Everyday holiday play in the preschool classroom

During the holidays, it seems there is much to do in a short amount of time from parent gifts, to hand painted wrapping paper and pretty made Christmas cards to baking cookies and making decorations for the classroom.   All of these tasks are part of my holiday planning but in the midst of making so many things, I also want to make sure that my students are given ample time for holiday play…

We have a small Christmas tree in our classroom that the children decorated all by themselves.  The tree is sitting over in our dramatic play center. The children can decorate it, undecorate it, stack gift boxes under it, or incorporate it anyway they wish as part of their holiday play…

We also have a variety of magnetic gift boxes, tags, and bows to invite pretend play.  My students spend a big part of their play giving gifts, pretending to open them up, and acting all excited about their imaginary gifts…

 Mrs. Courtney and I spend a big part of our day pretending to open up gifts too!  You can read more about our magnetic gift boxes and bows by clicking on this post

The children also enjoy a little holiday play by filling up empty tins with items from around the classroom and adding a magnetic bow or gift tag to give as pretend gifts…

And don’t forget the holiday sensory play…

My students love diving into our candy cane shave cream play…

And how about holiday fine motor play…

There are lots of ways to promote play during the holiday season and over the next few weeks, I will be sharing with you some of the things we are making and doing to celebrate the holiday season in our classroom but keep in mind, every day – we take time for holiday (and unholiday) play…

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By |2017-03-28T22:27:16+00:00December 6th, 2012|

About the Author:

Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. has been working and teaching in the field of early childhood education for over 30 years. Deborah currently owns and teaches in her own part-time, private preschool called The Children’s Studio. Deborah’s deep passion for teaching and working with young children is documented and then graciously shared with millions of readers around the world through her blog and other social networking communities. Deborah believes that young children learn best through play and exploration and embraces this belief in all that she does in her own classroom so that she can effectively and passionately share rewarding, real- life, tried-and-true practices with other teachers, parents, and leaders across the field of early childhood education.


  1. Julie S December 6, 2012 at 10:32 pm - Reply

    i love the idea of magnetic bows! Will have to borrow this for our classroom.

  2. Justine Saffir December 7, 2012 at 9:20 am - Reply

    I notice that the “holiday” activities here are all Christmas activities. It’s important for teachers to remember that while many children in our classes are celebrating Christmas, others are not. We owe it to both those who aren’t celebrating, and those in the majority, to point this out to the children as we play. While it’s wonderful to do Christmas activities in class, as it is for any holiday, we need to be sure we’re not conveying the assumption that celebrating Christmas is the normal thing to do, that we expect everyone to be celebrating it, and that there are no other important holidays going on at this time of year. Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Pagans, and many more are also celebrating winter holidays this “holiday” season.

    I also think we owe it to kids to teach those in the majority that they have a unique culture, too. Rather than referring to Christmas projects or traditions as “holiday” projects or traditions, we can call them “Christmas” observances, both conveying that they are special to Christmas, and that Christmas isn’t the only holiday one could celebrate in the winter.

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. December 7, 2012 at 11:06 am - Reply

      Well said and I agree, there are many different cultures and holidays that are celebrated during the holiday season and it is important to make sure planning is a reflection of and is sensitive to the different cultural traditions commonly celebrated by the students in your own classroom. What is shared on my blog is a reflection of the traditions commonly shared by the students in my own classroom.

      However, regarding the concern over labeling the articles “holiday” over “Christmas,” – I hear your message and I have waffled about this issue as well. What I find interesting is that the activities I share as being “holiday” would not truly be defined as “Christmas” either since the true and historical definition of Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Jesus.

      Commercially speaking, we have come to define Christmas differently than the true meaning but for some reason, it is believed that if you are playing with bows, gift boxes, candy canes, stockings, Santa, elves, and other items that are commercially defined as Christmas – then one thinks they are genuinely sharing the Christmas perspective of the holiday with their class when actually this is not the case.

      I suspect that most folks are not sharing the story of baby Jesus and the nativity in their classroom but rather sharing the commercial view and the traditions that have become commonly associated with “Christmas.” The activities you will see coming from my classroom are a reflection of the traditions common to my students as well as the philosophy of my school. But many of these are a reflection of things common to many holidays, not all, but not necessarily representative of the historical and true meaning of Christmas.

  3. Kathy December 7, 2012 at 8:11 pm - Reply

    I love all of these ideas. Are those real candy canes in the shaving creme or plastic ones. Is the liquid just colored water?

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. December 7, 2012 at 9:34 pm - Reply

      They are not real candy canes in the shave cream, although my student might have enjoyed that – we used plastic ones. The color is liquid water color but I recommend tempera paint instead.

  4. Lindsay December 8, 2012 at 1:01 am - Reply

    Hi I love your post! I’ve been doing similar things in my home daycare and still want to plan a fun day of holiday play. I am totally going to do the candy cane sensory painting! Thought you might like to see the pretend play we are doing 🙂

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. December 8, 2012 at 1:26 am - Reply

      I think you are AMAZING! I liked your page and have to go back and flip through all those amazing photos. Perhaps you wouldn’t mind me sharing one or more to my page sometime?

      • Lindsay December 9, 2012 at 7:57 pm

        Thank you! Of course I will 🙂

  5. sue December 8, 2012 at 5:59 pm - Reply

    I love your ideas! Brings me back to the years I taught preschool! After teaching k-3 for the past 20 years, I am excited to go back to the preschool days! Blogs like this get me so excited to return! Your students look totally engaged!

  6. Julie Benson December 13, 2012 at 11:07 am - Reply

    I love the idea of candy canes and shaving cream! Can’t wait to try it with my class!

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