It has been so cold/snowy/icy in Chicagoland this winter. Personally, I love the snow. The cold, well not so much. It was another freezing cold day recently when we were home bound and instead of trying to ignore it all, we decided to embrace it.
I did some research the day before and came up with a list of activities that involved snow/ice/cold. I read the list to Maggie and let her choose which items to do and in what order. I find that when she feels like she is in control, the day goes a lot smoother. But if she can choose whatever she wants, neither one of us is happy. So coming up with “approved” activities in advance that she can choose from works best for us. I also specifically choose activities that involved supplies we had on hand and didn’t require a lot of set up. The point was to spend time exploring and learning together, instead of waiting around while I got something set up.
Cotton Ball Snow
The first activity she choose was cotton ball snow. We started out by getting out her Playmobil sets and letting them play in the “snow”. We found a large shallow Tupperware to dump the cotton balls in and she had fun burying all the figures in the snow. She loves small figures and pretend play, so this was a great way to add a new dimension to her imagination.
Next we did a counting activity with the cotton balls. I had her write number on a notepad. She was only able to do a few on her own, and then I made dots to show the shape of the number which she traced. I mixed up the numbers and handed to her to put in order. Then I asked her to put the amount of cotton balls on each paper to make the number written on that sheet. This was really helpful for me to see what numbers she has a good grasp on. She got up to 5 before she started struggling and needed a lot of help in getting the correct amount on each number. This is an activity we will revisit with other objects going forward as I can see we need some work here.
Soon we transitioned to using the cotton balls as pretend snow balls for an indoor snowball fight. This was a lot of fun as they were so light weight that they didn’t do any damage, but it got some energy out. She extended the snowball play into a obstacle course around the house by setting up the snow in different locations and making up “rules” about what you had to do at each one. I added in some twists to get her practicing lots of gross motor skills (ie you have to walk backward from snow A to snow B, you have to hop on one foot from B to C, etc.). We both really enjoyed the cotton balls as snow, and have kept them with her Playmobil for continued snow play.
Melting Icebergs (inspired by this)
This activity actually did require a little set up. The night before, I took a couple big zip lock bags and filled them with water. I added some blue food coloring to make them stand out and then stuck them in the freezer. The next morning, I got them out about 10-20 minutes before we started playing. We filled up the sink with water and added the ice from the bags. We talked about how ice melts and becomes water. I got out some of her fish/sea creatures and found a lego polar bear for her to interact with the ice. As the icebergs got smaller it was great for us to talk about what was happening to them. She loves playing in the sink, so this was a big hit.
Reading about Ice and the Artic
After the iceberg experiment, Maggie had a lot of questions about icebergs. It was a new term for her. So we grabbed her New Children’s Encyclopedia and looked up icebergs. They had a great spread on the Artic and we were able to relate our activities to the information in the book. I got this book for Maggie & her daddy for Christmas and I can’t say enough good things about it. There are lots of wonderful photographs and tons of interesting facts and information. My husband loves these types of books and now Maggie will ask her dad if they can “go read my encyclopedia” together. I’m sure it will prove invaluable over the years when she has a million questions about the world.
Thin Ice (inspired by this)
Maggie loved playing with the thin ice. I took a few baking pans and filled them with about an inch of water. Then I stuck them in our deep freeze for 30-45 minutes. I checked on them every 10 minutes and pulled them out once they had a thin but solid layer of ice on top, but I could still see water below. We moved her animals over and the remains of one of the icebergs. She figured out pretty soon that she could break through the ice, and she became completely focused on that. But it was making her hands really cold, so I found some chop sticks which she used to poke and break the ice. She did this for about 45 minutes. I kept one container in the freezer so once she finished with the first one, I could get the other one out and refreeze the broken one.
Snowy Day Art
Our last activity was to create snow inspired art. We started out with some scissors and paper to make snowflakes. I let Maggie do whatever cutting she wanted to on a folded up piece of paper, while I worked on a snowflake of my own. I wanted her to explore and just have fun cutting, while demonstrating how I could do the same thing and create something interesting.
After our snowflakes, I set up the easel for her to paint. I asked what colors she wanted in order to create a winter picture. She chose blues and whites. I told her when she was done painting we would add “snow” to it. When she announced she was done, I put some glue on a paper plate and gave her a bowl of cotton balls. I showed her how to dip it in the glue and then stick it on the paper, and let her get creative. I’m really happy with what she came up with!
I also went through her books the night before and pulled out anything snow/winter related. We love books in our house, so I came up with 5 fairly easily. She wasn’t much in the mood for reading that day though, so we just ended up reading 2 at bedtime.
Overall, it was a fun day where she got to explore and experiment without having to buy extra supplies or requiring a lot of work behind the scenes. And I think it made me remember to enjoy the winter for a what it is. Well at least until the next snowstorm and polar vortex hit!