By Jacob Posateri
It’s that time of the year, where often through the adult lense we can only see windshields that need scraping, noses that need wiping and the awfully dreaded wet boots that will ultimately lead to the decline in our sanity as we mop the floors for the 27th time today. However, through the eyes of the kiddos in our lives, there is a whole other world of excitement and wonder around us. Yes, winter is here, and with it they have brought an abundant opportunity for fun, exploration and learning!
If you and your kiddos are looking for a fun winter activity that doubles as a yummy frozen treat look no further than your backyard (or for all you teachers out there, your playground). Here is a fun way that you and your kiddos can make literal snow cones! First, I would recommend using a wide and deep pan of sorts, one that will collect fresh snowfall. This can be placed in a location where it won’t be tampered with by any local critters or catch any salt. Once the snow has been “harvested” you can then scoop and decorate with a variety of toppings. There is your obvious traditional snow cone syrup, but if you’d like a healthier and natural alternative, berries would work wonderfully! If you’d like to turn this into a fun math activity you can use rulers to measure the amount of snow you were able to collect and count the number of berries used to decorate your snow cones. Bonus points for using measuring cups as snow cone scoopers!
Winter in the Midwest encourages a number of environmental and ecological changes.
Take a stroll through your local parks, neighborhood or your own backyard to see if you can spot the differences. While you’re out, you may want to visit a local pine tree and see what may be scattered beneath. In my experience, kiddos love scavenging for natural materials, whether they be rocks, flowers or the “watch where you swing that thing” branches. You can collect pinecones and create bird feeders for our feathered friends who have decided to stay North for the winter. To do so, cover the pinecones with sun butter and roll them in a mix of bird seed and sunflower seeds. Then, hang the pinecone from a nearby tree or near a window! To build off of this activity, you and your kiddos can try to identify a variety of birds, even in your own backyard! Here in Wisconsin there are a number of sparrows, chickadees, woodpeckers and cardinals fluttering about. Bonus points for introducing kiddos to different conservational efforts that we can practice to conserve and better the environments that we share with our winged, finned and four legged friends.
The last and final thing I can encourage everyone to take part in this winter is play!
Get outside and enjoy the little pockets of sunshine that may be available to you, for both your physical and mental health. Science has shown that exposure to sunlight helps increase vitamin D and the production of serotonin. Go sledding, build a snowman, practice ice skating, throw snowballs or just simply bask in the glow of the sun shining off of the white and fluffy snow. Turn walking the dog into a family activity, maybe even travel to a nearby trail for a day hike on those “warm” 30 degree days. Load up the building blocks and take them into the backyard and build a winter castle. No blocks? No worries! Dig out those sandbox/beach toys and play with them in the snow! Whatever the activity, if you are able and willing, please just go outside and find a way to enjoy the wonders of winter. I promise you, they are out there.
Five more fun and simple winter activities:
- Fill spray bottles(especially the cute little ones from the dollar store) with watercolor paint on a snow covered day. Spray the snow on the ground and create a work of art!
- The kiddos I work with love to pretend they are baking pies, cakes or running an ice cream shop while playing in the sandbox. You can put together a bucket of fun with cups, bowls, pie tins and ice cream scoopers to be played with in the snow!
- Fill an ice tray with water and place little trinkets (pattern bears, gems, 3d letters, etc) in the tray as well. Sit the tray outside overnight. The next day, bring the frozen cubes inside and melt the ice with warm water and eye droppers to free the treasures frozen inside!
- Practice those fine motor skills by cutting out snowflakes. But, don’t stop there! I encourage you to embrace the mess and add a little sparkle to your snowflakes. Once you have the snowflakes cut and ready, paint the surface with glue and cover them with glitter. I know this sounds extreme, but I promise you, it’s worth it. You can also encourage self-help skills by having kiddos assist you in cleaning up! (Pro Tip: lint rollers and duct tape works wonders for removing glitter off of surfaces)
- Want to build a snowman, but just can’t find the willpower to get outside? That’s completely understandable. Get creative and see what’s in your house or classroom. You can create snowmen using playdoh and cotton balls on paper. Whatever route you take, I hope it’s a fun one!