It's that time of year. Days are shorter and nights are longer, and the weather has finally turned for the worse. Everyone is bundled into coats and hats and scarves and trying to keep themselves warm both inside and out. There are many different ways to extend your child's learning beyond the classroom without getting (too!) cold. Make sure you wrap up well and enjoy the many things you can do together safely, and don't push your child if they aren't interested.
Winter is a terrific learning opportunity, and, whatever the weather, you and your child have a whole range of activities and experiences to choose from.
For the very young ones:
1. Build on your child's understanding of time and change. Dress a teddy for the weather, or play a simple sorting game with a selection of clothes. Which ones would be good to wear today? Think about how different the days can be in winter, sometimes dry and bright, at other times icy or snowy and cold. Discuss the merits of different clothing. Would you wear shorts and a t-shirt in winter, for example?
2. Look outdoors for signs of winter. Frost on the windowpanes, ice in the puddles, bare trees. Talk about how the seasons change. Encourage your child to explore these changes first hand. Melt ice in a washing up bowl and see what it turns into.
3. Talk about animals and how they find it more difficult to find food in the winter. Make bird-feeders and hang from the trees.
For the younger ones:
1. Make seasonal snowman and tree pictures using gummed paper shapes. Stick them on. Talk about the different shapes, e.g a square hat, a triangle nose, a circle head and body. Talk about the differing properties of the shapes.
2. Encourage your child to develop mathematical language by pairing different sizes and shapes of socks and gloves. They can practice their fine motor skills by pegging them on the line. Perhaps they could observe what happens to them if they are wet and icy.
3. Talk about animals and how they find it more difficult to find food in the winter. Make bird-feeders and hang from the trees. Encourage your child to count how many birds they see visiting the bird-feeders and record with tally marks.
For the older ones:
1. Design and make paper snowflakes, cutting out different shapes. Ask your child to predict what the finished pattern will look like. Encourage them to think about the shapes they will make by folding the paper before cutting it.
2. Paint winter pictures using a limited palette of colours such as blue and white. Encourage your child to think about how the colours can be used to good effect to make the picture seem cold.
3. Think about ways in which we can stay warm. What foods are good to help us keep warm in winter. Make a tasty winter soup and see if it warms you both up after you have been playing outside in the cold!
For the advanced:
1. Talk about how we can help people less well off than ourselves in winter. Encourage your child to think about how they can help someone stay warm and safe at Christmas. Perhaps ask if they would like to donate some things to a charity or send items to someone in need, or donate to a food bank. Show your child how to use a thermostat if you have one, and see how often it comes on during the cold weather.
2. Think about ways in which we can get about safely in the winter weather, and talk about being visible in the dark. Perhaps your child could design a leaflet or poster with instructions about how to use a sled or other form of winter travel, or showing different types of high visibility clothing. They could take photographs and produce it using the computer.
3. Perhaps your child would enjoy painting a winter scene, or some observed sketching from the window. They could identify and collect some winter plants with you and research them further. Winter foliage is the perfect backdrop to sketch birds or other animals they see in the trees.
The most important thing:
1. Remember we're coming up to a holiday and festive time of the year. Your child still needs time to relax and enjoy themselves. Try and work with them at times when they are interested and engaged, and don't expect too much of them after a long term.
2. Many of the activities listed above are flexible and can be used in a range of different ways. They could be adapted for use with a seasonal or festive theme.
3. Be creative about the ways in which you approach encouraging your child to approach learning outside the classroom. Helping them to find and maintain interests will give them the opportunity to use their learning in everyday life.