Like many people, I absolutely love Christmas. The lights, the songs, and back in Canada, all the fluffy, gorgeous, and glittering snow. Christmas is a little different in Japan but if you’re like me, you want to do your best to get your little one get as excited about the Christmas season as you were when you were a tiny tot.
With Christmas right around the corner, I’ve created a list of last-minute ideas to help spread the holiday spirit and enjoy the season with a toddler. These activities allow your toddler to take part and unleash their creativity, not to mention are EASY and don’t require much more than a trip to the 100 yen store or grocery store if you don’t already have the necessary materials on hand.
If you’re also looking for cute handmade gifts that your toddler can give someone, the list below has some great options. (A’s father and grandparents are getting some of the things we made!)
Note that I am not a crafty person at all (I can’t even remember the last time I did crafts before my daughter was born), so the finished products are perhaps not the nicest looking but were easy and enjoyable to make. My daughter also had fun and at the end of the day, that’s what matters.
Easy and Fun Christmas Activities To Do With Your Toddler At Home
1. Make and Decorate a Christmas Tree!
The inspiration for this article came from a tweet by my friend Tari. She made an adorable Christmas tree out of construction paper, put it on the wall, and had her 1.5-year-old decorate it with stickers. An easy, fun, and budget-friendly idea, especially if you don’t have the space for a tree.
— ☁️♥️🫒🇦🇺🇵🇹 (@weetbixncheese) December 12, 2021
You can also paste the tree onto a piece of construction paper if you don’t want to put it on your wall, or even onto a construction paper folded in half to make a card for someone.
2. Bake and Decorate Christmas Cookies
I’ve always wanted to bake and decorate cookies with my daughter, and when she was almost 2.5 years old, I felt that she was old enough to try it for the first time.
I made these sugar cookies that contain about a third of the sugar traditional sugar cookie recipes used. The dough turned out quite sticky, too sticky to cut out shapes, so I ended up adding more flour. The cookies tasted great but because of the extra flour, bigger pieces were a bit crumbly. I like the low sugar content, though, so I’ll probably continue to use this recipe.
A had a great time decorating nonetheless while we listened to Christmas music, although she started to eat the decorations if they didn’t land on the cookie when she was sprinkling them. (Fair enough!) I think this goes without saying but be careful with the size of the decorations. I had A eat one each to make sure she was able to chew and then swallow. I also never let her have more than one at a time.
She really wanted to eat the cookies but was patient enough to wait until the icing dried before having one and exclaiming, “Delicious!”.
Note that the icing is, of course, packed with sugar, so if you want to limit your child’s intake, maybe don’t go as hard as we did with it. (Oops. This is why I’m limiting her to one cookie a day.)
3. Fold Some Christmas Origami Fun
Origami is an affordable and fun activity for children and adults alike. Even if you’re not that familiar with it, there are tons of tutorials online and books you can get.
I got a book from Daiso that has instructions on how to create objects for different occasions using origami and so far I’m quite pleased with it. It’s easy to follow and I prefer it to watching tutorials on YouTube.
Using this book, I made a little Santa:
And a wreath (which my daughter decorated with star stickers):
(I added the pipe cleaner candy cane.)
Next year I want to try making these lovely light-up origami Christmas trees.
You can also get this little Christmas origami kit that includes stickers and an instruction book. I got this book in 2023 and my daughter really enjoyed making the different Christmas characters and objects using the materials in the book.
4. Fashion Baubles Using Gachapon Capsules
I always found throwing out gashapon capsules to be a waste so I wanted to figure out a way to reuse them. And then it came to me — baubles!
I got some beads and fluffy white balls from Daiso, and while supervising A like a hawk, I had her place them inside a capsule. I also added a piece of a Christmas decoration for some extra sparkle. Then I looped a piece of string through the hole in the top, sealed the capsule with some washi tape, and it was done!
She was so proud of the finished product and sat in front of the tree staring at it after I hung it.
There are plenty of things you can put inside the capsule, such as tinsel, cotton balls, feathers, or lucky stars. Note that if you are using something that’s small, don’t leave your child unattended with it as it can be a choking hazard. Make sure that the bauble is also not within reach.
Next year I want to try putting A’s photos in some as I didn’t have the time this year.
5. Make a Paper Plate Wreath
Have paper plates at home? How about something to decorate with? Scissors? Ribbon or pipe cleaners?
If you’re nodding, then you have everything you need to do this activity.
I used an old Christmas paper plate. After (crudely) cutting out the middle, I had A decorate it with stickers. If you have green paint, you can have your child paint the paper plate before decorating it. I figured since there was already gold on the plate, it didn’t need to be painted.
Once she was done (“おしまい！”), I poked a hole in the top and inserted the remnants of an old Christmas decoration and then used a pipe cleaner to hang the wreath. Super simple and super cute.
6. Build a Cookie House
I wasn’t able to get a gingerbread house kit back in 2021 since I was so busy with the move to Osaka (I did buy one from IKEA in 2023, though!). This is why I decided to build a little cookie house and decorate it with my daughter.
I used the dough from the low-sugar Christmas cookies mentioned earlier (#2) for the base, as well as the leftover icing and decorations. I bought some additional sweets, such as chocolates, and marshmallows, and also used coconut flakes for the “snow”. For the house, I used ココナッツセブレ with nuts in them.
My daughter had so much fun that I had no choice but to overlook the number of decorations she ate. She was, unsurprisingly, extremely hyper afterward so if you decide to make this, be warned! Your child may also get upset if you don’t let them eat all the sweets (I mean, I would be too if someone told me to decorate something using wine and cheese and I couldn’t have any of it), so try to have a healthier snack on hand to distract them. I gave my daughter these Anpanman biscuits.
7. Create Christmas Handprint Art
Okay, I love handprint art gifts. They’re simple but unique, can be “made” by even newborns, and capture a time of your child’s life when they were tiny. They also make excellent gifts.
There are many different kinds of Christmas handprint art you can create with your child, such as a reindeer, a snowman, and Christmas trees:
I also think this reindeer one is pretty cute and I’m contemplating making it for my husband’s Christmas present next year (if my daughter’s hands aren’t too large by then…)
Back in 2020, my daughter made this adorable handprint ornament/Christmas card at daycare.
I have to admit that I’m a little sad she isn’t in daycare at the moment as I would have loved to see what she would make.
Back in 2021, we made this handprint art to celebrate 2022’s Year of the Tiger, which we framed and my daughter gave her grandparents on Christmas:
(I used A’s thumb to make the ears so forgive me if the tiger looks like it has wonky ears.)
My favorite product to use for handprint art is PalmColors. It’s super easy to use, compact, and comes off easily.
I also use these as stamp pads for my daughter, so it’s multifunctional!
8. Design Washi Tape Christmas Cards
I am a washi tape fiend and have stocked up many over the years, so making a washi tape Christmas card felt like a simple yet unique way to DIY Christmas cards from my daughter.
You can use any kind of washi tape but as I had many Christmas-themed ones, I used those. I bought all of my washi tapes from 100 yen stores. (If you can’t find them now, it’s likely that they’re sold out, so try again in early November next year!)
I used some small construction paper I had at home and folded it in half to make the card. Then I had my daughter color the inside and outside of the card. After that, she chose the washi tape to put on it. I let her place the tape on one card but it was very lopsided despite trying to guide her (I mean, my daughter was two at the time so it shouldn’t be a surprise).
My daughter put some stickers on the inside and I added some cute おみくじ (omikuji) ones that I got from Daiso as I figured it would be fun for the recipients to find out their fortune for the coming year.
9. Assemble a Paper Ball Reindeer
How cute is this?!
This craft by Easy, Peasy, and Fun is indeed easy and fun, and although it’s perhaps not something a toddler can make, they’ll probably enjoy playing with (and likely destroying) the finished product.
Here’s the one that I made. Yes, the nose is quite large but I used whatever I already had on hand! It’s not perfect but A was happy when I gave it to her.
10. Create Picture Ornaments
This is an easy craft if you have some self-adhesive lamination film (I got mine from Daiso).
Place a photo of your child, a picture of their favorite cartoon character, or animal, or even stickers inside the lamination film (purikura, anyone?). Make sure to leave a little room at the top. Close the lamination film and press down carefully to smoothen the paper. After that, cut it into a circle, or any other shape you want. I used a circle I cut out from construction paper and taped it to the back of the lamination film to use as a guide. I left a little bit of a hill on the top (similar to the top of baubles, I have no idea what that’s called) so that I could hole-punch it for the ribbon.
Once that’s done, your child can decorate the outside with stickers.
Use a hole punch to make a hole at the top that you can string some ribbon through and bam! You’re done! This would make a great present for grandparents or just to keep for yourself.
Tip: If you want to use a photo of your child but don’t have a printed one on hand, you can print one at a conbini (convenience store)!
11. Make a DIY Advent Calendar
A few months ago, a friend had mentioned making a DIY advent calendar filled with different 100 yen bath bombs for her daughter, but since she’s so creative, I figured it would be a lot of work and I didn’t ask how she would make it. I recently started using Mercari to find new capsule toys for my daughter and realized those would be perfect things to put in an advent calendar, especially since I don’t want to give her chocolate.
To my relief, there are so many easy and affordable ways to create an advent calendar on your own with things you have in the house, such as one using paper cups, another using small condiment cups from the 100 yen store, coffee filters, and an origami one. (Okay, the origami one doesn’t look THAT easy right now but who knows, maybe by next year I’ll be good enough to challenge it!)
Next year, I might try placing 24 different Sylvania Families items (such as dolls, furniture, accessories) into the calendar or simply filling it with stickers from the 100 yen store and capsule toys I find on Mercari or anime shops.
I also really like the idea of having an advent calendar displaying 24 photos from the year, so I might do that as well if I have time.
If you want an easy way to somewhat DIY an advent calendar, you can buy calendars with empty boxes from stores like Flying Tiger. There are also tons of advent calendars for sale on Amazon Japan.
12. Read Christmas Books in Japanese and English
Okay, this is pretty obvious but just in case you’re looking for some Christmas books, check out my post on my favorite Japanese and English books for babies and toddlers. My daughter still adores these books and is always excited when I break them out in December!
13. Learn Christmas Japanese and English Vocabulary
If you haven’t already, sign up for my newsletter and receive my free printable about Japanese and English Christmas vocabulary. The ultimate easy, no-cost, and educational activity for your little one!
I hope some of these ideas are helpful and if you have any you’d like to suggest, please let me know!
Happy Holidays, everyone!