Sensory Activities for the Holidays

It’s winter. You’re stuck inside the house, school is out, and you don’t know what you’re going to do to entertain the little ones? We feel you.

Don’t despair. We’ve put together a list of easy activities you can do at home (with stuff you probably already have around the house).

Check out our five holiday-inspired activities that address all five senses:

1. Holiday Sensory Bin

Here’s what My Small Potatoes says you need to gather:

Source: My Small Potatoes

All you need to do is cut the ribbons to 9 inches (or less), twirl the pipe cleaner into a spring, and throw it all into a bowl. You’ll be amazed at how long it will keep your little one entertained.

Filling up and dumping out? That’s a toddler’s jam. Hence the cups and spoons.

Source: My Small Potatoes

Watch baby explore. (And try not to let your OCD take over when the cooked rice goes everywhere.)

Small Potatoes says this sensory play allows your baby “to practice cause and effect, to test hypothesis, to learn about the properties of weight and volume, to discover the wonders of gravity, and to lose himself in the world of experimenting.”

If you’re headed to a relative’s house, put everything in a Tupperware container, and you have a sensory bin on-the-go.

2. Colored Ice Sensory Play

Make ice cubes in several different colors (either with food coloring or food puree). (Because we all know the cubes will end up in the baby’s mouth.) Make sure the cubes are large enough that your child won’t choke on them. Learn Play Imagine recommends putting the cubes near a tub of water. Your child will be amazed when the cubes start to melt and change the color of the water.

Source: Learn Play Imagine

Talk to your child about what she is experiencing. You’re building her vocabulary with words like cold, shiny, sweet and smooth (and, perhaps, “wet mess”).

3. Bring Snow Inside

If you’re over bundling up and heading outside to play in the snow, bring it inside! Fill up a container with snow, and the possibilities are endless. Growing a Jeweled Rose suggests:

  • Using kitchen gadgets (measuring cups and cookie cutters)
  • Sand toys (buckets and shovels)
  • Paint brushes and water color
  • Spray bottles with colored water
  • Playing with vehicles (like, construction trucks with scoops)
Source: Growing a Jeweled Rose

No snow? No problem. You can make your own with two ingredients: rice cereal and coconut oil. Lemon Lime Adventures has a recipe here for cloud dough. Give it a holiday flavor with a sprinkle of cinnamon!

4. Holiday Sensory Board

Grab some glue, a foam board and your favorite Christmas items. Get things that have lots of different textures, like you see on this sensory board from Toddler Approved.

Source: Toddler Approved

The bows, the hat, the pine cone: your tot is not going to be able to keep his hands away. Introduce each object to your child and describe them in detail. This will teach your child a bunch of new words. Play a game with your child by describing an item and let him or her guess which one you are talking about.

5. Light Sensory Play

Unless you have your Christmas tree barricaded in a playpen, your baby is probably trying to put all of the lights and ornaments in her mouth. Lemon Lime Adventures has a solution that lets your baby explore while staying safe!

Source: Lemon Lime Adventures

Stuff some lights into a plastic container, and screw on the lid. Your baby gets to play with the container, watch the lights, and even try to put it in her mouth without you worrying she’ll get hurt.

Do you have any holiday sensory play ideas? Share your favorite ways to play and learn.

Julie Forbes

Julie Forbes

Julie Kroenig Forbes graduated Magna Cum Laude from the University of Missouri School of Journalism. She spent the next 10 years working as a news anchor and reporter in various cities, most recently in Nashville, Tennessee. She now lives in Northern California with her husband and four kids.
Julie Forbes