Winter and Christmas themes {playful learning}

december playful learning themes

It will come as no surprise that our December Playful Learning themes are going to be Winter and Christmas. There are so many wonderful things to do in the run-up to Christmas that it really isn’t going to be hard to fill our days!

December Playful learning themes

This post provides an outline of what we plan to do in December. I’ve included links to resources where appropriate, and to products where I thought it would be useful. I’ll share more details on some of the play set-ups once we’ve done them!

24 festive playful learning activities for toddlers

Crafts, messy & sensory play

Winter sensory tray – I intend to set up a winter themed sensory tray for Rosalie to explore – she loves scooping, pouring and sorting, as well as practicing using tweezers and tongs.

Learning – sensory exploration, fine motor, imaginative play.

Christmas cards – I got some lovely card blanks, stickers and festive words from Baker Ross when I did a big order before the autumn, so we will be using these to make Christmas cards for friends and relatives.

Learning: fine motor, literacy, creativity, kindness and giving.

Salt dough tree ornaments – We plan to make some salt dough tree ornaments as keepsakes and to give as gifts for the grandparents.

Learning – fine motor, creativity, kindness and giving.

Adventivity – I’m really excited to get stuck into our Adventivity book – it’s a countdown to Christmas with 25 activities, one for each day of advent.

Learning – fine motor, number recognition, knowledge and understanding of the world, creativity.

Winter colouring pages – I have downloaded some winter colouring pages from Activity Village so that we can talk about the seasons, the trees losing their leaves, the weather and dressing for winter.

Learning – creativity, communication, language and literacy, fine motor, knowledge and understanding of the world.

Paper chains – We got some lovely paper chains from Baker Ross which we will make up together to decorate her bedroom. Last year Rosalie and I made paperchains, but it was more me than her, this year I think she will be more able.

Learning – fine motor, creativity.

Gingerbread play dough play – We will make a batch of Gingerbread play dough together and then I’ll let Rosalie choose how she wants to play with it, perhaps rolling it and cutting out gingerbread men to decorate with buttons and sequins, or pretending to bake them in her play kitchen.

Learning – sensory exploration, fine motor, communication, literacy, numeracy, creativity, imaginative play.

Ice play – I intend to freeze a selection of winter nature in ice, such as berries, pine cones, twigs and evergreen leaves, for Rosalie to explore.

Learning – sensory exploration, fine motor, knowledge and understanding of the world, communication.

Christmas colouring flashcards – These Christmas colouring flashcards should be a fun way to learn about different aspects of Christmas.

Learning – creativity, fine motor, language and literacy.

Play dough Christmas tree decorating – I already made Rosalie some green play dough so I will set this out alongside a rolling pin, Christmas tree cutter and some embellishments for her to make and decorate Christmas trees.

Learning – creativity, fine motor, imaginative play.

Winter scissor practice – I have printed out some winter scissor practice activities from Activity Village because Rosalie has been really enjoying cutting things lately.

Learning – fine motor.

Rosalie has these toddler scissors which are entirely plastic. They are perfect for a first pair of scissors because they really can only cut paper, so there is no risk of accidents. When first using these scissors I found Rosalie required an adult to hold the paper tight to enable her to make the cut. Don’t forget to teach scissor safety from the outset though, even though these are ‘safety scissors’.

In the kitchen

Mince pies – It wouldn’t be Christmas without them! We’ll probably make our first batch of mince pies pretty early in December; I think this year Rosalie will be able to help with rolling, stamping, filling and lidding. We make our own rough puff pastry too.

Learning – communication, fine motor, sensory exploration, literacy, numeracy.

Christmas cookies – Toddlers are great at making cookies because of all that practice with the play dough – once I’ve rolled out the dough Rosalie will be able to stamp out lots of different festive shapes. Then the decorating provides lots of opportunities to be creative.

Learning – communication, fine motor, sensory exploration, creativity, literacy, numeracy.

Gingerbread house – Every year I say I’d love to make a gingerbread house and I never have, but this year I got a cutter set from Lakeland and we will definitely use it. Rosalie will be able to help with making the gingerbread and cutting out the parts. She will also enjoy getting creative with the decorations.

Learning – communication, fine motor, sensory exploration, creativity.


The Gruffalo Winter Nature Trail – We had a lot of fun with the Autumn Gruffalo book, so I’ve bought the winter one to give us some focus to our walks throughout December. They are very well done books, and include stickers for finding things, which is a win for any toddler I should imagine.

Learning – knowledge and understanding of the world, gross motor, fine motor, sensory exploration, communication.

Choosing a Christmas Tree – We always go to our local Christmas Tree Farm to get our tree, and it’s good fun looking at all the trees to find the perfect one, as well as seeing the reindeer.

Learning – knowledge and understanding of the world. 

Winter scavenger hunt – Scavenger hunts are great for toddlers because they love exploring and collecting things.

Learning – communication, gross motor, sensory exploration, knowledge and understanding of the world.

National Trust trails – The National Trust put on some lovely trails throughout the year and their Christmas offerings are some of the best. I have earmarked several local properties to visit with a variety of trails from the Twelve Days of Christmas trail at Mottisfont, to the Pantomime trail at Cliveden.

Learning – gross motor, sensory exploration, communication, knowledge and understanding of the world.

Reindeer bells hunt – As last December, this year the reindeers will drop a little bell each day when they come to check on Rosalie. Each morning there will be a bell somwhere in the house or garden for her to find, and then hang on the Christmas tree.

Learning – gross motor, sensory exploration.

Frost and ice watch – We will be keeping watch for frost, ice, frozen puddles, ice on the canal and icicles.

Learning – knowledge and understanding of the world.

Other fun

Stick Man study and role play – Stick Man is a wonderful story which we read all year, but with its festive ending I think it’s worthy of special attention at Christmas time. There are some lovely FREE resources on twinkl, including stick puppets, colouring pages, a word mat, size ordering cut-outs, story cut-outs and matching cards. We will also watch the BBC Stick Man drama.

Learning – literacy, creativity, communication, fine motor, imaginative play.

Bird feeders – It’s important to make sure the birds are fed in winter, and a fun way to talk about this with toddlers and preschoolers is by making homemade bird feeders.

Learning – knowledge and understanding of the world, fine motor, communication.

Christmas movies – you can’t go through December and not watch a Christmas movie! I’ll probably share my favourites in a separate post; this year will be the first that Rosalie will have watched them! Update: here are our top 5 family Christmas movies!

Learning – maybe not so much, but they are jolly good fun!

Music – Our house will be filled with Christmas music throughout December. We will be singing along and getting out the percussion instruments from time to time too.

Learning – language and literacy, communication, confidence.


Books also feature heavily in our weeks, and I’ll be sharing what’s on our bookshelf in December in another post. Also, this year I have made Rosalie a book advent calendar, so she will be getting a new book every day throughout Advent.


Rosalie – 35 months


If you are after more inspiration for festive activities to do with your toddler or preschooler, then check out my Pinterest board:

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