Handprint Wreath

Start with a piece of felt,  linen or cotton fabric cut to a rectangle approximately 18″x24″.  Paint your toddler’s hand green.  Place the handprint about 3″ from the top of the fabric.  Repeat placing the new handprint next to the first starting a circle.  Continue until you have a whole circle of prints.  Wash your toddler’s hand and use his or her thumb and red paint to create berries on the wreath.  Allow the paint to dry and then either sew a pocket for a rod (for hanging purposes) or put into a frame.


These make lovely wall hangings to display in your own home or for grandparents!  In fact, my mom still has my wreath from more than 20 years ago hanging during the holidays.

Build a Gingerbread House

I can hear you all the way at my house and I promise I’m not nuts.  It is completely possible to build and decorate a gingerbread house with a toddler helping.  Some years I have found it easiest to have the structure itself built before adding tiny helping hands and other years the tiny helping hands have been helpful in holding pieces in place during construction so you will have to think about your toddler and what is the best entry point for him or her.

Decorating is something that every toddler I have tried it with has loved!  Instead of the typical put a dab of icing on the house and put a candy on top, I have learned to put some icing on a plate surrounded by candy options and let the toddlers (and myself) dip the candy in the icing and place it on the house.  They may not be the most “perfect” gingerbread houses ever but they surely are wonderful!

*Choose candies carefully if you have a child who puts things in his or her mouth still.  Also, supervision is required through the process no matter the age of the child since most of the candies could be choking hazards.

Cookie Sheet Magnet Tree

This activity takes a little bit of prep work but it has produced hours of (independent) fun for more than one toddler I know!

  1. Get a cookie sheet that you don’t mind sharing with your toddler.
  2. Use electrical tape or a Sharpie marker and create the outline of a tree.
  3. Cut ornaments, stars, garland (you imagination is the limit) out of sheets of colored magnet paper.*
  4. Let your toddler decorate, undecorate, and redecorate the tree.

*Magnet paper is available at many craft stores and preferred to the alternative (keep reading) as there are no loose magnets to pose a choking hazard.  If you can’t find any create the pieces out of regular paper and add magnets to the back.

Visit a Tree Sale or Farm

Even though we put up an artificial tree or two – okay maybe it’s more like three or four – going to visit a tree farm is always fun.  We may not come home with a tree but I can’t say that we leave empty handed, as we often buy evergreen roping to decorate the house.  No matter what the outcome, it is always neat to look through the trees and decide which one we would pick if we were choosing.  What have I learned?  Well, I prefer the short and round where as both of my boys prefer tall trees – who would have guessed?  While at the tree farm, we sometimes get to enjoy other activities as well.  Hot chocolate, live reindeer, and a visit from the big guy from up north are common occurrences at farms around us.   Get out and enjoy the crisp air before it gets too bitter.

Ring Bells

No matter the time of year, the sound of ringing bells reminds me of Christmas!  Many Christmas songs call for ringing bells – “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day,” ” Jingle Bells,” and “Walking in a Winter Wonderland,” just to name a few – so let’s break out the bells and sing along. If you haven’t figured it out yet, toddlers often like to sing and dance.  Our family prefers variety so we dance and sing in a plethora of ways.  Won’t you dance with us?

P.S. Ringing bells while dancing also builds mathematical and musical concepts as children try to ring on the beat.

Countdown Chains

Toddlers have an incredibly skewed sense of time. Minutes can last for hours and things you did four weeks ago happened yesterday. Countdown chains help to develop this sensMama any of you probably remember looping together strands of paper for a countdown to Christmas or some other special event.  While those are fun toddlers have a hard time waiting to tear off the next loop so instead we make countdown chains to the New Year (rip off by the hour), until bedtime (tear one off every 10 minutes), or until dinner (removing a loop every 5 minutes).  If I’m feeling extra clock-watchish, we can do one that changes by the minute but this is super rare.  The most important thing about these chains is that you keep true to the tear off time since the whole point is to develop a sense of time.

Box Towers

Box towers are just as they sound – towers of boxes.  Many balk at this activity wondering “why bother, my toddler has blocks.” but it is an activity truly worth the time.  Here are just a few of the reasons I recommend toddlers build box towers:

  1. The boxes come in an array of sizes (unlike most blocks for toddlers) which increases the need for problem solving.
  2. The lightweight nature of many boxes increase the difficulty of stacking.
  3. It is a whole body activity (towers at our house often end up taller than the child and the children help to find and carry boxes to the tower site).
  4. Boxes are often free and in abundance (especially after a birthday or the holidays).

How tall can you build?

Angel or Mitten Tree

I find one of the hardest things to teach a child is empathy. Part of this is due to their egocentric natures and part of it is our culture itself. One way to start this process is to buy for a child or family through angel or mitten trees. These trees are designed to help provide gifts and necessary survival items for children and families in need.  When choosing a child or family for the tree try to choose a child of similar age and gender to your toddler; this way he/she will be more able to help choose gifts at the store. While doing the shopping ask questions like “Do you think the little boy we’re buying for would like the red truck or the blue car?”.  After shopping it is always an extra bonus if you can get your toddler to help you wrap (cementing in their brains that the toys are for someone else).

*Mitten and Angel Trees can be found at many churches, schools and shopping malls.

Christmas Card Search and Find

The abundance of Christmas cards that arrive at our door during December prove to be a lot of fun for toddlers in our home!  Not only do they enjoy looking at the scenes but they also often start to “read” them.  When I am looking for a particularly engaging Christmas card opening session (we open our cards as a family), we play search and find.  It goes something like this:

Me: “Peace on Earth, Goodwill toward Men!  Love, The Davis Family.  I see a red cardinal on the card from the Davis Family.  Can you find it?”

Child: ” I found it!”

Husband: “Me too!”

Me: “On the count of three tell me where it is 1 . . . 2 . . . 3”

Child & Husband: “In the tree!”

Then we repeat, but someone else gets to tell us what to find.