What holiday (or holidays) are you celebrating in December? There are plenty of winter holiday classroom activities that can you do with your students regardless of whether they typically celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, more than one holiday, or nothing at all.
In a season marked by singing cheery songs, eating traditional holiday foods, wrapping gifts, and doing fun crafts, check out our list of holiday activities for elementary and middle school students below to ensure your class has a great send-off before winter break.
Fun Holiday Activities for Elementary and Middle School Students
1. Holiday Crafts for the Classroom (Grades K–8)
There’s so much you can do when it comes to easy holiday crafts for the classroom—the list is endless. You can start by searching social media or consulting with your teacher BFF for ideas, but here’s a list to start you off:
- Making snowpeople out of cotton balls (and other supplies)
- Making snowflakes out of popsicle sticks or paper
- Designing holiday ornaments
- Writing and illustrating a book or story based on a holiday
2. Have a Holiday Music Listening Session (Grades 3 and up)
Have each student choose one or two winter holiday songs to add to a classroom playlist. These can be traditional holiday songs, like Jingle Bells, or popular songs that celebrate winter months.
Listen to the playlist at a holiday celebration in the classroom or use it to start a discussion with your students about the music. What makes it a holiday or winter song? Consider creating a Venn diagram of words and feelings associated with the holiday season and the sounds and words in the music. Have students share their thoughts in small groups.
3. The Year in Numbers (Grades 2–3)
Celebrate the New Year by inviting students to explore the upcoming year as a number. Is the new year odd or even? What number do you get if you add 100 to the year? What if you subtract 100? How many thousands, hundreds, tens, and ones make up the new year? Provide students a copy of the printable “New Year's Math” to complete these and other activities. Review their work as a class and invite students to explain what they wrote. Finally, challenge students to create a visual representation of the year using base-ten blocks, tallies, counters, a graph, number sentence, or drawings.
4. Create Holiday Cards (All Grades)
It’s time for your students to get creative! Have them create holiday cards for their loved ones—their parents or guardians, family members, or close friends—using construction paper, glue, glitter, markers, and any holiday decorations you can find.
For older elementary and middle school students, you can consider even turning this into a writing assignment. Perhaps they can write short poems about the holiday they celebrate in their cards, draft a letter to somebody wishing them a happy holidays, or thank someone for a kind act they did in the past year.
5. Make a Multicultural Calendar (Grades 6 and up)
For this middle school activity, download the printable PDF below. Students will research the traditions of different cultures and create a multicultural calendar. You will need to divide your students into groups, with each one assigned to a specific culture they would like to learn more about. They will then choose a month where at least one holiday is celebrated in that culture, research those holidays, and complete the assignment below.
6. Collect Food Donations (All Grades)
This can be done on a schoolwide or classroom level. Consider collaborating with other staff to make a schoolwide effort a reality. Make sure students know that bringing in food donations is not an obligation. Keep it fun and friendly in the spirit of giving.
7. Keep It Traditional With Gingerbread-House Making (All Grades)
For this activity, Katie Risolo Radovich, a first-grade teacher at the Diocese of Rockville Centre in Long Island, New York, explains that she spends a few days collecting milk cartons from her lunchroom and then washes them out so they can be used to build gingerbread houses. This is a great way to foster student collaboration (social-emotional learning!) and get your students to be creative. Radovich says:
We have white icing and graham crackers to help give the milk cartons a gingerbread house look. Then, the students get to work with decorating. They use all kinds of candy and snacks—peppermints, marshmallows, pretzels, M&Ms, Skittles, gum drops, and so on. It is a great way to bring families into the school to build that home-school connection and to celebrate the holidays. We do this the day before break starts as a wonderful send-off!
Another option is to decorate gingerbread cookies! You can invite parents into the classroom to participate and read a holiday book aloud.
8. Have a Classroom Holiday Celebration! (All Grades)
Another great activity holiday school activity is having a party. You may want to have students bring in food related to whatever holiday they celebrate, such as dishes specific to certain cultures or holiday-themed cookies. You can even invite family members to the classroom and have them read picture books and discuss the importance of each holiday. Get creative—how you structure this activity will depend on many factors, including student guest policies, food restrictions, and classroom limitations.
9. Modern-Day “’Twas the Night Before Christmas” Poem (Grades 5 and up)
Download the activity below and have your students write a version of the famous poem “’Twas the Night Before Christmas.” When the poem was written in the early 1800s, the details in the poem (sugar plums, stockings, nightcaps, chimneys) were all modern. Have them update the poem to align with the technological advances and societal shifts that have taken place since then.
10. Decorate the Classroom (All Grades)
You can have your students help you decorate your classroom so that it's themed for Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and winter so it can serve as an ideal environment to host your winter holiday party! Have students wrap their desks and create their own decorations to be hung up on the walls and ceilings.
11. “Warm World Wishes” Writing Assignment (All Grades)
Jade Mackney, a teacher at P.S. 43, an elementary school in New York City, recommends that rather than focusing on what your students want for themselves for the holiday season, have them consider and share their wishes for the world. This writing assignment can be a good opportunity for students to write about something they are passionate about and want to see change in the new year—world peace, a cleaner environment, or virtually anything to better their community and society. Have them share with their classmates when they finish!
12. Polar Express Party (Grades K–5)
Consider winter holiday activities for elementary students related to the book The Polar Express and/or the 2004 movie! You can have your students participate in a Polar Express pajama party, where the week before winter break, they (and the staff) come to school in their pajamas. The teacher can read the book to the class (or the students can read it themselves, depending on their age) and then watch the movie in the classroom or the auditorium. You can even serve hot chocolate and cookies. If you want, consider assigning students to complete a writing piece explaining what they would do and where they would go if they had an opportunity to travel on the Polar Express.
13. Play Holiday Word Games (Grades 6 and up)
Use holiday-related phrases to play fun holiday word games. See how many words students can make out of the phrase “Happy Holidays” (or another word or phrase related to the holidays or a specific winter holiday). Turn this into a competition by dividing your students into groups and seeing who can come up with the most words!
If you want to do something a bit more advanced, create a word search, word scramble, or crossword puzzle using holiday words. You can search online for free tools to create crossword puzzles and other word games. Be sure to tailor the words and clues to the appropriate grade level. If you teach English language arts, get creative using vocabulary words tied to the curriculum. Or, download our winter word search template (complete with answer key!) and get your students started with this free activity.
14. White Elephant or Secret Santa (All Grades)
This holiday classroom game—which can be adapted across grade levels—can take different forms. For a secret Santa, you can have students randomly pick one of their classmate’s names out of a hat. Make sure they don’t reveal the classmate they selected! That is the student they will give a gift to. Try gifting free options, such as having students write stories or poems, make crafts for one another, or create voucher coupons for their classmate.
In a white elephant, students can make crafts for their classmates, wrap them, and place the items in a central location in the classroom as gifts. You should then determine the order by which students will choose a random present to open. The first student selects and opens a random gift (make sure everyone can see what it is!), and then each student can subsequently either unwrap another gift or swap one with another participant. The participant whose gift was taken can then open a different wrapped gift or, again, choose one from somebody else. Continue until all the presents are unwrapped! There are many variations of this game, but you can read about your options here.
Share Your Favorite Holiday Classroom Activities
With that, we hope you and your students enjoy the winter holidays this year. Whether you decide to host a classroom holiday party or do simple crafts, ’tis the season to celebrate and recharge for the new year!
Find more lesson plans and classroom resources on Shaped.
This blog, originally published in 2019, has been updated for 2023.
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