readilearn: 6 Fine motor Christmas activities for the classroom and home

  • Published on December 8, 2017


6 fine motor Christmas activities

In this post, I welcome early childhood educator Johanna Clark to the blog with ideas for developing fine motor skills in fun Christmas activities that are suitable for both the classroom and home.

These activities supplement existing readilearn Christmas activities and suggestions that can be provided to parents to keep children engaged in reading, writing and mathematical thinking over the holidays.

Johanna Clark is an early childhood educator, with a background in early primary teaching. She is passionate about developing children’s early literacy and fine-motor skills in the years before formal schooling begins to build a solid foundation for learning. She believes in creating a classroom that children love coming to every day, and that helps all children to succeed.

In her spare time, she can be found reading or crocheting (or both!). She also combines her teaching and creativity by designing handmade, educational toys for her small business and Etsy shop, ‘Jo and Co. Design’. She specialises in crochet dolls and felt travel games.

She has two small children who love testing out her new toy designs and raiding her picture book collection!

Over to you Johanna.

Whether December in your classroom means the end of the school year or the end of the calendar year, it’s always fun to work some Christmas-themed activities into the schedule. It’s a great way to discuss students’ own experiences and expose them to different ways of celebrating, both around the world and in their own community.

Fine motor skills are so important to develop, in pre-school settings, the first 3 years of schooling and beyond! They allow children to build their hand-eye coordination, concentration and finger/hand/arm muscles. All of these skills are needed for pencil grip, using scissors and other general life skills such as buttoning, zipping and using cutlery.

So why not combine fine-motor skills and Christmas?

Following are some ideas for Christmas themed fine motor activities that can be used both in the early years classroom and at home. Most are suitable for small groups or independent work and some can even be used to decorate your classroom and share the festive spirit!

Star and dot sticker Christmas trees

handmade sticker tree

Stickers are great for developing fine motor skills. Teachers often have dot and star stickers on hand or they can be easily found while you’re doing your regular grocery shopping from bargain shops, supermarkets, newsagents etc. When you combine them with a Christmas tree template, they make a great Christmas activity that can be used in rotations, individually or as a whole class.

You will need:

  • Coloured dot or star stickers (or both!)
  • Christmas tree template

What to do:

This activity needs little explanation to the students and little supervision, making it a great independent task or small group rotation. You can use a plain tree template or one with stars or spots printed on it. Younger students (kindy/prep) can place their stickers on the correct shape, focusing on accuracy. Older students could draw their own lines across the tree as streamers, then place the stickers along the lines, perhaps even linking to maths by forming patterns.

Pipe cleaner candy canes

handmade candy canes

Twisting pipe cleaners is another fun, sensory way to develop fine motor skills. Pipe cleaners are often found in classrooms so this activity can be prepared at the last minute, for fast finishers or if a parent helper cancels. Christmas coloured pipe cleaners can often be ordered through education suppliers or regular multi-colour packs can be found at bargain or craft shops.

You will need:

  • 2 pipe cleaners per child per candy cane – red & white, green & white or red & green combinations. (The pipe cleaners can be pre-cut in half to make smaller candy canes make them go further but might be more suited towards the older students.)

What to do:

Students place the pipe cleaners next to each other and twist together. Younger students may need the first twist to be done to start them off. Once they have the desired pattern, students can shape the pipe cleaners into a candy cane, wreath or other shape! Students may be able to make several candy canes if time allows, practising and refining their skills.

Felt Christmas trees

handmade felt tree

Decorating a felt Christmas tree always proves to be a popular game. They do require pre-making or pre-purchasing but they can be used over and over again and provide so much entertainment! Felt trees can be made as large wall hangings, or A4 individual trees or anywhere in between.

You will need:

  • Green felt cut into large or small Christmas tree shapes (Note: In Australia, large rectangle sheets can be found at Daiso, small A4 sheets can be found in bargain and craft shops.)
  • Coloured felt cut into small or large decorations (such as stars, baubles, gingerbread people, candy canes etc) or standard shapes.
  • A4 version only – stiffened felt sheet for backing the tree (Note: In Australia, packs of 10 can be found at Kmart.)
  • Large version only – use reusable adhesive putty, or ribbon and removable hook, for hanging on the wall or window.

What to do:

Students can decorate the tree creatively by placing and patting the decorations wherever they like. They can be encouraged to create patterns or sort the decorations by colour or shape. This game is full of open-ended opportunities. Large trees could be used individually or in pairs on the wall or as a small group activity if laid on the floor. A4 trees are more suited to individuals.

Chain decorations

Making chains is an easy way to make a classroom feel festive and excellent for fine motor skills. It is an activity that can be started by a student and added to by another, either as part of rotations or at another time. Many classrooms have Link sets that can be used, making this easy to set up at short notice.

You will need:

  • Links or chains. Easy! (In Australia, classroom sets are available through education suppliers, small sets can be found at Daiso in the toy section, or coloured paper clips could be used with older students.)

What to do:

Students join the links to create a chain. This can be done individually and perhaps even joined after a period of time to decorate the classroom or a specific area. This activity can be linked to mathematical learning by asking students to focus on creating patterns or by using the chains to measure classroom or personal items (e.g. Can you make a chain that is as long as you? How many links do you need to make a chain as long as your desk? How many links long is your hand/shoe/ruler/book?)

Play dough snowmen

playdough snowman

Play dough is such a great activity for building finger and hand strength and best of all it’s fun! There are many Christmas-themed play dough variations that can be used for separate activities or as suggestions for open-ended play. One example is making play dough snowmen.

You will need:

  • Plain/white play dough (purchase or make your own).
  • Rolling pins, cutters etc are not required for snowmen, but may be provided for open-ended play.
  • Small buttons and twigs.

What to do:

Students roll different sized balls out of play dough (younger students may need this demonstrated or assistance during the activity) build them into snowmen and then decorate with buttons and twigs. Students may be extended to create accessories for their snowman, such as hats, facial features or a carrot-shaped nose, or items like trees or houses to place around them. Play dough snowmen can be linked to Maths by making different numbers of balls into snowmen bodies, giving them specific numbers of buttons, or ordering snowmen by size.

Pom pom Christmas trees

pom pom Christmas tree

Kids will love this new twist on decorating the Christmas tree and they will be practising fine-motor skills without even knowing! Using tongs or tweezers builds hand strength and gets students ready for their pencil grip… and it’s a fun novelty!

You will need:

  • Plastic milk bottle lids in different colours or with the insides painted different colours (asking students and parents to collect these for a week should build quite a collection!). These can either be pre-glued or blu-tacked onto paper/cardboard in a Christmas tree shape or provided with a template for students to assemble.
  • Large container of small/medium pom poms of different colours (sparkly ones make even better decorations!)
  • Tongs or plastic tweezers

What to do:

Students use the tweezers to pick up a pom pom and place it in the correct colour lid until the Christmas tree is fully decorated. The activity can be extended by then doing this in reverse, placing pom poms back in the original container (this is good if used in rotations so it is all ready for the next group).

Happy playing and happy Christmas!

thank you anybody

Thank you, Johanna, for sharing these fun Christmas activities that will provide children with opportunities of improving their fine motor skills. Children will be engaged, having fun, and learning. What a great combination!

Johanna can be contacted at:

Find Jo and Co. Design educational toys at:

fine motor Christmas activities

For ease of reference and printing, Johanna’s activities are also available as a free downloadable resource to readilearn registered users. Thank you, Johanna.

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    I made pipe cleaner candy canes as a girl and like that this tradition is continuing in the classroom! Wonderful guest post from Johanna here that shows learning can intermingle well with the holiday spirit 🙂 Great feature, Norah.

    Thanks, Christy. I’m pleased you enjoyed the post and that it brought back happy childhood memories for you.

    Those skills are quite necessary for many everyday functions, including handwriting. Some studies show that children are finding it more difficult now that tapping and swiping have replaced a lot of these more traditional activities. It is great to encourage children to engage in them more often. Giving children a tablet may be a quicker entertainment solution than preparing craft activities, but does not always have the best long-term results.

    So nice learning about Johanna and her teaching methods, Norah. I know young ones have an obsession with stickers. I’ve lost count how many sticker books I’ve bought my little grand niece these past few years. But I think it’s great for motor skills as they try to figure out where to stick a body part or an outfit on a paper doll. 🙂 x

    I’m pleased you enjoyed meeting, Johanna, Debby. Children do love stickers, that’s for sure. Peeling them off the backing paper takes a bit of skill for a start! I’m sure your grand niece enjoyed receiving your gifts of stickers.

Please share your thoughts. I love it when you do.

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