Thursday, January 13, 2011

winter play on a chilly day

As our little E gets older, there are more and more opportunities for us to play outside with him. Still, he's not even two years old, so our play time is limited in the cold. With my preschoolers, it's a whole different ball game - that is - snowball game!

If you're looking for ways to engage in winter play with your child, here are some ideas:

Winter play with kiddos under 2:-Bundle up for a stroller or wagon ride. Stop to savor winter beauty (look for snow-covered pine trees, reflective frozen ice or nests visible in bare trees).

-Listen for sounds in winter. Are there geese overhead? Scampering squirrels? Birds chattering from the shrubs? Is snow crunching underfoot?

-Walk or crawl in the snow (limit the amount of time your little one does this!). Let her examine it. Offer beach toys or a bucket to play in the snow.

-Sing a winter song. Cuddle your little one and sing "Here Comes Suzy Snowflake" or "Frosty the Snowman" as you take a winter walk.

-Sprinkle bird seed in your yard. The birds won't mind if it's dumped in a pile or evenly scattered - they are grateful for your offerings all winter long!

Winter play with kiddos ages 3-5:-Bundle up and take a walk! Bring along a backpack with items such as a magnifying glass, spray bottle with water, beach toys, bath toys, buckets, measuring cups or sunglasses. You may want your camera, too.

-Explore the winter landscape. Let your child pull out the backpack items and dig in. Resist the urge to initiate your own activities. Instead, let your child select items or locations in the yard to explore. This will provide an opportunity for her to invent a game or share her own interests with you.

-Time for snowballs! Teach your child how to compact snow into a snow ball. (Use water from a spray bottle if it is helpful.) Arrange the snowballs from largest to smallest or set up a target (dad?!) and throw them!
-Make snow cookies. Yes, you heard that right: COOKIES! Bring out old baking sheets and cookie cutters. Let your little chef make snow cookies - you can even add sprinkles on top. (If the snow doesn't pack, spray with your water bottle and let the cookies freeze. Remove the cookie cutters the following day.)

-Hide the bear. Well, they do hibernate after all so take a stuffed animal such as a turtle, frog or bear outside and hide it from plain view. Challenge your tot to find the hibernating animal!

-Build a snow castle. Use beach buckets filled with snow to create snow castles. Make one glorious castle, decorated with icicles and stones, or build an entire village. Add holiday lights to see your creation lit up at night.
-Make a mini-snowman (or snow woman, if you prefer). It's still a snow man even if it is two feet tall! And if you build quickly, you could make a whole family. Add carrots, raisins, apple slices, cereal pieces or banana to decorate.

-Fashion a recycled feeder and hang it somewhere you can view it from a window. Try using a 1/2 gallon milk jug, oatmeal container, or cereal box. Determine how to hang it with string and cut openings to fill it with seed. The more unusual the container, the more creative you can be!

-Count birds that visit your bird feeder. (If you're like me, you may want to count squirrels, too!)

-Use drops of food coloring to create colorful water dyes. Pour them in clean, recycled spray bottles and let your child squirt rainbow art in the snow.

-Do a science experiment. Make two snowballs. Place one outside, where you will not move it. Place the other on a plate inside. Take photographs of each snowball over time. How long does it take each one to melt?

I hope you enjoy these ideas for winter play. I'd love to hear your ideas and stories, too!

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Yes, peas are delicious - and funny!

Yes, peas are delicious - and funny!
Our little guy at 15 months, February 2011.