My toddler is starting to get this whole Christmas thing. The trees, the presents, and even Santa Claus is starting to seem less scary. Her recognition of this holiday naturally lends itself to some great Christmas-themed learning opportunities! Well, that…and I am a teacher, so I can’t help myself.
It seems that somehow Christmas is starting earlier and earlier every year now. I swear I was looking at Halloween costumes and ran smack into a Christmas tree. The length of time that it takes for Christmas to arrive is hard for toddlers to grasp. They want things and they want them right now. Toddlers are not exactly known for their patience. I am fairly certain I say, “Please just give me a second” about a hundred times a day.
What do you do with an eager toddler who has no clear idea on who Santa is, but is dying to tear into those packages under the tree? You distract them with fun learning activities and crafts, of course! It is a win-win. It is not really about the presents these days. Your toddler is just inquisitive and wants to figure out what is inside! Channel that curiosity into learning and you both just mind have some fun.
Your toddler learns something new and you do not have to spend your holiday in the loony bin! BrittanyAnneF
Christmas Themed Literacy Activities
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Toddlers can cut a rug like nobody’s business. Your toddler will bust a move anywhere there is music. Whether it is at your house or in the middle of a crowded store. Turn this love of music into an opportunity to build phonemic awareness with Christmas Carols!
Who does not love a good call and response? Deck the Halls is a perfect carol to practice call and response. You sing each line and ask your toddler to respond with “Fa la la la la la la la la!” This is such a fun song to sing, plus the /f/ and /l/ sounds can be tricky for little ones. The repetition is wonderful, too! You may already know the words, but here is a FREE printable to have on hand.
Singing songs and using some sort of musical instrument is a great way for toddlers to hear the rhythm of words. This helps later on when they learn rhyming words, but according to a recent article, songs and music may do even more. According to Scholastic, learning rhythm and timing may improve your child’s emotional development, as well as their capacity for learning!
I apologize in advance about your ears, but why not try using actual jingle bells when you sing Jingle Bells with your toddler? You can order the jingle bells below and create your own little noise makers for your little…noise maker. Hold the jingle bells or tie them together using string or pipe cleaners and shake while you sing a timeless classic. Go ahead and download the FREE printable for the lyrics to Jingle Bells.
Even if your toddler normally can’t sit still, there is something magical about a great Christmas tale. This is the time to read books to your toddler and there are seriously about a million to choose from! But here are some ways that you can add some new cheer to some old favorites while building your toddler’s literacy skills!
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
I have to admit, I could probably read this story a million times. It is one of my all time favorites. There is a lot to discuss with older kids, too. You can address the theme of being different and finding your purpose in life. Rudolph is really just the sweetest and the story is so much fun to read. Of course, there is also the Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer movie that repeats on television right around this time of year that goes hand-in-hand with this delightful book.
Tip: Turn on the caption setting on your television, so that your child begins recognize how words your speak and written word match!
After reading, you can incorporate some arts and crafts time with one of these great crafts from Pinterest! This is my daughter’s creation from last year. We used her foot prints to make the reindeer and then I hot glued on a little red nose and googly eyes. I love making these types of crafts on canvas because if you add a little ribbon, it becomes both beautiful decor and a cherished keepsake.
How the Grinch Stole Christmas
Again at this age, it is all about listening to stories being read aloud. It develops phonemic awareness and a love of reading. Dr. Seuss tackles both of these feats easily and with plenty of humor. Reading aloud a book by Dr. Seuss is nothing short of hilarious. He makes up words and includes all kinds of tongue twisters. But this is what makes it fun!
In this story, the Grinch is all in a hubbub about everyone being so jolly during the holiday season. Can’t you just relate? We all feel a little like the Grinch or Scrooge sometimes. This book is perfect for talking about these feelings with your toddler. Toddlers are bundles of emotions, but it is hard for them to put those feelings into words. The Grinch makes discussing feelings of frustration and anger easy! Then, you get to laugh!
Try taking pictures of your toddler in different emotional stages like laughing, crying, or even looking bored. After reading about the Grinch, label the pictures with the correct vocabulary like “happy” or “joyful” and “angry” and “frustrated”. Toddlers are vain and love to look themselves, but they also love building their vocabulary! Then, try one of these fun Grinch crafts!
Christmas Literacy in Action
Elf on the Shelf
Yup, it’s true. I joined the craze this year. We have our very own scout elf that is currently visiting our house. She arrived on Thanksgiving with her very own book and has been creating mayhem ever since. Besides the fact that this doll…ahem…elf comes with a book, there are other literacy skills that can be reinforced.
The scout elf goes to visit Santa each night in the North Pole to report on whether or not the boys and girls should be included in either the naughty or nice list. When the elf returns, he or she poses in a variety of precarious situations. The idea is to do something different each day. I am currently a week in. My mommy friends who have been at this for years say it gets exhausting after a while!
This activity is actually wonderful for literacy because it actually builds your toddler’s ability to remember details which will lead to comprehension of text later on. I ask my daughter to recall each location the elf was the previous day before attempting to find her in the morning. We review each location daily and in sequence (the best we can) and because it is so fun, she remembers it all! Even the little details! This will be the foundation for the ability to summarize story details as she becomes a reader!
Here are some of the situations our elf has found herself in. Please feel free to offer Elf on the Shelf suggestions in the comments below!
In Jan Brett’s adaptation of the classic Gingerbread Man story, the Gingerbread Baby thankfully does not meet his demise at the paws of a fox. It is still interactive and fun to read, however. This is also a great resource to practice sequencing! However, this is another great way to get active while practicing literacy.
- You can act out this story with dramatic play. Trust me, your toddler will love to run through the house being chased!
- Make your own gingerbread cookies. Reading recipes is a great skill for older kids, but toddlers can help by identifying the correct ingredients and helping to measure and pour.
- Decorate your own gingerbread man or house. This activity may be messy, but it also builds your toddler’s fine motor skills!