DIY Early Learning Holiday Fun
8 mins read

DIY Early Learning Holiday Fun

The holiday season is a great time to spend time with loved ones, cuddle up with a good book or share gifts with friends and family. It can also be a time when your home is full of extra boxes, bags, ribbons and paper. Why not use these leftovers for some quick and easy early learning activities with your little one? Read on for some of our simple suggestions.

For Babies

Box Painting with Water

Let your little one paint with water on an empty box! This activity builds your child’s visual expression, spatial awareness and fine motor skills.

Supplies needed:– Sturdy cardboard box
– Water
– Sponges or paintbrushes
Activity instructions:1. Choose a sturdy cardboard box.
2. Choose several different paint brushes and/or sponges.
3. Fill a small bowl with water (but not too much).
4. Dab, brush, and paint the water onto the cardboard.
5. Allow the box to dry and repeat as desired.
Additional tips:Put down a towel or waterproof blanket before you begin to keep floors dry. To keep the box from moving, place something heavy inside before your begin.

Painting Box

Let your child get messy with paint in a controlled environment! This activity teaches your baby about cause and effect, fine motor control and creativity.

Supplies needed:– Large cardboard box
– Paint or paint markers
– Sponges
Activity instructions:1. Choose a box large and sturdy enough to hold your baby without tipping.
2. Place baby in the box.
3. Provide painting supplies and let baby explore with color.
Additional tips:Wear clothing that is paint and mess friendly. Paint markers, cotton balls or sponges can all apply paint with less mess. For a more hands-on option, apply a small amount of paint to the side or bottom of the box for baby to finger paint. If you’re worried about baby tasting paint, try a recipe for edible finger paint.

Sensory Boards

Let baby explore textures hands-on! This activity lets your little one explore sensory attributes, express curiosity, build fine motor control and practice self-expression.

Supplies needed:– Cardboard
– Scissors or craft knife
– Packing tape
– Textured materials
Activity instructions:1. Start with a large piece of cardboard.
2. Cut some large shapes out of the cardboard.
3. Turn the board over and tape textured items over the shapes. Examples include wrapping paper, tissue paper, ribbon, zipper bags with hair gel, and aluminum foil.
4. Turn the board back over and let baby explore.
Additional tips:Be sure to over tape everything so that baby can’t pull items up or out of the board. Materials like cling wrap or zipper bags can help hold looser items in place. Place the board flat on the floor or mount it against a sturdy surface.

For Toddlers

Box Road

Hit the road with imaginative play! This activity builds your child’s fine motor skills and imagination.

Supplies needed:– Large cardboard box
– Markers
– Transportation toys
Activity instructions:1. Open up a large cardboard box.
2. Using a marker, draw roads onto the surface.
3. Place the cardboard flat on the floor.
4. Let your child explore with moving vehicles.
Additional tips:Add some challenges! You can use blocks to create bridges, create a neighborhood, or add other textures for things like a lake.

Color Match

Practice your colors with a simple sorting activity. This activity builds your child’s fine motor skills, visual perception, critical thinking and color identification skills.

Supplies needed:– Cardboard boxes or tubes
– Hot glue or masking tape
– Colored markers or paint
– Colored objects
Activity instructions:1. Create a small box for each color.
2. If desired, attach a tub to each box, leaving space for objects to drop.
3. Provide your child a selection of colored items like pom poms, small toys, or balls.
4. Sort the items into the appropriate color boxes.
Additional tips:Don’t have small things to sort? Cut up cardboard shapes and color them. If you don’t want to create boxes, use large pieces of cardboard to create flat sorting mats. For an added challenge, sort by a new category, like texture.

Tape Resist Art

Create a masterpiece with tape and paint! This activity builds your child’s fine motor skills, explores cause and effect and practices color recognition.

Supplies needed:– Large cardboard box
– Masking or painter’s tape
– Crayons, paint, or markers
Activity instructions:1. Flatten a large box.
2. Use tape to create lines, shapes, words and other designs.
3. Place the cardboard on a wall or flat surface.
4. Let your child paint or color freely.
5. Allow the artwork to dry (if needed) and slowly pull up tape to reveal your design.
Additional tips:Create a collaborative project with all members of your family. Give each person a color or space to work on. Or, create smaller, individual pieces for each child. If your child is old enough, let them help create the tape design.

For Preschoolers

Cardboard Construction Set

Create your own blocks and get creative! This activity builds your child’s problem-solving, critical thinking and fine motor skills.

Supplies needed:– Sturdy cardboard
– Scissors or craft knife
Activity instructions:1. Cut your cardboard into squares.
2. Along the edges or at the corners, cut some very narrow V-shaped slits.
3. Use the slits to slot pieces together and build structures.
Additional tips:Create a building challenge. Ask your child to create the tallest building or design an animal. If they get stuck, ask questions to guide their thought process. If these blocks are too challenging, try buildings challenges with boxes of different sizes.

Wrapping Paper Puzzle

Solve simple puzzles together! This activity builds your child’s sequencing, problem-solving skills and hand-eye coordination.

Supplies needed:– Wrapping paper
– Scissors
Activity instructions:1. Choose a piece of paper with a large, recognizable design.
2. Cut out one design.
3. Cut the design into several large pieces – you might use grid lines on the paper, if available.
4. Shuffle the pieces on a flat surface.
5. Reassemble the design.
Additional tips:Start with large, simple shapes like squares or rectangles. To help your child identify pieces, cut a second design as a reference. To create an artistic masterpiece, tape or glue the assembled pieces to a piece of paper.

Wrapping Paper Snowflakes

Decorate with your own snowflakes! This activity builds your child’s fine motor skills and creativity.

Supplies needed:– Wrapping paper scraps
– Scissors
Activity instructions:1. Cut a large square or circle of wrapping paper.
2. Fold this piece several times.
3. Cut shapes or designs along the edges of the wrapping paper.
4. Unfold to reveal your masterpiece.
Additional tips:If your little one struggles with where to cut, fold the paper with the blank side out and draw lines for your designs. If they aren’t ready to hold the paper while they cut, try holding it steady while they use the scissors.

At the Library

Looking for additional opportunities for holiday fun or creativity? Join us at the library for some of these upcoming early learning programs.

Gingerbread Boy Puppet Show at Harrington Library: Tuesday, December 12 at 10:30am | Wednesday, December 13 at 9:30 am | Thursday, December 14 at 10am

A gingerbread cookie eludes the hungry grasp of everyone who wants to catch him, until he meets a sly fox. This program is ticketed – free tickets are available 30 minutes before the show.

Art Start at Harrington Library | Thursday, December 21 at 10am

Stories to inspire your little artist followed by a different hands-on activity each week. Things may get messy! Smocks and materials provided. This program is ticketed – free tickets are available 30 minutes before the program.

Playdough Playdate at Davis Library | Thursday, December 21 at 11am

Explore the benefits of playing with playdough. Learn early literacy skills and have fun creating. This program is ticketed – free tickets are available 30 minutes before the program.

Block Party at Schimelpfenig Library | Wednesday, December 27 at 10:30am

Start STEAM education early! Building and playing with blocks develops a child’s math, science, and social skills while providing fun.

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