Not sure about you, but winter is my favorite time of year. I get so excited with the change of seasons and seeing snow. My students love this time of year too. I try and capture their excitement by channeling it in their play and academics.
1. Winter in the Classroom
My all-time favorite winter activity is to bring the joy of winter inside. I realize this is easier done in New England than in other areas of the country, but even in New England, snow can sometimes be hard to find! When it does snow, I fill the sensory table with it and let the children explore and play with it. I also fill a plastic cup and let the children predict what will happen to the snow. Most children know that the snow will melt, but they predict the water level will be the same as the snow level or higher, as opposed to being much lower. (Read about other fun water experiments here)
If snow is hard to find, I bring ice in! I freeze big containers and put them in the sensory table. I let the children explore with paint or water and other tools and experiment with what will melt the ice the fastest or what happens when you add color to ice. Another fun activity is to freeze small toys or animal figurines inside the ice and challenge the students to free the animals from the ice. Any chance to explore with real materials and investigating science is an instant hit!
2. Snowflake Bentley
One of my favorite winter books is Snowflake Bentley (Amazon Affiliate link for your convenience). The story about the snowflake photographer from Vermont shows the beauty of each individual snowflake and goes into some of the patterns and shapes found in snowflakes. The children love listening to the story (it is a little long for young readers, so I tend to skip some of the extra facts provided on the sides of the pages) and then they love making their own snowflake pattern. It’s a great connection to math to provide shape cutouts and have children explore with patterns and different shapes and then to tally up the different shapes they used. I often put up photographs of snowflakes on display on the project and pass out different models of snowflakes to support their understandings.
Another great fine motor extension is to fold up paper and cut different shapes and patterns into it to make paper snowflakes. They also make great decorations for around the room!
3. Winter Animals
Another fun winter activity is to learn about different winter animals. This is a great connection to non-fiction reading as well. You can do research as a class to learn about their favorite winter animals. If you have small animal figurines of the winter animals you can add them to the block table or sensory play. The children will love setting up different scenarios for the animals and engaging in pretend play with them. You can also have some of the non-fiction books nearby to deepen and inspire their play.
When studying winter animals, I also love to explore with footprints in the snow. We take a walk as a class looking for the footprints and read Big Tracks, Little Tracks (there are lots of great animal footprint books out there!). After, we do some measuring around the classroom with the different footprints (you can read more about this engaging activity here). The children have a lot of fun and make some fascinating discoveries about non-standard measurement.
4. Jan Brett Winter Books
My favorite author for all things winter is Jan Brett. I love doing an author study and reading her books with the class. Then I put out retelling pieces or have the children make their own puppets with the characters in the story. They love acting out the stories and it is a great literacy activity.
Jan Brett is a great example of not only reading the words, but also reading the pictures of stories. Children should be encouraged to examine the illustrations closely and to infer what the pictures add to the story. The illustrations also help make informed predictions about the stories.
5. Snowball fight
A simple, but fun extension of winter activities is the game snowball fight. You can do it with sight words, letters/sounds, addition facts… whatever children are working on. You write the content on small pieces of paper and crumple them up (you can even have the students write the content down for added curriculum connections). Then, you toss the paper up in the middle of the circle/rug and have the children take turns picking up one of the snowballs and reading/solving it.
You can also use this as a greeting. The children write their names down on the paper and then they take turns picking up the paper, reading the name on it, and greeting the person. My students have so much fun figuring out who will be greeted next. Plus, it is good practice to be able to read each other’s names!
These are my five favorite winter activities that connect the excitement of the winter season with some important academic areas. Which ones are you excited about? Let me know in the comments!
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