Making the most of the white stuff!
A belated happy new year to you all. I took some extended time off before and after Christmas, which seems such a long time ago now, so it’s been a while since my last post.
Time to get back in the swing of things, starting with my favourite type of weather – SNOW! I think this is my favourite because it brings so many learning opportunities with it and generates a sense of excitement within children that is rarely found with any other type of weather. This is probably because, in the south of England at least, we get so little of it and what we do get, has gone in a few days.
In order to make the most of the weather it pays to keep an eye on the weather report. Remind parents, in advance, of your intention to get outside to ensure they clothe children appropriately, so they get as much time outside as possible. After all, in south London where I live, it never last for more than a day or two.
Although, in London at least, we have had a mild winter so far, it’s forecast that it is going to get much colder and that the Beast from the East is on it’s way. As many parts of the country have already received lots of snow however, I though I would remind you all of some snowy day ideas, posted last year, as well as some new.
It’s such a shame that most schools are reluctant to let children play outside in the snow and instead, opt for a rainy day approach providing indoor activities for children, at lunchtime. Having seen firsthand, how inappropriately many children are dressed for this type of weather I can understand this to some degree, but children are missing out on so many exciting learning and play opportunities as a result.
First hand experiences make the curriculum come alive and it never fails to amaze me, how rigidly schools stick to their themes and topics rather than take advantage of changes to the weather to make the most of creative writing, poetry, science or art.
That is the beauty of outdoor learning, making the most of opportunities provided by the seasons. You dont have to wait for the second week of Spring 2 for children to learn about changes to materials, as what better way to learn about reversible changes could there be, than experimenting with the ice and snow outside?
Early years practitioners at least, are made of sturdier stuff and understand the benefits of getting outside. Here are some ideas to get you going using snow to support learning across the curriculum
- Ordering snowballs by size – challenge children by asking them who can make the smallest/largest snowball? Create a number of snowballs and place them in order from smallest to largest.
- Painting in the snow – Create a picture frame for the painting by using sticks and other natural materials to create a border then bring some paints outside and create away! It might be a good idea to tamp the surface down first, to create a more solid surface on which to paint.
- Create snow animals –
Instead of making snowmen, why don’t you encourage children to make snow animals, such as penguins or reindeers? Once constructed they can be painted and/or decorated with loose materials such as branches to create antlers.
- Create a light picture – Snap glow sticks and place under the snow. How deep does the snow have to be before you cannot see the light?
- Create a snow den or igloo – Margarine containers make for great snow brick moulds. Pack the snow into the container, level it off and tap it out to make a snow brick. Lay them side by side and build them up to make a wall or den. Encourage children to look at brick patterns in the environment to support them with the placement. You could sing the Tweenie’s song – Gonna Build a House, whilst constructing.
- Create a picture with loose materials in the snow. Make this multi-media by adding paint, either by brush or via a spray bottle, for a colourful effect.
- Create patterns in the snow with sticks – This is particularly good when done on logs.
- Snowshoe investigations for settings in areas that experience deep snow. Explore what happens when deep snow is walked on with boots and then with snowshoes. Look at different materials and how effective they are in displacing weight. Use a range of materials such as small cardboard boxes and elastic bands or tennis bats and string. Encourage children to think about the differences in movement when walking with and without snowshoes.
- Measure the depth of the snow – Provide children with metre sticks, or sticks cut to lengths of 10cms, 20cms and 30cms, and encourage them to find the area outside with the deepest snowfall.
- Freeze superheroes/animals in ice (in advance) then set up an investigation outside as to how best to free them.
- Make a snow volcano
- Create a work of art – Use spray bottles filled with food colouring to create pictures in the snow. Spray around children’s outlines to make snow people.
- Create repeating patterns with loose materials.
- Make 3d shapes – Pack snow into cube and cuboid shaped containers. Sphere’s can be made from snowballs. Challenge children to construct with the snow shapes or stack them up to make into a tower. Who can build the tallest tower?
- Create an ice slide – Tamp the snow down on an incline and spray lightly with water, then leave overnight to create a great ice slide. Waterproof trousers will need to be worn to stop wet bottoms! Explore who can slide the furthest – mark this with paint or chalk and discuss the reasons why this might be.
- Make bubbling snow
- Salt and ice investigation – Freeze water in some large containers or plastic bags, overnight then place them out in the snow. Provide children with some containers of salt and paints of different colours. Get them to sprinkle the salt over the ice and pour different colours of paint on top. Observe what happens. If the ice doesn’t start to melt then spray with some water to speed the process.
- Create snow tunnels – Bury plastic pipes, of different widths, under the snow to create tunnels for small world vehicles. Cover pop-up play tunnels with snow to create a snow tunnel for children to crawl through.
- Read a story outside – Snuggle up in a snow den, with some blankets and hot chocolate and read some of the stories suggested below
Footprints in the Snow by Mei Matsuoka – This can also be used as a stimulus for an investigation into footprints
Kipper’s snowy day by Mick Inkpen
The snowy day – by Anna Milbourne and Sarah Gill ( a simple information book about snow)
The Snowy day – Ezra Jack Keats
Elmer in the Snow – David McKee
The Polar Bear and the Snow Cloud – Jane Cabrera
DON’T FORGET – Always have a camera on hand to document the learning taking place and capture the beauty of children’s transient artwork.
Have a look at the video below for some more ideas and to find out about the benefits of getting children outside in the snow.