Tuesday, February 1, 2011

There's No Business Like Snow Business

Sometimes we have snow on the ground but either it's too cold, or not enough kids have proper winter gear, or there isn't enough time to get the winter clothes on and then back off again (20 minutes round trip...) so we don't get the opportunity to get out in it.  I believe that we need to offer kids opportunities to experience the world, so I try to bring some snow inside at least once each winter.

We have a sensory table (I call it a water table, even though it only has water in it occasionally) in the preschool, but this could also be done at home with a plastic tote.  Simply bring in some clean snow.  Provide scoops of various sizes (spoons, shovels, go through the kitchen drawers...) and some cups or bowls.  

I have the kids wear their mittens/gloves and their winter coat zipped up to play in the snow.  Not only does this protect them from the cold, wet snow (and sitting around in a wet shirt all day), but it provides for some practice with putting on and zipping up that winter gear.  Our hope is that everyone can get themselves dressed in winter gear by the end of the winter.  Independence is important when you have a dozen kiddos to get ready.  It's also an important skill for the kiddos to learn.

Usually the play starts out with simple sensory play.  Digging, feeling, sprinkling the snow through their fingers.  As the snow warms a bit, it becomes mold-able.  Those cups and bowls are great molds.  Or with a little help small snowmen can be made (might want to have some ideas for pieces to make the face, but let the kids lead you).  

I have the snow out over the course of 4 days.  By the third and fourth day the newness has worn off and I try to come up with something to add to the snow to make it fun and new again.  This year I used liquid watercolor in a spray bottle (food coloring and water would work just as well).  The spray bottles we have are not very child friendly, so I sprayed the snow prior to bringing it into the classroom.  It was blue one day and orange the other day.  (I opted not to use yellow...)  Only the top layer gets colored, but it was enough to spark some interest and revive the play.

I have also used eyedroppers and colored water for the kids to explore mixing colors in the snow.  The gloves have to come off for this.  

I just saw a post yesterday on one of the blogs I follow, Frugal Family Fun, that may call for a second round of snow in the water table this winter.  Valerie and her daughter made an ice cream shop with snow, an ice cream scoop, and cups.  We also have some cone shaped spools that were donated years ago that would make good ice cream cones.

We always allow the snow to melt and encourage the kids to talk about the changes they notice and make a hypothesis about why the changes occurred.  This year's group initially said it was because of the sun.  When I pointed out the water table did not get any sun where it sits in the classroom, and besides there is still snow on the ground outside, they thought the lights did it.  We noted the change before and after rest time (no lights, but still melting occurred) and then they did reach the conclusion that it was the fact that it was warmer inside than outside.  It is also interesting to see how dirty that snow gets and discourages the snow eating.

We are awaiting the arrival of this blizzard, and plenty of new snow.  We might just have to put snow in the water table again next week.

This post has been shared on No Time for Flashcards.

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