Many children find December challenging to navigate. As we get into the final weeks of the school year, the routine falls out of step, meals occur at different times, bedtimes are irregular, and children become tired and emotional.
To help with this, we’ve put together this Sensory advent calendar full of great sensory activities to help calm and regulate your child’s emotions.
DAY 1: FROZEN POM POM SENSORY BIN
What a super fun and easy way of incorporating Christmas craft into a sensory bin!
- Clear Plastic Container (large)
- Squeeze Bottle
- Place pom-poms in a plastic container that will fit in your freezer.
- Fill the container up with water until most (not all) of the pom poms are submerged.
- Place in freezer for 20-30 minutes.
- Once frozen, place the container on a towel as it’s playtime!
- Fill up a squeeze bottle with warm water to try and melt the frozen water.
- Use tweezers and any other household items/ toys to assist in the “free the pom-pom” process!
DAY 2: LETTER TO SANTA
It’s time to write the annual letter to Santa! As this is a handwriting task, it’ll be addressing a variety of skills including letter formations, line orientation, spacing between words, letter size, pencil pressure and the desired tripod pencil grip when writing!
Make it fun and creative by getting the kids to draw some images to accompany the letter, working on their pencil control and hand endurance.
DAY 3: REINDEER KICKS
Get down on your hands and knees. Keeping your core tight, back straight and face down, kick back with one leg at a time like a reindeer!
Reindeer Kicks is an excellent activity in activating your core muscles, encouraging postural stability and the motor planning process of coordinating various movements at once.
DAY 4: iSPY CHRISTMAS EDITION
Work on visual scanning and other visual perceptual skills like figure ground by playing a Christmas version of “iSpy”. Use your Christmas tree as a decoration station and ask your child to locate a specific coloured ornament as they visually scan the tree.
DAY 5: BRAIN BREAKS
It’s time to get the kids moving! Here are some Christmas Brain Breaks and Gross Motor Ideas to get the kids moving during the holiday period.
Leap around the room as fast as you can for 30 seconds.
Balance on one leg for 10 seconds. Swap.
Santa Delivering Presents
Tip-toe as quietly as possible around the room for 30 seconds.
Hop side to side, forward/backward and jump around the room.
Squat and hold for 10 seconds.
DAY 6: ORNAMENT RACES
You might want to choose your least delicate ornaments for this activity!
Get the kids laying on their stomach, activating their core muscles and opening up the diaphragm to encourage long deep breaths. Blowing through a straw, see who can blow their way to the finish line the fastest!
DAY 7: SANTA DRAWING
Drawing on a sidewalk or driveway is a great way to encourage increased strength of the hands. You can use a box of regular chalkboard chalk, or you can use a few jumbo sidewalk chalk pieces. The key with the jumbo pieces of chalk is to get them smaller for the hands to develop the skills they need for holding a pencil and writing.
Get creative and draw your best version of Santa!
DAY 8: GEOMETRIC CHRISTMAS TREE
Using various shapes and sizes, draw a Christmas tree out of basic geometric shapes and get your little one to copy!
By doing so, it encourages effective communication between visual and motor systems (visual-motor integration) and is a fundamental skill in learning how to handwrite.
Incorporate straight and diagonal lines, where stopping at corners and changing direction is required. Feel free also to incorporate some patterns into the Christmas tree to develop pencil control and fluidity when writing.
DAY 9: PEPPERMINT CANDY CANE SCENTED PLAY-DOUGH
Who doesn’t like making play-dough! The soft and squishy dough provides a tactile sensory challenge with proprioceptive sensory feedback. The bonus is the strengthening of the arches of the hands and precision of grasp.
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 cup of salt
- 2 tsp cream of tartar
- 2 tbsp vegetable oil
- 1 tbsp mint/peppermint extract
- 2 cups water
- Broken candy cane pieces (optional)
- Red or green food colouring (optional)
- Mix all the dry ingredients well in a pot.
- Add the extract to the oil and then add along with the water to the dry ingredients and mix well.
- Cook over medium heat, stirring until the dough is sticky but not wet.
- Remove the dough to a cutting board and let it cool for a minute or two.
- Knead dough until smooth and add in any desired food colouring.
- Store in an airtight plastic bag or container.
DAY 10: CHRISTMAS WREATH
It’s time to make a beautiful Christmas ornament for the front door, and all you’ll need is a paper plate, green paper, red pom-poms and string! Follow the few simple steps below to get making:
- Cut the centre of the paper plate out, leaving only the rims left.
- Cut a 30cm length of string and tie a knot around the paper plate rim (hanging like an ornament) and glue down to secure.
- Using a ruler, rule lines down the green paper; this will work on hand dominance and bilateral coordination skills.
- Cut the green paper strips out.
- Using your pincer grip fingers, scrunch the green paper into balls and glue around the rim of the paper plate.
- Decorate by adding pom poms and anything else you desire!
DAY 11: HANDPRINT CHRISTMAS TREE
Time to get those paints out! Activate your child’s sensory system of touch by creating a Christmas tree out of handprints. Place their hands in green paint, and start with one handprint at the top of the tree, making your way down doubling each time until you reach the bottom.
DAY 12: SNOWBALL FIGHT!
You can either make fake snow to incorporate a sensory element into the activity or scrunch up paper to work those intrinsic muscles of the hand.
Throwing at a target is a great hand-eye coordination activity. By incorporating snowballs, it requires bilateral hand coordination and proprioceptive information to determine how much pressure is needed.
DAY 13: SANTA’S WORKSHOP
Encourage proprioceptive input by showing your kids how to build a Santa’s workshop with couch cushions and pillows. Lifting plump cushions is a great, heavy work activity.
Once done, kids can calm down in their couch cushion workshop under blankets and pillows. Add a few toys and pretend hammers from a toy toolset for pretend-play and problem-solving in this Santa’s workshop activity.
DAY 14: SANTA’S REINDEERS
Another great handwriting activity!
Get your kiddos to write as many of Santa’s reindeer names they can remember. You can also turn this into a memory recall game where you name the Reindeer aloud and see if they can guess them all!
For our younger kids, get them writing the first letter of the reindeer’s name to encourage their pencil control and ability in learning the alphabet.
DAY 15: CHRISTMAS COOKIES
Who knew cooking with kids could be so much fun! Cooking is an excellent way to allow kids to explore their senses, specifically their olfactory sense, otherwise known as smell. Get them smelling each ingredient and vocalising whether it smells salty, spicy, sweet and sour etc.
Here’s a yummy recipe to follow!
- 150g unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 3/4 cup caster sugar
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 free-range egg
- 2 cups plain flour
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1 free-range egg white
- 1/2 tsp lemon juice
- 1 1/2 cups pure icing sugar, sifted
- Using a mixer, beat butter, sugar and vanilla until pale and creamy. Add egg, beating until combined. Sift flour, baking powder and salt over butter mixture, then stir to combine. Shape dough into a disc, wrap in baking paper and refrigerate for 15 minutes to rest.
- Meanwhile, preheat oven to 190°c/170°c fan-forced. Line 2 baking trays with baking paper.
- Roll dough out between 2 sheets of baking paper until 5mm thick. Using assorted Christmas cookie cutters (about 5 x 8cm), cut shapes from dough, re-rolling scraps and cutting shapes. Place 4cm apart on trays, then bake, swapping trays halfway through cooking, for 12 minutes or until lightly golden. Stand on trays for 10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.
- Meanwhile, to make the royal icing, lightly whisk egg white and lemon juice in a bowl. Gradually add icing sugar, whisking until smooth and combined. Spoon mixture into a piping bag fitted with a 2mm plain nozzle. Using a picture as a guide, decorate cookies with icing. Stand for 30 minutes to set, then serve.
DAY 16: CHRISTMAS YOGA
It’s time to get those bodies moving as we’re over halfway to go! Whilst playing meditation music in the background to ensure an optimal state of arousal and regulation, get your kids to complete the following 5 Christmas poses:
Stand on one leg, bend your knee, place the sole of your foot on your inner thigh, and balance. Switch sides and repeat the balance on the other leg.
Lay flat on your back. Raise your arms above your head while spreading your legs. Bring your arms back to your side while closing your legs.
Sit tall on your bottom with your legs crossed. Place your hands on your stomach. Breathe in and feel your stomach rise. Breathe out and feel stomach go in.
Spread your arms and legs out, shoulder-width apart and like a star. Step back in with feet together and arms by your side. Repeat.
Sit tall with your back straight and your legs out in front of you. Place your hands at your side like you are holding on to the sleigh. Rock back and forth like you are flying on Santa’s sleigh!
DAY 17: DANCE PARTY
Play all your favourite Christmas carols and songs to get into the festive spirit! Be sure to swing, twirl, jump, and spin to encourage that vestibular input.
DAY 18: CHRISTMAS PRESENT WRAPPING
Wrapping presents is a powerhouse of developmental activities: measuring paper, cutting paper with scissors, folding paper, tearing and cutting tape, sticking tape along edges of the paper. Practice motor planning, problem-solving, and executive functioning by crossing an item from your to-do list and wrapping some presents with the kids!
DAY 19: CHRISTMAS BLANKET BURRITO
Wrap your child up tightly in a blanket whilst reading Christmas stories. This is an excellent activity for your child to receive ongoing proprioceptive input as it is calming and regulating for the body.
DAY 20: SAND ANGEL
Weather permitted for this one!! Enjoy a family fun day out at the beach to activate all those senses in our bodies. What better way than celebrating Christmas in Australia than making a snow angel out of sand!
DAY 21: CHRISTMAS ELF
Elevate those visual-motor integration skills by getting your children to draw themselves as an elf! Use a relatively simple template of an elf’s body for them to copy, whilst also incorporating their own flare to decorate.
DAY 22: SANTA SAYS
Work on gross motor skills by playing “Santa Says”. Just like the game Simon Says, kids can copy and listen to directions and motor plan, actions. Be sure to incorporate bilateral coordination and crossing midline for a brain break activity.
DAY 23: LEGO TREE
It’s time to get those fingers moving! Continue developing those visual perceptual skills by getting your kids to recreate your Christmas tree out of lego blocks. To make the task more challenging, extend this task to making Santa Clause out of lego!
DAY 24: GINGERBREAD MAN
One more sleep until Christmas! It’s time to conclude the Christmas festivities by decorating your own gingerbread man. Get your child to either draw or trace the body of a gingerbread man and use a variety of fine motor skills to decorate. You could use pom-poms, buttons, play-dough, glitter glue, crepe paper, and so much more!
DAY 25: BEAR HUGS!
Celebrate Christmas Day with big Christmas bear hugs with family and friends. Hugs are great for proprioceptive input to the body.