children around the tree

How to Make Christmas Magical for Toddlers

Activities and Top Tips for a Toddler-Friendly Christmas

Christmas is a magical time, for adults and kids alike. The contagious festive spirit, sparkly lights, beautiful markets and much-needed break from work make it the perfect season to spend time with the little ones and family.

For toddlers, it’s a really exciting time as it’s one of their first Christmases which means new experiences with decorating the tree, trying Christmas foods and experiencing the excitement of Santa bringing toys and presents.

If you’re looking for some ideas on how to make this Christmas, especially special for your little ones, we’ve compiled a list of our top tips, some ideas for activities and how to keep everything moving smoothly on the big day.

How Can I Make Christmas Magical for My Toddler?

Creating a festive atmosphere in your home is a great way to get your toddler excited about the holiday season. The most obvious way to do this is through decorating, make sure you get your child involved in the decor process – lights are always a hit with young kids since they’re so sparkly and exciting. Plus, the anticipation of turning them on when it gets dark is really exciting for younger kids. Twinkling lights or ones that gently change colours can be especially engaging, and make it super magical.

To build up the festive spirit early, buying (or making!) an advent calendar is perfect for a nice and to build up anticipation for the big day. It’s a super simple way to get children excited and also mentally prepared for the day, by telling them what they can expect and they won’t be super overwhelmed when there are tons of people around.

Consider creating your family’s own Christmas rituals – stuff like baking cookies together, going present shopping together or even using Christmas-y bubble bath during December! Elf-on-the-shelf is another really popular activity which toddlers love – it’s the perfect way to build up the magical mystery of Christmas. If you’re stuck for ideas for your mischievous elf, here are some hilarious ideas that will be sure to excite the kids.

Image credit: National Trust Images – Chris Lacey

What is the Most Popular Christmas Activity?

There are tons of Christmas-related activities for toddlers to engage with, but it completely depends on your child’s disposition what will go down well: are they likely to want to sit and do some drawing? Make Christmas cards? Or are they more active, wanting to get up and maybe have a splash in the bath with some fake snow or make Santa-bubble beards?

Whatever suits them, we have some ideas.

For the creatives:
Handprint Christmas Cards

christmas hand print

Image Credit: Charlotte at DoingTheMumThing

Get some paint, paper, wet wipes and your toddler’s hand and encourage your child to get a little messy. Dip their hand on a plate of paint or use a paintbrush to dab it on, then help them ‘stamp’ it onto a card or some paper. Then decorate together! It’s the perfect gift for grandparents and family.

For the active ones:

Magical Lights

Get your tot out and about by taking them on the hunt in your local neighbourhood or down the high street and hunt for sparkly lights, Christmas trees in windows or anything else Christmas-y themed.

Take pictures of the kids in front of the lights and ask them to look for different colours or count how many trees they see. If you have older kids, bring them along too and make it a competition – whoever spots the most Christmas trees wins.

Scavenger Hunt

For a run around your local park (with a quick whirl in the playground), take the kids out to hunt to collect leaves, berries, acorns and pine cones. These can be used as decorations, or put in a sensory Christmas tub!

sensory christmas tub

Image Credit: LuluSensoryCreations on Etsy

For the chatterboxes:

Carol singing

Get your little one in the festive-musical spirit by blasting some kids-bop Christmas music or just some old classics. It’s a great way to get them dancing, active and learning all the classics early and eventually start singing/yelling along. Some of our favourite Christmas songs for toddlers are here (all on YouTube).

What are Some Good Christmas-Themed Sensory Activities?

Engaging all of your toddler’s senses is a great way to make Christmas even more magical.

Out and About

When shopping, take them out to pick a cute Christmas jumper. They have tons of amazing ones with pom-pom Rudolf noses or sequined snow, so get them involved when choosing an outfit, letting them feel the different materials.

Christmas time can be a bit of a sensory overload in terms of scents – take them to a Christmas market to smell the pine needles, and cinnamon treats. If a Christmas market feels a bit ambitious, your local supermarket will have plenty of new candles on display perfect for sniffing.

At Home

Make tree decorating a group activity; hand toddlers non-breakable ornaments and let them feel the glittery or soft ones, and ask them for help to put them on the tree. It’ll be a ton of fun for them to see the decorations they placed afterwards. Plus, it’s likely that they’ll poke the tree a few times, so will have to be helping you put fallen baubles up for days to come.

children around the tree

Image Credit: iStockPhoto

Get them to bake cookies with you in the kitchen, letting them try choc chips and new flavours like gingerbread. Let them get messy by helping you cut out the cookies AKA stick their fingers into cookie dough and squish it a bit. All kids (and adults) will love the end result of cookies, so well worth the effort.

How Do I Stop My Toddler From Being Overwhelmed at Christmas?

The hustle and bustle of the holiday season can be overwhelming for toddlers (and adults alike!) so it’s important to ensure they’re comfortable and at ease with activities.

Some of our top tips are:

  • Manage sensory overload by limiting loud noises or providing quiet spaces away from the chaos.
  • Try and stick to regular routines, with mealtimes, snack times and, if applicable, naps. Try and avoid a hangry or sleepy toddler tantrum.
  • If they have older siblings, the rush of Christmas Eve can be contagious to the little ones, so take them for a drive or try and settle them earlier because it’s likely they’ll try and stay up due to all the excitement.
  • Have regular check-ins – nip any meltdowns in the bud before they happen by taking your child out for a bit of fresh air or a cuddle if needed.
  • Explain what will happen on the day, a good time to do this is when opening your advent calendar – something like “12 more days til Christmas! On the day we’ll be going to grandma’s and cousin Y will be there. There’ll also be presents, so we’ll have lots of time to play and share nicely.”
  • If there are loads of presents to open, don’t feel like they must open them all in one go. Maybe spread them out over the course of a few days to avoid them becoming overwhelmed or bored.
  • Make sure you take a breather! Take the day as it comes. It doesn’t have to be picture-perfect, and it’s the moments you least expect that will make the best memories.

In short…

There are tons you can do at Christmas to make it especially fun for your tiny toddlers. But remember, more than anything, your toddlers are excited to just be spending time with you.

They’ll love the ripping open wrapping paper and the novelty of new toys, but all the moments you spend with them with Christmas baking, visiting Santa or shopping for snuggly jumpers will be magical. Do your best to create a fun festive atmosphere if you feel like it, manage the sensory overload on the big day and provide them with the chance to decompress.

But, above all, take the time to enjoy this festive season with your child. Don’t worry about making it perfect, just enjoy the Christmas magic.

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