Winter Educational Ideas for Preschoolers


by Deborah Taylor-Hough


It’s always fun to use things in our children’s everyday lives to spark discussion and easy educational activities. Since many of us are currently in the midst of winter, this season can be a great topic of “study” for our littlest ones.

Study time with preschoolers at home mainly consists of talking and laughing with them, helping them notice the details of the world around them. No pressure. Just a fun time spent in the company of a loving adult.

To introduce the topic of “Winter,” ask your child what she knows about the seasons. Is she aware of spring, summer, autumn and winter? Does she know what the differences are between the seasons in your local area?

Don’t lecture. Just make conversation and find out what she knows already. Have her look out the window and tell you what she notices about the trees, bushes, flowers and gardens. Are there leaves visible? Buds? Flowers? Greenery? Bare branches? Brown stems?

Find a photo, painting, or picture in a book of an obvious winter scene. Ask your child if she knows what season it is in the picture. What things tell her what time of year it is? If she doesn’t know, point things out to her that will give clues: bare branches, snow on the ground, no flowers, people in warm clothes, etc. Hide the picture from view and have the child describe to you in her own words what she saw in the picture. Encourage as much detail as possible, but remember to keep it low-key and fun. This process of orally telling back what she’s seen, helps cement the image in her memory.

To suplement your discussion, enjoy together a winter-time picture book such as Ezra Jack Keat’s ‘The Snowy Day’ or the Alaskan tale ‘Momma, Do You Love Me?’ by Barbara M. Joosse. You can browse

these books online at:

Ask your child how people stay warm in the winter (warm clothes, mittens, fireplaces, warm houses, etc.). Let her brainstorm for awhile. Then ask how she thinks animals stay warm in winter (thick fur, migrate to warmer climates, hibernate in caves, etc.).

Sometimes a preschool child might say things like, “Baby squirrels snuggle up in a tree with a soft blanket to stay warm.” Ask her gently if she’s ever seen a real squirrel with a blanket. Does she think that’s how they’ll really stay warm in those cold, winter months? The line between fantasy and reality in preschoolers is sometimes thin … don’t harshly bring your child into reality, just gently coax her into thinking about how things really happen in nature.

But just so you don’t think it all needs to be a serious dose of reality, have some fun and brainstorm about “pretend” ways animals might stay warm. For fun, read one of these wonderfully fun and beautifully illustrated winter-time books by Jan Brett (one of my favorite children’s illustrators):

You can also visit Jan Brett’s website to print out coloring sheets and other fun projects based on Brett’s lavishly illustrated children’s books:

For a fun activity, throw a collection of clothing and accessories into a bag or suitcase. Without looking, have your child reach into the bag, pull out a single clothing item and then tell you if the item they grabbed is appropriate to wear in the winter. Have the child explain to you why each item is — or isn’t — seasonally appropriate. Include a variety of things in the bag such as: a warm hat, a pair of gloves or mittens, an open-toed sandal, a swimsuit, summer shorts, a warm sweater, a snow boot, a woolen scarf, a sleeveless top, etc.

Have your child finish the sentence, “Winter is …” For example: Winter is … “cold”; winter is … “snowmen”; winter is … “mittens”; winter is … “cocoa and marshmallows.” Consider writing down your child’s responses (she’ll feel so official seeing her words written down on paper). If you’re feeling particularly creative, you can even print out little “Winter is …” booklets using clip-art found on your computer that coincides with your child’s winter responses. Or have your child illustrate their own home-made “Winter is … ” book. Or let her cut out winter photos from magazines and newspapers, pasting them onto a large sheet of paper as a “Winter is …” collage.

Have a wonderful time as you explore the glories of winter with your preschooler!


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Deborah Taylor-Hough (freelance writer and mother of three) is the editor of the Bright-Kids and Simple Times e-newsletters. She’s also the author of A Simple Choice: A Practical Guide to Saving Your Time, Money and Sanity, Frugal Living For Dummies and Frozen Assets: How to Cook for a Day and Eat for a Month. Visit Debi online at: http://thesimplemom.wordpress.com

Advertisements

Thanksgiving Ideas

thankstreeLater this month, the United States celebrates Thanksgiving Day. One of our family traditions for this particular holiday is making a Thanksgiving Tree.

We either make a tree trunk with bare branches out of black craft paper or we draw a tree onto a large sheet of paper.  Then we tape the “tree” to our dining room wall. We cut out individual autumn-colored leaves (red, orange, yellow, brown) from more craft paper.

Whenever someone in the family thinks of something or someone that they’re thankful for, they write the item, event, or person’s name onto one of the leaves and then tape the leaf to the tree branches.

We try to put the Thanksgiving Tree in place by mid-November so our family has at least a full week to add more leaves to the tree.

By Thanksgiving Day, the tree is FULL with the names of people, events and things we’re thankful for. This is great fun for the kids and a meaningful addition to our family’s holiday traditions.

Another idea along these lines is to make a Thanksgiving Jar. Throughout the year as things came up that your family is thankful for (new baby, new job, answered prayers, etc.), write the event onto a piece of paper and slip it into a specially designated Thanksgiving container.

A family at our former church in Olympia empties their Thanksgiving Jar once a year and reads each slip of paper on Thanksgiving morning during their family breakfast.

Do you have any special activities or traditions your family shares on Thanksgiving or any other upcoming holiday?  I’d love to hear about them!  🙂

Feeding Children on Great Art

“Let children feed on the good, the excellent, the great! Don’t get in their way with little lectures, facts, and guided tours! Lift a preschool child onto your lap, and look together at a full-page color reproduction of some great painting, drawing, or etching. Enjoy it, talk and notice together the details the child points to. Let the child look, enjoy with you; let him respond.”

–Susan Schaeffer Macaulay, For the Children’s Sake

Autumn Art Appreciation Ideas

Here are some possible paintings for Autumn art appreciation and picture study. Just click on the small photos of the artwork to open a larger version for easier viewing.


Autumn Leaves, John Millais 1855Millais-AutumnLeaves

[Excerpt] “… Millais decided to embark on a painting that was beautiful in its own right without any attempt to tell a story. His models were four young girls, all under 13 years of age, chosen for their youth and beauty. They were to be shown standing around a pile of gently smoldering autumn leaves which they had just collected from their garden. The painting, which became known as Autumn Leaves, was designed to evoke a mood and a feeling of the transience of life and beauty – all is doomed to eventual decay, even the greatest innocence and beauty is overwhelmed by the passage of time. The painting is considered to be Millais’s masterpiece. He wanted the picture to awaken the deepest religious reflections with its solemn air and restrained coloring. The work was influenced personally by Alfred Lord Tennyson, one of whose works he was illustrating at the time, in particular by his poem The Princess.”


Wheat Field Under Threatening Skies, Vincent Van Gogh 1890 VanGogh-Skies
[Excerpt] “Contrary to popular myth, [this] is not Van Gogh’s final work. Admittedly, it does make for a neatly wrapped interpretive gift if the painting really were Van Gogh’s final work before his suicide. The painting is, without question, turbulent and certainly conveys a sense of loneliness in the fields – a powerful image of Van Gogh as defeated and solitary artist in his final years. Furthermore, both the popular films Lust for Life and Vincent and Theo rewrite history and depict this painting as Van Gogh’s last – with more of an interest in dramatic effect than historical accuracy.”


Autumn, Mary Cassatt 1880cassatt-autumn

[Excerpt] “Today Mary Cassatt is probably best known for her portrayals of the intimate activities of urban women, including reading, knitting, and taking tea, and the subject of the mother and child, which dominated her work after about 1893. Like Degas, she appears to have repeated particular themes in order to master various techniques. Practical reasons and considerations of social decorum also may have dictated her choice of subjects, who were most often members of her own social circle engaged in familiar activities.”


The Harvesters, Pieter Bruegel the Elder Harvesters

[Excerpt] “Through his remarkable sensitivity to nature’s workings, Bruegel created a watershed in the history of Western art, suppressing the religious and iconographic associations of earlier depictions of the seasons in favor of an unidealized vision of landscape. The Harvesters probably represented the months of August and September in the context of the series. It shows a ripe field of wheat that has been partially cut and stacked, while in the foreground a number of peasants pause to picnic in the relative shade of a pear tree. Work continues around them as a couple gathers wheat into bundles, three men cut stalks with scythes, and several women make their way through the corridor of a wheat field with stacks of grain over their shoulders. The vastness of the panorama across the rest of the composition reveals that Bruegel’s emphasis is not on the labors that mark the time of the year, but on the atmosphere and transformation of the landscape itself.”


Early Autumn, Montclair, George Inness 1891 EarlyAutumn

[Excerpt] “In the painting Early Autumn, Montclair, the landscape appears non-specific and the centered foreground trees are spot lit even though the scene appears to be rather fuzzy. Like the Impressionists Inness was a close observer of nature and sought to express the season, weather and light conditions of the locale. But while Inness may have begun his paintings in nature, unlike the Impressionists, he completed his work in his studio relying on his memory and colored by imagination to create his luminous expressions of the spirituality of observed nature.”