Making a snowy day into a learning experience for children

On Monday, ‘Punxsutawney Phil’ the groundhog may have predicted that spring is on its way, but according to weather forecasts the week will end with lots of snow on Friday.  If you’re a parent or caregiver and can’t bear the thought of cutting one more snowflake out of paper, or spending hours outside making snow angels, don’t be discouraged!  Quinn, our newest educational consultant, shared a snowy day activity that you likely haven’t tried yet.  Mix cozy, indoor conversation with fresh air and outdoor exploration … read on to find out how.

This activity is ideal for children ages 3-5.  It can be modified for younger children.

Materials:

snowy day network pic

The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats (available in English and Spanish)

Plastic bin, tub, or large bowl

Towel

Scooping materials: plastic spoons, measuring cups

Step one: Reading the story

First, read the story to the children.  Read it in an interactive way, letting the kids ask questions and asking them questions as well.  Relate what the main character, Peter, is doing in the story to things that they might be doing in their everyday life.

Some questions you could ask:

Have you ever looked out of your window at the snow falling the way Peter is doing?
Do you wear mittens and snow boots when you go outside to play in the snow?
Peter makes a snowball with the snow.  What do you like to do in the snow?

Step two: Going outside

Next, help the children put on their snow gear, just like Peter wears in the story.  Then, bring the children outside along with the plastic bin or tub.  Together with the children, scoop up bunches of snow and collect it in the tub.

*Modify for younger children: Instead of going outside and having children collect snow, put the bin outside and let snow collect throughout the morning and while you are reading the story.  If it’s not snowing out, collect existing snow in the bin prior to the children’s arrival.  Then, after reading the book, bring the bin inside.

Step three: Bringing the outdoors in

Bring the bin of snow inside and place it on the floor or a low table.  Place on a towel for easy clean-up.  Gather children around the bin and explore the snow with them without any gloves on.  Let them touch and feel the snow.  For infants, let them watch from your lap, if possible.  If not, let them poke, touch, and feel the snow from an infant chair.

During the exploration, ask open-ended questions such as:

What does the snow feel like?  Is it warm?  Is it cold?
What does it smell like?
What color is it?

At this point, you can introduce scooping materials such as plastic spoons and measuring cups to promote additional exploration.

Step four: What if?

In addition to exploring the snow and talking about its properties, it’s always great to ask “What would happen if…?” questions and “I wonder…” questions.  Ask what the children think might happen to the snow if they let it sit in the tub through lunchtime, naptime, or whatever the next activity might be. Optional extension: write down what each child says on a piece of paper or chart paper.

After time has passed, you and the children can revisit the tub and notice that it has melted, just like when The Snowy Day’s Peter put a snowball in his pocket.

Sometimes children want the story read to them again after the experience. Repetition helps children’s cognitive and language development: sequence, properties of books, rhymes and sounds, vocabulary, and comprehension.

Sometimes younger children aren’t developmentally ready to sit through an entire book. Modify if necessary and be flexible.

Through this activity, children are building:

Early literacy
Language acquisition
Social skills
Cause and effect
Beginning understanding of and introduction to science and the natural world (weather, temperature, seasons, etc.)
Prediction
Fine-motor development

Don’t let Friday’s snowy day go to waste!  Enjoy and explore.

Other resources:

The Essentials of Early Literacy Instruction, Kathleen A. Roskos, James F. Christie, and Donald J. Richgels, Young Children

Zero to Three, Brain Wonders, Early Literacy

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