Winter is typically seen as a time for hunkering down, resting, reading good books, sipping hot drinks, and waiting for spring. Unless of course you are a “winter person”.
As child care providers we know, young children are often “winter people”, but let’s be honest, young children are “every kind of season people”. They love mud, ice, rain, sun, and snow! We can’t very well spend all of our days inside cooped up with young children. They need the cool fresh air in their lungs and the sound of their boots crunching through the snow.
How can we become winter people for our children? Where do we find the willpower to get outside when we just want to snuggle up with our coffee and read some books?
I am not a “winter person”. I’m a “spend every day, every minute, outside in the sun kind of person.” I have to sort of force myself to find the joy and the beauty of winter for my students and even for my daughter at home. Here are some tips and tricks for anyone who finds it hard to get outside on these cold and dark days.
Evaluate yourself, your attitude, and feelings towards winter and cold. Why might you have this negative feeling towards the cold and how can you combat it? It can be helpful to try to change your mindset around winter, which might take more work, but it can be done. Instead of saying, “I don’t like the cold.” I will say, “I’m more of a summer person, but we need fresh air regardless.” We want children to thrive in and enjoy all of the seasons. We have to model a positive and hopeful outlook about all seasons to teach this to the children that we work with.
Prepare yourself. Yes, it’s cold, but a very wise woman that I know says, “there’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing.” Get yourself some warm and cozy gear, some cute hats, bright gloves; whatever gets you motivated to bundle up and head outside. The right clothing and gear can make a world of a difference. Again, it’s important to model this for children. If we’re asking them to wear hats and gloves, we should be doing the same thing.
Enjoy yourself! Find things that you enjoy about heading outside in the cold. Some educators find it helpful to make outside time a part of their daily lesson plan. This will give you more of a purpose for getting outside. Winter is the perfect time for science experiments and art in the snow. I like to remind myself that getting outside is essential for my mental and physical health. I always feel better after I go outside, even if it’s a quick walk around the block.
Fun and Easy Winter Activities:
Snow Painting: Mix paint or food coloring and water in spray bottles, jars, or even rescued ketchup, mustard, and syrup bottles. Kids can sit in the snow with their jars and brushes or run around squirting and spraying.
Enjoy a Snowy Snack: Bring a blanket, a thermos full of hot cocoa, and some snacks to enjoy in the cold. Listen to the sounds of nature and predict what animals eat in the winter.
Colored Ice Balls: Fill balloons with water and paint/food coloring. Put them outside to allow them to freeze overnight. Cut the balloons off and let children stack, bury, haul, and play with their colorful ice balls!
Winter Bubbles: If it’s cold enough, take some bubbles outside and see if they freeze mid-air, or as they hit the ground!
Winter Sculptures: Make frozen sculptures using water, items from nature, toys, food coloring, paint, glitter, etc. Simply put your items into bowls or cups or trays and leave them outside to freeze.
Winter Work: Kids love to help. Invest in some extra shovels, rakes, and scoopers. Give kids some jobs to do like clearing sidewalks, making paths, or even a big snow mountain for climbing.
Winter Scavenger Hunt: Give children a laminated checklist or a list on a clipboard to go on a scavenger hunt. Look for colors, animals, shapes, or nature items. (Printable resource below)
Meghan is a born and raised Montanan, mama to a rambunctious toddler and a bonus mom to two amazing preteens. She recently earned a Master's degree in Early Childhood Education. In addition to her position as an Early Childhood Specialist at the University of Montana, Meghan enjoys a variety of odd mix of jobs; nannying, creating and selling travel play dough kits, making essential oil blends for kids, providing families with child guidance on Facebook and Instagram, and now providing ideas and tips to child care providers in partnership with Raise Montana! Meghan is also a content contributor for 406 Families, a site dedicated to connecting families to local events and resources.