Babies play, learn, and experience the world differently than adults, or even older kids. This can make it challenging to create holiday experiences for baby’s first Christmas! But don’t worry, here’s some ideas for making holiday memories that are fun and meaningful for baby and family alike!
Holiday Sensory Play
One of the ways that babies play is by using their senses to explore the world around them. This helps them build basic networks in their brain that support future learning, so you definitely want to encourage it!
One way to set up some holiday themed sensory play is to set up a Christmas ornament sensory bin! This activity is appropriate for babies 9 months old and up, and is even fun for toddlers. Remember; babies need to be supervised when using this kind of toy!
Get a large plastic tote and some ball Christmas ornaments. These ball ornaments should be plastic, so they won’t break during playtime. They should be hollow, so they float, and shouldn’t have glitter or any small parts that come off. Babies will almost certainly be exploring the toys with their mouths! Boxes of these ornaments are often available inexpensively, even at dollar stores! They have different colors and even different textures (satin finish, metallic finish, even faceted!)
Fill the bin with about an inch of water (it will be plenty), and put the ball ornaments in the water. Sit your baby next to the bin and watch them push the ornaments around in the bin, pick them up, and splash and play! This is great play; moving the balls around in the water, exploring the textures and weights of the ornaments, and feeling the buoyancy of the ornaments. Your baby or toddler will get wet during this play, so have an extra onesie on hand! Our collection of onesies, rompers, and gowns are easy to put on, and will make sure your baby is extra warm and cozy after this game!
Gift Wrapping Fun
Gift wrapping for the holidays is a big chore if you have a family! All that paper and ribbon and tape need not go to waste, though! Letting baby play with wrapping paper is a great way to keep them entertained, help develop sensory skills and spatial awareness, and to make Christmas special for them!
You can use off-cuts of wrapping paper that would normally be discarded as toys for your baby while you’re wrapping gifts! Touching, grasping, and kicking crumpled sheets of festive wrapping paper can be a lot of fun for babies and toddlers, and are well worth cleaning up afterwards!
Pre-made bows that are too big to accidentally swallow are fun too, and allow for a difference in texture!
During the Christmas celebration, you can also let baby play with the paper from unwrapped gifts! All of the different colors and textures will delight them, and even the sound of paper crinkling helps them learn! Hiding a small toy in the wrapping paper for them to find will increase the skill level and the sense of reward! Try one of our wee stuffed animals, perfectly sized for little hands!
Remember, your child should be supervised during this kind of play, and should not be given pieces of ribbon long enough to wrap around their necks or limbs.
Jingle Bells for Baby
Ringing bells can be a great fun time for baby, and very seasonal during the holiday season! You can give your baby a bell of their own to ring if they’re old enough to grasp it. If not, you can help them hold and shake the bell! You can ring bells while singing carols to or with your baby! Crawling babies will enjoy following jingling bells as they roll across the floor (again, make sure your bell is big enough not to pose a choking hazard!).
Hearing the bell develops the auditory part of the brain, and following a moving bell helps your baby increase their spatial awareness, giving them an engaging way to explore the world around them!
Alternately, you can provide your baby with a chime made just for them! Our sweet Friendly Chime Rattles make a soft ringing sound when shaken, and baby would love ringing them along with you! Get ready for a round of Jingle Bells that you’ll never forget!
Seeing The Sights
Young infants don’t have a fully developed sense of sight; in fact newborns only really see what’s 8 to 14 inches in front of their eyes! As they grow, their eyes develop and they’re able to see further and further. For young babies, bringing brightly colored paper and shiny ornaments close for them to look at can give them a touch of the Christmas spirit! If you have a Christmas tree or other decorations, holding baby near them so they can see the colors, shapes, and lights more clearly will delight them and help develop their visual sense!
Very young babies are not coordinated enough to manipulate objects, so never, ever leave them unattended with hard objects or anything that could choke or smother them.
Soothing After the Celebration
Remember that a lot of new sights, sounds, and sensations can overstimulate your baby! Overstimulation happens when your baby (or toddler) takes in more sensory information than they can handle. They may feel overwhelmed. Overstimulated babies may act cranky and cry, and overstimulated toddlers can throw tantrums.
Like adults, babies need a mix of active time and down time. Their brains need rest time to process the information that they take in, and they’re taking in a lot, especially during a busy time like the holidays! Also remember that the faces and voices of unfamiliar relatives and family friends can be overstimulating, especially if they’re meeting a lot of new people during the holidays!
If your baby gets cranky during holiday preparations or during the celebration itself, provide them with a quiet environment and let them rest. Offering a soothing toy, like a lovey or a teether, can help them calm themselves down. After a rest, they may be ready to return to the party!
Babies may not be able to fully understand the nature of the holiday season, but with a little thought it’s not difficult to make a first Christmas that will be engaging, healthy, and special for your precious little one. You’ll make precious memories for yourself as well!