Artificial DYE FREE Christmas Treats For Kids

dye free Christmas treats for kids When I was a teenager I remember rolling my eyes at the parents who would put ” DO NOT GIVE RED DYE” on the health forms for day camp. I thought it was hogwash. Funny how a few years of maturity, your own kids, and a big dose of respecting other people will change your attitude. My kids both react to red dye and I will never forget my parents ( who thought I was nuts restricting it) falling all over themselves when they saw first hand how my then 3 year old son reacted after ingesting it.

Do my kids get some food color? Yes, but it’s something I really try to avoid. Not all kids have the same reaction but if you read this post Ten Things Everyone Should Know About Artificial Food Coloring by Megan over at Sorta Crunchy even if your kids don’t react to dye you will want to limit it anyway!

Most of the year it’s not hard to avoid dye especially when red is the main culprit. Around Christmas I start hearing the whining. ” But mom just a little won’t hurt! ” It’s true my son at 8 is starting to outgrow the hyper irritability that it seemed to cause but it’s so easy to let a little become a lot and why take the chance. We don’t have to anymore because over the years I have found wonderful alternatives. Here are two fun and classic Christmas treats with no artificial food dyes!

Rudolf Candy Canes – with Naturally Colored Candy Canes

candy cane reindeer craft for kids now dye free

I think I first made these in Brownies in the early 80s. I have made them as small trinkets for classes I have taught for almost as long. 3 year olds at preschool and 14 year olds in my Babysitter Safety class all loved them. My kids do too. Now they can love them more because finding dye free candy canes isn’t as hard or as expensive as it used to be. I picked these up at Safeway but last year I bought these on amazon  Organic Candy Canes Peppermint  ( affiliate link)

If you aren’t sure how to make these candy cane reindeer here is a quick tutorial.

Gather your materials. You will need some candy canes, pipe cleaners, pom poms, googly eyes and a hot glue gun.reindeer candy cane craft

Add the pipe cleaners by wrapping it around the curved end of the candy cane twice and bending to make some antlers.reindeer candy canes with no dye candy canes

Add hot glue to the end and a pom pom on top.candy cane reindeer craft for children dye free

Add hot glue a little higher and pop on two googly eyes. Have a puppet show with them or, what we usually do with them, pop your reindeer on the Christmas tree.dye free candy cane rudolph crafts

Ice Cream Cone Christmas Trees with Naturally Dyed Candies and Icing.

dye free christmas treats no red food color

We did these ice cream cone Christmas Trees many years ago with artificial dye ( see how little my son is?) but it was before I discovered just how poorly my son reacted to all the artificial colors. I have been meaning to do it again with my daughter so this time we did it more naturally.

Gather your materials. You will need some sugar cones. I didn’t check the ingredient list on these because my kids won’t eat it. They will pick off the candy and leave the tree. There are lots of all natural options out there, check out the shopping list below. You will also need some icing Wilton was dye free , and I used India Tree colors which are all natural to make the green. You will also need candy and stars for the top, two paper plates, some knives for spreading and my favorite candy holders… an ice cube tray.dye free christmas treats

Start by spreading some white icing on the bottom and sticking the tree on top.ice cream cone christmas trees

Ice the tree in green ( now natural dye isn’t as bright but my kids didn’t say a word about it’s lack of vibrancy).cone trees dye free

Taste a little here and there.christmas tree treat dye free

Add the jelly beans, sprinkles and chocolate chips for ornaments.adding the ornaments candy tree dye free

When you are done add more icing for snow with coconut for flakes! Use as a centerpiece for a holiday cookie decorating party or just to add to your decor. My kids ate theirs which was quite the treat. edible christmas centerpiece for kids

Shopping list for Candy Christmas Trees
This list contains affiliate links.

White icing ( I can’t confirm this item as color free so check the ingredients on your icing or make your own to be sure! Ours was Wilton but I can’t find the exact item on line to provide a link)
Gourmet Jelly Beans

India Tree Natural Decorating Colors, 3 bottles(red,yellow,blue)

India Tree Jimmies – Carnival Mix – Natural Colour

Ghirardelli Baking Chips, Classic White, 11-Ounce Bags (Pack of 6)

Coconut Flakes Unsweetened

Trader Joe’s Mini Dark Chocolate Mint Stars

Trim A Tree Sticky Easel – Christmas Activity For Preschool

christmas free choice activity for preschool When we made our Create A Face Sticky Easel it was such a hit it stayed on our easel for AGES. For weeks it changed a little by little but I didn’t take it down for a long time. I knew then that I would be making a holiday version of a sticky easel . This is a great Christmas activity for preschool free choice time . The project can be a cooperative art project in class. With activities like this our role is to set it up and invite them to create. This isn’t a directed craft or step by step activity. It’s a creative buffet and kids can serve themselves. Let me show you how we set up this sticky easel and how my daughter created with it.

Gather your materials. The only thing you really need is contact paper. Good sticky contact paper. Everything else we used can be substituted with whatever you have on hand. Heck you don’t even need an easel, you can pop it up on the wall. We used green popsicle sticks, colored wooden shapes, and gems . I also used a dry erase marker to make an outline of a tree on the easel as a guide. Christmas Sticky Tree supplies

Start by drawing the outline of the tree. Peel the backing off the contact paper and secure it to the easel. christmas tree sticky easel set up

Place the bits and pieces into the easel and invite your tree trimmer to come trim the tree!

She started off with the shapes and gems. fine motor skills christmas tree activity

Then discovered she could make letters with the popcicle sticks. early literacy christmas tree sticky easelThis sticky easel is filled with tactile exploration. Since the items can be added then removed it’s a wonderful activity for those ” must be perfect” days that seem to crop up from time to time with preschoolers. This activity also works on so many skills like fine motor, shape recognition, and counting. Don’t force the skills or use the time to quiz your kids just be there to catch the opportunity to talk more about their observations if they make them.  For us the observation I jumped on was about how think the gems were vs. how thin the wooden shapes were.

She didn’t like that I used black for the outline so she covered it up with more sticks.
christmas tree sticky mural activity

I sat back in our book nook with my camera and listened to her chatter away ( which if you are a parent that has had a child in speech therapy chattering is music to your ears, especially when it’s perfectly easy to understand).

When she was done our playroom was ready for Christmas! Christmas tree sticky easels

Diverse Christmas Books For Kids

diverse christmas books for kids Have you heard of the #WeNeedDiverseBooks movement? It’s a movement that is devoted to getting books with diverse characters promoted, on library shelves, and into the hands of kids. This isn’t just a good idea, it’s desperately needed. Children need to see themselves in books just as much as they need to see children not like themselves. Books are powerful points of access to new ideas, experiences, and ways of life and don’t require more than a library card to read. This book list is for children who might see themselves in these books but  it is also for all children who might see someone new and see that no matter how different our lives on the outside might be there is always something we have in common.

daddy christmas hanukkah mama

Daddy Christmas and Hanukkah Mama by Selina Alko is a good book about how many families with two different faiths celebrate both  during the holidays. My son and I both really liked this book and it’s loving family that creates it’s own traditions from both parents. I wish it had more information about Hanukkah but that wasn’t it’s goal even if I was hoping to find it. What it did have was a lot of little bits of traditions that you can use to dig deeper to learn more.

The Christmas Truck

The Christmas Truck by J.B. Blankenship is a story of a little boy who is excited about Christmas with his family and chooses a star from a wishing tree in his town. Together with his parents he learns about the wishing tree and buys the items on the wish. Unfortunately the gift is broken but at the last minute together with his parents and grandparents Christmas is saved. So you might be wondering what is so diverse about this book. The parents are both men. I was thrilled to find a holiday book with same sex parents and like so many of the other books I have featured in the past there isn’t a huge discussion about why this boy has two dads, it’s just normal. I love that. My kids loved the rhyming text and fun illustrations too.

who built the stable

Who Built the Stable?: A Nativity Poem by Ashley Bryan is a beautiful illustrated poem all about who it was that built the stable where Jesus was born. The bright colorful illustrations will wow you as will the heart of this book. The vibrant colors are in contrast with the simplistic poem that tells the familiar nativity story from a fresh perspective. What wowed me was the way that Joseph and Mary were depicted as a loving and vulnerable couple waiting for their first child in less than perfect conditions.The book depicts all the people with dark skin which for me is a great opportunity to talk about this with my children since so much of their experience is with the blonde blue eyed Baby Jesus.

The most precious gift

The Most Precious Gift by Marty Crisp made me tear up. This touching story of giving is really what Christmas should be about. The book follows Ameer a young boy who works for one of the wise men and is part of the caravan to meet Baby Jesus. We learn of his devoted dog Ra and their deep connection and when it is time to offer something to Jesus Ameer gives him Ra. It is not easy to give away his best friend but he knows it is what he should do, and is blessed because of it. The tender relationship between Ameer and his dog Ra will pull at your heart in all the right ways. Children will also be able to really understand sacrifice and giving because they can relate to how important a dog is to a young boy. This book is a great choice for kids 4 and up.

small world christmas

Disney It’s A Small World Christmas Around the World by Disney Book Group & Calliope Glass is a hidden gem. The story isn’t complex but readers get a glimpse into children all over the world and the fun animation style illustrations are bright and fun! My daughter loves getting a sneak peak into different countries and I like trying to find the flag in each page.  It really is brief and perfect for an introduction into different celebrations not an in depth study of other cultures.

din dan

Din Dan Don, It’s Christmas by Janina Domanska is one of a kind. The books follows the pilgrimage to the manger to see the infant Jesus . It starts with a single duck playing bagpipes, but it builds on it self until they spot the manger and the infant Jesus wakes. The story is simple because there is no need for lots of text , the illustrations are amazing. Every page looks like a cross between a stained glass window and a ornate mosaic in a Orthodox church somewhere in Eastern Europe. My son exclaimed “WOW” many times as we turned the pages of this book, and I know I let out a gasp or two as well, simply beautiful! * When I did a search for a photo I could not find this book in print , so you may not be able to find it in store, try your library though!

n is for navidad

N Is for Navidad by Susan Middleton Elya and Merry Banks is a great alphabet book that takes readers through the traditional elements Christmas in Latino ( primarily Mexican) culture. I loved this book. I loved the fun cartoon like illustrations that matched well with each bit of text. I loved learning more about how a culture different from my own celebrates Christmas and know that for many of you this will be a fun reflection of your own traditions. At the end of the book there is an author’s note with longer explanations of each item in the alphabet book. Not only can your kids learn a few new Spanish words but getting a peak into traditions other than their own is a wonderful eye opening experience. Lovely lovely book!

When Christmas Feels Like Home

When Christmas Feels Like Home by Gretchen Griffith made me cry. This book is a touching story about a little boy who immigrates to the US in the fall and as Christmas approaches he slowly feels more and more like he is home. Finally as he opens Christmas ornaments he finally feels at home. Immigrating is hard, especially when you don’t speak the language and this book really captures that and so much more.  You can feel  Eduardo’s homesickness as you read. It’s an incredibly touching story. While I would say this is a Christmas book, it could be used 365 days a year.

Gemma

Happy Christmas, Gemma by Sarah Hayes is a hidden gem. The book is narrated by a preschooler, the older brother to little baby Gemma. Throughout this family’s preparations for and celebration of Christmas he notes how he does what he is supposed to and his baby sister does not.  She makes messes,  pulls the ornaments off the tree, has terrible table manners during Christmas dinner and so much more! What makes this a gem in my mind is that no one ever corrects her, these are all age appropriate behaviors and the family is loving and accepting.  Perfect for families like mine who are expecting a baby, or those with older siblings who like to boss their younger ones around and may need a reminder that babies are still learning, just like they are!

grace at christmas

Grace at Christmas by Mary Hoffman is a lovely story about a little girl who lives with the mom and Nana who open up their home to friends of friends over Christmas. Grace isn’t so sure about this but her Nana reminds her what could be more in the spirit of Christmas than opening your home to those who need it? I like this book for a bunch of reasons. Not just because they talk about being shy, feeling like a stranger and how to turn that into being friends, but also because Grace’s family looks very different than my children’s family. I try hard to get books with all sorts of families and in this one Grace lives with her mom and Nana while her dad lives in Africa. I read this with my 8 year old and we talked about all different kinds of families, divorce, and how he would feel about spending Christmas without his dad. It’s also just a fun story with a great Christmas wish ending too!

calvin's christmas wish

Calvin’s Christmas Wish by Calvin Miles is a story about a little boy who is very anxious about the bike he’s asked Santa for. He wants it so badly and as he helps his family prepare for Christmas his anxiety grows. I am not sure there are any kids that can’t relate to that! His family isn’t rich, in fact their farm doesn’t even have electricity but what they do have is a lot of Christmas spirit. My eight year old was shocked to hear people didn’t have electricity in this century so we had a great conversation about all different ways people live in this country and around the world. The best part for me though was discovering that this book was written by Calvin many years after leaving school yearly to work, and not learning to read and write until well into his adult life. It was at these classes that he first wrote this story and was encouraged to share it.

welcome comfort

Welcome Comfort by Patricia Polacco is a touching book that I think every family should read. The story is about a little boy Welcome Comfort who is picked on at school, has been in the foster system forever and has no family of his own. His school custodian becomes a refuge and helps him believe in Santa for the first time. Over the years he and his wife become Welcome’s family and when the old custodian retires he reveals a wonderful secret to the now grown Welcome. I love this book because it really lets parents dive into the truth of how not all children wake up to a beautiful tree with way too many toys under it. Christmas isn’t everyone’s favorite time and this book lets children learn about that while still being about magic.

diverse3

Jackie’s Gift by Sharon Robinson is one of the best picture books I have read in ages. It was a perfect read with my 8 year old who has a good grasp on various holidays. The story is a true one about a little boy in Brooklyn and his very famous neighbor Mr. Robinson, as in Jackie Robinson. My son and I were howling laughing at the story of how Jackie Robinson bought a Christmas tree for his neighbor when their son said they didn’t have one, not knowing they were Jewish. The story is so heartfelt and the book gives a wonderful look at diversity even many years ago. Now I just need to slip a copy into my son’s stocking.

king island christmas

King Island Christmas by Jean Rogers is the story of the remote Eskimo village on King Island and their efforts to get Father Carrol their new priest onto the island before the sea freezes and boats can no longer reach the village. What I love about this book is that the whole community works together to get the priest to their village so that they can have Christmas mass. It’s not about things it’s about not going a whole year without the candles in the church being lit on Christmas.

trim the tree

10 Trim-the-Tree’ers (Holiday Counting Books) by Janet Schulman is a favorite at our house after only a few readings. We are huge fans of this series that include  Halloween, Easter, and Valentine’s Day versions as well. In this one the group of little friends are decorating a Christmas tree and readers count along as they add their items to the tree all with a rhyming text. I found the text a little awkward but it didn’t bug my daughter one bit. We love counting the ornaments over and over and playing little math games while reading. This whole series has the same group of racially diverse kids and I also like that the kids all live in an apartment. I know it’s a small detail but for my 4 year old it’s very odd not to love  in a house. I like that this series she loves so much helps me widen her horizons even just a little.

kwanzaa books for kids

Santa’s Kwanzaa by Gail Eileen Thomas starts out like a typical Christmas book but as Santa returns to his home at the North Pole he begins a whole new celebration. Kwanzaa! I really like this book for many reasons but the main one because it uses something very familiar to help teach about Kwanzaa which is not terribly familiar to many of us. I get many requests for Kwanzaa books and I am thrilled to be able to add this book to my list of recommendations especially since so many people celebrate both Christmas and Kwanzaa.

39 Christmas Activities For 2 and 3 Year Olds.

Christmas activities for 2  year olds As many of you know I went back to teaching this fall and I am still over the moon about being back in the classroom. I am teaching 2 and 3 year olds and loving it. I thought I would put together a great list of  Christmas activities I have done, will do, and wish I taught more days of the week so I could do with my class. Of course you could do these Christmas activities with older kids too ( my daughter tests out everything I do with my students and she is 4), but just know that these 50 Christmas activity ideas for 2 and 3 year olds have and will be huge hits with your kids or students.

 

Candy Cane Crafts and Activity Ideas

candy cane activities for preschool

Cotton Ball Candy Cane  ( my students made this yesterday and LOVED it)
Reindeer Candy Cane from JDaniel’s Mom
Candy Cane Puffy Paint from Nurture Store
Candy Cane Sensory Tubes from Teach Preschool
Spin Painted Candy Cane Ornaments

Gingerbread Activity Ideas

gingerbread activities for preschool

Paper Bag Gingerbread Men
Make A Gingerbread Men Playdough
Scented Gingerbread Men from Fun At Home With Kids
Gingerbread Playdough from Teach Preschool
Gingerbread Number Hop from Toddler Approved
DIY Cardboard Gingerbread House from Inner Child Fun

 

North Pole Crafts and Pretend Play For 2 year olds and 3 year olds

Santa crafts and activities for preschool

Easy Elf Houses
Santa Star Crafts by Red Ted Art
Santa’s Workshop Pretend Play
Paper Plate Santa
North Pole Play Mat ( a holiday favorite around here! )

 

Nativity and Angel Crafts For 2 year olds and 3 year olds

angel crafts for toddlers

Find and Fill Nativity Game
Nativity Sun Catcher
Paper Roll Angels from Nurture Store
Coffee Filter Angel
Angel Sun Catcher

Christmas Tree Crafts and Activities for Toddlers

christmas tree crafts for 2 year olds

Sticky Wall Christmas Tree Mural
Q-tip painted Christmas Tree
Photo Christmas Tree from Toddler Approved
Button Christmas Trees
Playdough Christmas Tree Fine Motor Activity
Shape Christmas Tree

 

Christmas Wreath Crafts for 2 year olds and 3 year olds

christmas wreath crafts for 3 year olds

Shape Wreaths
Spin Art Wreath by Toddler Approved for Life Your Way
Cork Painted Wreath
Button Wreath Ornament from Wildflower Ramblings
Hand Print Wreath
Ribbon Wreath from Fantastic Fun and Learning

 

Christmas Sensory Activities

Christmas sesnroy activities for preschool
Painting with Jingle Bells from Teaching 2 and 3 year olds
Magnetic Christmas Sensory Bottles
Nativity Sensory Bin from Golden Reflections Blog
Christmas Sensory Bin
Christmas Cloud Dough from Growing A Jeweled Rose
Pine Needle Sensory Bottles from Teach Preschool

 

I am already adding a few of these ideas into my lesson plans for next year, I can’t wait!

Winter Play Dough Creation Station

winter play dough for preschool Play dough is my daughter’s favorite activity. It’s such a wonderful material whether you make your own your buy Play-Doh at the store like we did for this winter play dough creation station. I am not a pre-planner. It looks like I am because you see all the activities after I put them into neat tutorials but I plan as I go and it’s rare I remember to make the play dough, so I buy it. I also LOVE the smell of Play-doh. LOVE. That said if I need a lot of one color I will make it like I did for our Snowman Play Dough gifts. My daughter was so into this simple activity. I set it up for her while her lunch was cooking and by the time she was done I had to re-heat her lunch because nothing was tearing her away from this winter play dough ! I also want to encourage you to sit with your child at least for part of their play because play dough can be a great prompt for storytelling and my daughter proved that point by walking me through a whole story about her snowmen. You can read it below!

Gather your materials. You will need some white and blue play dough, embellishments like buttons, jewels, baker’s twine, yarn, pipe cleaners, and googly eyes. You will also need some cookie cutters. When I do this with a class I have 4-6 cutters but for one kid I offer 2. Too many can be overwhelming. winter play dough creation station

Dive in and play! With younger kids you might have to help them make the shapes, as you can see my daughter is a pro. snowman play dough for preschool winter play dough

She was so into this! winter play dough for preschool

Next up, snowflakes! snowflake play dough winterThese may or may not have been inspired by a certain animated movie…  I love all the fine motor work in this winter play dough! Kneading the dough, picking up the teeny tiny beads, working with the little pipe cleaners and baker’s twine… it’s all a great exercise for fine motor skills which will help them with other skills like cutting and writing. winter play dough for preschool fine motor pincer grasp

I get so excited about the discoveries that are made because of challenges. She was getting frustrated that the foil pipe cleaners weren’t sticking and instead of just throwing up her hands or omitting them, she tried and tried finally discovering that if he stick the pointy end into the play dough it would stay put where she wanted it. Way cool. best play dough activities

She wasn’t done still – one more snowman! My daughter wanted to be very clear that the snowman is not a cyclops, she is just wearing a cyclops hat. winter play dough for kids

Now time to talk about her creations. The snowmen are a family with a mom named Merritt who is a “cooker” , a dad named Judy who is a toy maker elf snowman, and a baby named England ” She’s a girl!” . winter play dough and storytelling

Books About Snow

All our book lists include affiliate links.

The lonesome  polar bear

The Lonesome Polar Bear by Jane Cabrera is a lovely book about a little polar bear who’s only friends are a snow cloud and snow animals and they all keep melting away. The book has an important  message about not giving up hope and to keep trying to make friends , a lesson that is worthwhile for everyone. The illustrations are very cute and my son (who was a toddler when we read it )loved it!

the snowy day

The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats is a classic. Some classics are the type of books that lose their relevance and leave readers wondering what the hype is about. This book is timeless. A little boy goes exploring in the snow and discovers his world in a new way. The illustrations are magical and the way that  they convey the emotions this little boy experiences throughout the day are nothing short of perfect.

jack frost snow

Here Comes Jack Frost by Kazuno Kohara is another fantastic book that will have you aching for snow. A little boy is lonely after his friends have all gone into hibernation for the winter when Jack Frost shows up. They frolic and play exploring all the fun that winter has to offer friends but when the first signs of spring arrive Jack is gone. The illustrations are perfectly simple and will suck you into a wintery world that you won’t want to leave. My kids love this book and after one reading at the library we bought our own copy.