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



6 Activities Using Laminated Leaves


When I was pregnant, I had dreams reflecting my own childhood joy of kicking through leaves in welly boots with my child. Its funny how our appreciation for one of natures most generous gifts appeals to children and adults in such charming ways.


The variations in shapes, colours and patterns, the textures, sound under foot, the flutter as they fall from trees, and they way they completely change our landscapes, both in the trees and on the ground, throughout the seasons.


We have had so much fun with leaves so far, using them in numerous activities through this unit, but we’re not finished yet. I’m milking Autumn for every gentle nature walk it can offer when my health can permit it, and we are loving popping out with our basket, wrapped up warm, and collecting treasures to play with at home.


We have used leaves in their unpreserved state over and over in this past month, but the idea offered on Pinterest in regards to laminating them was too enticing, and as soon as I played with the idea, I was hooked, and couldn’t wait to experiment.

So here we go, 6 ways of incorporating laminated leaves into everyday Autumn themed Tot School.

Window Observation Point


As I brought them down fresh from the laminator to cut them out, they were immediately descended upon by one very curious Squirrel. They were out of my hands and being shuffled through and offered to daddy as if they were flash cards; it was love at first grab.


I decided that between using them for other activities, it would be great to have them in the window where Squirrel could reach them and explore them as the light shines through them. He can easily take them down, and hes even been putting them back up, bless him. Hes spent time tracing their veins as the light shines through them, naming their colours and generally just pointing out their presence and using his sign and new word “leee’s!” For some reason, these are just more exciting than the unpreserved ones sitting right there in his basket, now neglected.

Crayon Rubbings

I did try this with laminated leaves, but I found that the better result came from contact paper, but still felt it deserved a place in the collection of activities post. It is thinner, and pretty flimsy, but for its purpose it worked pretty well.


I doubled it over, sandwiching the leaves between the sides, and celotaped it to the top of Squirrels water table ‘desk’ in the kitchen, where it is now staying until the end of the Unit, with crayons and paper in reach.

IMG_1885editThis is an activity that he enjoys being assisted with, what with not quite having the hand control to rub over the same spot repeatedly, but he certainly grasped what we were doing, and connected that he was producing impressions of the leaves under the paper!


Fine Motor Threading

Its a simple concept that got him hooked! I simply chose on of the leaves and punched holes into the edges, and found a lovely, thin, strong but very flexible piece of root from the garden where Darren has pulled up an old tree stump.


I first showed him slowly how to thread it through, and encouraged him to hold an end, and let him go for it, occasionally helping him along where he needed an extra hand to hold the leaf while he concentrated on threading.


The most he has woven into was 2 holes at one time, and then feeling proud of that achievement, has just whipped it out again and merrily tried a new hole to start over with.



We were at it a long while, and will be bringing this activity out as a busy box task too, for when I need to buy 5 minutes from him to do something with him not upon my person, but I suspect that that is where he would most like to be.


Play Dough

It was always going to happen. It just was.


We had lots of fun squishing the leaves into it, or squishing the playdough over the leaves, and peeling it back to trace our finger tips along the vein imprints left on the body of the dough.


We used them like little mats too, and rolled bits onto them as a surface, but mostly, we liked standing the leave up in it.


Colour Matching

We used coloured miniature pegs and duplo bricks with the leaves for this task, and Squirrel knew which direction we were heading right from the moment I placed them on his table.


I started by arranging the correlating pegs on the leaves ready, as a suggestion to the colour focus as the topic of the task.


I then handed him the bricks and we practiced words and identification of the colours as he had fun arranging them, them grouping them into the pegs, bricks and leaves again, and starting over again!

IMG_2073editWe are not quite at a point where his fingertips are strong enough for these little pegs, but he was quite content to place them on top rather than get frustrated with trying to pin them on. This week has been fantastic for colour recognition!
He can now say, identify and match red, brown and green, adding to his previous love of yellow which he picked up on earlier in the unit while working on corn.

Template Chalk Art

A piece of paper and a small dib of blutac to attach the leaf with, and we are away for a small project using obstacles for effects in art, which also relates to visual consistency points in development. Oooh!


I started the green layer to show him, and held his hands as he held the chalk, to get the flow and the pressure familiar for him, then we both had a little go with the orange until he was a little more confident.


Confident in handling the chalk, he was. On board with the task, as it turn out, not so much, but we had a little go before his attention wondered to the idea of snacks and his musical farmyard book. I had offered him a lot of activities today, so there is a good chance that I overloaded him, so we will give this another shot, another day.


Still, later on, I handed it to him again, and he played for a very short while at replacing the leaf back where it was, then away again, and back again, which is pretty neat, if you ask me, for recall and puzzle type of thinking!


I agree, Squirrel, I think its pretty too!

So go laminate some fresh, dry leaves! They’re pretty brilliant and versatile as an activity tool. They don’t curl up, they don’t change colour, and look so whimsical displayed in a window!

This post is for Unit 2. Autumn & Harvest.