As the days get shorter and the weather gets colder it’s a great time to help children ramp up their creativity and celebrate the wow factor of winter with a range of playful outdoor activities and crafty creations.
The shift from one season to another can be a difficult concept for children to understand and the transition from autumn to winter, presents a great opportunity for young children to learn about the seasons through direct experience, while having plenty of fun along the way.
Fun with four seasons
Each season has unique natural characteristics. Spring evokes butterflies and flowers, summer is sun and beaches, autumn is evoked by the changing colour of leaves while winter is a shivery presentation of grey clouds, rain, wind, warmer clothes and snow.
Using visual imagery for each season will help children learn and improve their understanding of the world around them. Use books and stories related to the different seasons and talk to children about the names of the seasons – spring, summer, autumn, winter – the change in weather, and the environment of each season.
Fill the room with engaging books, big pictures, colourful photographs evoking the seasons with a visual focus on winter. Play these short and colourful educational videos to engage children on this topic:
- Australia’s ABC TV show Dirtgirl World (1 minute)
- Sesame Street, Guess the seasons song (2:13min)
- Sesame Street, Bert is all dressed up for winter (2:51Min).
Active fun and learning outdoors
One of the best ways to help children grasp the idea of the changing seasons is to head outdoors and experience the environment. The benefits of outside play are significant in any season and getting outdoors should be encouraged no matter what the weather.
Dr. Robert Murray, author, and board member of Action for Healthy Kids an organisation dedicated to child health and the promotion of outdoor play, said in a recent Business Insider article: “Our culture has developed a fear of changing seasons, but there’s no distinct indoor or outdoor season.”
He added that each day provides an opportunity for “the quality ‘kid time’ needed to explore, create, build relationships, and accept new challenges…” while playing in the outdoors.
Exploring the world in winter provides lots of opportunities for play based discovery and sensory experiences.
Here are some ideas for educator led winter activities:
- Blow bubbles: Younger children never grow tired of bubbles, on a windy winter day grab some bubble solution and go crazy. Have the children watch them to determine the wind direction, then ask them to run and catch them as they fly away.
- Wind fun: When it gets a bit blowy outside ask the children to run against the wind. Ask them to compare how this feels to running with the wind behind them. Explore the sensations and use language to describe the feelings.
- Rain play: When the rain starts dress up in gumboots, raincoats and use umbrellas to explore outside. Encourage the children to stop and listen to the rain as it lands on the umbrella. Watch their eyes light up in delight as they walk and then run through puddles, and you can show them firsthand how different splashes happen when water lands with different levels of force.
- Water drops: Shake some low-lying tree branches after it has rained to teach children about cause and effect.
- Weather watch: Observe the weather, temperature and the environment with the children, make comments like, “It’s slippery” and “What a big puddle”. Ask occasional questions such as, “What’s happening?” “What are you doing?” “What does it feel like?” Ask the children to play act as a weather reporter and give a forecast to the class.
- Going on a bug hunt: Organise a scavenger hunt to discover bugs and interesting plant life. Take photos so you can thoroughly investigate your found treasures when you head back inside. Look up the names of unidentified objects and incorporate your finds into an art project.
Grab the glitter and let’s get crafty
The benefits of participating in visual art experiences in the early years are widely documented. Craft activities are enriching and foster the development of a child’s communication, listening, focus and creativity.
Art is an activity that can employ all the senses—sight, sound, touch, smell, and taste—depending on the activity. Children’s brain synapses fire away as they experiment and create, squishing paint between their fingers, mixing colors and materials, or drawing from their imagination or from pictures.
Here are some super fun, winter themed crafts that use crafts readily available in most craft cupboards:
- Build a snowie – two ways: While only a few places in the country experience snow it’s a symbol of winter, and every child loves a snowie! Using an activity tray full of various shapes and textures (try to source natural child safe materials like sticks, carrot sticks and pebbles), this craft allows everyone the freedom to create their own special snowperson. For a second option add some playdough with some sparkly glitter and children can enjoy creating their own standing snowie.
- Rain Cloud Painting: This is a chance for kids to touch, glue and splosh their paint to create a gravity painting that encourages extra learning in about the water cycle and rain.
- Paper Plate Umbrellas: Who doesn’t love a colourful umbrella? This easy paper plate umbrella craft can be made using paint, tissue paper, glam glitter or pom-poms for decorating.
- Marvellous Mittens and Best Beanies: Warm up with some mixed media as children decorate their own winter clothing creations using crayons, paints, cotton wool and tissue paper.
- Hot chocolate: Nothing says winter comfort like steamy hot chocolate! Kids can cut out and decorate their own paper mug creation with paint or crayons and add squishy pom-pom marshmallows on top.
- Weather process art: This ‘wind art’ and ‘frost art’ project is designed to help children see how the weather (or actions very similar) can create stunning art. This is ‘process art’ where the learning comes from the doing, rather than the final product.