10 Simple Christmas Invitation to Play Ideas for Toddlers & Preschoolers

If you’re looking for simple Christmas invitation to play ideas for toddlers and preschoolers, then you’re in the right place! Featured here are 10, easy to set up activities, that will help your child (and you) get into the Christmas spirit.

Christmas is an exciting time, especially for young children but it can also be stressful for us as parents when we have a million things on our plates. The majority of these activities take less than 5 minutes to set up and most can be used more than once.

Not only are these activities engaging and fun, but they also have many education benefits too. Read on to find out more about each activity and how it helps your child’s development.

5 Benefits of the Christmas Invitations to Play

All play invitations have many benefits, but it can feel off putting when the play is messy! As well as being a great way to make connections to the world around them, here are some more reasons why you should try these play ideas for Winter

  1. Gives children the freedom to explore new materials which in turn fosters curiosity and imagination. There is no right or wrong outcome when it comes to sensory play.
  2. Helps to develop fine motor skills and hand strength. This is crucial for learning to write later on down the line
  3. Encourages communication and language development. Play invitations can be a  social activity, particularly if you invite friends to join in!
  4. Helps to develop spatial awareness as children begin to understand the environment around them via exploration of materials.
  5. Boosts brain development which in turn helps ability to problem solve. Sensory play is a great introduction to STEAM learning.

Age Recommendations

All of Christmas invitations to play  are suitable for children aged from 3 onwards and are intended to be done under supervision. If your child is at the stage where they put items into their mouths avoid small object that might pose a choking hazard – pompoms and small beads, for example.

10 Christmas Invitation to Play Ideas

All of the ideas featured should simply be used as inspiration for your own play at home. You don’t need to use the exact same resources as I did, but here are some core materials that we use for play all year round.

  • A tray – the IKEA Flisat table or a tuff spot tray are great purchase options for sensory play
  • wooden serving platter from Amazon
  • Learning resources fine motor set
  • pipettes
  • wooden scoops and tongs
  • small craft resources – e.g. buttons, beads and pompoms

Christmas Invitation to Play Idea 1: Create a Christmas tree with loose parts

If you have a set of magnetic tiles, invite your child to create a Christmas tree. Let them think about the shapes that would work best and provide some small loose parts and Christmas decorations.

Try to include some magnetic items (like jingle bells), to add a STEAM based element to play.

Quick tip: don’t give the same away!

Whilst it’s tempting to simple say – ‘use triangle to make the tree’. Allow your child the opportunity to explore for themselves too.

If they are completely stuck, sit by their side and start creating a tree yourself. They might copy you – or simply go off in their own direction. That is also okay.

a 5 year old girl has made a red christmas tree from red magnetic triangles, she is adding jingle bells to decorate the tree



Christmas Invitation to Play Idea 2: Explore Decorations

We all know that children love to explore the Christmas tree and decorations. One of the ways you can avoid getting the tree pulled down is to provide a small selection of Christmas ornaments for them to explore.

When you add in mirrors to this exploration, they – quite literally – add a new dimension to the play invitation.

We used the perspex mirrors from IKEA 

two young children explore christmas decorations by placing them on a mirror


Christmas Invitation to Play Idea 3: Washi Tape

Make a basic triangle shape from washi tape, then invite your toddler or preschooler to decorate it. You can use loose parts from your toy collection, Christmas decorations or recycling to make this work.

a reggio christmas tree made with washi tape and christmas decorations

Christmas Invitation to Play Idea 4: Tuff Spot Tray

For this invitation to play, I drew a large Christmas tree onto a tuff spot tray by using a paint stick. Then I simply provided a selection of Christmas decorations and loose parts so that my children could decorate it.

a simple christmas invitation to play on a tuff spot tray. A green tree has been painted onto the tray with a green paint stick. It is being decorated by a 4 year old girl who is using loose parts and tree decorations


Christmas Invitation to Play Idea 5: Sensory Play with real snow

Over the Winter  months, I often leave an empty IKEA  Trofast tray outside in the garden when snow is predicted.

Once we have a full tray of snow, I add a selection of liquid food colouring into the Flisat table so the children can explore colour mixing.


a christmas invitation to play with real snow - a 5 year old girl adds liquid food dye to a tray of real snow


Christmas Invitation to Play Idea 6: Polar Express Sensory Bin

Polar Express is a classic Christmas story which makes it ideal for bookish play too. For this Christmas Invitation to play, we simply added some expired chocolate pops to a Flisat table along with scoops and cups.

Take a look at our Hot Chocolate playdough recipe and Hot Chocolate Sensory Bin blog post for variations on this activity.

an overhead photograph of a Polar Express themed sensory bin


Christmas Invitation to Play Idea 7: Starbucks ‘Red Cups’ Sensory Bin

If you’re a Starbucks fan, Christmas time is also synonymous with red cups. Whilst we try our best to take along our Keep Cups, sometimes we end up with a takeaway coffee cup or two! When this happens, we simply wash out the cups and reuse them for play!

To make the bubble foam:

This is so simple to make and looks really pretty too! All you need is:

  • 2 tbsp of dishsoap
  • 2/3 cup of water
  • splash of food colouring

We made this batch in a food processor, but whisking by hand works just as well.

a blonde boy scoops water that has been dyed red into a Starbucks red cup.


Christmas Invitation to Play Idea 8: Christmas Themed Play Dough Box

Every season, we tend to make at least one batch of homemade playdough. Featured below is vanilla and cinnamon playdough that smelt absolutely divine!

Storing playdough in an IKEA Glis box is also a great way to set up an easy invitation to play that can be brought out repeatedly.

Take a look at our basic playdough recipe here. 

An IKEA Glis box has been used to store vanilla and cinnamon scented playdough. Also included are some pine leaves, dried orange and pinecones


Christmas Invitation to Play Idea 9: Letters to Santa

This really simple Christmas Invitation to play  is great for children who are just starting to learn how to write. ‘Letters to Santa’ will help your child to make marks on the paper, then use stickers and stampers to personalise it.

At this stage, don’t worry about the writing – it’s very likely there will just be a few scribbles on the paper! The point is, your child will start to make connections between what their hand is doing and what happens on the paper.

You can read more about pre-writing skills here.

christmas invitation to play. Pieces of cardboard have been cut up to make envelopes. Stickers, pens and stamps have been provided to decorate the envelope


Christmas Invitation to Play Idea 10: Hot Chocolate Playdough Box

Chocolate playdough is one of our favourite playdough options for the winter months. Not only does it smell gorgeous, but it really evokes the rich scents of Christmas-time hot chocolate.

Find out how to make it here.


hot chocolate playdough invitation displayed in an IKEA Glis box


More Christmas & Winter Play Ideas

How to Make Hot Chocolate Play Dough

Winter Mud Kitchen: 20 Simple Ideas 

Cranberry and Orange Sensory Bin

How to Make Cranberry Playdough

Simple Hot Chocolate Sensory Bin 

More Sensory Play Activities

If you enjoyed this blog post on how to create simple Christmas Play Invitations , you might also enjoy some of our other sensory play ideas too:

20 Simple Toddler Play Ideas for the IKEA Flisat Table 

5 Benefits of Sensory Play + How to Get Started 

10 sensory play ideas for Autumn 

Sunflower Sensory Play

How to make Lavender sensory rice 

How to make apple playdough + 15 ideas to try 

How to make cranberry and orange playdough

Simple Hot Chocolate Sensory Bin 

Orange and Cranberry playdough 

Do you need more help with sensory play?

Sensory play is more than just the activity itself. If you are worried about starting sensory play (or you hate it), I have just the course for you!

Head on over to my membership, ‘How I drink my Coffee Hot’, to access the mini course ‘Starting Sensory Play’.

Topics covered include:

  • The importance of Sensory Play
  • How to plan and prepare for sensory play
  • Do you need to use food in sensory play?
  • Essential sensory play resources
  • Simple Sensory play activities + 80 page guide


Sian Thomas
an image of This Playful Home founder, Sian Thomas. The photo includes a photo of her daughter when she was around 18 months old

I’m Siân (rhymes with yarn), a play advocate, proud parent to three, and former teacher. My mission is to infuse more joy and less overwhelm into the lives of parents. Discover play-based activities with me that not only make learning FUN but also forge deep connections with your young learners, creating memories to cherish forever.