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



Festive Youtube Accompanied Playdough Activities

Festive Youtube Accompanied Playdough Activities


If in doubt- playdough. Every parent shares that frequent moment of “ach, quick brain, need to entertain him immediately!” and your brain responds with “chill, we got this, the playdoughs in the cupboard” and as you grab them and pop those lids in front of your grinning toddler, you and your brain share a little high five. No? Just me?


I love playdough, I did as a child and I do now as a parent. Its incredibly versatile as a play material and even more so when you throw an educational angle at it. Usually I’m all over any little thing I see out there that would enhance play time, glass pebbles for imaginative play ice, used with white playdough for example, I love playdough mats too!


However, when it comes to modelling objects with playdough, or any kind of creative reproduction with it, Squirrel can only do so much without guidance at 21 months old. So this is how we approach this kind of learning play. Immediate visual association with linked tools with the playdough bring together a special activity that enhances a theme with specific subjects, focusing on identification as well as a number of other skills.

festive youtube accompanied playdough activities list

Here are 3 festive themed ideas that you can work with, with suggested tools, videos to search for and guided brain-fizzers.

Snow-loving Animals

By chance I found this penguin and this wulrus in a 50p bucket in a gift shop a few months ago, perfect!


We enjoyed creating snowy landscapes with clear glass pebbles, and creating flipper tracks in the snow in lines, experimenting with different amounts of force needed to create a clear imprint without pushing all the way through. Granted, these two critters are unlikely to meet in the wild, one in the arctic ocean and the other in the Antarctica, but these two got on pretty well. When hes older I’ll be more specific on habitats and boundaries.


We matched this activity with video clips of penguin documentaries, walrus documentaries and an episode of pingu- though this could take Happy Feet to another level for a themed day!

Singing Stars

In terms of tools we went pretty minimal with a rolling pin and a couple of different sized stars. We did a little stacking with our cut stars and played at pressing them back into their own cut out empty shapes in the rolled dough again, jigsaw puzzle style.


However, we decided to SING! Squirrel has been singing along with us for a long while, so we went for a sing along star play session.


We had video clips of ‘Sparkle & Shine’ from the movie Nativity!, and a couple of other star themed christmas songs for children i plucked randomly from youtube, but I admit that we returned to Sparkle & Shine over and over, we both love that one!

Less Spikey, More Stampy Holly

We have drawn his attention to holly over the season as we’ve been browsing around the huge amount of Christmas aisles through all the shops, and visiting garden centres with their festive aisles.


He now spots the plant itself when we pass a garden or hedge of it, and points out wreaths on doors through our neighbourhood too, but i was a bit iffy about letting him actually touch some yet, particularly with playdough, where you instinctively want to squish things into it, meaning a good lot of contact with it, so to avoid booboos, we opted for a cookie cutter and these fantastic craft stamps that hubby actually found in a charity shop and grabbed for us!


We loved pressing the stamp into the dough and then tried cutting out the holly areas with the holly cutter, and observing how the impression in the playdough was the same as the image on the stamp.


We matched this activity with youtube tutorials for making your own wreathes at home; he certainly noticed lots of holly and enjoyed spotting other natural objects that he knew the names of- pinecones and robins among them. I hoped he would take note of the circular consistency of all the wreathes and encouraged him to attempt it with his playdough, but that was a no goer.



So there you have it, an alternative angle to take your Christmas play dough days!


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