7 Christmas Mini Activities & Tot Trays

7 Christmas Tot Trays and Activities


Christmas is trickling away, and its almost time for me to change over our kitchen set up ready for our new unit, but first I wanted to show you our small collection of busy boxes, mini activities and tot trays that we returned to over and over.


These were ready in a drawer to pull out whenever we needed to fill 10 minutes or so in situations where Squirrel just wasn’t inspired to play independently, where i could guide him through it a few times and then let him putter at it nearby while I did whatever I had to do.


I wasn’t particularly organised this month, and its been a difficult one with my health taking a rather unpleasant turn for the worst, and with my whole being getting used to a new state of Sarah, so calling upon these between our bigger activities was fantastic, even though all of them were pretty much done on the fly!

Cookie Cutter Transferring & Sequencing

I love these sets of cookie cutters that come in a pack of size variations, all packed within each other. I love these vintage drop bauble shapes that I picked up a while back (I have a bit of a christmas cookie cutter ‘problem’; they’re my precious…Ahem) and I thought they would go down a treat with Squirrel as hes taken some interest in sequences and size ordering – boy was I right!


Naturally, the glass pebbles were initially the most exciting, and he enjoyed making different transfer patterns, first some into this shape, then from that shape into the next size down, etc.


He discovered they fitted together, and spent time playing at finding the right order.


You can see through them, and hold them together inside each other! Maaaan!



Colour In Nativity Play Dough

I’ve written another post on festive play dough activities but I decided to pop this one over here, as there was a process of creation involved. These lovely illustrations were downloaded and printed from a pack from Twinkl and we all loved them.


We had a few days on and off with colouring when we had a chance to, given that Squirrel isn’t really a colouring kinda guy.


Both Squirrels daddy and I joined in too! A family nativity!

When it was all finished, I laminated them and cut them out. Bish bash bosh, we have very simple but very customised playdough nativity! Just add stable-likely animals- don’t forget the donkey!


We loved revising over the different names- Jesus, Mary, Joseph, shepherds, wise men and stable as we played, going back to our nativity books and reading it through again.


They never got put away- instead they live on our kitchen wall where they are blutac’d and can be moved around, played with and recognised.






Pop-em-ins is my term for micro-transferring, which, once again, is my term for basically using small counters and assorted pockets or containers. We’re using pincer grips and practicing some serious dexterity and fine motor here! I used a kraft card envelope, a little organza bag and a Christmas mitten decoration among other cute little seasonal nooks and pockets.



Wrapping Paper & Counters

Wrapping paper scraps are perfect for all sorts of visual tracking activities, and for playing with counters. I used coloured pegs, glow in the dark stars, glass pebbles and mini pegs for a lot of these activities- and they were great tools for wrapping paper activities.


For big, more physically extending activities, I taped the sheets of paper to the floor, and gave him demonstrations of matching up stars to the big snowflakes, and coloured pegs to the coloured mittens on the other paper.


It was deeply interesting playing this with Squirrel, as he formed his own logic behind very particular placements on the paper. Between swishing off all the counters and collecting them back up again, of course.


I cut a small scrap and laminated it- perfect for the high chair!



On the reverse side it was free from patterns, but it did have faint lines, and that was enough for a while new game using the counters- recognising and creating lines!

Pom Pom Bauble Colour Match


These baubles were a very simple colouring page print out that was in a pack of colouring sheets from Twinkl, and quite accidentally, this pom pom colour match became a game, so I laminated that too!

Rainbow Of Reindeer

Between other colouring ventures, we would go back and colour our multiple print outs of reindeer. Squirrel loves reindeer; calling “dayy-dee-yah” whenever he spotted a decoration featuring one, or in a book, movie or passing any other form. So we decided to use them as our colour focus.


I lead him through most of the colouring, as he isn’t a massive fan, so I try to invite it as a terribly excited event. I would ask him to specifically colour a body area, and we would practice those words too, “Can you colour the reindeer’s head?” and also doing a spot of colouring alongside him to encourage him.


These were supposed to get laminated and cut out too, and then adapted with either magnets or velcro, and the plan was to have a scene prepared with which he could do some rooftop imaginative play. That didn’t happen. But they did look adorable around our blackboard!



I grabbed these from a carboot sale, completely untouched, but I’ve seen them around all over the place this season, lots of variations of home crafts for kids, including this non toxic ink and stampers set. Squirrel and I had great fun just mindlessly stamping over page after page!



I did actually end up laminating the sheets and cutting these into gift tags, using candy cane striped cord to compliment them.


So all in all, we had a lovely Christmas, made some beautiful crafts which we gave as gifts, learned some wonderful words and saw magical things. We also fizzed our brains as we went, too!



This post is part of Unit 3. Winter & Christmas


Salt Dough Star Magnets

Multi Skill Salt Dough Star Magnet Craft

Keeping Squirrels interest while crafting has so far been pretty tough; hes experimental and methodical, so giving him a material with which you hope to create something can be a bit hit and miss. But I have learned that Squirrel also likes guidance and instruction. Although his responses aren’t always willing or even on my wave length, on the whole, if I give him a demonstration of a new action to try with a material, or something to observe, and be excited and descriptive about it, I’ve got his attention, and his reactions are often beautiful to witness.



With this craft, I hoped Squirrel would have a whole batch of little gifts to give the family for Christmas, planned out to do in small sessions, exploring particular fine motor skills or observations of changes and textures, and we completed it all over several days.

editIMG_4121Like I said, sometimes, his responses aren’t always on your wave length, but they are brilliant.


Salt Dough Star Magnets List

Dough Actions.

We start the craft with making a batch of salt dough, I went for a simple process recipe; 1/2 a cup of salt, 1 cup of flour mixed together in a bowl and stirring and adding 1/2 a cup of water until we achieve a nice elastic-ish dough that holds together well.


Squirrel tipped the flour and the salt into the bowl, and I worked it into a dough with the water, then handed it to him and let him explore and get a good sensory fix.


Squish, pull, press, poke, scoop and sniff!


I helped him use his hands to play at kneading, pressing, and folding, while exploring curling his hands into fists and applying pressure instead of his finger tips and palms.


We rolled out the dough onto the floured surface of the highchair and enjoyed cutting out stars.
We lined them onto a tray and transferred them to the oven on low and baked them low and slow for about an hour, maybe just over. I’m not going to lie, I was winging it by that point. Then watched them come out.



Once they were cool, I handed some to Squirrel, who tried to squish one in his palm, and when he couldn’t, gave a little “oh!”, which was a delightful cue to show him the difference between hard and soft, and to show reiterate the ovens part in the process of this change.

(I pressed holes into the stars in case we wanted to tie ribbons into them as well, but that later became redundant as the finish as you see now was quite lovely without bows.)

Pretty Pages

On the next stage of our craft, with our cooled and hardened stars beside us, I prepared some Decopatch varnish glue into a small container and grabbed a few brushes. I gave him one of the old books from my craft stash, this one about butterflies and moths, and let him explore it.


I showed him how to tear at a page (trying, hopefully, to explain to do it ONLY when mama says so and gives him a book with which to do it. Ha, we’ll see…) and we had a lot of fun with a bit of Christmas music, tearing pages into little bits.



We fetched the brushes, and I demonstrated dabbing glue onto the stars, placing a piece of our torn paper over the star and dabbing it again, with a pressing motion.


He got it straight away, and for a good 10 minutes, we worked through our star collection, occasionally reminding Squirrel that we didn’t need to paint the Christmas tree, which was within arms reach, calming a brush related meltdown, and picking up swept paper and stars from the floor.


Now and then, brushes were discarded. Dip dip dip!


The process of pressing the paper down with more glue on top of the previous glue caught his fascination.


Careful placement of the paper pieces!


Dab dab dab.




We left them to dry overnight on foil, wiping the backs free of glue so they didn’t stick.


 Sprinkling Sparkles

If I had known how much joy beads with bring this kid, I would have started involving them in our crafts way earlier. I probably chose the wrong time to invite him to work on this stage, as he was so tired that we had a few disagreements about up turning the dish of beads and getting scatty, but each time I invited him to have a calm time somewhere… well… beads, apparently, are very important. Thats me told.


I demonstrated how to dab more glue onto the star surface over the set paper, and dip it glued side down into the dish of beads.


I also demonstrated hold the star over the dish and gently sprinkling them onto the star.



Despite the rough throwing and over excitement related to the beads, he was incredibly delicate with the stars!


Once we managed to establish that he was indeed tired, and was done with experimenting with the beads, we went and left the craft behind and I later added a lot more of the glue on the top to make sure that the beads were generously sealed to the stars.

I left them to set over night, and the following day, while Squirrel was out with daddy delivering Christmas cards, I used my cold process glue gun to attach these small circular craft magnets to the backs of the stars.


The day after that, we had a lovely big collection of beautiful, unique sparkling magnets.


Squirrel and I explored the changes in solidity and ran his fingertips over the beads, identifying the paper stuck underneath them, and then I showed him how magically, they stuck to the fridge, just like his dinosaur and animal magnets!




We are thrilled with this craft, and as I am writing this to you after Christmas, having packaged them up beautifully with several other crafts that I have blogged (Scribble Charms, Fingerprint Keepsakes and Snow Dipped Stars) and gifted them to our family and friends from Squirrel, that they went down REALLY well! The family were really pleased with them and found the fact that Squirrel did so much of the creative process himself really delighting and impressive.

Squirrel and I are pleased as punch, and seeing stars!


This post is part of Unit 3. Winter & Christmas.

This post is linked to the 1+1+1=1 Tot School Gathering Place.