Being a former daycare teacher, I love to do themes! I think teaching with themes helps your child to explore the world in different way than they normally would. Yes, we paint a lot, but under this theme we are painting on snow! Sometimes I let Jasper help me with recipes, but now we are incorporating snow into a recipe! Below is everything we did under the winter “theme” this year!
Tie-Dye Coffee Filter Snowflakes
I have done coffee filter dyeing in many different forms for many different themes over the years. My kids at the daycare always loved it and it is super easy to do! For our winter themed coffee filter dyeing, we will be making snowflakes.
You start by allowing the kids to color their coffee filters. This step allows all ages (who can hold onto a marker) to participate. Jasper just wants to scribble a little on each coffee filter, then move on to the next. While some of the older kids, who I have done this project with, want to cover every spare inch with intricate designs. Both philosophies work perfectly well!
Once the coffee filters are decorated, then you add water. Using a spray bottle is the easiest way to so this. The kids at the daycare always loved to spray their coffee filters. However, we generally don’t have spare spray bottles floating around our house, so we just flicked water all of the coffee filters with our fingers, or in Jasper’s case, he took handfuls of water and dumped it on the coffee filters. Fair warning, this does make a bit of a mess. However, washable markers are super easy to clean up. This is a great time to discuss color names with children and with older children, how colors mix to make other colors.
We set our coffee filters on some cookie racks to help them dry faster. However, they generally don’t take to long to dry, even without the drying racks. Once they are dry, older kids can fold them up, and cut them into snowflakes. This is a great way for
children to practice their fine motor skills. I did this step for Jasper, because he is two and has never been allowed to hold scissors in his life (for good reason). Then, Ta-Da! You have beautifully dyed snowflakes to hang on your windows or where ever you choose!
Snow Ice Cream
As a child I never made snow ice cream. The first time I made it was while working at the daycare. Early in 2014, Southern Illinois had the biggest snow storm that I can remember ever experiencing while living there. We had around a foot in a 24 hour period. Because Southern Illinois doesn’t know how to handle snow, this storm extended the Christmas break for another week. In addition to
having the School Agers at the daycare all day for a week longer than anticipated, in Illinois the state doesn’t allow children to go outside if it is under 32 degrees. We had a whole week of trying to find things to do with the kids. We had to get creative, and that’s when I was introduced to snow ice cream!
The recipe is super easy and Jasper can make it (almost) by himself. He poured the snow into the bowl. He added, (and spilled most of) the sugar. He poured in the milk and the vanilla. Then he mixed it all together. I had to help him mix it all the way, but he did almost all of it himself!
This is a great sensory project for children. Not only do they get to play with snow and in the process make something new, they also get to eat it! I think practical life projects are always exciting. I don’t think this can really be considered cooking, but I love projects that can incorporate food and children preparing their own things to eat. It’s just an added bonus for me that the food is being made from something that nature provided!
In addition, cooking is a great way to get children thinking about the practical application of math. Jasper is to young to do this yet, but for older children, having them measure the ingredients themselves is a great way to practice fractions!
Watercolor Painting on Snow
As you may be noticing by now, I love sensory projects. Personally, I am a hands on learner. In addition, I always noticed that the children at the daycare I worked at loved the projects where they could get their hands a bit messy. This is yet another great sensory project! It is also another project that easily facilitates a discussion of colors and color mixing.
For this project, I filled our play tub full of snow from our back porch. I provided Jasper with a set of watercolors and a paintbrush and let me go at it! Jasper loves to paint. He seemed to enjoy painting on the snow. Our only issue was the texture of our snow. The snow in our area is very light and fluffy. It does not make good snow balls and it’s hard to pack it down enough to create a snow man. Even after packing down the snow in the play tub, Jasper’s paint brush just went right through it. It would have been more fun for him if the snow was a little more compact, but he still enjoyed the project.
Frozen Ice Balls
At forest school a few weeks back, Jasper’s teacher had made ice balls for the kids to play with. Jasper had a ton of fun with his friends, lifting, throwing, kicking and hiding these all over the trail. These are a great way to encourage gross motor development in
children and add some variety to the way they look at a toy ball.
For this project, all you need is some balloons and something
to color the water with. I used food coloring. After filling the balloons, I then tied off the balloons and set them in bowls to freeze into a rounded shape. I just put ours outside on our back porch. However, if you don’t think your location is cold enough to freeze them outside, just stick them into your freezer. Once frozen, I then cut and peeled off the balloons, and Jasper had his very own ice balls to play with!
Multimedia Winter Artwork
There are often certain colors associated with different events or seasons. I feel with
children, structured projects aren’t always the way to let them best express their creativity. For this reason I often, at the daycare and with Jasper, just provide different materials that remind me of the event or season and let the children create whatever they want from it. It is a great way to foster self-expression.
For Jasper’s Multimedia Winter Artwork I provided him with “wintry” colored paints and crayons. In addition I gave him some ripped up tin foil (ice) and ripped up paper towels (snow). I tried to find our supply of glitter. However, I was unsuccessful. We moved in September to our new house, and there are still some boxes that are a bit unorganized. Jasper enjoyed painting and coloring the paper and then scattering the other items over it!
Of course we also do a lot of winter hiking and of course it has its own challenges. I typically put Jasper in three layers of clothing before going out. Also, dealing with the fuss of a toddler who isn’t happy about wearing his hat or gloves is so much fun… However, when he gets tired, I now have the option of pulling him along on the sled, instead of strapping him to my back. Giant plus when you have a heavy child!
In addition there are things that you probably wouldn’t noticed without the snow that you have on a winter hike! We get to observe how moose often have crossed that same path that we are crossing, by looking at their tracks in the snow. We get to see the shapes a bunny makes as it hops through the snow. One of Jasper’s
favorite is finding mouse or rabbit poop, which is often to small to notice on the ground when everything isn’t covered in white snow to help it stand out. This is a great science activity for children of any age. To study animals, or even the prints and droppings that they left behind, opens children’s minds to how we share our living spaces with so many other creatures.
Hiking at any time of the year is a great way to work some gross motor activity into a child’s day. This activity can surface in the form of running along the trial, climbing fallen trees, hopping from rock to rock, and countless other ways!
Another thing that we can only do on winter hikes is, instead of hiking around lakes and through rivers, we can hike on them! I must admit the first time we hiked on a river was shortly after we moved to Alaska. My husband, Jasper, my MIL and I were visiting a (new to us) trail. We thought we were following the trail, but after awhile I turned to my husband and asked him if he heard that funny noise. Shortly after, we realized the noise was the water were walking on top of! We had been walking for quite awhile on a river, not a trail! Since this experience, I have traveled across a couple of frozen lakes, and they are always lots of fun. To see a familiar location from an area that was previously unreachable is really interesting!
Sensory Exploration with Snow
One of our easier winter projects, with virtually no prep time is snow exploration! Jasper adores snow! He loves to lay in it. He likes to move it around and make piles. He brushes it off of rocks, gates and fences. He enjoys dinging in it with spoons and cups. Most recently, I helped him dig out a snow cave and he played with his arctic animals in the cave. He had them climb up and down it. He made them burrow into the snow. He hid them, piling tons of snow on top of them. Then he dug them out again and was always so happy to have found them!
Shoveling snow is one of Jasper’s favorite things. It is likely because he sees my husband and I doing it all the time. We even got Jasper his very own Jasper-sized snow shovel so he could help too. This practical life skill can be seen as pretend play for children, but really it is offering so much more, including gross motor practice. Usually, Jasper just shovels snow back onto the area that we are clearing off, but it does keep him busy so we can get the job of clearing the driveway done.
Winter Themed Books
We are a family of book lovers! Jasper has enough books that he almost has his own library. I try to cycle through his books on a regular basis to make sure there aren’t forgotten ones, or ones that never get read. However, structuring our lessons with themes helped me to track down books that we may not have read for awhile.
I’m sure you have encountered your child’s doctor recommending you read to them each day. Reading to your child helps them increase their vocabulary at a time in life where their minds are like sponges! To create life long readers you must get them to love books from a young age!
Some of my favorite Winter Themed Books:
The graphics found on this page are from www.mycutegraphics.com !
To see more of our adventures visit us on Instagram!