PSED: Brrr-illiant books for Christmas

Judith Harris
Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Christmas is the perfect time of year to teach children the importance of helping others and sharing. The books of Raymond Briggs are a fantastic resource for instilling children with these values during the festive period.

Children and adults alike have been reading and watching The Snowman since the book was published in 1978 and made into an animated film in 1982. A more recent addition, The Snowman and the Snowdog, has brought the story to life for a new generation of children. Raymond Briggs studied art in London and his instantly recognisable graphic novel style books are popular with all ages. His iconic characters include The Snowman, Fungus the Bogeyman, The Bear and of course, the rather grumpy Father Christmas.

Children will enjoy learning about all aspects of personal, social and emotional development, including sharing, taking turns, recognising feelings, making friends, and coping with the excitement of the build up to Christmas as they share these books.

Playing and exploring

  • Children share the story of The Snowman in different ways
  • They use puffy snow paint, snow dough and snow to make snowmen
  • They talk about how Father Christmas feels in the story

The Snowman…

Read The Snowman with the children. How do they think the little boy feels when he wakes up the next morning to find the snowman has melted? Watch the animated film on YouTube. Talk about the two versions of the story. Can they spot any differences? One key difference is that there are no actual references to Christmas in the original book but the little boy meets Father Christmas in the animated film.

I wanna build a snowman

Go outside on a snowy day and build a snowman together. If the school is closed because of the weather, encourage the children to build snowmen at home and take lots of photographs to bring in and share with their friends. Can they make an upside-down snowman? Or a snow animal? What kind of natural materials can they use to give the snowman a nose, eyes and mouth?

Snow painting

It's time to get creative! Make some puffy snow paint using equal amounts of shaving foam and chilled white PVA glue. Let the children create their own portraits of the snowman and his friends. Can they cut out shapes for the snowman's face, buttons, scarf and hat from coloured cardboard?

…and the Snowdog

Read The Snowman and the Snowdog. Make some snowy white play dough using corn flour and vegetable oil and let children create their own snow people and animals, including snow dogs and bears. They could develop a small world play area by making a winter setting for their dough models. For example, snow-capped trees (broccoli covered in icing sugar) or, with the help of a practitioner, even Father Christmas's sleigh (using cardboard boxes). Ask the children to write simple labels to go with their models. Can they name their creations?

Father Christmas

Read Father Christmas and/or Father Christmas Goes on Holiday. Father Christmas is rather a grumpy character in these books. Talk about why he may feel grumpy. How could they help to cheer up Father Christmas? Who else has to go to work at Christmas? This is a good opportunity to teach children about how doctors, nurses and other emergency services have to work even at Christmas.

The Bear

The Bear is another classic book about unlikely friends. In this story, a huge polar bear comes to stay with Tilly and causes her all sorts of problems, but her parents think she's making it up. Ask the children to describe what they can see in the pictures. Do they think the bear is a real or imaginary friend, and can they explain their decision?

Father Christmas's workshop

Transform the role-play area into Father Christmas's workshop inspired by Father Christmas. Provide dressing up outfits for Father Christmas and his elves. Encourage children to wrap up boxes to make parcels using wrapping paper, scissors and sticky tape. Build a sleigh out of large cardboard boxes for them to load with parcels. Write Christmas lists and letters to Father Christmas. Set up a construction table with lots of junk materials, and challenge children to make models and toys for Father Christmas to distribute.

Nothing can beat the experience of going out on a snowy day.

Active learning

  • Children make snowman snacks to share together
  • They practice handwriting skills in the snow paint
  • They compare two versions of a traditional tale

3-2-1 Snowman snack

Make a snowman snack using three big marshmallows, two twiglets and one fruit gum sweet. Children can use icing sugar glue (icing sugar and water) to stick together the three marshmallows, push the two twiglet arms into the middle marshmallow, and stick one sweet on top of the head as a hat. Use squeezy tubes of icing to draw a face and share together at snack time. For a healthy alternative, children could make a fruit snowman out of slices of banana slid on to a lollypop stick. Use raisins for the buttons and a strawberry for the hat.

Snow writing

Invite children to use their fingers to make ‘footprints’ in the snow paint. Spread some paint onto a plastic tray. Provide other tools for scratching shapes and patterns in the paint. Extend this to include some hand writing practice in the snow. Ask children to write their initials and names in the snow paint using fingers, blunt pencils or twigs collected from outside.

Jim and the Beanstalk

Read Jim and the Beanstalk. Compare it with the traditional tale Jack and the Beanstalk. In this spin-off, instead of finding a fearsome giant, Jim comes face-to-face with a giant who needs his help. He buys the giant glasses, false teeth and a wig in return for three gold coins. Can children notice the difference between the tales? How does Jim's treatment of the giant differ from Jack's? Have fun acting out the story.

Creating and thinking critically

  • They create and present some snowman dances
  • Children are involved in planning and hosting a Snow Fun Day
  • They tell a story using pictures and no words

Dance of the Snowmen

Watch the ‘Dance of the Snowmen’ by Howard Blake from the animated version of The Snowman ( Ask the children to stand in a circle and copy the dancing from the clip. Get them to think about how a snowman might move – would the limbs be heavy? Would they use their hands in the same way as humans? Invite pairs of confident children to go in the middle and spin each other around.

Stories in pictures

The Snowman doesn't need words to tell the story – the pictures do all the talking. Ask the children to try and draw a sequence of four or five pictures to tell a story without any words. Start by choosing a character and a setting and drawing them.

EYFS Early Learning Goals

These activities provide lots of opportunities for using mixed media and materials to create snow related artworks. Physical skills are also developed as children create group snowmen dances and handle tools playing in Father Christmas's workshop.

Key learning points

  • Children play to co-operatively and take turns
  • They take account of one another's feelings and ideas
  • Children grow in confidence to try out new activities
  • They cope with changes in routine as Christmas excitement builds

Useful resources

  • A collection of books written or illustrated by Raymond Briggs (

  • Real snow; digital camera; shaving foam; white PVA glue; coloured cardboard; scissors; cornflour; vegetable oil; white sheet; white labels; pens; ingredients for snowmen snacks; plastic tray; blunt pencils; sticks and twigs; music from The Snowman; warm clothes; hot chocolate; mugs; white blankets; white pompoms; boots; hats; scarves; mittens; loo roll; strips of paper; comics/magazines; equipment for Father Christmas's workshop.

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