We’ve been busy getting in the Christmas spirit around our household. I love this time of year! Spending it with my fifteen month old is so much fun but also quite the challenge. We had a successful first trip to visit Santa Claus and got a Christmas tree. Christmas tree + toddler = challenge! Everyone has different ways of dealing with littles and their Christmas tree. Some do table top trees that are out of reach, some barricade the tree with cinder block presents, some rule the tree off limits…period, others offer littles their own Christmas trees, or my friend displayed only her Christmas cards on her tree, which I think is a great idea. There are many ways, to each his own.
My husband and I talked about our approach and we decided to let our little guy be involved with decorating and interacting with our Christmas tree. With this in mind, I set out on a mission to find baby safe ornaments. I personally LOVE glass ornaments and have a beautiful collection that I’ve been working on for years. Obviously this isn’t best case scenario, so I placed my glass ornaments on the top 1/4 of our tree. This way I get to enjoy them but they are out of my son’s reach. He gets the lower half of the tree all to himself! While perusing at Target, I found “shatter resistant” fillable ornaments. I literally jumped for joy in the store and my wheels started turning. Here’s what I came up with.
Filling Ornaments with Exciting Manipulatives:
1. Gather Materials: Fillable plastic ornaments, manipulatives that will fit inside (I used foam stars, jingle bells, pompoms and cut up pipe cleaners), clear packaging tape (a must for toddlers, probably don’t need for older kiddos)
2. Sit down with baby, fill the ornaments and TALK all about it! Be sure to tape the tops on.
3. Hang them on the tree. Remember to show babies what you want them to do.
4. Most importantly, have FUN!
- Follow Directions- Have baby follow simple directions: “put the bell inside,” “give mommy a star,” “put the ornament on the tree,” “get the red pompom” (use two-step directions with older kiddos)
- Identify- Ask your little to find objects: “find the pompom,” “get the star,” “where’s the jingle bell?” Add adjectives for older kiddos, “put the green jingle bells in.”
- Name- Name items and actions involved with the activity: “jingle bells,” “shake, shake shake the jingle bells,” “star,” “throw the pompom,” “inside,” “Christmas ornament”
- Describe- Add describing words: “big, green pompom,” “yellow star,” “red jingle bell,” “little, white pompom,” “the pompom’s soft,” “shiny, gold pipe cleaner.” Talk about the senses used.
- Sing- Singing always adds to the fun, holds babies interest and helps them remember the task. Jingle Bells, O’Christmas Tree, and Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star went nicely with this activity.
- Take turns- Teaching babies to take turns is the foundation for the back and forth flow of conversation, this is a great activity to work on this. “My turn, your turn.”
- Basic concepts- Talk about size, colors, sounds, textures, in/out, on/off
- Independent play- This absolutely made a huge mess, but my son loved it when I turned the reigns over to him and let him do it by himself. He looked to me when he needed help and that’s when I worked on communication using gestures, signs, and words.
- Bonding- This is a great activity for spending one-on-one time with your little kissing, hugging, smiling, laughing and clapping. Be silly and have fun!
- Motor Skills- This activity also practices hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills. Yes, please!
Disclosure: This activity did not go without fail…..
Being a first time mom, I naively thought these ornaments were not only shatter resistant but toddler proof. WRONG! The little metal tops to the ornaments became the object of desire and there was no way my son was leaving them on or alone. This left me bummed thinking this great activity was a bust and that my son beat me at my own game. After failing with redirection, explanation and demonstration, I broke out clear packaging tape. Score team mom! I cut about a 6″ piece of packaging tape in half lengthwise and taped it around the top of the ornament and the topper making sure to encompass both pieces. The Christmas ornaments now work as planned. My son pulls them off the tree, looks at them, shakes them, throws them, mouths them and enjoys them. Then we put them back on the tree together, it’s fantastic! We do this over and over. These ornaments are super cute and have proved shatter resistant….so far.
If you celebrate Christmas, this is an awesome activity to engage toddlers in! I hope you found it helpful and that you will engage a baby in sharing the holiday spirit. I would love to know how you navigate your Christmas tree with littles, please share!
Peace & love,
Respect, kindness and love begin with babies…we must show them the way!