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, or 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 a while. 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: http://www.janbrett.com/
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!
--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(r)' and 'Frozen Assets: How to Cook for a Day and Eat for a Month.' Visit Debi online at: http://brightkids.wordpress.com/