By Early Years Specialist and founder of playHOORAY!, Claire Russell
Christmas is such an exciting time of the year but it is also extremely busy and consequently tiring too! Trying to keep children entertained amid all the prep isn’t always easy. But you’ll be amazed at how many everyday resources you have around your house which can provide entertainment for your little one as well as providing an opportunity to play and learn.
Here’s 20 of my favourite fun festive themed play ideas, which are all quick and easy to set , giving you ten minutes to wrap up some presents, write those Christmas cards or just enjoy a cheeky mince pie!
1. Set up a Christmas themed writing table. Get little ones making marks, pretending and wrapping. Include labels, cards, envelopes, stickers and boxes. You could even make a post box using an old shoe box. This is a great activity to leave out for a week or so for little ones to return to and keep themselves entertained.
2. Wrapping practice - Has anybody tried wrapping gifts with the help of little hands? It doesn’t always turn out so well! Why not give your child some cut offs from the roll, some tape and a few boxes which they can wrap and unwrap. Great for those fine motor skills!
3. Create a Christmas activity box with lots of festive themed resources and keep it handy for those moments when you’ve got lots to do. Whether it’s pulling out just a few items or letting them rummage through the whole box, there’s enough to capture their interest and keep them busy. Try to include a variety of items that will offer writing, number and creative play opportunities.
4. Simple is often best! It’s amazing how effective a collection of the same colour can be! Why not pick out all the green building blocks and invite your little one to build with some props or books for inspiration.
5. Give little hands a selection of baubles and some sort of jewellery stand or mug tree and let them decorate their own mini Christmas tree!
6. Make little gingerbread men and houses with playdough scented with ginger.
7. Use washi tape to create a Christmas tree outline for your little ones to line up their bricks or cars along the lines. Try different festive shapes, numbers and letters.
8. Add glow sticks to bath time, dark evenings in the garden or simply stick in a lump of playdough! Just too inviting not to touch.
9. Jazz up the baby play gym by adding lights, scarves and Christmas decorations. I love the clear plastic baubles (available at Hobbycraft) which you can fill with your own choice of contents (bells, pom poms, bows) and make a lovely rattle when swiped by little hands.
10. Next time you’re shopping pick up a pack of cheap Christmas beads on a string. Cut them at different lengths, to make number strings from numbers one to nine plus several lengths of ten for counting. These are a really visual way of representing numbers and showing how double digits are created for over threes. You could even number a muffin tray for sorting (please note the beads are a choking hazard so this is a supervised activity and not suitable for very young children).
11. Use food colouring in festive red, green and even gold to dye playdough, pasta, rice, noodles etc. Add to trays, bowls and pans and let your little ones dive in!
12. Make edible snowflakes by dipping pretzels in melted white chocolate, adding sprinkles and popping in the fridge to harden. Voila!
13. Use battery powered fairy lights or battery powered tea lights to create enchanting dens or a festive bedroom.
14. Add a few Christmas themed items to your art box for those days when you’re feeling brave enough to face arts and crafts! Look out for star stickers, Christmas washi tape, sparkly sticky back plastic, silver foil or coloured card for homemade Christmas cards.
15. Just about everyone loves chocolate coins! Hide them around the garden or house and you’ll have the kids entertained for ages!
16. If we are lucky enough to have a white Christmas, why not add a splash of colour to snow by filling medicine syringes with diluted food colouring and get squirting!
17. Whatever the weather get your kids playing outside this Christmas. Take a camera out to take pictures of things, hide items around the garden for them to hunt for, or take a basket out and make a nature collection.
18. Let them make their own wrapping paper by cutting basic festive shapes in to potatoes such as holly, Christmas trees or stars, dipping in paint and printing all over brown parcel paper! Once dried you can use it to wrap gifts for family and friends.
19. With all those deliveries arriving before the big day, why not put those cardboard boxes to good use! Draw a quick Christmas tree, cut it out and present to your child to paint using a variety of tools - brushes, sponges, potatoes, or even their hands if you don’t mind the mess! You can even decorate with stickers, bows, ribbons and glitter!
20. Finally, there are lots of cheap Christmas activity books and sticker books available in the shops which are handy to have at busy times or when out and about for dinner or at relatives houses.
Wow! There’s quite a few ideas there to keep your little ones busy this Christmas but as always, remember you know your child better than anybody so do adapt and change to suit them, their interests and needs as you see fit.
Wishing you a very merry Christmas and happy playing!
Claire Russell is an Early Years Specialist, mum to four year old Mason and founder of playHOORAY! Claire is on a mission to spread the word about play and set up playHOORAY! in a bid to inspire parents and carers with realistic play activities which can easily be replicated at home using everyday items. Claire is also the author of playPROMPT activity cards including over 20 themes catering for a variety of ages to suit your child’s needs.
For further information about playHOORAY! please visit www.playhooray.co.uk or for daily inspiration follow Claire on social media at: www.instagram.com/play.hooray and www.facebook.com/playhooray.uk where she hosts live play demos every weekday at 10am. You can also join any of the 10 supportive playHOORAY Facebook community groups where you can ask questions, get further inspiration and share your own play experiences.