Christmas is probably my favourite time of year for classes with my little ones. It’s so magical with young children, and as the day approaches their growing excitement is contagious!
Here, I’ve put together a selection of my favourite Christmas activities for classes with preschool and early primary age kids. I’ve included games, crafts, books, songs and printables that I’ve tried and tested with small groups, although you can adapt many of the ideas for larger classes.
As an ESL teacher, most of the activities I suggest are focused on teaching and practising Christmas related vocabulary, but there’s no reason you can’t use them in classes with native English-speaking preschool kids as well.
Personally, I keep my Christmas activities secular and focus on the Santa side of things. For 3-5 year olds I choose to teach 4 to 6 key vocabulary words, for 6 – 8 year olds I work with about 8 – 10 key words.
I hope you have fun with these ideas. Try them out with your own groups and feel free to share your own ideas in the comments!
This is a simple way to introduce some Christmas vocabulary. Put some flashcards in a small sack or a Christmas stocking. Have the children sit in a circle, show them the sack and ask them if they can guess what’s inside. Pull out a card, say the word, and have them pass the card around the circle, repeating the word as they do so.
Once you have taught the words, put the cards back in the sack and play some Christmas music. Have the children pass the sack around the circle. When the music stops, the child holding the sack pulls out a card and says the word. If they can name it, they can keep the card. For 3-5 year olds, help them remember the word if necessary so they always get to keep the card!
You can download our lovely FREE CHRISTMAS FLASHCARDS here!
Young kids LOVE any kind of treasure hunt! In keeping with the Elf on the Shelf tradition, I made this cute Christmas Elf out of felt for my little students to find. If you don’t have an elf, you could use a picture of one instead.
Each lesson in December I hide the elf somewhere different in the room and invite the children to look for him. You can join them in the hunt, asking questions, for example “Where’s the elf? Is he under the table? No, he isn’t! Is he behind the door? Yes, here he is!” It’s a fun way to practise prepositions of place!
Santa, where are you?
Have the children sit in a circle. Place some Christmas flashcards face down in the middle. Make sure to include a Santa card. Encourage the children to say altogether “Santa! Where are you?” Ask one child to turn over a card. Ask “Is it Santa?” Encourage the child to say “Yes, it is!” or “No, it isn’t!” If it isn’t, chant together again “Santa! Where are you?” and ask the next child to turn over a card. Continue around the circle until Santa is found.
Put a number of presents wrapped in different colours in a sack or stocking. I used some empty match boxes wrapped them in tissue paper. Show the children the sack and ask them to guess what’s inside. Pull out a present and say “Ho!Ho!Ho! Look! A red present!” Place it where children can see it. Do the same for the rest of the presents, asking the children to name the colours each time. Then put all the presents back in sack, and take them out again one by one - but leave one inside. The children must guess which colour present is missing! Repeat as many times as you like.
Choose some Christmas character flashcards, eg. Santa, reindeer, snowman. Have the children sit in a circle and play some Christmas music. They pass one of the flashcards round the circle (eg the Santa card). When you stop the music, the child who has the card says “Happy Christmas, Santa!” You can use one character, or change characters after a couple of rounds. Repeat, so all the children have a chance to say “Happy Christmas!”
An alternative version of this game is to use two different coloured presents. Put on the music, and the children pass the presents round circle. When the music stops, the children holding the presents exchange them, saying “Happy Christmas, (name)!” Continue so all kids have had a turn.
Take several common small gift items (eg. a small ball, a soft toy, a doll, a toy car, a book, socks, etc) and a flashcard depicting each item. Before class, wrap the items up and put them in your sack or stocking.
Show the children the flashcards and teach the vocabulary if necessary. Place the flashcards where the children can see them. Then show them the sack and take out a present, saying “Look! A present! What is it?”. Pass it around the circle. The children must feel it and guess what it is. Point to the flashcards and ask the children which one they think it is (“Is it a doll?” Is it a ball?” etc), then place the present next to that card. Do the same for the rest of the presents. At the end, unwrap each present to see if they are correct!
For older children, use word cards instead of picture flashcards. You could even just have them try to guess the items without any flashcards to help them! A word of note: if you want the children to unwrap the presents at the end make sure you have one item for each child. If you have more kids than presents, you may want to unwrap them yourself to avoid arguments!
This is a variation of the game “Secret Sheep”. Space the children out around the room and have them curl up with their heads in their arms. Walk around and touch one child on the arm. That child must say “Ho, ho, ho!”. The other children must guess who the secret Santa is!
Pin the Ornaments on the Tree
This is something you can put up in class and play as a time filler activity. The traditional game is to blindfold a child and have them stick a particular item in the correct place on the poster (the classic is “Pin the Tail on the Donkey”). In this Christmas version, I made a simple Christmas tree from green triangles that I pasted on a large piece of card stock. I cut out a number of large circles from coloured card and a yellow star, and laminated them.
To play the traditional version, place a blob of blu-tack on the back of each ornament. In turn, the children put on the blindfold and try to place a bauble or the star on the tree. Very young kids may not like wearing a blindfold so you can try playing this version, which also adds more opportunity for practising vocabulary: put the ornaments in a sack or stocking and have each child in turn pick one out. Ask them to tell you the colour and then have them stick it on the tree.
There are so many lovely crafts you can do for Christmas with your kids! Here are a few of my favourites to do with small groups in class. I’ve tried and tested these crafts with my kids and indicate how appropriate they are for different ages.
Easy Christmas Wreath
Easy Christmas Tree
Peekaboo Santa in the Chimney
Toilet Roll Christmas Decorations
Curly Bearded Santa
Very cute and appropriate for 3-5 year olds, although 3 year olds will probably need help cutting some of the pieces, especially the circles. See the tutorial here. You need to scroll down the page to see the instructions for the Santa craft. (This is an external link. If it no longer works, please let us know at [email protected])
Young kids can learn how to draw a lovely Christmas scene with Flip and Penny Pencil in our fun guided drawing video! You can show just one part of the video (either the snowman or the Christmas tree) and make the finished pictures into Christmas cards that children can take home. Or do the whole video and have them make a picture for the wall. This activity is appropriate for 4 – 6 year olds and is great for familiarizing young children with the language as they follow the instructions for the drawing.
We have some free Christmas Art Frames and Tracing Sheets here that you can use with the video.
These were drawn by Ciro, aged 4!
Some of my favourites for 3 - 7 year olds!
Dear Santa by Rod Campbell
Based on the same concept as the ever popular Dear Zoo, this is a cute lift-the-flap book to get kids guessing what each present might be. Great for reviewing toys vocabulary and description adjectives.
The Hungry Caterpillar’s Christmas 123 by Eric Carle
This is just a very simple, straightforward counting book that will allow you to review numbers 1-10 and Christmas vocabulary with your kids.
Maisy’s Christmas Tree by Lucy Cousins
This is a short, cute book showing how Maisy and her friends decorate their Christmas tree step by step.
Lulu’s Christmas – Camile Reid
Another lovely lift-the flap book showing how Lulu prepares for Christmas. Good for reviewing key Christmas vocabulary (snowman, presents, stockings, tree, decorations, etc.)
Counting Christmas – Karen Katz
Lovely illustrations in this Christmas counting book. The counting is in reverse – so it goes from ten to one. As the illustrations are quite busy, children have to look well to count all the items.
If you need some time-fillers or no-mess Christmas activities, here’s a selection of free Christmas themed printables for you.
Elf on the Shelf Hide & Seek Printable
Christmas Puzzle Pack
Christmas Frames and Tracing Sheets
FROM OUR STORE
Santa’s Sack is a super fun, 3-in-1 matching game where you decide what to practise with your kids; colours, counting, or additions and subtractions. You can even play it with groups of mixed ages and levels! Kids will love being Santa’s Little Helpers and putting the presents in his sack, and I’ve also included a cute Elf Hat they can make.
This printable matching and memory game is great for practising toys vocabulary, observation and reading skills, or even to encourage giving and sharing! It includes two levels of difficulty, so you can choose according to the age and level of your kids.
PRESENTS! DIY Lift the Flap Book
Your young learners can practise toys vocabulary and writing skills with this easy to construct, printable lift-the-flap matching book!