Keep the kids connected to the outside world all throughout winter with these simple winter nature learning activities. There are so many great ways to keep kids creative and curious through these cold months! Guest post.
Winter days are short, and the temperatures are dipping well into the frigid. It’s easy to hole up inside the house and let the kids hibernate until spring. But they’re missing out on the winter wonderland right outside their door — a valuable opportunity to get young minds and bodies outside. Here are six tips for keeping kids connected to nature in the winter.
Winter Nature Learning Activities
1. Learn with Winter Nature Hikes
No matter the season, you and your kids get a mental health boost by being outside. A winter nature hike is a prime opportunity for kids to get an up-close look at the changing of the season.
During your hike, ask them to keep track of the plants and animals they see. Talk about why some trees have no leaves, and why some animals they see in the summer are scarce in the winter. Explain to them why some plants don’t survive the winter. This may also inspire them to help you bring those outdoor plants inside for the winter. This is an easy opportunity to get some exercise, reap the benefits of the great outdoors, and teach basic ecology.
2. Try Winter Stargazing
Can you spot the constellations of Canis Major, Gemini, and Orion? They’re three of the most prominent winter constellations in the northern hemisphere.
Bundle the kids up with hats and gloves and coats, sip on some hot cocoa, and look for the stars in the winter skies. If your kids are in elementary school or older, ask them why we see different constellations in the winter than in the summer. It’s an excellent opportunity to showcase how the tilt of the earth and the orbit around the Sun impacts our view from here.
3. Wintertime Science Experiments
One of my kids’ favorite wintertime science experiments is leaving cups of water outside to freeze. Once they hear the temperature is forecast to fall below 32 degrees, they’re begging to put water outside to see how long it takes to freeze.
At first, it was just a fun demonstration of the freezing point of water. Then it turned into the freezing point of other liquids found in the kitchen. Ask them to come up with reasons why ranch dressing, orange juice, and grape jelly do or don’t freeze on the porch overnight. Here are a few other science experiments to try:
- Salt and water to melt ice. Try sprinkling a little table salt on the ice that your kids have made. They can add a little food coloring for interest (this is a messy project, so do it outside!) Talk about how salt lowers the freezing temperature of the water.
- Make fake snow. This is a pretty simple experiment, without the risk of frostbite! Mix equal parts baking soda and cornstarch — and then just enough water to reach the desired texture. It’s perfect for playing, or for creating snowscape artwork.
- Bring the snow in to explore its texture and shape without freezing! Can you predict how long it will take a cup of snow to melt? How about a tablespoon? Does snow in the sun melt faster than snow in the shade?
4. Learn Winter Sports
The best way to keep your kids engaged with nature throughout the long winter is to make sure they’re having fun outdoors. Besides snowman and fort building snow play, winter sports are perfect. It may be easier in some states to enjoy winter sports like ice skating, skiing, and sledding. But you might be surprised to find out there’s a place to learn how to ski near you. It might be just a one-lift hill in the Midwest, but you don’t need Vail to get your kids connected to the season. There are more than 450 ski resorts in the U.S., and many offer skiing, snowboarding, sledding, snowshoeing, skating, and other winter sports.
5. Go on a Winter Nature Scavenger Hunt
Make a list of items commonly found in nature in your neighborhood in the winter. It could be pine cones, icicles, or acorns left on the ground — the list is only limited by your geography and imagination! Reward them when they’re done with hot cocoa or cider to warm those cold little hands!
6. Create Art From Found Objects
Don’t throw out the scavenger hunt items! They are the perfect medium for a winter-inspired art project. Get out the paint, glue, scissors, yarn, and the construction paper and let the kids go at it! You’ll be amazed at what their brains will dream up. Did you know that you can paint with icicles?
Nature inspired crafts like these coffee filter snowflakes are also wonderful!
Winter might be the coldest, grayest time of year, but it’s no excuse to hide away all season long. You can spark young minds and imaginations with the changes brought by the cold temperatures. You’re not just keeping them busy, but cementing science lessons learned at school and boosting their mental health at the same time.
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Eva Williams loves the outdoors. She loves it with a campfire and s’mores or apres ski in a nice lodge with a glass of wine and has written about it for two decades.