Sunday, December 28, 2014

EZ Ways to Use Those Holiday Leftovers!

Happy Holidays! I hope you are all enjoying a restful break. Today I want to share some easy ways you can take some of the holiday leftovers into your Early Childhood classroom to create some engaging learning activities. 

As teachers (especially primary and early childhood teachers) we tend to have some hoarder tendencies...but it's only because we know there is a learning opportunity in almost anything! Am I right? Less waste, more's a win win! In my post today I'm going to offer ideas targeted for pre-K and K but you can take the idea and easily modify it for first, second and even third grade.

Let’s start with holiday cups. If you threw a party at your house or you still have leftover cups from your classroom holiday party, don’t throw them away! Depending on how many you have you can do several things with them.

If you have a lot, you can place them in a math center for stacking and building. The cups can be used in your sand table or sensory table for scooping and measuring.

For a math station you can number each cup with dots or a numeral and have kids place pom poms or counters in each cup to match. In the photo above I numbered popsicle sticks with sets of either 3 or 4. I arranged the dots in different patterns so kids will have to count each dot and they will also have to understand that 3 doesn’t always look a certain way, sometimes three can be three dots side by side and sometimes it might be 1 dot here and 2 dots over there. This is the foundation for composing and decomposing numbers. For this center kids grab a popsicle stick, count the amount and place it in the correct cup. Cheap, easy and purposeful!

Napkins or Wrapping Paper

I loved creating napkin books with my kids, they are so easy and the kids really like them. All you have to do is staple blank pieces of paper inside the books and the kids can do anything with them: stories, lists, counting books, vocabulary books, sequencing, etc.

In the photo below I used wrapping paper to create a book.


Leftover holiday gift bags are great for counting, sorting, or as a prop in your dramatic play center. To use them for a sorting decide on what you want kids to sort and label the bags appropriately. In this picture I made a rhyming game, you can pick up cards for the rhyming game here.

Greeting Cards

When I taught kindergarten we always saved our leftover greeting cards and used them during our measurement unit. We would have kids use tile manipulatives and measure the height of the cards. Place a sticker on each card with a letter so kids can record how many tiles tall each card is. You can also use the cards to teach area and perimeter. You can pick up a greeting card measurement sheet here.


Holiday plants are very popular in most areas. In south Texas we are big on poinsettias. I always have some hanging around the house after Christmas. If you have some that you can keep alive (I’m a notorious plant killer….eek!) bring them into your classroom. They make an engaging piece to add to your science center. Place the poinsettia there with magnifying glasses, art supplies and paper and let kids observe the plant. You can have them touch and smell the plant and record their observations.

This activity can also be done with parts of leftover Christmas trees!

Holiday Plates

I always have a random assortment of leftover plates. Depending on the size and strength of the plate you can either create lacing cards, counting cards, subitizing cards or even puzzles.

I hope you got some ideas to take back to your classroom this January. How do you reuse your leftovers?

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