The winter holidays hold an interesting tension for any adult working with toddlers. Whether you are a parent or an educator, the festive months can inspire both excitement and dread. Excitement for the wonder of the holidays seen through those little eyes, or dread at the thought of entertaining toddlers indoors when the weather turns inhospitable.
Well, take comfort! The blogosphere is glowing with brilliant holiday activities for toddlers to help make this season the joyful time it’s meant to be.
1. Pine needle discovery bottles
Nature-lovers tend to mourn the shortage of outdoor learning opportunities in the winter. If you love helping your toddlers encounter the natural world, try this discovery bottle activity from Teach Preschool. Snip a small branch from an evergreen and let your kids build the discovery bottle, adding water and maybe some glitter for extra whimsy. The rounded sides of the bottle emphasize the contours in the evergreen needles.
2. Melt ice with salt & watercolors
Engage their inner scientists with this gorgeous experiment-turned-art-project. A block of ice, some coarse salt and liquid color are all you need for an activity that will absorb your toddlers’ attention as they learn how salt and water melt ice. The good folks of Happy Hooligans got a whole hour of playtime out of their first try.
3. Winter scent lab
This activity is all about engaging the sense of smell. Babble Dabble Do offers step-by-step instructions for a matching game involving smelling bottles and free printable templates to match them to. Go ahead and double the entertainment and educational value when your toddlers get to help you make the smelling bottles.
4. Sparkly snow sensory writing tray
A good early-literacy activity is worth its weight in gold. This sparkly snow writing tray from The Imagination Tree will delight the educator in you, while simultaneously delighting your little one’s attention. Help them write letters or words, or just let them enjoy drawing shapes in the glittering salt. Drawing still counts as a stepping-stone to literacy.
5. Paint & masking tape snowflake
This idea from Inner Child Fun involves taping a snowflake shape (or any shape you’d like) over a canvas. Then toddlers can sloppily paint all over the whole thing, like toddlers do best. When the paint dries, and you remove the tape, you are left with a piece of art from your little one that truly looks nice enough to hang on the wall.
6. Christmas Santa snack
Teaching 2 and 3 Year Olds offers this fantastically edible project that teaches motor skills, coordination and healthy eating. These Santas are made from bananas and strawberries. They’re fun to put together and even more fun to eat afterwards!
7. Christmas lights activity
Check out this color-matching and early counting holiday activity from The Preschool Toolbox Blog. Stringing colored breads to match the cutout Christmas lights in a numerical progression will help develop your preschoolers’ fine-motor skills and familiarity with numbers. The blog also offers customization ideas to adapt the activity for extra learning.
8. Frozen bubbles
Housing a Forest introduces this science activity for some fresh outdoor air. If the weather is cold enough, blowing bubbles to freeze on the cold sidewalk can be a fascinating lesson in liquids-to-solids. The activity even includes a recipe for homemade a bubble mixture in case the summer toys are packed away.
9. Acts of kindness
Perhaps the most beautiful aspect of the holiday season is the reminder to be kind and generous. For those who want to teach toddlers these valuable character traits, recreate Teaching 2 and 3 Year Olds’ activity where a whole preschool classroom participated in an act of kindness for someone they wanted to thank. As written on the blog, “During this season of Santa and toy store advertising, we are focusing on the joy of giving.”
10. Snow puffy paint recipe
Playing with ice and snow is terrific fun, but the herding process of bundling a group of toddlers (or even one) in winter gear isn’t always a viable option. The Imagination Tree has found a way around this dilemma with a homemade, puffy-snow-paint that makes any art project 3-dimensional. Think ‘snow meets soap bubbles’ and you’ll have the right idea.
11. Magic foaming snowman
Remember the baking soda and vinegar volcano found at your average science fair? Well, Fun At Home With Kids has revamped the chemical reaction into a dynamic winter snowman activity. This exceedingly tactile (read potentially messy) experiment has all the right parts to introduce your preschooler to the exciting world of science.
12. After Christmas for the birds
This crafting experience from Teach Preschool is easy to pull off in a classroom setting and just as rewarding at home. Making little birdfeeders means your toddlers get to support winter wildlife from indoors with a brief excursion outside to put their work to use. It will be extra rewarding if they get to see a bird visiting their creation.
13. Frozen-inspired play dough
What could make a better winter activity than one based on your toddler’s favorite movie? This homemade play dough from Paging Fun Mums is loaded with sparkle and entertainment potential. Even better, the ingredients to make it could already be in your cupboard.
14. Feed the penguin
The idea behind this easy-to-create penguin game from Little Family Fun is shapes, numbers and letter identification. You can label the little paper fish with whatever you want your toddlers to work on. Then, when you say “feed the penguin a square fish” they have the satisfaction of dropping it into the adorable penguin’s open mouth.
15. Gingerbread ornament
The exciting part about this ornament craft from Growing a Jeweled Rose is its sensory engagement. A simple painting activity becomes more novel when you add cinnamon to the paint. That holiday spice smell will activate more of your toddlers’ senses and remain linked to positive memories for a long time to come.
16. Snow window
Taping clear contact paper to a window becomes a winter canvas for preschoolers supplied with cotton balls and Q-tips. No Time for Flash Cards recommends this activity for some independent story-telling and motor skill development. Watch those little hands turn cotton balls into snowmen and Q-tips into snowflakes over the backdrop of the great outdoors.
17. Holiday bell tota
Babble Dabble Do created this activity to engage the sense of sound. The beautiful (and paintable) bird template is available for download on the blog. With a few craft supplies and your toddlers’ imaginations, these hanging bell totas could make an attractive, musical and homemade gift.
Ready to have some winter fun?
Planning fun and educational time for young ones isn’t a talent everyone possesses. If the thought of implementing these holiday activities for toddlers brings a smile to your face, you might be uniquely suited to a career in preschool education.
Check out this post to see if the profession matches your personality: 9 Signs You Should be Teaching Preschool.