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Play together at Christmas: Festive activities for 0–5 year olds’

Play Together at Christmas 4

Every time you play with your child, you are supporting their learning, language development and social skills. It also helps build your bond with them.

Christmas is all about family and spending time together, but it can also be busy and chaotic! Try to ensure you find a little time each day to switch off from other distractions and really enjoy focussing on playing with them. They're not the only ones who will feel the benefit!

Top tips for playing with babies and toddlers at Christmas:

  • Join children where they like to play: on the floor, kneeling at a table, in the garden, at the park, sitting on a bed or in the bath!
  • Let them choose what you play. It could be a rough and tumble game, dancing or singing, a board game, ball game or imaginative play!
  • Try to find an opportunity to put phones and tablets away, and turn off the TV, so you have their full attention and they have yours.
  • Try to follow their lead, this boosts their self esteem as you are showing them you value their ideas and interests.
  • Talk about what's happening and repeat back the sounds or words they say. This will support them to learn new words and develop the clarity of their speech.
  • Include turn taking when possible, this could be taking turns in conversation or within a game you are playing.

Make Christmas playdough together:

Making and playing with playdough together is great fun and there is lots to learn too.

As you make the dough, children will learn about measuring, counting, texture and change.

Playing with dough supports the development of arm and hand muscles, which will help with trickier skills, such as writing, when children get older. It also supports creativity as children use their imaginations to mould, shape and decorate the dough.

Playing with playdough offers lots to chat about, so you'll be supporting your child's vocabulary to grow, and their conversation skills to develop!

Watch our volunteer Literacy Champion Hannah and her child playing with playdough they have made together. If you're stuck, follow her suggestions to play with the dough when you're playing with your children.

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Playdough recipe:

  • 2 cups of plain flour
  • 2 cups of table salt
  • 2 cups of hot water
  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • 2 heaped tablespoons cream of tartar (you can find this in the baking aisle. It makes the dough last longer but you can make it without )
  • 3 - 4 drops of food colouring
  1. Let your child help you measure and mix the ingredients all together in a bowl.
  2. Then microwave in short bursts, stirring in between.
  3. When the mixture turns into a stiff dough leave it to cool on a chopping board.
  4. Make sure you check the temperature in the middle of the dough before allowing your child to touch it.
  5. Stored in the fridge in a plastic container, the dough should last several weeks.
  6. Have fun making things together with it! What will you make? A snail, a gingerbread man or a car? Chat about what you’re doing as you play together.
Top tip:

To make your dough Christmassy try adding seasonal scents, such as cinnamon or ginger. You could find natural materials to decorate it too, such as sticks or pine needles.

Additional activities to play with babies and toddlers over Christmas

Christmas biscuit recipe

Writing a shopping list, finding the right ingredients and following a recipe will introduce early reading skills for young children, or for older children, will improve their reading skills.

Create your own Christmas cards

Children's coordination and muscle strength will be developing as they get creative with their hands. This will help them learn other tricky tasks, such as holding a pen or a knife and fork as they get older

If you enjoyed these activities, why not check out our tips for chatting and reading with babies and younger children over the festive period? Each of these will also encourage babies and children to talk too!