Tag Archives: winter

Simple Ways to Keep Little Hands Busy at Christmastime

This is an exciting time of year!  And sometimes that excitement, left unchanneled, can wreck havoc on your sanity.  If you’re finding that the nervous energy in your house is being directed into whining, fighting, or general destruction, consider ways you can redirect that energy in positive, productive ways.  To paraphrase from my e- book, it isn’t enough to tell children to STOP what they’re doing.  To be more effective, you need to give them things they CAN do.  It’s like trying to stop water from running down a hill.  You can’t just tell it to stop, or even try to force it to stop with a dam – it eventually runs over the top.  But you can dig a ditch, a channel, to move it in a more constructive direction.

After linking to the simple Candy Cane Painting idea on my weekend reads, I got thinking about other simple ways to channel that excited energy that fills our children this time of year.  Here are a few more ideas:

Beaded Candy Cane Craft – I used regular round craft beads and no bells (just wrap the pipe cleaners around the end beads.  So simple, so fun, and a great way to incorporate fine motor skills and patterning.  Some of the kiddos alternated red-white-red-white, others went with something more complicated like red-red-white or red-red-white-white.  It’s fun to see what they come up with!  You can simplify even more and just make candy canes by twisting or braiding pipe cleaners together and bending them into shape.

cinnamon

Cinnamon Spice Playdough – Whip up a batch of this and your kids will spend plenty of time and energy working that dough into cookies, pies, and who knows what else!  As a bonus, your whole room will smell just delightful!

Make Snowflakes – Even if you live in Florida, you can have snow for Christmas!  I love cutting snowflakes out of coffee filters (one of the most versatile and inexpensive items to have in your craft closet) because they’re already round and thin for easier cutting.  You can have some fun by painting them with watercolors first or go bold and use some brightly colored paper like these fancy ones at Why Not Orange

You can also make fun snowflakes with Q-Tips, glue, and some black or blue paper.  My son made one that looked less like a snowflake and more like the Millennium Falcon….but that’s part of what’s so great about this project.  It’s so open-ended!  That open aspect encourages their creativity, but also keeps them interested longer because the possibilities are endless!  It’s also a great opportunity to talk about math concepts like whole and half or shorter/longer as you trim the Q-tips to different sizes for your designs.

 Simple Gingerbread Houses – Once upon a time, I was crazy and made a real gingerbread house out of real gingerbread. Then I realized how ridiculous that was for me to do with such little kids, so now I hot glue graham crackers and set the boys loose!  So simple and they love it!

Designer Wrapping Paper – Set your little elves loose designing your own homemade wrapping paper.  The Artful Parent gives some great action painting ideas, and Creative Jewish Mom shares her ideas here.

Get Outside – Being in nature often has an inherent calming effect.  Add to that the way the open space welcomes all that energy and large motor movements, and it’s an easy outlet for little ones waiting for the big day.  Check out some of these ways to have fun outside in the snow.

And last of all, remember to enjoy your little ones and this wonderful time to be together, even if that includes dripping paint, cookies with too much icing, or candy canes without stripes.  Check out this post by Tsh of Simple Mom about planning a peaceful Christmas by embracing imperfection.

Enjoy this magical week!

Top photo by Déz Magnér.  Cinnamon photo courtesy of YappsCotta.

 
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Snowy Ice Cream – Perfect for a Stormy Day

We’re crossing our fingers, hoping for a white Christmas this year.  Looks like we may end up with rain instead.  (We may just have to head for the mountains!)  For those of you with plenty of the white stuff in your local forecast, you might want to try this fun recipe for ice cream.  The main ingredient: Fresh, fluffy snow!  (Taken from this post appearing last year.)

On my first giveaway post, I asked readers to comment with their favorite snowy day activities.  Amber posted these instructions for Snow Ice Cream:

one of my favorite winter activities is making snow ice cream! we did this after the first BIG snow every year when i was a kid – it had to be a BIG snow because you don’t want to get pieces of grass or leaves in your ice cream. ( :

SNOW ICE CREAM

*fresh WHITE snow (heehee)

*a bit of vanilla extract

*a gob of half & half (milk will do)

*a smidgen of granulated sugar

*sprinkles (optional)

 instructions: mix the snow with the vanilla, half & half and sugar. put it in a bowl, top with colored sprinkles (it’s just so cute!) and eat it QUICK! ( :”

She definitely piqued my interest, and I just had to try it out with my own boys after our recent snow storm.

I started out by scooping some of the top layer of snow, and then leaving the bowls out to collect more of the snow as it fell.  You can see it was a substantial storm.  My bowls runneth over!  I brought them in and scooped off the tops into another bowl.  Once you start adding ingredients, you lose a lot of height, so you might need more snow to add back in!

I had ingredients waiting at the ready so that we could get right to work.  Following Amber’s instructions, we scooped, stirred, and tasted.

My boys were amazed as the snow seemed to magically turn into ice cream!

They said it tasted just like vanilla ice cream!  They probably would have said more, but their mouths were full.

This was such a fun activity!  It provided all of the developmental opportunities I mentioned earlier in this post about cooking with children, plus it’s a unique science experience as well as an activity your kiddos are sure to remember.

Incidentally, Amber is an AMAZING photographer!  So if you’re lucky enough to be anywhere near the Treasure Valley sometime (that’s around the Oregon/Idaho border, folks), take advantage of this little treasure!  And even if you’re not so lucky to be there in person, check out her inspiring website anyway!  www.amberfischer.com

For more wintry activities, click here!

 
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Repost: The Winter Games…..Outdoor Ideas for Preschoolers on a Snowy Day!

It has been plenty cold around here, so I thought I’d go back to last year  for a re-post of outdoor winter activities!  Enjoy the holiday weekend!

The best way to learn about winter is to get out and explore it!  Here are some ideas for some fun in the snow!

  •  Fill spray bottles or squeeze top bottles (dish soap, Gatorade) with colored water and create designs in the snow.
  • Make tracks in the snow using a variety of objects (cars, spoons, shoes).  Play a guessing game to match the tracks to the objects.
  • Look for animal tracks.
  • Experiment with freezing different sized containers of water outside.  Which freeze fastest?
  • Place a small plastic toy in water and let it freeze outside.  Bring it inside and experiment with ways to thaw it out.
  • Go Sledding!
  • Bring a container of snow inside and let it melt.  Look with a magnifier at the impurities in the resulting water.
  • Bring in snow and put it in a pot or electric skillet.  Pour salt on it and watch it melt.  Apply heat and melt completely to water, then boil it.  Collect some of the steam on a lid or dish.  You can talk about the water cycle, phases of matter, as well as the fact that when the water evaporates, the salt is left behind.  (This is a complex concept to really grasp, but children enjoy the activity.  I used it to answer a child’s question as to why the snow leaves “white stuff” on our cars.)
  • Build a snowman or snow fort!
  • Use the same tools you would use for sand castles to build snow castles.
  • Press cookie cutters into the snow to make shapes, or use letter cookie cutters to write a message.  This works best in packed snow.  If you’re worried about cutters disappearing, put the snow in a baby pool or in your sensory table.
  • Catch snowflakes on black paper or black felt and examine them with a magnifying glass.

 Outdoor activities promote motor development as well as provide natural earth science experiences.  Bundle up and let the games begin!

For more wintry activities, click here!

Photo by toomas.
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Snacks to Warm You!

There are certain winter days when you absolutely have to be warmed up from the inside out.  Warm snacks are perfect for an afternoon after sledding or as a part of a preschool winter theme.  Children learn that just as clothes keep us warm in winter, warm foods help us out this time of year as well.  Plus, sharing warm food you’ve prepared together provides many of the developmental gains mentioned in this post.  Here are a few fun snacks to warm you through during a cold winter theme!

Hot chocolate, of course!  If you haven’t used one of these Cocomotion machines, you really should check one out.  The kids love watching it spin around!  Keep in mind that it does get the cocoa pretty hot, so stop before it’s done, or add a little cold milk at the end to cool it down.  Use your favorite cocoa mix or try Carnation Instant Breakfast in the place of cocoa if you’re worried about nutrition.  (Still plenty of sugar, but at least there are some nutrients involved!)

Bring on the Wassail.  Wassail is a favorite drink at our house at Christmastime, or as a cold remedy (cold comforter may be a better term).  Here’s the recipe we use.  Just be sure to cool it down for the little ones.

Breakfast Cake.  Let’s be honest.  It’s cake.  Muffin-like at best, if that’s any improvement.  But my mom let us eat it on special mornings as part of breakfast.  That’s what made it so exciting and memorable. We have it now in my own home on birthday mornings or other special occasions.  For you healthy food people, I do realize it has its fair share of sugar.  I’m not suggesting you serve it everyday, but once and a while makes it a great, warm, special treat.  I like to serve it with hot chocolate as we talk about warm winter foods. (Recipe here.)

Soups.  Soup is a wonderful winter food, and many are easily prepared with children.  Try a stone soup activity like this one.  Or my sister-in-law Katie’s Taco Soup.  If you can open cans and stir, you’re qualified to make this soup.  It’s easy for kids to help with.  It’s healthy, tastes great, and if your little ones aren’t soup eaters, tell them it’s bean dip for their chips!

As a child, one of my favorite memories was watching my mom make homemade noodles for chicken noodle soup.  If you’re feeling just a bit adventurous (they’re really quite easy) try this recipe here, and use them in place of store-bought egg noodles in your favorite chicken noodle soup recipe or in the recipes here or here.  You can let your little ones help out as you roll out the noodle dough and cut it into strips with a pizza cutter.  Once they’re in the soup, no one’s going to look at them all lined up, so they really don’t have to be exactly uniform.  Just watch how much more likely your kiddos are to eat soup with “their” noodles.  

While sharing some warm food it’s a great time to talk about the winter adventures you’ve had, or those that you’re planning.  Also a perfect time to talk about how we stay warm on chilly winter days!

                      For more wintry activities, click here!     

Top photo by Dominic Morel.

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Wonderful Winter Books!

I love picture books!  In our family library, my husband’s beautiful leather-bound tomes  line one section of shelves, while my continually growing collection of children’s literature fills another section.  I’d say our respective collections take up about the same amount of real estate, but since I can fit about 20 picture books in the same amount of space as one “War and Peace”, I’d say my collection is larger.  There just never seems to be a bad time to read a good children’s book.  Start of an activity – great!  Rowdy transition time – perfect!  Bedtime – ideal!  It reminds me of the iPhone commercials (“There’s an app for that”).  Any situation, there’s a book for that.  New puppy in the family?  There’s a book for that.  Having a really bad day?  There’s a book for that.  Want to become a pirate?  There’s a book for that too.  Ate too many cupcakes and now you’ve turned pink, which you were really excited about at first, until the birds and bees thought you were a flower and swarmed you, and after one more cupcake you’re actually red, which isn’t nearly as neat as pink and now you need to know how to get back to your normal self?  Wouldn’t you know, there’s a book for that too! (If you think I’m totally off my rocker with that last reference, you need to read Pinkalicious!)

During a winter themed preschool unit, there are plenty of opportunities for a great book.  You might use one to start off outside time, an art project, a game, or a discussion.  Or you might just read one to enjoy it together with your little ones.  For any occasion, here’s a quick list of some of my favorite winter-themed books. Instead of summarizing them myself, I’ve linked each picture to Amazon, which also gives a story summary. 

Snow book & CD set

Snow by Uri Shulevitz

The Snowy Day

The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats (Try out Deborah’s idea for an activity, the first comment on this post, or make snow globes like these – though I would use a glue gun instead of duct tape.)

The Snowman

The Snowman by Raymond Briggs

All You Need for a Snowman

All You Need for a Snowman by Alice Schertle (Try With Activity Here)

Snowmen at Night

Snowmen at Night by Caralyn and Mark Buehner (Book Activity Here)

Snowballs

Snowballs by Lois Ehlert

Snip, Snip...Snow!

Snip, Snip, Snow! by Nancy Poydar (Book Activity Here – Combine with this treat!)

 Under My Hood I Have a Hat

Under My Hood I Have a Hat by Karla Kuskin (Book Activity Here)

Snow

Snow by Cynthia Rylant

The HatThe Mitten 20th Anniversary Edition

Jan Brett’s The Hat…No, The Mitten…Oh, I can’t pick a favorite!  Go with a Jan Brett Author study and check them all out!

Snow Day (Blue Ribbon Book)

And don’t undestimate the value of your informational texts.  My boys love Snow Day by Betsy Maestro.  It’s a book I kind of overlooked, thinking it was boring, but my boys love seeing and hearing about all the machines that clear the way through streets, airports, even harbors on a snowy day.

With all the great literature, don’t forget that information books are great to have in your book area as well. You don’t have to read the whole book, just having the pictures for perusing and maybe reading a page or a sentence or two when a question comes up makes it more than worth the effort.  Having these types of books encourages curiosity and sparks interest in the topic.  It also teaches children that they can find answers to questions by reading books.

The Little Book of Snowflakes

Oooh, and something like this would be perfect in this collection as well!

I know I’ve just scratched the surface of a list that could certainly go on for days!  So comment here, and share your favorite winter themed books with all of us!

For more wintry activities, click here!

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Author Study: Jan Brett

Jan Brett  (Click here to go to Jan Brett’s website.)

Jan Brett is a prolific as an author and illustrator!  Her books are instantly recognizable, with her trademark style of using detail to draw you further into the story, weaving a story-within-a-story as she offers new vantage points in the borders or foreshadows the arrival of a new character.

 I like to do brief author studies with young children, and winter is a perfect theme in which to introduce Jan Brett.  She’s written so many books with snowy backdrops, she even has a Snowy Treasury–  a collection of four favorite snowy stories (The Gingerbread Baby, The Hat, The Mitten, and The Three  Snow Bears), which happen to be the books I would most likely use in this activity.  In addition to that, she has many Christmas-themed books; enough for a Christmas Treasury and more to spare!  Then there’s also Trouble with Trolls and Annie and the Wild Animals set in snowy scenes as well!

My main purpose for doing author studies to support literacy development by (1) teaching what an author/illustrator is, (2) building interest in quality literature through exposure and examination of details, and (3) creating an exercise for recognizing similarities and patterns in an author/illustrator’s work and thereby building connections.

When I introduce Jan Brett, I gather an assortment of her winter-themed books and arrange them for the children to see.  Then I tell them I want to talk to them about someone who is an author and an illustrator.  We talk a bit about what those words mean.  Then I point out that the same person was the author and illustrator of all of the books they see!  You may want to show a picture of Jan Brett and talk a little about her biography (which you can read more about here).  Once we establish the concept of author/illustrator (and of course, talk about how we are also authors and illustrators), we talk about how the books are similar after examining their covers and a few inside pages. With Jan Brett’s books they’re likely to notice (particularly with your expert guidance) that the books have a lot of animals; they have borders; some animals have people clothes on, others don’t; the colors are bold and bright; and there are a lot of little designs and details. 

You may even want to start a list on chart paper with two columns: “same” and “different”.  As you have your discussion, you might write in these columns, noting the similarities and differences between the sample books.  Then, as you explore the books more thoroughly throughout the week or month, the children can add additional observations as they continue to compare and contrast the books.

Of course, after talking about the collection of books, we have to read some!  You don’t want to read them all in one day of course!  But place them in your book area to be examined and explored by the children, and plan some readings throughout the course of a week or month.  Here are a few of my favorites, in “quick fashion” (if only I were capable of such a thing)!

The Hat

Set in a Scandinavian theme, this story tells of Lisa, who is preparing for winter by airing her woolens.  A woolen sock strays, and gets stuck on the prickles of Hedgie the hedgehog.  Embarrassed, Hedgie tells her friends it’s a hat, and soon the whole barnyard has ideas about how to use Lisa’s woolens! 

This is a great book for starting a discussion about getting ready for winter, winter clothes, or how animals prepare for winter (Why don’t they need winter clothes?).  Follow up the reading by sorting summer clothes from winter clothes, or by creating a hedgehog out of playdough and toothpicks.

The Mitten 20th Anniversary Edition

At first appearance, The Mitten may seem to be too similar to The Hat, but they are actually quite different.  First of all, your children may point out during your discussion that one has woodland animals while the other has farm animals.  In the mitten, the main character, Nicky, loses his white mitten in the white snow.  Soon, it becomes a warm spot for a little mouse to nestle….until a succession of larger animals come!  There’s just enough room for all of them as they stretch the mitten’s seams to their full capacity.  The fine stitching holds until one giant sneeze sends them all flying in different directions!  This retelling of a Ukrainian folktale is certainly enchanting! 

Follow up by acting the story out, having your characters “squeeze” into a blanket as the mitten.  You could also play a mitten matching game.  You could also explore the different animal footprints in the snow, shown in the book’s illustrations.  Then go looking for some animal footprints in your own snow!

Gingerbread Baby

This is a fantastic retelling of the Gingerbread Man!  When the oven door is opened too soon, the baby jumps out and runs out the door, taunting an entire village as it runs through the snow.  Only Matti is clever enough to come up with a way to lure the baby back home!  After this story, your little ones are definitely going to want to make some gingerbread people!  You could bake some (just don’t open your oven door too soon!), or cut some from paper and provide ribbon, rick rack, buttons, stickers, yarn, and markers for decorating!

The Three Snow Bears

This Arctic retelling of Goldilocks is clever and exciting, and, once again, the illustrations are detailed and beautiful!  After reading about this Inuit girl who goes wandering in an igloo belonging to a polar bear family, you may want to extend the activity by trying to build an igloo with ice cubes, or experiment with ice floating in your water table (as with the ice floe in the story) and see how many of one object (pennies, toy cars, etc.)  you can place on your ice before it begins to sink!

While reading each story, make connections with the others you have read.  (“This one has a bear too!” “Do you think they’ll wear the mitten like they did in The Hat?” “This border gives you clues just like the last one!”)

Enjoy reading some wonderful wintry stories while getting to know a fabulous children’s author and illustrator, Jan Brett!

For more wintry activities, click here!

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Snow Scene Collage

If you’ve already done a few snowstorm paintings, switch things up a bit and get three-dimensional!  Collect a sampling of random white items to glue onto a snow collage.  Have your children help if you can!  Here are some ideas:  cotton balls, batting, tissue paper, packing peanuts, styrofoam (break it into the tiny balls for realistic snow), white buttons, white tulle, plain old white paper (have the children rip it into pieces for more texture and increased small motor skills), paper with white prints (white on white-ish plaids, stripes, etc.), glitter, salt, white scraps of ribbon or fabric – you notice the theme here, right?  White stuff!  If it can be glued onto paper and it’s white, (and suitable for children of course) it’s perfect!

Prepare the paper as you did in the snowstorm paintings (using colored paper and perhaps a background scene) and then provide an assortment of “whiteness” to be glued on for snow!  (For collage gluing, try this method.)

This process enhances creativity as the children find new uses for “beautiful junk”, and create and express their concept of “snow” through visual media.  The collage aspect increases small motor skills and adds a sensory element with the texture, creating something both visually and tangibly interesting.  So clean out your craft drawers and get all your white “beautiful junk” out on the table!  It’s time for another snowstorm!

For more wintry activities, click here!

Top photo by stocker.

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