Fast Festive Role Play

Originally printed in the December 2014 edition of UKEdMagazine

Advent is supposed to be a season of expectant waiting and preparation. In primary schools, it is often a hectic season of making cards, calendars and decorations whilst learning the words to ‘Away in a Manger’ and keeping everything crossed that the angel Gabriel doesn’t come down with a bout of norovirus. The good intentions to transform the classroom into a festive wonderland can just become the last straw. Here are my ideas for some easy role-play solutions that take minimum time, but inject some festive fun into that corner of the classroom.

Using Janet and Allan Ahlberg’s “Jolly Christmas Postman” ( as an inspiration, set up a writing table where children can pretend to be characters from fairy tales writing to each other. If you have costumes for the Bad Wolf or Red Riding Hood, you can get them out as extra inspiration. If not, write the names of characters on post-it notes, the children must pick one and then make a Christmas card from that character, this can be extended by asking children to write a letter to Father Christmas in role, what would Baby Bear want for Christmas.

A variation for older children is to get them to imagine they are a famous writer, historical figure, sporting hero, or even just someone from the past. What are their hopes and dreams at Christmas and the new year. Put on a top hat and they become Charles Dickens or a beret with a brooch and they are Henry VIII. The anniversary of World War I provides an opportunity for thinking about what would have been in Christmas letters from soldiers, parents or sweethearts.

Find a selection of Nativity stories and make a stable in the classroom. A doll wrapped in ‘swaddling’ and some sticky name labels is all you really need, though you can use costumes from the school play, if they are not too precious! A literacy focus is maintained if you have a badge saying ‘narrator’ and one child reading the story whilst the others act it out.

Flatten out some cardboard boxes - cereal boxes are perfect. Wearing Santa hats the children become elves and their job is to remake the boxes plain side out and make their own special design on the box. Link this to literacy by introducing story characters, maybe design a parcel for the Gruffalo? A variation on this is to design some wrapping paper and write a label for their intended recipient. This can be done with stampers or potato prints, though I think it is quite good to observe what they produce imaginatively.

Again, using Santa hats to make the children into elves, put out some construction kit and an instruction, such as “Santa needs five cars, a tall tower and an aeroplane”. They can tick off each item as they make it and then stick a label saying what they have made. Older children can write how they made their toys on whiteboards and leave them as instruction for the next group.

This is just a whistle stop tour through some festive fun. Happy Christmas!

Click here to read this article freely in the November 2014 Edition of UKEdMagazine.

Dr. Nancy Walbank is an educational consultant. She has worked across primary, secondary and tertiary education. She has held leadership roles in the primary sector. Her PhD focused on inclusion in faith schools. She is the author of “Six Top Tips for a Trainee Teachers.” Follow her on Twitter @nan282.

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