A toddler's Christmas Tree sensory bin

This is a post about my love of the Christmas Tree, its interesting origins, and welcome place in our home each year. Mostly though, it is about how this year's Christmas Tree experience has been adapted for our curious 2 1/2 year old toddler and our small unit: there may not be space for a large tree... but there is always enough room for tons of Christmas Tree happiness and fun! 
I love how the Christmas Tree fills our home with brightness, light, warmth, gratitude, comfort, colour, a sense of calm, family, celebration, and a symbol of our annual rhythm. Whilst I've always loved setting up the Christmas Tree in the lead up to the end of year celebrations, recently I've been really curious as to its history. 

The earliest references seem to be during the celebrations of the Winter solstice, when ancient civilizations (Egyptians, Romans, Druids...) treasured and worshiped evergreen trees as a symbol of life triumphing over death. Then in the Middle Ages, Germans and Scandinavians placed evergreens at their entrances in the hope of the forthcoming Spring. 

The Christians began honoring Christ's birth with fir trees lit by candles in their homes around 1500, after Martin Luther was supposedly moved by the beauty of the moonlight on the snow dusted evergreen trees in the forest. It is said that the starlit sky reminded him of the heaven that overlooked Bethlehem at the birth of Jesus. 

The Christmas Tree tradition seems to have then moved slowly around the world, but one thing's for sure: its history is rich in many legends.

Over the years, I have enjoyed collecting Christmas tree decorations. I love that each year, I get to reminisce about the wonderful adventures had, memories made, places seen and people met whilst traveling. This year B loved exploring my special collection of little Christmas treasures too! 

Once our teeny little fake tree was up, it didn't take long before the base of the whole tree itself was broken (irretrievable), and of the special little decorations Master B chose himself  - one delicate Basque 'Olentzero' was decapitated, a pretty angel lost its wings and a dear little German ice-skating snowman lost its foot (skate boot and all)..."uh oh!"...

So, having promised to fix them all to admire and play with another day (*I must remember to buy another bottle of super glue), a more toddler friendly, fun, interactive, sensory, Christmas Tree was called for. After all - it's absolutely no fun for a poor little, enthusiastic kiddo having all the special Christmas things break accidentally!

The set up: 
 - the tree with the broken base (which could no longer stand alone) - was taped down to the bottom of a large plastic tub we often use for sensory play, and covered in aluminum foil;
- various rocks were poured in (because in our house rocks are just about as special as anything can be!)

- natural treasures from our walks and plays in the local parks were added; 
- little bowls of decorations - star glitter (after all - stars are pretty magical, and "Twinkle, twinkle little star" is often requested to be played on repeat at bedtime! 
- colorful, loose bells   - great sound and fun to pour over the tree and listen to them falling through the branches (sorry no photo of this one!!)

- pipe cleaner 'decorations' to practise upper arm stability and control in putting them on/off the branches;
- a few of the more 'hardy' decorations;
- some gift bows with the sticky backs exposed and ready to press onto the leaves of the tree;
- felt and ribbon bits;
- shiny beads on string (which make the best sound on the floorboards whilst dancing around the living room by the way!)

It has been great to see him (and his little mates whilst visiting for play dates too) get totally lost in the fun of decorating - and un-decorating - and exploring this little Christmas tree sensory bin over and over and over! And whilst supervision is always advisable, it has been SO relaxing not having to say ever: "Ooh, don't touch that! Careful! It might break! uh uh!!... oh no... "

*Gasp!* "Where are all the pretty lights?" ... you might ask! - Well, for most of December, we should have plenty of sun streaming in through the window, and I thought we could light up the tree the night or two before we fly away to Europe to visit family for Christmas (21st December), all the while, trying for the miniature tree to not become a 'decoration' hidden beneath a huge clump of lighting cords!! Hahaha! 

There are SO many amazing and beautiful Christmas tree crafts and activities around the web - here are some of my favorites inviting lots of little people to get involved, play and learn: 

How are your kids enjoying Christmas Trees in your home this year? Please feel free to leave a comment below and share some Christmas Tree love!

Thanks so much for stopping by Kids' Play Space! If you enjoyed this post, you may also like to check out these too:
Christmas Fun for Toddlers
Christmas with a Little One - 10 Free Ways
Beach Small World
- Summer or Winter: kids will love this one!
Until soon,
Happy playing!
Anna :-) 
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  1. Oh my goodness, Anna, this is an absolutely beautiful sensory bin! I love all the rocks and how you've created such a pleasing balance between natural materials and the glitz and shine of store-bought items. LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this!!!

  2. Thank you so much Ann! It's always fun to throw in those natural bits - rocks are seriously like precious jewels/treasures here! ;-)


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