Snow Day Play

It’s not easy being snowed in with a toddler. And if  you’re like me, you would prefer to stay in your pajamas and consume a lot of coffee on a day like this.

With that in mind, I want to share some ideas we’ve tried  for indoor snow play, so kids can get creative and caregivers can stay warm.  With a tray (cookie sheet works fine), a towel, water-resistant toys and some sand or kitchen utensils the possibilities are endless.

1) Snow People:

Making faces is a daily occurrence in our house. We make faces with ALL sorts of things (see our Making Faces Post for more ideas!). My daughter was thrilled with the idea of making faces in the snow using her Mr. Potato Head Parts.

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Don’t have Mr. Potato head parts? Get creative and gather other things. We actually prefer to use small plastic toys to use as facial features! Think Lego, plastic play foods/utensils, small toys, marbles, etc. – the possibilities are endless!

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2) Snow Art:

Let me start by saying, there is no wrong way to create art with snow. I  would simply set out paint, brushes, paper and snow and let your child explore the materials as they see fit. It’s a great early STEAM activity.

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The snow can be used to wet the watercolors or watercolors can be used to paint the snow. Either way it’s about the process, not the product.

If you have ice on hand – icicles are great, but so are ice cubes – this is another fun way to explore liquids and solids. Add salt and liquid watercolors (or food coloring) and watch a colorful ice sculpture take form.

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Ice Painting
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Ice Painting

3) Sand Toys:

Sand toys are another great way to explore snow indoors (so are cooking utensils, if you’ve packed summer toys away). You can bake a cake, scoop and mix and build with snow, just as you would sand. Again, lay a towel down and fill a large container or tray and let kids explore. Add vehicles and plastic figures to extend this activity – the possibilities are endless!

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4) Snow Hunt:

You can bury anything in the snow and have your child dig for it! It amazes me how this activity entertains over and over again. Take advantage of their interest level by hiding items for any target concepts. Above is a hunt for the /d/ and /c/ sounds, but you can easily hide letters, numbers, shapes or even sight words!

Helpful hint: Gloves are still necessary when inside! And if you don’t like messes (though it’s just water) the bathtub is a safe place to take these activities.

For more ideas, check out our Indoor Snow Play Pinterest board!

And please share with us some ideas you may have!

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“Curiosity is More Important than Knowledge!”

(c) creative and curious 2015

You can thank Albert Einstein for those wise and truthful words. It’s no secret that curiosity is crucial to learning. One of my favorite things as a parent and a teacher is just how curious kids can be. It’s inspiring. The longer children stay curious, the more driven they are to learn and discover. As parents and educators, it’s our role to support this curiosity. If we’re smart, we’ll use what they’re naturally curious about to teach the skills we want them to learn.

Unfortunately it’s easy to diminish creativity, without even realizing it. We all say things such as, “don’t touch that!” or “you can’t get that outfit dirty!”. I know I am guilty of phrases along those lines, especially after a long day or too little sleep. We are far from perfect, but remaining conscious of our responses to a child’s curiosity is key in supporting their creative exploration and  learning.

I remember during my student teaching, a professor told us “a child who has just been yelled at, will never retain the lesson you were teaching, only the fear of that moment.” I have always kept that phrase in the back of my mind. Let’s think about it for a second. Even as adults, it’s a very valuable idea to keep in mind. How constructive is a conversation where people are yelling? How effective is a boss who screams at her employees? If a child is afraid of an educator or placed in a chaotic learning environment, he will fear creativity and exploration. Novelty and discovery will not feel safe. He will likely choose to stay in his comfort zone, not pushing boundaries towards exploration and learning. Without a safe environment to experience new things and feed our curiosity, we would all have fewer opportunities to succeed, to learn, to make friends and so forth.

But a child (and adult!) whose curiosity is supported, will want to repeat that curious moment, continuing to explore, to learn and build upon it. They’ll want to share it with peers and teachers and to be praised for their discoveries. They’ll become secure in their learning and seek further exploration and knowledge. I believe that’s what Albert Einstein meant when he said the above.

What can we as parents and educators do? First take a deep breath. I know these moments of curiosity can often come at the worst times or disguised as bad behavior. My daughter once poured an entire cup of coffee on the kitchen floor. Did I want to scream? Yes. Did I? Almost. But I stopped and reminded myself that she was exploring. She’s a one year old. She was curious. She didn’t understand or care that her action was not a socially acceptable (or convenient) thing to do! My initial reaction was frustration, but I tried to view it as an opportunity. She was showing me what she was curious about.

Instead of yelling, I filled a bucket with water and brought it outside. I added some food coloring and gave her some old cups, letting her pour water into various containers, on the floor, on herself. Refilling the water as she demanded “more water, mommy”. Instead of a tantrum from a one-year-old, because she didn’t get her way/got yelled at. I got about 40 minutes of uninterrupted computer time and she got to do something she enjoyed. Win. Win.

But there is more! Through her exploration she was also internalizing pre-concepts of basic science (mass, volume, liquid) and language (lots of new vocabulary). I was busy, so I continued to work at my laptop but I occasionally peeked over and gave her some useful vocabulary while she played independently – wet, float, sink, liquid, cold, empty and full – all terms I’ve now seen her generalize in other play. How cool is that!?

To build on this curiosity, I set up water play for her regularly, in hopes of avoiding upset and additional spilled drinks. By recognizing it was a current interest, I gave her the opportunity for further exploration. I began to give her tools to expand upon her exploration, such as foam letters and shapes. Her strong curiosity for water also provided an opportunity to teach things that mattered to me such as shapes (hello math skills) and letters (more literacy) as well!

If you think about it, your child shows you the things they are curious about on a daily basis. How can you give them additional opportunities to explore the things that interest them? Once you’ve done that, try adding to the activities – setting them up for success in expanding their discoveries while building off of their natural curiosity!