Holiday activity boxes for preschool play

by Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. on December 2, 2010

in Activity Boxes, Christmas, Holiday Ideas, motor skills

One of the most invaluable employees in our preschools is our curriculum coordinator. She has a huge responsibility and is amazing at her job.  One of her many jobs is to create and prepare what we call mini- “centers” or they could be referred to as “work boxes” or as “activity boxes”.

Mrs. F is given the master lesson plans and then essentially brings them to life. She usually prepares the activity work boxes two to three weeks in advance and then takes them to each school and places them on the classroom shelves.

This set of activity boxes are all focused on the holiday season. The first box contains a set of holiday cookie cutters and ink stamps.  The children can make holiday prints on paper with the materials. The children will be able to select from each of the boxes throughout the week and create or play with the items in the boxes during their free-play time in centers.

The second box contains a variety of holiday gift wrap paper for cutting practice. The children have scissors in their classroom and will be given the opportunity to cut up the gift wrap any way they choose.

The third box contains foam shaped Christmas trees and various colors of garland. The children can use the garland to decorate the trees…

Make patterns…

Or make shapes…

The fourth activity box contains holiday boxes and bows.

Each box has a number on it. The children can count out the correct number of bows and place them on the box or they can just play with the boxes and bows as they wish…

These boxes will go into the classrooms next week and stay in the classrooms for approximately one to two weeks depending on how much the children enjoy playing with them. Then a new set of activity boxes will be rotated into the classroom for some new types of play!

Then Mrs. F. will collect the boxes and put the materials that can be used again away for another day!

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1 Shannon December 2, 2010 at 11:18 pm

This is wonderful! What great ideas = ) I can’t wait to include them in what we’re already doing. And the clear shoe box to contain them is brilliant because they can easily be stored until next year as well. Thanks for sharing!

2 Deborah J. Stewart December 3, 2010 at 5:53 am

Yes – Mrs. F. uses the boxes every year – with some changes along the way:) Thank you for stopping by and leaving your comment – I appreciate it!

3 Michelle G December 2, 2010 at 11:29 pm

These are fabulous! Thank you for sharing:)

4 Deborah J. Stewart December 3, 2010 at 5:52 am

You are welcome Michelle – thank you for leaving your kind comment:)

5 Centers and Circle Time December 3, 2010 at 12:11 am

I had a similar position a few years ago, my title was Resource Coordinator. I loved organizing the materials, toys, and searching for related books and puzzles for our themes. You’re so awesome to call her “invaluable”…I hope she gets to read your pieced. Great job as usual:)

6 Deborah J. Stewart December 3, 2010 at 5:52 am

Hi Centers – I watch how hard she works and see the results in the classrooms as the teachers and children enjoy the benefits. We are all lucky to have her do what she does for our school!

7 Barbara December 3, 2010 at 8:56 am

Thank you for all of the wonderful ideas. We have been enjoying so many new activities in our preschool program. I am very interested in the activity boxes and am curious as to how many are out at a time. Do you have one per child? Thanks again for such a wonderfully helpful blog!

8 Deborah J. Stewart December 3, 2010 at 6:46 pm

Hi Barbara,
We put the activity boxes on the classroom shelves each week in a specific place each week. There is always enough material in each box for two to four children to play with. The children can choose a box – take it to a table (or the floor depending what is in the box) and play with it alone or with friends. Usually you will find two or more children at a time playing with the materials found in each box.

In some cases – the teachers just set the boxes out on the table. So some days all the boxes are out on the tables and other days – only one or two boxes are open. It all depends on what else is going on each day. We always have 4 boxes available to choose from every week in each classroom. We rotate the boxes every one to two weeks to keep them fresh and interesting.

9 Teacher Tom December 3, 2010 at 9:09 am

Wow! A curriculum coordinator! That sounds like a job we could use around here.

10 Deborah J. Stewart December 4, 2010 at 8:29 am

Sounds like something one of your parents could do!!

11 Pip December 3, 2010 at 3:55 pm

Fantsatic ideas. i sometimes do things like this on trays, but a few boxes of bits is a really good idea!! fantastic and thanks for the ideas!

12 Deborah J. Stewart December 4, 2010 at 11:18 am

You are welcome:)

13 Ayn Colsh December 3, 2010 at 8:25 pm

Wow! I just visited some schools that had someone in this position—invaluable. I’ve always had to be my own “resource co-ordinator” and there always seems to be more that I wish I could have gotten prepared. Our schedule is so fast paced that there’s never enough time. I try to make a few new things each year and make them durable enough to last for a couple of seasons. Hence, I’ve become a pack rat!

I can’t wait to try some of these ideas–thanks for sharing them, Deborah!!

14 Deborah J. Stewart December 4, 2010 at 8:23 am

She is invaluable. The teacher’s love having the addition of the work boxes to use in their classrooms. It is something that they can rotate out along with all the other planned and unplanned activities to keep little ones busy!

15 Fiona Johnson December 4, 2010 at 7:49 am

What a super and simple idea. I will share this with my early years team and it would be a great way for me as HT to contribute to the teaching and learning. I love finding bits and bobs!! Off to buy some plastic boxes!!!

16 Deborah J. Stewart December 4, 2010 at 8:24 am

Awesome – have fun with it!

17 Lisa December 4, 2010 at 7:36 pm

WOW i just discovered your blog and subsribed to it!
As a family daycare provider i have children with me from
newborn till 13….so i need to constantly change craft ideas, projects~!

I LOVE THESE BOXES AND WILL go to my dollar store tomorrow
to get started!
thank you for takeing the time to share this!
i have been a family daycare provider on Long Island for 16 years now

18 Deborah J. Stewart December 4, 2010 at 9:40 pm

Lisa – How exciting to have you join me here! Keep in touch!

19 KM December 4, 2010 at 8:33 pm

What fantastic and creative ideas!!!!!

20 Deborah J. Stewart December 4, 2010 at 9:40 pm

Thank you so much:)

21 Carly December 5, 2010 at 3:27 pm

I absolutely love these ideas! I am a part-time children’s librarian and former elementary teacher and have started teaching our 3 year old at home this year and am going to work up some of these activity boxes for her for the various themes we do. This has me really thinking…so simple and so fun for the kids. Thank you for taking the time to share. I love your web site! :)

22 Deborah J. Stewart December 6, 2010 at 1:31 pm

Thank you Carly – I agree, you can be really creative – they can be fun to prepare and fun for the kids to play with!

23 Jeanette January 11, 2011 at 2:20 am

I love this idea so much! I visit your website regularly and always find so many wonderful ideas! I am a DD Preschool teacher and have tried to incorporate a similar set of boxes in my classroom; however I am trying to figure out the best way to make them available to the students. I know that you mentioned that the boxes are available during the students’ center time, so I was wondering how you get them to select these boxes as opposed to playing in the blocks or dramatic play centers. Are these boxes incorporated into already existing center areas, or are they their own “center” area? Thanks!

24 Deborah J. Stewart January 11, 2011 at 8:27 am

We definitely set them out as their own center area. Another thing we do is bring one box to circle time (before going to centers) and introduce what is in the box and ask the children what they might be able to do with the contents in the box. Then we pick a few children to take the box to a table and get us started. Other times, we just set one or two of the centers up in the room and the children go for it. We have been doing this for such a long time now that the children ask for the activity boxes – they look forward to trying out the new materials each week.

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