"The Twelve Days of Christmas" song actually refers to the period after Christmas from December 26th until January 6th, but teachers may like to use these twelve preschool art ideas during December. The students could take home their projects and share with their families on the appropriate days during the Christmas holidays.
Gather the students together and share one of the books based on the song. Listen to a recording of the song. Have the words printed on a chart so that the students can follow along and join in as they become familiar with the words.
The Twelve Days of Christmas by Brian Wildsmith. Simple retelling of the song with beautiful illustrations in Wildsmith's inimitable style.
Emma's Christmas by Irene Trivas.The original song wrapped up in a story about a Prince and a farmer's daughter – with hilarious consequences.
On the First Day of Christmas
Ask the children: What is a partridge? Do you think that it really lives in a pear tree? The children will quickly see that this is going to be a fun-filled project when you suggest that each day you are going to do an art activity about each of the twelve days in the song.
Provide large sheets of brown construction paper and some straight pretzels (twigs, or paper cut into branch shapes). Ask the students to cut out a trunk for the tree and glue it on to their paper. Add "branches" from the pretzels, twigs, or paper. From magazines (or from a template) ask the students to color and cut out a bird (somewhat resembling a partridge) and glue it onto a branch of their tree. Also add a pear shape hanging from one of the branches.
On the Second Day of Christmas
Ask the students: How many turtle doves arrived? What do we call two of a kind? (a pair) What comes in pairs?
Provide each student with a template of a mitten and invite them to trace and cut out two mittens to make a pair. Then decorate them with patterns in crayon or marker. You may also like to provide felt scraps and ribbons to decorate. Display them on a string hung across the classroom.
On the Third Day of Christmas
Ask the students: If each hen had an egg how many eggs would there be?
Invite the students to draw a picture of 3 hens. Color them. Then draw an egg beside each one. Provide some wool scraps (yarn) and have students add "straw' to their pictures.
On the Fourth Day of Christmas
Explain to the students that the word that they are hearing about these birds is "colley" and not "calling". (The word "colley" is probably from the word "coal" and is referring to the birds' colors as black ). Ask students to think of things that are black. Tell them that they are going to do an experiment called The Colors of Black. Give each child a coffee filter folded in half and in half again. Ask them to draw wiggly lines with a black magic marker (water soluble) around the filter about an inch (3cm) from the tip. Then gently submerge the tip of the filter in a glass of water. The black "ink" will spread into different shades. Open out the coffee filters, allow them to dry. Then the students may mount them on a background, or you could cut them out into bird shapes.
On the Fifth Day of Christmas
Ask the students: What shape do you see in the five golden rings?
Provide templates of different size circles and different colors of paper. Ask students to cut out circles and arrange in sets of 5, or on lined paper ask students to draw a set of 5 circles on each line. They could use corks or bottle caps to draw around.
On the Sixth Day of Christmas
Discuss with students about geese. Show pictures of Canada geese and domesticated farm geese. Ask what sound they hear at the beginning of the word "geese".
Invite students to draw a big letter "G" on a paper. Put glue on it and add sequins or buttons. On each paper print "G is for the geese"
On the Seventh Day of Christmas
Ask the students: What colors are swans? (white or black)
Provide each student with an outline picture of a swan and small strips of white or black paper. Demonstrate how to roll the strips around a pencil to make "curls". Glue these curls to the swan pictures.
On the Eighth Day of Christmas
Most students will be unfamiliar with the concept of milking stools so explain that before machines all milking had to be done by hand.
Provide students with pictures of cows and stools. Click here for pattern. Ask them to make a picture using 8 cows and 8 stools.
On the Ninth Day of Christmas
Your class is sure to love this activity – making drums!
Provide each child with a margarine or similar container (coffee cans with lids are also excellent). Stretch a piece of fabric (or paper) over the top and secure with an elastic band. Decorate the outside with scraps of adhesive paper or colored tape. Use tongue depressors, unsharpened pencils, teaspoons or even fingers as drumsticks and have a musical concert!
Listen to each of the drums. Do the bigger containers make a lower or higher sound? Have the children with the same size drums beat out a single rhythm, and the children with different size drums beat out a double rhythm.
On the Tenth, Eleventh and Twelfth Days of Christmas
For each of these days invite your students to make finger puppets for these characters. For the patterns click here.
Color the characters. Cut them out. Add a paper circle to the back of each one to make a finger puppet. Students can make their puppets dance to the words of the song.
On the eleventh day ask the girls to show how they can dance around the room holding their puppets above their heads.
On the twelfth day ask the boys to show how they can leap around the room while they hold their puppets above their heads.
To use the number 12 in other ways ask these questions:
Think of 1 helpful thing you could do at home on each of the twelve days of Christmas
What do you think are the 12 best things about Christmas?
Think of 12 decorations that you might find on a Christmas tree.
If you could plan a dinner for the 12 days of Christmas what would you have?
Think of 12 people who deserve a thank you on each of the 12 days of Christmas.
What are 12 things that could be dangerous at this time of the year?
Each day these projects will provide opportunities to introduce number recognition, word repetition, and extend student's general knowledge.
For other Christmas math activities click here