This month, I set up a few variations of a Christmas Tree Polystyrene Poke activity, and every version was a huge hit with my kids! Although I initially intended to make the Christmas activity for my 2-year-old son, my 5-year-old daughter was jealous and wanted to poke the polystyrene foam Christmas trees!
Since my kids and I mainly speak Chinese together and it’s a minority language, we focused on Chinese words for this Christmas activity. This fun and inexpensive activity taught my son about shapes, colors, and words! My son was so excited to tell me each shape and color that he recognized! In addition, both kids strengthened their fine motor skills and learned about the texture of a polystyrene foam. My daughter noticed that polystyrene foam is a lot like cork board, but it’s easy to rip and crumble! And while my 5-year-old has fun with pushpin activities on our cork board, toothpicks and matchsticks are much safer for my 2-year-old!
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Christmas Tree Polystyrene Poke – a recycled activity for kids!
Another big lesson was the benefit of using “trash” for art and learning instead of just tossing it out. We try to use recycled materials as often as possible, and we have been collecting a lot polystyrene foam from packages! Polystyrene is a widely-used type of plastic, and polystyrene foam is used for building insulation and also cushioning in packages. Unfortunately, the material is not biodegradable, and it is generally not recyclable. Therefore, I recommend not buying items that use polystyrene. Instead, you can save polystyrene foam from your packaeges for potential learning fun!
What you need for the Christmas Tree Polystyrene Poke activity
- Polystyrene foam (eg, Styrofoam)
- Toothpicks &/or color matchsticks
- +/- Acrylic paint
How to set up the Christmas Tree Polystyrene Poke activity
- Draw Christmas tree shape with desired colors
- Paint if desired – Things to keep in mind:
- Polystyrene seems to absorb paint, so I needed to use more paint than usual to paint the Christmas trees.
- If you are not comfortable with drawing, you can use our Christmas Coloring Sheets printable and tape it to the styrofoam
- Label with the Christmas tree with desired letters, characters, or numbers that you’d like your child learn
- Note: For younger kids, focus on only 1-3 words or letters. Older kids may be able to hand more information, however!
- Set up toothpicks/matchsticks beside the polystyrene foam
- Demonstrate to your child how to match colors
- Discuss new words concepts.
- Poke, poke, poke!
Christmas Tree Polystyrene Poke – Learn Shapes, Colors, Words, and Fine Motor Skills!
The photos here show different ways that we used polystyrene foam! My 5-year-old daughter had a lot of fun putting as many color matchsticks in the styrofoam as possible. On the other hand, my 2-year-old son had some trouble with the matchsticks due to improper holding and inadequate strength. However, toothpicks were very easy to insert into the polystyrene foam board.
Teach kids Chinese with a fun styrofoam fun activity
My kids also had a great time poking Chinese characters! He was excited the he recognized 木 (mù / wood) and also could find 木 in the character 树 (shù / tree). I wish I took more photos of how we worked with Chinese characters! You can write the Chinese characters with a Sharpie marker or paint the Chinese characters. If you can’t write Chinese, you can also print ouf Chinese words on paper and place it over the styrofoam to poake!
Once my son realized that the foam can stand upright, he wanted to complete the activity like this! This little change made a big difference in his excitement!
Christmas Tree Styrofoam Tree – Share & Color Learning Activity
For this version, I painted a Christmas tree with just a few shapes! I also cut out matching colors and shapes with construction paper so my kids can see Chinese characters and match them to the Christmas tree!
My daughter had a clever idea to pin the paper shapes onto the tree itself! Can you spot the brown rectangle?
Other hands-on learning activities for kids
- Click here to see many other fun and educational activities with craft sticks!
- All Christmas activities can be found in this link!