’Tis the Season: Holiday Fun with Your Little One

Plan fun and safe activities that let your toddler get involved in the holiday season

One of the exciting parts of parenthood is experiencing the joy and excitement of the holidays with the fresh perspective of your young child. Everything is bigger, brighter, shinier, and more celebratory, and instead of focusing on the stresses brought about by the hustle and bustle, it’s suddenly easier to remember the magic of the season through a child’s eyes.

Toddlers present unique challenges during the holiday season because they’re eager to participate but limited in their skills. Offer your toddler a chance to get involved and enjoy the excitement of the holidays with age-appropriate seasonal activities.

Toddler sensory board

The holidays are a sensory explosion of new sounds, sights, tastes, and textures. Let your toddler explore these new sensations by transforming a foam or cardboard poster board into a sensory experience for them. Use hot-glue to attach sparkly ribbons, glittery wrapping paper, pine cones, colored pom-poms, felt or velvet stars, a Santa hat or beard, or any other holiday-themed items that you can collect onto the board, and encourage your child to enjoy supervised play that will delight their senses.

Ornament sorting

Toddlers love the different colors, shapes, and textures of holiday ornaments. Provide a selection of plastic ornaments and several muffin tins, and ask your child to separate the ornaments by color, shape, or texture. This fun activity will not only keep them busy but also help them recognize colors and patterns.

Sticker tree

Let your toddler decorate their own Christmas tree without the potential for danger. Start by using construction paper to cut out the shape of a green Christmas tree. Paste the cutout onto a colored piece of cardstock, and then provide your toddler with a selection of round stickers in a variety of colors or patterns. Encourage them to use their creative inspiration to decorate. Add more depth to the activity by tracing zigzag lines to represent garland on the tree, and ask them to place the stickers on the lines to practice fine motor skills.

Ornament bowling

Cold weather can often keep families inside for longer than usual. Let your toddler blow off some steam by setting up a fun indoor activity that encourages movement without requiring wide-open spaces. Use plastic cups to recreate a bowling pin pattern, and let your child knock the “pins” over by rolling or gently tossing a large plastic ball ornament. You can also work on hand-eye coordination by flipping the cups over and inviting your child to drop the plastic ornament inside.

Puzzle unwrapping

The joy of unwrapping gifts is one of the best parts of Christmas for children (and some adults)! Prolong the fun throughout the season by letting your toddler practice this activity. Take one of their puzzles that they play with often, wrap each individual piece in wrapping paper, and let them have fun unwrapping the pieces and putting the puzzle back together again. This festive activity will keep them happy and busy.

Although your toddler is still too little to participate in some of the more traditional holiday activities, it’s easy to include them if you get creative. Make some art projects, play games, bake some cookies, make Christmas lists, read stories, and most important, spend time enjoying each other’s company since that’s what the holidays are really all about.

The Virginia Infant & Toddler Specialist Network helps improve the quality of care for infants and toddlers through extensive resources, services, and education for caregivers. Learn more about how we can help you improve the standard of care.

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