull them out. Preschoolers can work together to build different structures.
Tic Tac Bow
For preschoolers, this one should be self-explanatory. Instead of using Xs and Os for tic-tac-toe, use two different colored bows. The grid can be made on a piece of paper or by taping lines on the floor. Infants and toddlers probably won’t be able to play the game, but it can be adapted for them to have some developmental learning fun.
For toddlers, the same grid can still be made. While they won’t be able to follow the rules of the game, they can spend more time on the process of taking turns or making lines rather than trying to win. When playing with infants or young toddlers, skip the grid and make large squares or other shapes. Praise them when they put a bow inside the shape.
You will need 6 plastic bottles and a medium sized ball. Draw and cut out 6 tree shapes from paper and tape them onto the bottles. Use the ball as a giant ornament to bowl down the tree pins.
Preschoolers and toddlers will have a blast with this one. Infants may not have the coordination to roll the ball toward the pins, but setting them up nearby and allowing them to crawl to knock them over or use the ball in some way is still a fun gross motor activity.
Candy Cane Fishing
Using candy canes as the fishing pole, children can pick up paper rings or other candy canes.
To start, cut several strips of half inch wide paper. Preschoolers can help with the cutting. To increase difficulty, try making wavy or zig-zag strips. Staple or tape the single strips together in a loop to make a ring, much like you would for a paper chain, except do not connect them. Place all the rings in a bin. Use candy canes to fish out rings.
To make it extra fun, draw snowflakes or another Christmas icon onto a few of the rings and encourage the children to search for those. Write numbers for preschoolers and help them add them up to see who has the highest score. You could also simply add a few more candy canes to the ring bin and have them fish out just the canes. For babies, this makes a great extra sensory bin.
Painting with Christmas Trees
Okay, like I said, I couldn’t not include a couple of art activities. At this age, I prefer that art is more about process and discovery rather than achieving any particular picture, unless for a purpose.
For this activity, you will need varying pine stems. Choose some with longer needles and some with short. They can be faux if need be, but home improvement stores generally have live trees that may have lost a branch or two while being shuffled around, so check the floors.
Allow the children to use the different pine needles as paint brushes. Encourage preschoolers to talk about the differences in how they look and the ease of use of each. Shorter needles tend to be sharper, especially as they dry out. It may be best to use faux stems with infants.
String Beard Santa
Materials for this project include: small paper plate, red & white construction paper, skin tone paint, white yarn, watered down glue, and wax or parchment paper.
Start by painting the back side of the small plate with the skin color of your choice. While that dries, cut out a red triangle for the hat and a while rectangle for the hat’s fur trim. Glue or tape them together. Use the white yarn in one large length or cut into no shorter than 12 inch pieces. Dip them into the watered glue so that they are completely saturated. Use the yarn to create Santa’s beard and mustache by laying them on top and below the plate face, onto the wax paper, looping and making sure all pieces are touching. Allow to fully dry before gluing on the hat and adding eyes, a nose, and a mouth.
Preschoolers should be able to do most of this themselves, perhaps with pre-drawn shapes. Provide toddlers with pieces already cut. Assemble a face for infants and plop some glued up string onto the plate and wax paper. Let them squish and move it around.
This project is more of a keepsake and would make a great gift. Using some simple materials from the craft store, you can make a reindeer pillow with hands and feet to remember those small, little digits for years to come.
It can be done with any age, just remember to size up for older children.
The cover is just a plain canvas tote with the handles cut off. It is stuffed with a pillow form and closed using iron-on or stick on hook and loop closures. For step-by-step instructions, click here.
Don’t forget to really enjoy this season and all the special moments with your children. Check out these 5 Important Things to Remember this Christmas via Take it From Jess.
Have a fun and Merry Christmas!