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12 Fun Ways to Engage in Developmental Play Throughout the Holidays!

12 Fun Ways to Engage in Developmental Play Throughout the Holidays!

The holiday season is the perfect time to put a creative spin on some fun developmental play activities that will not only benefit baby, but help put you in the holiday spirit as well!

During the holidays it’s so easy to become stressed out over everything you have to do. It’s hard to find time for baby but it’s so important!  It has been said that play is the universal language of childhood. It is through play that babies and children learn about themselves and their environment. Brain development is activity dependent.  Every experience that your baby has excites his neural circuits. For example, when parents talk with their babies, they are activating hearing, social, emotional and linguistic centers of the brain all at once.  Through play all areas of baby’s development can be strengthened. Games allow your baby to practice gross and fine motor skills, problem-solving skills, object permanence, balance, spatial awareness, etc.

Here are 12 fun and festive skill building activities to do with your baby that integrate “holiday cheer” all along the way. 

1. Gift Wrap Game

Loosely wrap some of baby’s toys in any of your brightly colored leftover holiday gift wrapping paper, and then put them in a holiday basket or gift bag.  Have baby dig through, unwrap, and rediscover his/her things. This helps develop:

  • Fine motor skill
  • Problem solving skills
  • Tactile stimulation

2. Following the Light

Stretch brightly colored tissue paper or a thick holiday ribbon across a flashlight and attach with rubber band or tape.  Then show the colored circle across the ceiling, on the walls, furniture, toys, etc. Try turning the light on and off quickly. Drawing shapes with the beam, or move the light slowly back and forth between two objects.  Say, “Where did the light go? Oh, there it is! It’s on the wall.” You can add auditory by putting on some soft background holiday music. This helps develop:

  • Visual development
  • Tracking

3. Holiday Sprinkles - Let It Snow!

Set up a dish pan on piece of wrapping paper.  Fill pan with a mixture of cornmeal and colored sprinkles in holiday colors. Provide your baby with measuring spoons, wooden spoons, foil cupcake liners, a baking sifter etc.  Let baby scoop, sift and pour! (Fun Varation: use white and silver to "Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let It Snow") Watch baby because baby may try to eat it! This helps develop:

  • Tactile stimulation 
  • Fine motor skills 
  • Gross motor skills

4. Build-a-Memory Texture Gift Box

Cut squares of holiday cloth with different textures (velvet, satin, holiday ribbon, wool, corduroy, etc). Put different textured cloths in a shoe box.  Cut hole big enough for baby to put hand in and pull out cloth. Take shoe box and glue cloths to outside – Use shoe box to present a gift to baby’s someone special! This helps develop:

  • Textures 
  • Tactile stimulation

5. Where Did It Go?

Find a bright ornament or other holiday memorabilia that is small enough to fit into your hand.  Let your baby see it. Place it in your palm, close both hands and show baby your closed fists. Ask baby, “Where did it go?”  Open hands and say, “Here it is!” If object is small enough, you can place it in one hand only. Alternate object from one hand to the other. This helps develop:

  • Object permanence. 
  • Eye/hand coordination

6. Holiday Cookie Cutter Fun

Take any large plastic jar and fill it with holiday plastic/rubber cookie cutters, plush toys etc.  Sit with baby on the floor, and pour out the contents, and then fill up again. Do this a couple of times, and baby will soon do by himself. This helps develop:

  • Fine motor skills
  • Gross motor skills
  • Size and shape discrimination
  • Spatial awareness

7. Who Do you See?

Put pictures on the wall of family members baby will see during the holidays near baby’s changing table so they can see during diaper change.  Include pictures with family holiday traditions – ask baby “Who do you see?” Always name the person in the picture. This helps develop:
  • Language skills
  • Social skills

8. Holiday Blanket (Sleigh) Ride

Sit or lay baby on a holiday quilt blanket and then gently pull him around. Show baby the decorations and lights! This gives baby different visual perspectives. This helps develop:

  • Balance
  • Visual Discrimination

9. Baby’s Holiday Story

Your baby will love hearing her name in a story.  Take a family favorite holiday tradition that baby will be experiencing. Create a photo story book.  Include family members and friends. Tell the story with real photos or drawings. This helps develop:

  • Language skills 
  • Social skills 
  • Separation anxiety 
  • Transitions

10. Sleigh Bells Ring!

The holidays are the best time for bells, shakers, and rattles.  Show baby how to use them and that music is participatory and fun.  Use kitchen objects for banging. Set up plastic bowls, wooden spoons, and basting brushes. “How can you make the spoons go bang?”  Metal spoons clang together nicely. Or when baby is banging pan to spoon, start singing your favorite holiday song. This helps develop:

  • Fine motor skills. 
  • Gross motor skills. 
  • Listening. 
  • Rhythm exploration

11. Wrapping Paper Tube Exploration!

Cut a wrapping paper tube into a 3 different sizes. Poke a brightly colored holiday ribbon or scarf through the different size tubes, and let baby pull it out the other side.  Ask baby “Where’s the scarf?” This helps develop:

  • Hand-eye coordination 
  • Fine motor skills 
  • Tactile Stimulation

12. Have A Holiday Ball!

A large beach ball or exercise ball can be a wonderful tool for exercise and fun! Put your baby on her tummy on top of the beach ball. Holding your baby firmly, roll the ball back and forth in front of your Christmas tree or holiday lights.  Watch her smile while her eyes light up at the beautiful site! This helps develop:

  • Balance
  • Spatial Awareness

This information is taken from our Mommy & Me Session 3 Curriculum created by Dr. Jill Campbell and adapted for the holiday season by our CEO Cheryl Petran. Explore our website to learn more about all our Parent & Me Programs and the many ways you can build YOUR village!