Winter weather brings with it storms, changes, and dynamite learning opportunities. My family in Wisconsin loves to retell the story of a visitor from a warmer climate who looked at our thermometer in panic, saying, “The thermometer’s broken! It says zero! There’s no temperature!” Learning that zero degrees Fahrenheit was indeed possible was a new experience for our guest. As you enjoy your winter break, I hope you’ll use my family’s story as inspiration to keep your children involved in learning. Here are some fun winter learning activity ideas to keep your students’ minds active until the new semester begins!
Explore the science of weather.
”Weather” or not winter brings below-freezing temperatures in your part of the country, the season holds many opportunities to explore the science behind our climate. Here are some questions to spark your family’s curiosity about the changes in our temperature and atmosphere that occur in winter weather:
- What are the differences between Fahrenheit, Celsius, and Kelvin? How do these temperature scales differ from one another? Who named them, and why? Look into freezing points and boiling points to expand practical chemistry knowledge.
- What is meant by the terms Saskatchewan Screamer, Alberta Clipper, and Chinook? What do these types of winter storms have in common? How are they different?
- Why do large bodies of water like the Great Lakes change temperature more slowly than the nearby land?
- What is lake effect snow?
- What is windchill, and how is it calculated? How is windchill related to the heat index?
Flock together in milder winters.
You may be thinking, “You’ve covered the cold. What about warmer climates?” At any latitude, look to your environment and see the science in your world.
- Put up a bird feeder for the feathered friends who stay all year and those who migrate into your territory.
- Invest in a basic bird guide (or borrow one from the public library) and find out who is visiting your bird feeder.
- Take a bird walk together—don’t forget your camera!
- Get the whole family involved in snapping photos of the birds you see, then make your own book, including information about each type of bird. Or capture your feathered visitors on video and study their calls!
Cozy times indoors.
If your family prefers an indoor climate, make the time spent inside valuable, too.
- Curl up under a cozy blanket and read a book.
- Read a book set in winter, such as Laura Ingalls Wilder’s The Long Winter.
- Read Stone Soup, and then make a vegetable or chicken noodle soup from scratch. Put older kids to work chopping veggies; younger ones can add ingredients and stir the pot. As a bonus, your house will smell wonderful. Follow up with Maurice Sendak’s Chicken Soup with Rice. Carole King recorded this in song form, which provides another way for your kids to connect with their musical intelligence.
- Look for authors who specialize in winter themes. Jan Brett, for example, wrote and provided stunning illustrations for The Mitten, Trouble with Trolls, and Annie and the Wild Animals, among others.
- Learn about the upcoming Winter Olympics with our latest Quiz Bowl challenge.
- Practice fractions by doubling or halving a recipe.
- Compare liquid measures with dry measures or fluid ounces with ounces of weight.
- Look up the difference between baking powder and baking soda. Follow up by reading about yeast and learning how some types of dough can conduct electricity.
- Make a homemade hot cocoa mix. Decide what’s best: topping the mug with whipped cream or adding miniature marshmallows.
Learn to knit or crochet.
While historically these crafts may have been considered “women’s work,” knitting and crocheting are excellent ways to keep children of either gender busy and developing important skills. Both are easy to learn—and both allow “do-overs”! Here are a few points to consider:
- Knitting and crocheting encourage focus.
- Both knitting and crocheting utilize math skills because they require counting, following patterns, and repetition.
- Both promote fine motor coordination.
- Kids can take pride in their finished products. Your child can wrap up in that freshly knit scarf or don that newly crocheted hat—or give it as a gift!
Warm or cold, blizzard or rain, winter is a great time to learn. And having special winter learning activities planned in advance will help stave off the choruses of “I’m bored!” and keep everyone excited about their time together.
What is winter like in your part of the country—and how do you keep your children’s brains active when school is out? Share your fun ideas in the comments.