Wintertime is a magical season for young children. Personally, I am looking forward to the perfect Flagstaff sled riding snowfall, paired with a hot cocoa wrap up. Whether you are a snow bunny or are more of the hibernating type, the winter season can provide some unique opportunities for early learning.
Let it Snow! If we are lucky enough to have a robust showing of snow this winter, take advantage of the extra motivation to play outdoors. Early childhood specialists use the phrase “Strive for Five!” for children with developing language skills; getting ready to go outside offers plenty of opportunities for conversational back-and-forth! You can provide sequencing language (“first we put on our mittens”), add descriptions of the winter clothing you are putting on (“this hat is dark blue”), and provide encouraging language to celebrate your child’s success (“wonderful job of pulling your boots on all by yourself!”). When you make it outside, activities like rolling giant snowballs can engage a child’s large muscles, called their gross motor muscles. Stacking snowballs for snow-sculptures helps children to practice their spatial awareness, as they distinguish small, medium, and large snowballs. Rolling snowballs in their hands engages a child’s smaller muscles, called fine motor muscles, which need to be developed in order to hold and use writing instruments.
Bake Me a Cake Even young children can help to make a winter snack, and the promise of a sweet treat can provide a lot of motivation to lend a hand. Measuring out ingredients is a perfect activity that promotes mathematical thinking and develops vocabulary, especially in relation to fractions. Scooping and dumping ingredients promotes hand-eye coordination, or you can pair your baking activity with a song (such as “this is the way we stir the cake”).
Chill Out The winter months can come with a lot of indoor time, which can lead to frustration for some children. One strategy to help children regulate their negative emotions is to create a winter-themed “calm down jar.” Use a plastic bottle with a secure lid and fill the jar halfway with water. Mix in some food coloring. In a separate bowl, mix food coloring with baby oil, and fill the plastic bottle to the top with the dyed baby oil. You can add glitter or light plastic beads for more interest. Super glue or duct tape the bottle closed. During moments of high emotion, shake the bottle, and have them observe while the water and oil separate.
Holed Up Winter is a perfect time for curling up with a good book. For some children, just having access to books is all they need to become immersed in reading. Other children may need a super-charged amount of print motivation. For an enticing reading experience, try making a cozy book nook in your home with pillows, blankets, and a sheet. Fill a basket or bin with a stack of your child’s favorite books from your local library. For the final touch, hang up white string lights or include a child safe lamp, and encourage your child to become the book nook’s resident reader.
For some “cozy book nook” inspiration, check out these selections from a Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh Children’s Specialist.
Looking for a good book, album, movie or TV show? We’re happy to recommend them to you! Use this Personalized Recommendations form to send us some information about what you like and we’ll curate a list just for you.