Creative ways to keep the kids busy without adding more to your to-do list this Christmas.

The Christmas holidays. These are, without doubt, the busiest of all the school holidays. In fact, does it ever feel like a holiday at all? From the wrapping of presents to the many, many, organised events, midnight chimes in the new year before we know it.

For some of us, breaking up from school is a much-needed break from studying, which I get. But what if your child is doing particularly well in a subject and you want to keep up the momentum up? Or, in contrast, they’re finding an area particularly tricky and you want to try to close the gap before the start of the new year. Maybe it’s not even about that, but you just want some ideas that will drag them away from the I-pad for an hour or so. Either way, I’ve put together a few ideas on how to incorporate maths concepts into your list of things to do. A few helpful ways to get the kids involved in some of the Christmas jobs, drop in a few maths ideas here and there and save yourself from spinning all the Christmas plates.

A Christmas Wrap

You may need to let go of the idea of perfectionism here but stay with me. Printing your own Christmas wrapping paper ticks many of the good vibe boxes for me. Firstly, it sends a heartfelt and loving message to the fam. Secondly, I cannot wrap for toffee, ergo, blame the children. Brown plain wrapping paper is considerably cheaper than the high end, glossy wrap and you can go to town with this idea (creatively) or you can stay minimal and stay classy. Personally, we’re all about the tack, I mean creativity, in my house. Potato printing or stamping simple shapes allow younger children to develop fine motor skills and allows them to explore repeating patterns, discuss colours and shape etc. Use triangles for trees, circles for snowmen and baubles and stars for – well, stars.

Boxes on Boxing Day

Boxing Day was traditionally a day off for the ‘servants’ to visit home and take their families a Christmas ‘box’. Not, as my husband suggested, a day for sports and boxing. Piles of empty boxes are something you are going to find hard to avoid over the next few weeks. Recycle we must, but before that; how can they bring us some enjoyment? Folding out a 3-D shape makes something called a ‘net’. From Year 3, children will experience putting together their own 3D shapes and recognising shapes from their nets. Children can sort boxes by shape, size or see if they can be stacked or rolled. Fill empty boxes with sweets and allow the children to decorate and wrap them to make fantastic, homemade Christmas crackers. Display on the tree until Christmas day as a sustainable way to avoid the commercial ‘tut’ that ends up in the bin by pudding time. Can they make an elf, a robot or their favourite Christmas character from all the boxes they have? For bigger boxes, make a theatre and have the children perform a puppet show for the family on Boxing Day. There’s truth in the idea that kids enjoy playing with the boxes more than the gift inside so utilise them to their full potential.


Whether it is baking for the school fayre or Auntie Pam is coming round, there’s generally a need for some baking over Christmas. For me, baking means saving money on bags of sweets and crisps and passes the time together nicely. Sure, it is messy but we all enjoy eating treats that little bit more knowing we’ve done it ourselves. Keep it simple; there’s even a non-cook Christmas pud recipe below (see link). Baking involves measuring, weighing, even ratios and conversion if you’re the adventurous type. Ingredients can be scaled up or down for quantity which is a really interesting challenge for children.

Santa tracking

Santa is a magical way to build up the Christmas excitement. To take it a step further, create a timeline or plan for Santa using countries from around the world. Discuss how long he might need at each destination based on the size of the country/population and let their imagination go wild. Use the Norad Tracks Santa site track The Big Man on Christmas Eve.