The first Christmas with your new baby is so special! The activities you do now lay the foundations of family traditions that will extend throughout their life, and the play that you do with your baby forms the foundation for all their future learning and development.
It’s not just about filling the time you have each day, it’s about making each day matter for your baby and using the time and the play that you do to help them develop their skills and learn new things. Christmas play is no different - it should be play that's designed to help your baby’s development, but this time, with a bit of thought, you can also make it part of the lovely sparkly build up to the big day!
Here are my top activities to do with your baby this Christmas!
Make a keepsake that you will use each year. There are so many ideas out there of things to make and do; from toilet roll craft to having personalised baubles made. But I think one of the loveliest things to do is to make a plate for Santa’s treats that you can use again and again as your child grows - and who knows - it might even become a family heirloom!
To make the plate, use your baby’s foot or hand to make a print. You can make all sorts of designs - a fun one might be to make their footprint into a reindeer and use ceramic pens to draw the antlers (which you could always adorn with Christmas lights if you are feeling really arty!). But it’s not really the design that matters - rather that you have recorded your baby’s first Christmas in their foot or handprint on a plate that can be used year after year.
It’s a fun activity that can be extended into making cards and thankyou letter cards using their foot and handprints. For your baby, it’s a sensory explosion of learning! They will be developing their senses with the feel of the paint against their hands and feet, they will be exploring the texture of the paint and the marks it makes. They will be learning about colour and colour combining. They'll be developing their creativity and self-expression as well as their fine and gross motor control. The balance that is needed to stand on one foot and put it into paint and then not step somewhere else other than where they are meant to step also requires a huge amount of focus and concentration. Remember that your baby learns most through play and exploration, so it’s not necessarily all about getting the perfect handprint, but more about the exploration and enquiry.
Water play is always a favourite, but at this time of year you might want to make it have a festive feel.
For older children you can use the same kitchen equipment that you would usually and pop it into a bucket or plastic box, one that has lowish sides so that your baby can reach in and explore the water. NEVER leave your baby alone with water, even if it’s just a small amount. Or, you could run a bath and let your baby sit in the water. Add some green or red food colouring and then add a sieve, spoons, funnel, Tupperware, clean recycling materials, etc to let your baby explore pouring and filling. You might want to add some plastic baubles to add some festive fun and other plastic ornaments that are child-friendly and are safe for your baby to play with.
Your child will love to explore the water, encourage them to look at the things that float and those that sink. Also encourage them to try pouring and filling. Use language that describes what they are doing - describe the look, feel, textures, etc of the things that they are playing with - and you have turned a fun activity into a language development fest!
For younger children, fill a strong ziplock bag with coloured water, sparkles and eco-friendly glitter, and you might also be able to add some snowflakes/snowmen/Father Christmas/tree shapes cut from old recycling lids etc and add them to the bag. Seal the bag well to ensure that the water can’t get out and pop your baby on their tummy to let them explore and investigate how the content of the bag moves when they pat it. It will be developing their core muscles, their language as you chat to them about what they are doing, their hand eye coordination, their problem solving and thinking brain as well as developing their ability to track moving objects with their eyes.
Interactive mobiles and hanging ornaments! There’s nothing more exciting than something at your own height that you are allowed to investigate when you are a tiny person! And things that hang are just asking to be investigated, particularly if they are full of interesting textures and sounds!
Your dining room or kitchen table, or the back of a chair might just be the perfect place to hang interesting things for your baby to investigate. You could tie different textured items onto ribbons and let your baby explore - from pinecones to bells, from plastic baubles to plastic candy canes, it doesn’t really matter what it is so long as it’s safe for your baby to explore, has some different textures, ideally makes sounds (like bells) and is visually interesting.
If your baby is tiny, they will be able to lie underneath them and explore. That’s going to develop their sensory skills, their sight, their hearing, their visual tracking (which is the beginning of reading), it’s going to encourage them to stretch out to reach, which will develop their core muscles and encourage their fine motor control as they explore the feel of the things. It will also develop their enquiry skills, develop their focus, concentration and develop their attention.
If your child is sitting, this is a lovely activity that will encourage them to sit for longer, encourage them to reach and move in an attempt to move to get to the hanging things, which in turn will develop their core muscles and their gross motor skills which are all needed for crawling. Being able to reach for different objects may well encourage them to cross the mid line which is a skill they need to develop to be able to complete everyday activities.
If your baby is walking, these hanging things will make a wonderful adventure to explore on foot.
What about making a learning adventure by teaching your baby all those fab Christmas songs and stories? You could make a Christmas song and story box.
It’s really simple to do and something you might keep and bring out each year. Find a Tupperware or box that you can put things in. Then think of all the Christmas songs you know and try to find (or make) Christmas props that will help you with the songs, eg a plastic snowman for Frosty the Snowman, or a baby Jesus for Away in a Manger etc.
You can look through the decorations you have, or look in a charity shops for old Christmas decorations, or use Christmas cards, or even crack out the pens and draw some things to use. Pop these into your box and add some instruments like a drum or bells, tambourine or even a shaker bottle full of bells or peas to aid the singing.
Add a bit of tinsel onto the box and perhaps make tinsel hats, crowns, or wings to add a bit of dressing up to the occasion and then have a lovely sing song!
You could add a Christmas story or two to the box to make it into a Christmas experience box. It’s a great way to teach your baby new songs and stories and the props will act as a prompt to remind yourself of the songs!
Singing is so good for your baby’s development, even before THEY can sing, they are gaining from the rhythm and rhyme. Children who are surrounded by music are found to be better at maths later on in life, and songs provide children with an opportunity to learn language in context. Singing reduces your baby’s stress levels (and yours) and lowers blood pressure, it improves sleep quality, mood and mental alertness as well as developing your child’s memory. Singing is a workout for the brain and great for babies (and parents) of all ages!
Stories are always a fabulous excuse for a snuggle, making them a chance for to develop your baby’s emotional skills and security. They also give your baby a chance to hear new language in context and look at the pictures.
If you’ve got a tiny baby, why not grab a black marker pen and a white piece of card and make a black and white book of your own based on the Christmas theme - your baby won’t worry if you are not fab at drawing, but they will LOVE the chance to snuggle in and study the simple lines and shapes on a page (and it will make a special keepsake, your baby's first Christmas book made by you!)
Balance activities that can be quite fun are great for babies who are on the move. You can use easy-to-remove tape on the floor to make Christmas (or other) simple shapes to encourage your baby to crawl or walk or ride on…. It might be a simple Christmas tree or a snowman shape - just mark it out on the floor and encourage your baby to follow the lines - it’s harder for them than you might think! Your baby will find the balance needed to follow the lines a real challenge, whether they are crawling or walking. This helps them develop their gross motor control, but also their focus, attention, and concentration.
If you ask them to go over all of the lines (depending on their age) you're developing their working memory as they need to hold in their heads which lines they’ve walked on and which ones they haven’t. You might ask them to walk, hop, run, crawl along the lines, developing their flexibility, and they might well fall off the lines and need to start again, developing their perseverance! It’s such a simple activity but one that can be extended by the challenges that you add into it.
Another balance activity is to give your baby some toilet roll or kitchen roll tubes, and place some bells or baubles on top of them. Get your toddlers to help you with setting this game up, and then get them to move between the tubes without knocking off the baubles. Perhaps they might try slithering through them as they get more adventurous in their movements. A tiny baby might just lie on their tummies and be able to look and reach for them and knock them over. Both ways, you are giving your baby amazing learning and development opportunities.
Whatever you choose to do, it’s not really about the Christmas activities, (although, those are a whole heap of fun), it’s more about what your baby is learning from the things that you are doing. Knowing what to do can be a real challenge and that’s where the Oliiki programme comes in. It’s full of simple activities like the ones above for you to do with your bump baby or toddler from conception to two.
We show you what your baby learns from the play you’re doing and how it’s helping their development. That’s going to help your baby, but it’s also going to help you because you’re going to realise quite how amazing you are by doing the seemingly simple activities! You see, for your baby, simple’s never simple and Oliiki shows you why! Once you’ve had a play with the activities in this blog, download our 7-day free trial and find the other 1000+ activities that are waiting for you and your baby to explore!