Welcome to the 4th Day of our 12 Days of Christmas Playdough series. Over the next few weeks, every few days (or so!) we will be sharing a dozen of my favourite Christmas playdough ideas that I created using the Christmas Sensory Mix and Match Activity Planner.
Today’s playdough invitation is Christmas Tree inspired and full of learning!
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Playdough by itself is a fantastic activity to help kids develop fine-motor skills. Its open-ended nature also allows kids to get really creative as well.
Today’s activity has both of these benefits, plus an added literacy dimension of alphabetic loose parts to make it a rich learning activity!
So what are alphabetic loose parts? This is simply a term that means that the letters of the alphabet are written on separate pieces – in this case, wooden cube “presents.”
Why is this beneficial for kids? Because loose alphabetic parts allow kids to engage in hands-on play with building words.
I first tried using alphabetic loose parts in one of my Wintry Sensory Bins – and it ignited an interest in Onetime, my 3 year old son, that has led to him wanting to know how everything is spelled!
I wanted a Christmas-themed loose parts activity, so I came up with today’s idea…and this one has been a huge hit at our house!
Recipe and Supplies:
- Green playdough – download my awesome recipe from our Free Printables page
- Christmas tree, present, Christmas lightbulb, and star cookie cutters
- Coloured wooden cubes and a permanent marker to make letters
- Variety of things to decorate the tree (green coloured rice, buttons, beads, bells, glass gems, confetti, beaded strings, plastic stars, etc.)
- Make the green playdough using my recipe and Wilton Set of 8 Icing Colors(the best I’ve found for vibrant colours). It might be really nice to make Pine-Scented Green Playdough too!
- Write out the letters of the alphabet onto the wooden blocks. I used a black marker on light coloured cubes, and a silver permanent marker on dark ones.
- If you want to make green rice for “pine needles” – see the bottom of this post for the very simple instructions.
- Create a tree shape with the playdough and set out the decorations and cookie cutters. Spread the coloured cubes under the tree like presents.
- Ask your child if they’d like to decorate the tree! Sit back and watch what happens.
The first thing that Onetime noticed was the wooden cube “presents.” He immediately grabbed them and wanted to start spelling words.
Favourites lately have been the words “Exit” and “Entrance” and any words he sees on signs. We soon had little cube word chains labelling all the doorways on the main floor of the house!
To be honest, that’s all Onetime played with the first few days I set this activity out. For him, the loose parts were all he saw – and I was fine with that! We spelled all kinds of words together with the cube presents.
I showed him how he could use the playdough to hold the words together and he really liked that idea.
We spent some time spelling “Christmas” together and then playing with those letters to spell other words like, “Christ”, “mat”, “sat”, “hat”, “cat”, “rat”, “sit”, “hit” – you get the idea!
The next day, I got the playdough out again and asked if he wanted to decorate the tree today. Finally, he noticed the tray of awesome decorations. (I think it was because we finally had a real Christmas tree in the house that inspired him!)
Once he saw the container of green rice, the little trees became “tree cookies” and the rice became sprinkles. In my mind they were supposed to be pine needles, but it’s his activity right? Sprinkles they are!
Overall this Christmas Tree Playdough activity was a huge success! I think it probably would have been fun even without the playdough – those coloured cube “gifts” with the letters on were just so engaging!
Reading About Christmas Trees
As a teacher, I try and use just about any new experience to teach my son! Before we played with the Christmas Tree Playdough, I read a related Christmas story to him to spark his imagination.
You could also do the reverse, and allow your child some free-play playdough time, then read a related story, and then let them re-investigate the playdough with the story in mind.
Either way – get some reading in! My favourite Christmas tree related book for young children is Little Blue Truck’s Christmas.
It’s a new one – just out this year that features the loveable and helpful Little Blue (he also has a couple other stories out that we like). In this book, his buddy Toad runs a tree farm and Blue has volunteered to help deliver his Christmas trees to friends.
There’s lots of learning in this book which is part of the reason why I like it. The story involves 5 trees that are delivered one at a time. Kids are encouraged to do the subtraction and count along. The text rhymes and is engaging and the pictures are colourful and help tell the story.
The coolest part of this book is at the end, Blue gets a tree for himself and it actually lights up with real lights when you open the page. Onetime loves it!
That’s it for Day 4: Christmas Tree Inspired Playdough! I hope you give this a try and your child enjoys it! If you’re looking for other Christmas kids’ crafts and activities, be sure to follow our Pinterest board: Follow One Time Through’s board Christmas on Pinterest.
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I hope to see you back for Day 5 of the 12 Days of Christmas Playdough series!