Trimming the tree with toddlers and preschoolers in tow is as tough as it sounds. So many shiny, pretty things to touch and hold! This year, let your little ones in on the decorating fun, and save your sanity, with a little learning tree of their very own!

A three- or four-foot tree is plenty big. Put it on a sturdy stand so it’s sure not to tip and place it in your playroom or other open space. Then turn this time-honored tradition into a fun, family learning activity by decorating the tree with child-safe ornaments made of everyday objects, like the Learning Resources Back in Time Dinosaur Counters.

We turned this colorful set of 72 dinosaurs into props for our holiday-themed lesson by wrapping flexible ornament hooks around each one, then hanging them in the tree. Once they’re hung, there are so many ways to learn and play this holiday!

1. Color Learning

With all the dinos hung in the tree, challenge your child to find and remove all the orange ornaments, then all of the blue, green, red, yellow, and purple in turn.

2. Counting

Once the dinos are down, take a careful look at each pile. Which one is biggest? Which one is smallest? Be sure to use early math vocabulary words like more than and less than. Next, help your child count each pile, saying each number as you move that dinosaur aside.

3. Sorting

When you’re done counting, let your little one jumble up the piles into one, giant, rainbow-colored, dino dig. Then see if she can sort the piles by attribute. Try sorting first by color, then jumble them up again. Then try sorting by type of dinosaur, then by size. Sorting is an important early math skill, as it helps children begin to identify and group “like” objects.

4. Matching

Next, choose four different dinosaurs. Show them to your child one by one, see how quickly he can find a matching dinosaur in the pile. Make sure the pairs are identical in both color and type of dinosaur.

5. Letter Learning

Preschoolers can practice their letters with this dino-covered learning tree, too! Place the dinos back in the tree, and then challenge your pint-sized paleontologist to find all the dinosaurs whose color starts with the “O” sound, then the “Yeh” sound, the “Buh” sound, and so on.

6. Fine Motor Skills

When the learning and fun is done, you’ve still got one last chance to slip in some developmental practice! Ask your child to place the ornaments back on the tree, working those fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination.

There are so many ways to learn and play, every day, but the holidays offer a special chance to shake things up, like we did with our learning tree. How will you ‘grow’ the learning this season?