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Holiday activities

Winter Holiday Activities

by Jackie Silberg
The following activities are full of enjoyable ideas that help children build and improve their intellectual, motor, and social skills. They also provide great bonding opportunities for parent and child.

Make up a Holiday Story: Make up a holiday story and at the same time develop your child's language and creative skills.

Adult: I was going to the zoo one day and what do you think I saw?
Child: A polar bear.
Adult: And what was the polar bear doing?
Child: Wrapping presents.
Adult: And who was with the polar bear?
Child: An elephant.
Adult: And what did the polar bear and the elephant do when they finished wrapping the presents?
Child: They did the Hokey Pokey.
Adult: Why don't you and I do that? Do you want to be the polar bear or the elephant?

Use Body Talk: Ask your child questions about an upcoming holiday and have them answer either "yes" or "no" with a part of their body such as fingers, wrists, knees, shoulders, hips, and tongue. This game takes a lot of cognitive thinking. Very young children can also play this game, and you can help them move their body parts.

Question: Are we having company for Thanksgiving?
Child: Moves his elbow either "yes" or "no."
Question: Do you like to get presents?
Child will move another part of his body either "yes" or "no."

Create an Edible Snowman: You will need large marshmallows, pretzel sticks, small carrots, and raisins.
  • To make the snowman's body, take a pretzel stick and put it into the middle of one of the marshmallows. Then place another marshmallow on top.
  • Make legs and arms with the remaining pretzel sticks.
  • Make eyes and a mouth with the raisins.
  • Use a very thin piece of carrot for the nose.
Say the poem "A Chubby Little Snowman."

A chubby little snowman
Had a carrot nose
Along came a bunny
And what do you suppose?

That hungry little rabbit
Looking for his lunch
Ate that little snowman's nose...
Nibble, nibble, CRUNCH!

Now eat the snowman.

Come Up with Poem and Song Ideas About Thanksgiving: This is a wonderful poem or song activity about the foods we eat at Thanksgiving. It is also a wonderful science lesson about how food changes when it's cooked or prepared. Make a list with your child of all the foods you have at your Thanksgiving table. Refer to this list when creating your songs or poems.

Example: A Turkey Ran Away

A turkey ran away
Before Thanksgiving Day
He said they'll make a roast out of me
If I should stay.

Continue on naming different foods and what happens to them when they are baked, juiced, and combined with other foods.

Play the Gift Giving Game: This game takes a lot of imagination and really stimulates the thinking process. The game is more fun when several players participate.

To play:
  • Ask one child to come forward and tell the group that you are going to give him a gift.
  • Without saying a word, put a pretend ring on his finger. Ask the group if they know what the gift is.
  • Talk with the children about the different gifts that they would like to receive. Then, ask if someone would like to give a pretend gift to another person.
Suggestions for gifts are: any kind of jewelry, a ball, a scarf, a hair ribbon or barrette, a shoe, articles of clothing, etc.

If the child is not sure how to do it, you can show them.

Move with Letters: Using colored masking tape, make a large letter on the floor. Choose a letter that starts the name of a holiday. For example, the letter "V" for Valentine's Day. Show your child all the different movements that she can do on the letter. Walk, march, hop, run, crawl.

Sing this song as you move along the letter. Sing the first verse of "The Farmer in the Dell"; "I'm marching on the V / I'm marching on the V / Hi-ho the Derry-O / I'm marching on the V." Continue singing the song as you hop on the V, jump on the V, etc.

Find your Letters: Print the name of a winter word on a piece of paper. Let your child look around the room and find one thing that starts with each letter that appears in the chosen word.

Here are some winter word suggestions: Mittens, animals, earmuffs, sports, sleigh, snow and snowflakes, reindeer and polar bear.

For example, if they choose the word snow, try to find one thing to match each letter in that word.

Print each word that you find under the letter that it matches. S - Sofa, N - Nose, O - Ottoman, W - White

Make Faces: This game will develop awareness and observation skills in your child.
  • Find pictures in magazines of children with different facial expressions.
  • Cut out the pictures and show them to your child.
  • Talk about each picture and then try to make the same facial expression on your own face.
  • Ask your child to make the same expression on his face.
  • Some pictures that you can look for are happy faces, silly faces, sad faces, or kids sticking out their tongues and making different shapes with their mouths.
You can also look for pictures with children doing physical activities such as standing on one leg, bending over, running, etc. You and your child can do the same physical activity as in the picture.

Cross the Winter Holiday Circle: This game requires a group of eight or more children. It's wonderful to use in a classroom and equally wonderful to play at a birthday party. Talk about all the various fall/winter holidays: Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Chinese New Year, and any other holidays the children celebrate.

  • Form a circle with the children.
  • Have them pair off into twos.
  • Give them directions for crossing the circle.
  • All the number ones cross the circle like a turkey.
  • All the number twos cross the circle like Santa Claus.
  • Repeat with a different way to cross the circle for number ones and then for the twos.
Here are some more ideas: A reindeer, a jack-in-the-box, a spinning-top (dreidel) and a dragon.

Ask the children to come up with their own ideas. 
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Meet Our Expert
Jackie Silberg
Early Childhood Specialist
Jackie Silberg is an early childhood advocate and popular keynote speaker. Her expertise is in brain and literacy development for young children and developmental games using music.

Also known as "Miss. Jackie," she has a BA in Education, an MS in Child Development, and many graduate hours in piano and music composition.

Jackie founded and directed the Jewish Community Center School of Music in Kansas City, Missouri, and worked for KSHB television, planning the music and performing her original music for a children's program called "41 Treehouse Lane." She wrote and produced a television show for Time Warner called "Just Kids," which addressed children's needs and interests. Jackie has worked as a consultant with the Discovery Channel, setting up their music-streaming website. She gives workshops, keynote addresses, seminars, and family concerts throughout the U.S., Canada, Australia, Germany, Kuala Lumpur, and Singapore. Jackie has served as an adjunct instructor at both Emporia State University and the University of Missouri at Kansas City and lectures at Johnson County Community College in Kansas. She received the Distinguished Alumna Award from Emporia State University, in recognition of her educational achievements.

Her books have been published by Gryphon House Books in 34 different countries, and both her books and music have won many awards including: Parent's Choice, Mom's Choice Award, NAPPA Gold, Parent's Council, Early Childhood News Director's Choice, iParenting, and more.

Jackie is also the owner of Miss. Jackie Music Company in Leawood, Kansas. You can find out more on Jackie Silberg's website.
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