I do love this time of year. The children are excited with the anticipation of Father Christmas visiting, the joy of watching the school nativity and lots of opportunities for arts and crafts and baking- what’s not to love? Well I am ignoring the stress of getting organised, making sure the right presents are bought, decluttering and cleaning the house and all the other things that go with preparing for a family Christmas.
We do not have a pintrest worthy Christmas. In fact I don’t even rearrange the baubles on the Christmas tree once the children have decorated it!!!! Yes there are four baubles to one branch but I can’t bring myself to change it after they have carefully chosen a place for each item. However, there are things that need to be done- decluttering and tidying is the biggest thing for us and so I need some time when the children are happily engaged in something worthwhile while I get on with some jobs. Hopefully the following activities will give you an extra half an hour to do something while the children are busy!
- Village Christmas Tree Decorating
I threw this together with bits I had to hand, you can make it in all sorts of different ways e.g. Helping Santa to collect the right number of presents in each sack, or giving the right number of carrots to each reindeer. It depends on what you have to hand. The main point of this set up is to encourage the use of tweezers to add decorations to the Christmas trees. It is also encouraging the children to count accurately and recognise numbers. As an extension for Isabel she has been asked to count in 2’s and 3’s to practise her times tables.
- Stained Glass Window Bread Painting
This is such a fun thing to do. All you need is some watered down food colouring, a slice of bread and some very clean paintbrushes. The main focus of the activity is to encourage a correct grip on the paintbrush, to be able to create various lines, dots, clockwise and anti clockwise movements, develop creativity and choose a colour for a purpose. The best thing about this one is you can eat it afterwards. (Make sure you allow the picture time to dry before toasting the bread, otherwise one side is soggy and the other crispy!)
- Beaded Candy Canes
As an alternative to sweets you can make your own candy canes to hang on the tree using pipe cleaners and beads. Bend the pipe cleaner at the bottom to stop the beads falling off and then thread away. when you are done bend the top to stop the beads falling off and the shape it as a hook to hang on the tree. The main focus of this activity is to encourage fine motor control and hand and eye co-ordination. You can also encourage pattern making at the same time. When they are finished they make a beautiful addition to your tree, or they can be taken apart and reused again.
- Ice treasure chest
This needs a bit of thinking about the night before as it will need to be frozen in advance. Place any toys (that will freeze ok) in a container. I chose to use pom poms, gems, old necklaces and bracelets but you can use anything your child is interested in. Cover with water and freeze overnight. When you are ready to use it ensure it is in a tray that will contain the water as it melts. The main focus is to develop muscles in fingers through the use of syringes, but there are so many additional opportunities for exploration it is great fun to do. Megan particularly enjoyed this activity and returned to it a number of times before the ice finally melted. I gave a variety of different sized syringes to use with warm water to melt the ice.
- Nativity Small World
We used a wooden Nativity set that is safe for the children to play with unaided. To create a Nativity scene we crunched shredded wheat (out of date) on the tuff tray. The children loved squashing and crunching the shredded wheat into tiny pieces. They then used the figures to role play the Nativity story. It was great to see that Megan and Charlie had remembered the story from their roles in the Nursery Nativity and the Toddler Group Nativity. Charlie very proudly looked after the lamb and said “I am a shepherd”. Megan & Isabel retold the story and included many of the songs from their play too. It then evolved into them dressing up into costumes and role playing the Nativity story around the house.
- Baking cakes
The process involved in baking cupcakes is great for developing the muscles in the arms and hands in preparation for writing. There are big movements involved in stirring the ingredients together and learning the clockwise and anticlockwise movements which are all great. The best bit about baking cakes is decorating them after, and piping buttercream is fun as well as great for the muscles in the fingers. (They are not going to look pretty once the children have finished, but they will still taste good!!!)
- Hot Chocolate Messy Play
This one does take a bit of time to clean up afterwards but so much fun. I used cloud dough and added cocoa powder to the mix. 2.5 cups of flour, 0.5 cups oil, 1/4 cup of cocoa powder. Mix all the ingredients in a bowl. You should be able to pick up a handful and mould it together, if not add a bit more oil. If its too oily then add a bit more flour. We then added cotton wool balls (marshmallows), gems (sugar lumps), cups, spoons, teapots. I also added tweezers and encouraged them to add the ‘sugar’ with the tweezers. Moulding the dough is also good for the finger muscles as well as hand and eye co-ordination for pouring and spooning the mixture. Not to mention the amazing creative development through role play.
Merry Christmas everyone 🙂