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Christmas (Holiday) Concept Box

Gather materials for a holiday concept box to support students with visual and complex needs.

Student enjoying holiday objects on the floor.

Let’s get excited about Christmas and the winter holiday season! Sometimes, for young children with visual impairments or those with complex access needs, holidays can be a very abstract concept. Let’s gather some materials and build a concept box to support our student’s understanding of this special day!

Student exploring teacher dressed as Santa.


  • Social interactions and communication
  • Symbolic communication
  • Turn-taking
  • Tactile discrimination
  • Texture identification
  • Concept development
  • Functions of objects
Pinetree dance, student dancing while holding a pine branch.

Suggested Materials:

  • Shoebox or plastic container with a lid
  • Santa hat with beard
  • Pine tree cuttings
  • Cinnamon pinecones
  • Ribbon
  • Bows
  • Wrapping paper
  • Recordings of holiday songs
  • Bells
  • Cookie cutters
  • Rolling pin
  • Wooden spoon for holiday baking
  • Holiday lights
  • Candles
  • Menorah
  • Dreidel 
  • Potato
  • Kinara
  • Mkeka (Kwanzaa mat)
  • Dried corn
  • Unity cup
Student and adult holding and pushing a tactile switch.

Activity Process:

  1. Choose a box to store your items. This can be a shoebox or a plastic container with a lid. It’s best if this is something that can be stored nicely in a shelf where the child can access it easily.
  2. Select 5-10 items for the box. Choose from the materials list above. Try to choose some items that the student may already be familiar with, in addition to some novel objects for discovery.
  3. Label the box with braille, tactile symbols, print, pictures, and/or an object that will cue the student to the concept being discussed. 
  4. Use the box to facilitate a conversation about the upcoming holiday and what will take place. 
  5. Repeat this activity frequently prior to the holidays so that the student can build familiarity with the objects, what they represent, and can expand communication skills.
  6. Have fun!!!! With my students, the more fun I tried to have, the better the conversation went. We took turns wearing the Santa hat and saying “Ho, ho, ho!” The students waved the pine branches around and smelled cinnamon pinecones. We also had fun singing recorded Christmas songs.

Extensions & Adaptations

  • Create a script to use as the student discovers each object for those who are not verbal communicators.
  • Pair sign language with objects for students who are deafblind.
  • Choose objects to present if students are unable to reach in and make a choice for themselves. 
  • Use an adaptive communication device to record holiday sounds and listen to them while you explore the objects.
  • Use a digital recorder to create a sound file of the actual holiday for students to “remember” what took place.
  • Write an experience story about the holiday using some of the objects from the box. 
Christmas/Holiday Concept Box title with a picture of a student exploring the objects.

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