Happy Holidays from everyone here at Education from the heart to you! It’s finally December, and with that, we have so many fun and exciting holidays to look forward to. We've created a list of some really festive activities that are not only entertaining, but can help teach your children all about the holidays!
1. Holiday Research (School age)
For this first activity, children will research the different holidays that occur during this time of year, to learn all about them! For younger children, this is a great chance to introduce them to the concepts of holidays and traditions. This also gives you a chance to explain to them some of the history behind what's being celebrated and why.
Start by making a list of some different holidays the children recognize. Ask them questions that relate to each of the holidays. This can include subjects such as:
- "What do we do on this holiday?"
- "What do we eat on this holiday?"
- "Are there any special colors you think of when you think of this holiday?"
-"When do we celebrate this holiday/ for how long?"
When they create their list, you can then expand on it, by introducing holidays they might not recognize. For this activity, we focus on different holidays that occur during December. This includes Hanukkah, Christmas, and Kwanzaa.
Have your children make an additional list for the holidays you want them to research, then generate questions for them to look up the answers to. Some helpful questions can include:
-"What is this holiday about?"
-"How is this holiday celebrated?"
- "When does this holiday occur?"
- "What is the history surrounding this holiday?"
-" What are some traditions related to this holiday?"
Here are some links to a couple of awesome books about the different holidays.
1. Daddy Christmas and Hanukkah Mama by Selina Alko
- This bright and interactive book dives into what it is like to take part in two holidays and all of their traditions and celebrations. Follow Sadie as she explores her family's Hanukkah and Christmas customs. This book includes vibrant pictures that depicts Sadie's fun and educational holiday experience.
2. Grover's Eight Nights of Light (Sesame Street) by Jodie Shepherd
- An incredible book that informs the readers all about Hanukkah. There's themes of friendship and kindness, as children follow the sesame street characters in learning and celebrating this holiday. This a simple and easy to read book that also includes stickers, cards and a very special Hanukkah game.
3. My First Kwanzaa (My First Holiday) by Karen Katz
- This a fun picture book that is incredibly helpful in teaching your young ones all about Kwanzaa. This book includes colorful illustrations from the perspective of our young character, as her family celebrates the holiday. Fun and educational traditions are explored and depicted; guaranteed to be loved by your children. Another bonus, is multiple vocabulary words, that are broken down and explained to help understand the holiday as well.
4. Li'l Rabbit's Kwanzaa by Donna L. Washington
- Join our character Li'l Rabbit on his adventure as he is determined to have a great Kwanzaa. Your children will love this adorable story, as we follow Li'l Rabbit and learn about Kwanzaa's customs and traditions, and the meaning of family, friends, and coming together.
5. The ABC's of Christmas by Jill Howarth
- In this incredibly festive board book, we follow along the alphabet, as we learn about different items related to Christmas. Adorable illustrations helps children grasp knowledge of Christmas, as well as practicing their ABC'S.
6. The Berenstain Bears and the Joy of Giving by Jay Berenstain
- Young readers follow the beloved Berenstain bear family, as brother bear and sister learn an important meaning related to Christmas. This book is great, in the way that it presents the message of the importance of giving to others, especially during the holiday season.
We've also include a couple of links to some helpful websites:
2. Candles and their meanings (preschool+)
Learn the importance of candles and all of their meanings in this activity.
Why do we use candles?
What do the candles represent?
What are the names for the specific candles?
There are many special traditions and customs that are related to the holidays. When teaching your children about these traditions, it can also be useful to incorporate fun activities that help teach them. This can include focusing on certain items that are used for these traditions. For this activity, children will learn all about the different candles that are used throughout the holidays.
Starting off, ask your children to identify different items that are associated with the holidays. If they are younger children, this is a great opportunity to help introduce these items. We recommend including small inexpensive replicas of the items. This can include an ornament, dreidel, an advent calendar and most importantly, candles. Discuss with your children what each item is, and how it pertains to which holiday. Ask your children questions about items they are most fond of and why. This introduction and discussion allows your children to reflect on why certain items are important to them, as well as other people and traditions.
keeping the candles as the last item to discuss. When you introduce the candles, make it a point to talk about how each holiday uses candles in some way, and that they all have a very special meaning. For our activity, we focus on Advent candles, Hanukkah candles and Kwanzaa candles. For each holiday, introduce their own respective candle(s).
If you are teaching older children, write a list of questions for them to look up answers for. The questions should surround the importance of the candles in their holidays. This can include questions such as:
“How many candles are used in this holiday?”
“Does the candles have a special name?”
“Does the candles have a special meaning?”
“Does the candles each symbolize a different subject and if so what are they?”
“Are the candles arranged in a specific way and why”
“What does the candles look like, (color, size, shape)
“Do you light the candles, is there a special way to light them?”
For younger children, you can have another discussion with them, as you both write and answer the questions together. Afterwards, you can choose to have them draw their own picture of the candles, or color a print out coloring page provided down below.
Here are some helpful links as well that include more information on the history and uses for different holiday candles.
Children will practice gift wrapping and giving in this activity. We explore the meaning of why we give gifts and why it's important to remember the act of giving.
To start, ask your children questions about all the celebrations in which we give people gifts. You can help them make a list of these celebrations, focusing on holidays. Try to point out reasons why we give each other gifts. As a tip, it can be helpful to add to the list some of those reasons. This can include things such as:
- To celebrate an achievement
- To show affection for another person
-To mark a specific and important milestone
Brainstorm the reason with your children as well as having them write or even draw their explanations. This can include drawing them having a happy birthday, celebrating mother's day, or the holidays. Ask them question about how it makes them feel when they not only get, but give gifts. This can include asking if they are excited to give gifts, and why it may be important for them to display their own feelings within the exchange. Ex: "How do you feel when mommy reads your hand-made card?" etc.
For our gift wrapping activity, have your children practice their coordination and motor skills. First, come up with different items to wrap. You can include recycled items such as:
-paper towel tubes
-small empty boxes
If you want, you can also keep the focus on D.I.Y handmade items the children will be able to make and decorate. Place the items in the middle of a table. Lay out the wrapping paper, and demonstrate each step of wrapping an item. Cut small pieces of paper for each item. Let the children observe you, and then talk them through the steps of wrapping the items themselves. The wrapping doesn't have to be perfect, as long as the children demonstrate the concept of wrapping and tapping their gifts. Children can build on to their hand- eye coordination skills, and gain more large and fine motor skills as they tape, wrap and fold. Being able to wrap their own gifts, will give your children a sense of accomplishment, as well as add to their excitement for giving the gifts to their loved ones.
4. Christmas art
Let your children get as creative as they want with our Christmas art activities. Here they will create their own Santa and decorate their own stockings.
To start, collect various arts and craft items that your children may use to make a Santa.
This can include: cotton balls, felt fabric sheets, googly eyes, bells, markers, glue etc.
Lay out all the items, and let the children decide how they want to create their Santa. This can include giving them suggestions such as drawing Santa, painting Santa, or cut a pasting a Santa. Once they choose, let them dive into creating their own Santa's. This is a fun and easy to do activity that let's your children tap into their creative side, as well as get them excited for the holidays.
In this activity, children will create their own very special stockings for Christmas.
Things you will need:
-felt fabric sheets (green, red or any color of choice)
-white cotton felt sheets or cotton balls (for top of stocking)
-additional decorative pieces (markers, beads, bells, pom poms)
To start, lay a large piece of fabric of your choice color on a table. Have your children fold the fabric in half. Let your children trace a stocking shape onto the front of the fabric, keeping the folded seam as the long side of the stocking. Next, carefully cut out the stocking shape, trimming off extra fabric. When they have their shape, take fabric glue, and glue the seam sides opposite to the to the folded seam close. Make sure they leave the top of the stocking open. Next, have the children glue on the cotton balls or cotton felt. Once the glue has dried, let your children decorate their stockings as they please!
Research, and create your own holiday patterns with this activity. For each Holiday, there are special patterns, colors and symbols, that coincide with various meanings and important traditions. The three holidays we focus on for this activity, include:
Start by asking your children what comes to mind, when they think of these holidays. You can even suggest different items, such as Christmas trees, snowflakes, dreidels, menorahs, and even certain colors, such as red, green, and yellow. Make a list of these items, and have the children pick out their favorite ones. If you are focusing on a Christmas pattern, have them use certain Christmas colors to draw their patterns on. The patterns can be as simple or complex as the children wish. By creating and following patterns, children can gain important skills such as observing, generalizing, and understanding different relationships between objects and things. This later on, can contribute to helping build math and reading skills.
6. Counting and adding
In this activity, children practice their counting and adding skills by exploring different items that relate to each holiday. For this activity, you can use cut outs, or actual holiday items. We suggest using holiday items you may already have around the house to use to add and subtract:
-rolls of wrapping paper
- napkin rings
Collect all of the items you plan to use. You can start by adding each item in your total collection. If you want to practice grouping, have the children group each item related to their uses. Have the children count each item within their groups. Practice adding and subtracting all the items within their group, or related to each other. For example, you can ask the children how many candles are on the menorah in total, then practice adding and subtracting different numbers from their original number. Not only does this activity help in building on math skills, it also helps children get familiar with different items related to the holidays, as well as remember important numbers and their significance in the holiday traditions.
7. Family traditions
Explore your family’s holiday traditions with your children. In this activity, talk and research different family traditions that you take part in during the holidays. Start off by asking your children questions about the holidays you celebrate. Ask them questions that revolve around your traditions, what food you might eat, who you share the holiday with, and any other fun activities and customs. These questions open up a discussion with your children, and let them display critical thinking skills, reflecting on why and how we may do the things we do during holidays. They can contribute anything they might find fun and exciting about the traditions as well. You can also have the children ask each of your family members different qualities and aspects about your family traditions, and what their favorite part is as well. With this, your children can learn more about the holiday traditions, as well as the family as a whole.