Motherly Collective

The holiday season always brings joy, warmth and a dash of chaos. As parents, navigating the whirlwind of to-do lists while ensuring your little ones stay engaged and entertained when home during holidays breaks can feel like a juggling act. As a child development expert, teacher and co-founder of Earlybird, I’m here to share my favorite playful holiday activities that are as educational as they are fun for your kids. 

Infusing play into the holiday magic

The holidays bring seemingly endless to-dos, shopping lists and major events to attend, but as parents, we know that the true magic of the holidays lies in the simple moments spent with loved ones. So while the grand celebrations add a little sparkle and splendor to the season, it’s the playful moments together that create the real magic of the season.

There is no need to make more work (and stress) for yourself to create a picture-perfect holiday craft. I want to share easy, thoughtful, holiday activities that will keep your kids happily occupied while you dive into your holiday to-do lists and prep work.

And it’s not just about sprinkling holiday magic or keeping your little ones busy. Play is a fantastic learning tool we can use 365 days a year to set our kids up for success in life and their relationships. So, as we dive into these festive activities, remember, they’re also secretly boosting your child’s cognitive, motor skills and social-emotional development.

Let’s jump in! 

4 kid-friendly activities to do on holiday break

1. Holiday play dough mats

Whether you’re using the holiday play dough mats found in the Earlybird app or crafting your own holiday shapes on paper for your kids, this activity is a creative explosion. Unlike traditional Pinterest crafts with defined endpoints, play dough mat play is an open-ended activity which means it keeps little hands engaged for longer—there’s no clear stopping point when it comes to molding holiday magic! And the bonus is that as your child plays and creates they will be building their fine motor skills, hand strength, and creative thinking abilities. 

holiday play dough mats from Earlybird

2. Salt dough ornaments

Salt dough ornaments are a festive favorite that also make a great gift from your kid to your loved ones. It’s not just about crafting; baking the ornaments involves measuring—a fantastic early numeracy skill for your little ones. So, gather the ingredients that you already have in the house: 2 cups of all-purpose flour, 1 cup salt, and 1 cup water. 

Then in a large bowl, combine the flour and salt. Gradually add the water to the dry ingredients. Mix well until it forms a dough. Next, sprinkle a little flour on a flat surface and knead the dough until it’s smooth and well-mixed. Use a rolling pin to roll out the dough to about a quarter-inch thick. Use cookie cutters to cut out festive shapes or let your little ones get creative with their hands. Use a straw to cut out a hole in the top of each shape so you can hang it. Place the shapes on a baking sheet and bake at 250°F (120°C) for about 2 hours or until the ornaments are completely dry. Keep an eye on them to prevent browning. Let the ornaments cool completely and then get painting!

salt dough ornaments from Earlybird

3. Festive scavenger hunt

Tis the season for everyone’s houses to be twinkling with lights and festive decorations. Which is a great excuse to do a little outdoor activity that gets your kids walking and exploring their neighborhood—a holiday scavenger hunt. It’s not just about admiring the decorations; it’s also a fantastic opportunity to build their vocabulary as they learn the names of various holiday elements. You can find a printable scavenger hunt from the Earlybird app or just get creative by drawing festive images on a sheet of paper and writing the words underneath. 

holiday crafts with kids - holiday scavenger hunt

4. Memory catcher jar

Start building your memory catcher jar today and watch the love and gratitude overflow. This delightful family activity invites you to gather and preserve the treasured moments and memories you’re grateful for. Simply have you and your family write your treasured holiday memories and place them in a jar. At the end of the season, as you reflect on the joyous experiences shared, you will not only create a jar full of precious keepsakes but also nurture essential self-reflection skills and cultivate gratitude in your children. 

make a memory catcher jar for a fun holiday craft with kids

These playful learning activities are sure to create cherished moments this holiday season (and hopefully buy you some peaceful moments while your kids build independent play skills). Happy holidays, and may your season be filled with laughter, joy and the magic of play!

This story is a part of The Motherly Collective contributor network where we showcase the stories, experiences and advice from brands, writers and experts who want to share their perspective with our community. We believe that there is no single story of motherhood, and that every mother's journey is unique. By amplifying each mother's experience and offering expert-driven content, we can support, inform and inspire each other on this incredible journey. If you're interested in contributing to The Motherly Collective please click here.