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7 Christmas Sensory Activities for Toddlers

Wrapping activity for toddlers

Stuck for activity ideas? Look no further, here are 7 Christmas sensory activities for your toddler to try. Each one uses a prop/ item that you can easily find at home over the festive period. These Christmas activities will have you and your toddler Ho! Ho! Hoing! and rocking around the Christmas tree in no time!!

Toddler Christmas Sensory Activity 1: Box Play

Squirrel and elf hiding in a cardboard box.
Sammy Squirrel and Alfie Elf love playing in boxes!

Christmas is the perfect time for box play:

a) you’re likely to have more deliveries and boxes in need of recycling,

b) you can pretend you’re a Christmas present!!

How is Box Play Useful for my Child’s Development?

Box play is a fabulous role play activity because it sparks your toddler’s imagination- are they in a rocket? Climbing a mountain? Inside a cave? Imagining and experimenting with all of these possibilities are great for your toddler’s creative brain, but also their ability to problem solve.

It’s also brilliant for developing core strength. Toddlers naturally need to use their core strength to sit inside a box. Babies are supported by the sides of the box, until they’re stronger to sit unaided. Once your little one starts playing inside and even ripping sides off of the box to make a ‘go kart’, toddlers have to use increasing core strength to stay upright!

Box play strengthens your toddler’s understanding of the world around them. They are using role play and sense of touch to experience real world scenarios and form moral understandings.

  • Are they a knight in a castle battling evil?
  • Visiting a car garage?
  • Or creating a work of art at a gallery?

Boxes are great for adding movement possibilities too…

Boxes can spin, be lifted, pushed and slid. They can be climbed on, jumped off of, crawled through and squeezed into. Giving your toddler the opportunities to move in these ways, when perhaps they haven’t mastered spinning independently yet is really exciting! Just like you going on a rollercoaster!

And if play is fun and exciting, they won’t realise that they’re learning; you’ve secretly snuck in sensory activities that develop both their senses and gross motor skills!! Win win!!

Christmas Box Play Activity idea for toddlers

Find a box big enough for your child to comfortably sit in

Pretend that you’re a Christmas present.

Hide inside the box and spring out of it in different shapes/ with different movements

or

Think of different presents- a toy car, ballerina doll, space ship…

Turn your box into these things with your imagination or movement.

Could you wiggle the box on your knee and pretend you’re flying in a space ship?

Mum and child playing with a cardboard box.
Box play in a Stepping into Stories class

Toddler Christmas Sensory Activity 2: Wrapping

Wrapping presents and rolling in paper
Oops! I think Alfie’s wrapped too much!!

My dining room table is currently a sea of wrapping paper!! How can wrapping paper inspire a sensory activity?

Why is Wrapping Good for my Child’s Development?

Rolling is a key physical developmental milestone and light pressure from being wrapped provides sensory integration (especially useful if your child suffers from anxiety, has autism or a sensory processing disorder).

Being wrapped in a blanket (or similar) has a calming effect; recreating a hug.

Again, creative/movement play uses your child’s imagination.

Wrapping Paper Inspired Activities for Toddlers

Using a blanket/ bed sheet or similar, roll your child up in the blanket (making sure their head is free to breathe)

Can your little one unroll themselves?

Can you use the blanket to ‘wrap’ each other?

Can one of you manipulate the blanket and the other copy the movement, for example could your little one throw the blanket in the air and your jump or you could scrunch the blanket into a ball and your little one could curl up into a small shape (displaced manipulation is a fun way to work on cause and effect).

You could always explore what else your blanket can do… can it turn into:

  • a butterfly cocoon?
  • lasso?
  • a tightrope?
  • the sea?
Child wrapped in a blanket.
All wrapped up!

Toddler Christmas Sensory Activity 3:

Cotton wool snowball fight
Who’s going to win? Alfie or Sammy?

Who doesn’t wish for a white Christmas?? I love the romantic idea of snow, but when I’m cold and soggy I think again!

Why not bring the idea of snow indoors into the toasty warmth?!

What are the Benefits of Rolling?

Rolling is one of the first milestones a baby masters. Rolling is important because it requires co-ordination of both sides of the body and co-ordination of top and bottom halves of the body. Both skills needed for crawling, walking and beyond.

Rolling, much like spinning and swinging uses the vestibular system (our body’s ability to sense movement in our head), proprioceptive (sense of their own body in space), auditory and visual senses. It’s important to develop these movements to allow your child’s sensory and nervous systems to mature and organise.

It helps your child to gain a sense of body awareness and where their centre is- essential before being able to co-ordinate movement and balance.

Often once children have had the combined experience of big movements (gross motor) and sensory stimulation, they are likely to have better concentration and be emotionally calmer.

For more info on the vestibular system check out: https://extension.psu.edu/programs/betterkidcare/news/2017/spinning

Snow Inspired Sensory Activities for Toddlers

Pretend to build a snowman.

Explore how many different ways your child can roll (you could explore how you can roll with your child- teddy bear rolls with a child sat on you is a real ab workout!!)

Explore how many different ways your child can spin.

Mime putting on scarf, hat and facial features.

Finish with an imaginary snowball fight (cotton wool balls are great snow balls!!).

You could always develop this into ice play or go outside and play in real snow too!!

Want to save these activities for later? Download our PDF list of activities here:

Toddler Christmas Sensory Activity 4: Dancing and Singing to Christmas Music

Elf and squirrel listening to music on headphones.
Alfie Elf and Sammy Squirrel love listening to listening Christmas music!

I love nothing more than putting the Christmas tunes on and singing at the top of my lungs (pretending to be Mariah!).

Dancing and singing are mood enhancers. Whenever I’m feeling flat or got too much energy, dancing around the house to feel good, upbeat music; like many Christmas songs, always sorts me out. The same is true of toddlers. When they’ve got loads of excess energy, channel it into dancing.

What are the Benefits of Singing and Dancing to Christmas Music?

Dancing and singing release happy hormones (oxytocin, dopamine and endorphins).

Singing can improve memory. Ever wonder why libraries run Rhyme Time sessions? Singing is fabulous exposure to sounds and language. Putting words to music helps your little one to remember them. A wonderful stepping stone to reading and writing.

Helps with attention/ concentration (releases adrenaline).

Boosts lung capacity and stamina.

Dancing to Christmas Music Activity for Toddlers

Put on a playlist of your favourite Christmas tunes and bop around the house!

Can you wave? Point? Travel? Jump? Turn?

Toddler Christmas Sensory Activity 5: Tinsel Dancing

Alfie and Sammy dancing over to Tinsel Town!

There’s something nostalgic about tinsel! We found some up in our loft this year and I couldn’t bear to throw it out, so I’ve recycled it into a dance prop instead.

What are the benefits of dancing with my toddler?

Bonding! Spending quality time with your toddler helps with bonding and attachment. Having a strong connection supports brain development and long term mental health including: self esteem, independence and resilience.

To read more about the impact of bonding on mental health check out: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5330336/

Tinsel Activity Idea:

Bust out some Christmas music for this one…

You’ll need some tinsel or a paper chain or other garland-type prop.

Hold one end of the tinsel each.

  • Can you turn under it?
  • Can you step/ jump over it?
  • Can you wrap yourself it and spin out?
  • Can you push and pull it?
  • Can you swing it?

Perhaps you can try dancing with one piece of tinsel each and copy each other’s movement?

Toddler Christmas Sensory Activity 6: Sleigh Ride

Sleigh ride… woohoo!!

Sleigh rides are a class favourite! Little ones love the excitement of going on a journey around the room.

What are the benefits of sleigh rides?

It develops core strength, understanding of weight placement and balance.

It helps your child to figure out the world and how much risk they feel safe taking.

It’s a great workout for you!!

Sleigh ride Activity Idea:

Using a mat or blanket or bed sheet. Ideally try this activity on a smooth hardwood floor (they slide better!)

  1. Lie the mat on the floor,
  2. Ask your toddler to sit/lie on it,
  3. You hold two of the corners (you could try holding all four corners of the mat, to cocoon your toddler up and give them more support),
  4. Travel around the room (you’re the reindeer btw!!) dragging the sleigh,
  5. Stop off to mime delivering presents along the way.

You could experiment with different speeds, directions, adding turns and changing the way you pull the sleigh.

Toddler Christmas Sensory Activity 7: Light play

Squirrel and elf with fairy lights
Twinkle twinkle!

There’s something magical about fairy lights. Light play is a great activity to stimulate your little one’s senses, whether you choose a torch, battery operated tea lights or fairy lights, it’s a quick activity that ticks lots of boxes.

What are the Benefits of Light Play?

Exploring light, colours, patterns, shapes and shadows are a great way to provide a magical experience and a way to promote your child’s curiosity.

Give a calming influence.

Its a lovely introduction to science and art.

Light play idea:

  • Place a string of fairy lights into a clear child safe container, such as a plastic Kilner jar or empty drinks bottle.
  • Can your child stack?
  • Can they roll?
  • Carefully and gracefully walk with the lights?
  • Can your child pass the lights from hand to hand? Wave them overhead? Trace circles in the air?

Maybe you could try wrapping the containers in different coloured items and see how the lights change colour.

Enjoyed these activities? Want to try a 40min class recording??

Find out more about our pre-recorded classes here:

Thank you for reading. I hope you and your little one have lots of fun with these activities this Winter.

Know a friend who would benefit from these ideas? Share it with them here.

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See you soon for some more creative movement ideas.

Louisa

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Who is Collective Motion Dance?

Hello dear readers! I’m Louisa, founder and dance teacher at Collective Motion Dance. I’ve started this blog to give parents /carers /professionals interested in dance some ideas for creative dance activities at home and to chat about how dance can help us, in many areas of our lives.

But who is Louisa? What does she know about dance?

My first dance show photo. Black and white was a creative choice (I’m not THAT old!!).

I started dancing as a child at my local dance school, like many do. My parents enrolled me in dance classes to try and ‘bring me out of my shell’. Fortunately, my parents were wise owls!! and I’ve built a whole career off the back of that one decision. Throughout my career I’ve been dedicated to providing opportunities for others to experience dance and build their own confidence.

I went on to study for a dance degree at Roehampton Uni (go Frobel Zebras!!) and while I was there, I was introduced to the inclusive dance company; Candoco. If you’ve not discovered them yet, Candoco are a professional dance company who work with dancers who have disabilities, alongside dancers who don’t have disabilities. I was fascinated by the way that Candoco focused on the creative possibilities each individual dancer could contribute, rather than concentrating on things that dancers couldn’t do, treating each dancer as an equal. This opened up the world of inclusive dance for me and inspired me to write my dissertation on this!

After graduating I worked as an LSA in special education, where I realised I had a gift for teaching, so went on to complete my teacher training at the Royal Academy of Dance.

I enjoyed a 9 year career teaching GCSE, BTEC and A-Level dance in secondary schools and colleges, alongside teaching ISTD Modern and tap privately. Throughout my time in education, I’ve kept up my community teaching, working with adults who have learning difficulties.

Then everything changed when I became a parent…

Why

This little munchkin changed my priorities

Values

Confidence

We are passionate about developing dancer’s confidence. Many people struggle with this, including me. I was a very shy child, often found hiding behind my mum’s skirt. I was so shy in fact that I refused to speak to my Reception class teacher at all, to the point where I was referred to a Speech and Language Therapist. That was until my parents enrolled me in dance classes. Developed my and I’ve seen many of my students’ confidence blossom through dance.

Inclusive teaching

All of our programmes are designed and delivered with inclusive teaching methods. Everybody, no matter how old they are or whether they have a disability can participate in our classes. Even if you profess to having two left feet, we will find a way to get you dancing! Don’t believe me, just ask my husband!!

Our programmes include:

  • Stepping into Stories: preschool dance and storytelling classes, which introduce children as young as 1 to the world of dance. These develop their pre-dance skills (roll, run, jump, turn, skip etc). Classes use creative dance, play and storytelling to explore well known stories.
  • Curricular and extra-curricular dance in schools: a range of dance styles enabling children from various backgrounds to access dance, regardless of cost.
  • Young people and adults with additional needs: providing opportunities for dancers with learning difficulties/ disabilities to express themselves, keep fit, relax and feel part of a community.

Celebrate personal achievements

We teach positively and celebrate successes, big and small.

For instance, if a toddler refuses to take their shoes off and then does it after 3 weeks that is celebrated!

…or if a young person struggles with eye contact and they meet their partner’s gaze for a moment within a class, that is celebrated!

…or if a pupil has successfully auditioned for the local panto, that is equally celebrated!

Fun, lively and structured classes

Many of us thrive within a structured environment, me included! We aim to follow our dancer’s interests and needs, so we have flexibility within a structure.

Positive learning environment

We aim to use positive language and positive classroom management strategies, so that our classes are a supportive and nurturing place to learn. We care very much about each of our individual dancers and that they believe in themselves. After all, when dancers feel safe and secure, they are more likely to be ready to learn.