The first day of winter in the Northern Hemisphere is around December 22nd but this Theme Day can be done in any of the chilly winter months. I focus mostly on snow since we live in Canada and we get a lot of snow but if your family has winter without snow you could use this Theme Day to talk about different climates in different places.
Print out the Family Theme Day Planner and decide which activities you’d like to do and in what order.
This is a good time to discuss winter around the world with your children. Some countries stay warm all the time, and some places (like many states in the USA) never get any snow, while others get a lot. In Australia and New Zealand they have winter while the Northern Hemisphere has summer. You can take out a globe to show your kids where you live and show them what parts of the world are experiencing the opposite season. When do you have winter and what is it like?
A good winter song is “Winter Wonderland.” Try singing that together by using the lyrics found here http://www.christmas-lyrics.org/winter-wonderland-lyrics.html. Sort through your Christmas music or download one of the many recordings of this song for a family sing along.
*NOTE: Since this song doesn’t really mention Christmas it technically isn’t a Christmas carol!
You can find many free coloring pages online by using your favourite search engine and typing in “winter coloring page” or print out my Winter Days Coloring Page.
JOURNALING QUESTION PROMPT:
Write out one or more of the following questions in the family notebook or on a coloured piece of paper: What is winter like where you live? What do you like best about winter? What is your favourite winter activity?
Choose the level of your child:
Toddler – discuss the answer(s) out loud first and have your child draw a picture of the answer.
Preschooler/Kindergartener – discuss the answer(s) out loud first and write the answer down for him/her leaving one word for him/her to write out himself/herself with your help. You could also encourage him/her to draw a picture as well.
Early Grade School – have your child either write out the answer himself/herself (encourage phonetic spelling) without your help, or offer to help with spelling each word out loud one word at a time.
Grade School – have your child write a sentence or two on his/her own and then read over and discuss the response. (You decide whether to correct the spelling or not).
Older Child – have your child write a longer response (paragraph).
As a Challenge – instead of a question ask your older child to write a story or a poem about winter.
Raid your child’s bookshelves to find any winter related material.
Go to the library with your child to find some books about winter.
Go to the library on your own to find books about winter to have already on hand for your theme day. Many libraries allow you to go online and search for titles based on subject. Reserve them if you can to save time.
Try to find this nonfiction titles:
· Are You Ready for Winter? , by Sheila Anderson, Lerner Publications company, 2010—Part of the Lightning Bold Books collection this is an easy book for beginner readers with very little text and big photographs.
· How do you Know It’s Winter?, by Ruth Owen, Bearport Publishing, 2012— This easy to read book talks about different aspects of winter like the shortest day, the temperature, and what happens to plants etc..
· Natural Treasures: Field Guide for Kids, written and illustrated by Elizabeth Biesiot, Denver Museum of Natural history and Roberts Rinehart Publishers, 1996 – This book is divided into the different seasons, so for this theme day flip to the winter section near the end of the book. This would be a great book to take outside on a nature walk. It has symbols which tell you which clues to use (sight, sound, smell and clue to examine by hand) when searching for the various animals of winter (owls, coyotes, bobcats, crows, cardinals etc.).
· The Secret Life of a Snowflake: An Up Close Look at the Art & science of Snowflakes, by Kenneth Libbrecht, Voyageur Press, 2009—This book has gorgeous magnified photographs of snowflakes and also includes easy to understand text about the science behind them.
· Why is it winter?, by Sara L. Latta, Enslow Publishers, Inc., 2012—while the text in this is easy it does offer a bit more science than other easy reader books about winter I’ve read.
Here are some picture books about winter:
· It’s Winter, by Linda Glaser and illustrations by Susan Swan, The Millbrook Press, 2002—The cut paper illustrations add to the fun nature of this look at winter. It even includes a list of nature activities you can do when it is winter.
· Lily and Trooper’s Winter, by Jung-Hee Spetter, Front Street Lemniscaat, 1998 – This has delightful bright paintings of a girl and her dog as they explore the fun of winter.
· A Little Bit of Winter, word by Paul Stewart and pictures by Chris Riddell, Andersen press, 1998—This is a sweet story about a hedgehog who asks his forgetful friend rabbit to save him “a little bit of winter” since he sleeps through it.
· Snow Comes to the Farm by Nathaniel Tripp and illustrated by Kate Kiesler, Candlewick Press, 2001 – This is a beautifully illustrated book about a first snowfall.
· Snow is my Favourite and My Best, by Lauren Child, Dial Book for yOung readers, 2006—This is a Charlie and Lola book (big brother and little sister) and is very cute as Lola is very excited about the first snowfall and then is upset when the snow melts quickly.
· The Twelve Days of Winter: A School Counting Book, by Deborah Lee Rose and illustrated by Carey Armstrong-Ellis, Abrams Books for Young Readers, This book is written in the pattern of the song “The Twelve Days of Christmas” but offers what a teacher gives her students in the winter. Children will appreciate the fun illustrations and their silly details.
· Warm in Winter, by Erica Silverman and illustrated by Michael J. Deraney, Macmillan Publishing Company, 1989 – A story of how Rabbit convinces Badger that it is possible to be warm in winter.
· When Winter Comes, by Nancy Van Laan and illustrated by Susan Gaber, Ann Anne Schwartz Book, Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2000—This beautifully illustrated book captures winter using rhyming text.
· White Snow, Blue Feather, by Julie Downing, Bradbury Press, 1989 – This has nice watercolours and simple large text (good for new readers) and is about being outside in the snow.
· Winter Is, by Ann Dixon and illustrated by Mindy Dwyer, Alaska Northwest Books, 2002—See winter through the eyes of a boy and girl who tell of all the wondrous things about this season.
· Winter Lullaby, by Barbara Seuling and illustrated by Greg Newbold, Browndeer Press, 1998—In this beautiful book one page offers a poetic question about winter and when you flip the page it is answered.
CORK PRINT PAINTING:
Materials: Old corks, white paint, black or blue paper, newspaper or plastic sheet to cover work area, wax paper to put paint on for dipping, paint brushes, jar for water to clean brushes, art smock or old clothes to wear when painting.
Step 1: Have your child dip his/her cork in the white paint.
Step 2: Have your child use the cork as a stamp to make snowballs or snowflakes on the black or blue background.
SNOWING IN THE WOODS:
NOTE: One of my favourite poems is “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” by Robert Frost (check here for some history behind the poem and the poem itself: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stopping_by_Woods_on_a_Snowy_Evening) and I had it in mind when I came up with this craft for my boys.
Materials: Black paper (or use white paper and paint it black like we did as we had run out of black paper), green paper, child safe scissors, white paint (optional black paint if you need to paint a black sheet of paper), paintbrush, old toothbrush, art smock or old clothes, newspaper or plastic to cover your work area.
Step 1: Paint a sheet of paper black or use black paper.
Step 2: Cut out long skinny triangles form the green paper; these will be the trees.
Step 3: Have your child glue the long triangles overlapping onto the paper with the bottoms of the triangle along the bottom of the black paper.
Step 4: Have your child use the paint brush to paint some white on the tops of the “trees.”
Step 5: Show your child how you can dip an old paint brush into the white paint and then using your finger (with the bristles pointing down towards the page) flick the bristles to spray white paint over the picture. This effect looks like snow!
Step 6: Let the picture dry and then display or glue into your Family Theme Day Scrapbook.
NOTE: Paper snowflakes are a perfect craft for a Winter Theme Day and they can be made in many ways. You can use circles of paper or squares, and I’ve even seen them made on paper plates before. I give a variation here which I quite like, using circle coffee filters! If you search online you can find many different templates as well. We didn’t use templates for ours. We just like to snip and see what is revealed.
Materials: Circle coffee filters (or just pieces of paper cut into circles or squares), a pencil (if you have young children), child safe scissors.
Step 1: Fold the coffee filter in half, then half again and then half one more time to create a pie or pizza looking shape!
Step 2: If you have young children who have never done this before you can draw simple shapes along the edges of the folded paper and then let your child cut the shapes out by holding the folded paper tightly. If you have older kids just let them experiment and cut away themselves. Half the fun is to see what designs are created. Remember, no two snowflakes are alike.
Step 3: Carefully open them up to reveal the beautiful snowflakes. As my youngest likes to say whenever he opens them up “It’s magic time!”
NOTE: To make easy Christmas cards or Thank you Cards for relatives or teachers simply glue these snowflakes onto coloured paper and have your child write a simple message.
NOTE: We like to make these and stick them all over our Christmas tree as decoration!
PUFFY SNOW PAINT:
Materials: White glue, shaving cream, paint brushes, colored paper, pencil, crayons or markers (Optional), child safe scissors, damp cloth for sticky fingers.
Step 1: Combine equal parts white glue & shaving cream on a paper plate.
Step 2: Give your kids paintbrushes and have them create a snow hill on coloured paper using the shaving cream mixture as paint.
Step 3: Have your kids draw embellishments for the wintery scene on coloured paper. You could encourage them to draw trees, cabins, skiers, a toboggan, snowboarders, a horse and sleigh, a camp fire, ice skaters...anything related to being outdoors in the winter.
Step 4: Help you children cut out these pictures and then use the puffy paint to glue them onto the page.
Step 5: Let it dry and then display!
Materials: White glue, wax paper, black permanent marker, pictures of snowflakes (or just use your imagination), glitter, string.
Step 1: Have your child draw simple snowflake patterns onto the wax paper using the permanent markers, OR draw the snowflakes yourself for younger children.
Step 2: Have your child squeeze the glue onto the snowflake pattern.
Step 3: To turn these into ornaments lay a piece of string onto the glue to dry into the glue.
Step 4: Have your child sprinkle craft glitter onto the glue patterns.
Step 4: Let the glue dry (could be a few days if a lot of glue was used) and then gently peel the glue snowflake off of the wax paper.
NOTE: This craft was incomplete by the time I was ready to post so the photo is not included here. To see a picture of this craft go to our Facebook Page and check out the “More Crafts and Activities” Album: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.536331356394349.132868.194379807256174&type=3
Look for any other winter related crafts at craft stores, including snowflake stamps or stencils, or foam kits. For our first Winter Theme Day (first posted in 2009) we made snowflake stamps using foam stamps I found at our local craft store. It didn’t feel right not to include a photo of that first craft.
Dust your morning pancakes, waffles or French toast with icing sugar for a wintery look. Check our Facebook Album entitled “MoreGoodies” to see a picture of my attempt at Snowflake shaped French toast sprinkled with icing sugar:
Graham Cracker Houses: Instead of using candies use dried fruits and nuts to make a simple house like one made of gingerbread but slightly healthier. My kids were unimpressed with the array of dried fruits I set out before them so I let them use some chocolate chips as well. You could attempt to use cream cheese to stick the pieces together. I didn’t have any in the fridge the day we made these so my boys lucked out and got to use left over icing.
Marshmallow Shapes: I thought it would be really difficult to make homemade marshmallows but it was pretty simple. In fact, I think this will be a new family tradition as the recipe we used made the best marshmallows I have ever tasted! We used Martha Stewart’s recipe found here: http://www.marthastewart.com/334710/marshmallow-snowflakes. I did not have a candy thermometer and risked it by simply going by the timing given in the recipe and it worked out for us. After the marshmallow fluff sat over night we used cookie cutters to make our own star and snowflake shaped marshmallows. Yum!
All you need to do next is make your favourite hot cocoa and top with a homemade marshmallow shape! For a healthier hot cocoa try this recipe: http://www.superhealthykids.com/healthy-kids-recipes/winter-is-back-we-need-hot-cocoa-healthy-hot-cocoa.php
NOTE: For more pictures of our homemade marshmallows check out our Facebook Album called “More Goodies”: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.510290308998454.127299.194379807256174&type=3
LUNCH or DINNER:
Snowy White Potato Soup and Wintry Tortilla Crisps: When I made this, I choose the wrong recipe and instead of a nice creamy white soup I ended up with an orange tinted soup because of the carrots (silly me) but the snowflake tortilla crisps made it look a bit more wintery and it was still a warm and satisfying dinner on a cold winter’s night. To make the crisps use a cookie cutter to cut out shapes from a tortilla (we used whole wheat). I sprinkled them with chilli powder and then put them in a preheated oven at 400F until they were crisp enough to our liking. (I forgot to time it!).
Snowy Trees Sugar Cookies: Tint your favourite sugar cookie dough recipe green, using green food colouring. Then use a tree cookie cutter to make tree shaped cookies. ice the tips of the trees with white frosting. My frosting was too runny, but they still tasted good!
THE SUN AND THE EARTH:
Go online to look at the earth’s position in the winter in the Northern Hemisphere - http://www.physicalgeography.net/fundamentals/6hwinter.html. You can use a flashlight as the sun and a ball as the earth to further illustrated why we have winter.
NO TWO SNOWFLAKES ARE ALIKE:
If you live in a cold region, go outside on a snowy day and give your child a black paper plate (or piece of paper) to catch snowflakes. Use a magnifying glass to observe the individual snowflakes. Have your kids draw pictures of what they saw and together talk about the differences between each snowflake. Draw the snowflakes on this Observing Snowflakes Worksheet.
WHY DO THEY PUT SALT ON THE ROAD?
The freezing point of water is lowered when it is mixed with salt, which is the reason why it is used on roads and sidewalks in the winter prevent icy conditions. Give your child some ice cubes and the salt shaker and a bowl. Have your child sprinkle salt on the ice and observe what happens.
You can make your own crystals that look ice crystals! Boil some water and carefully pour into a tall glass (adult step only) about 1 cup. Then add 1/3 cup of baking soda. We tried this using 2 cups with baking soda and 2 cups with salt (2/3 of a cup) but the salt crystals didn’t work. I think we used the wrong kind. Anyway, the baking soda ones worked well though so I recommend that! Then tie a piece of string around a pencil and tie a piece of pipe cleaner that your child has fashioned into a fancy design of some sort to the other end of the string. Rest the pencil over the glass rim so that the string dangles into the water and the pipe cleaner design is submerged. Record the time you started the experiment and then have your child check on it the next day to see what happens!
NOTE: I ran out of room to show this experiment here. To see a picture of this Experiment go to our Facebook Page and check out the “More Crafts and Activities” Album: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.536331356394349.132868.194379807256174&type=3
There are all sorts of wintery experiments that can be done. If your child is interested in doing more experiments try this book:
Snowy Science, by Shar Levine and Leslie Johnstone and illustrations by Patricia Storms, Scholastic, 2011—This book has 25 experiments with easy to follow directions.
GLITTERY WHITE PLAYDOUGH:
I Found this idea on Pinterest which led to this website: http://tenkidsandadog.blogspot.ca/2010/01/s-is-for-snow.html . The recipe is simple: mix 1 cup Flour, 1/2 cup salt, 2 tbsp vegetable oil, 2 tsp cream of tartar, and 1 cup water and then mix together to form a ball. Add craft glitter and continue to knead to incorporate the glitter throughout the dough. I added 1 tsp of peppermint extract o give the dough a candy cane scent (only do this if your kids are big enough to understand that they are NOT to eat the dough). Let your kids play with it and create their own non-melting snowballs. NOTE: This keeps well in a re-sealable bag.
Pat on your jacket it’s cold outside.
Q: How do mountains keep warm in the winter?
A: They wear snow caps.
Will you let me inside; it’s freezing out here!
Search through your child’s DVD/ video collection (or visit your local library before hand or the Video Store) to find your child’s favourite shows with a winter theme
For young children try these titles:
· The Backyardigans: The Snow Fort.
· Max and Ruby: Everybunny Loves Winter
· Timothy Goes to School: Snow Day
If you live in a snowy climate have the family put on their snow pants, coats, hats, and mittens, and head outside to have fun in the ultimate sign of Northern winter, snow! Try one of these activities:
· Go sledding or tobogganing,
· Make a snowman (or snow family),
· Make a snow fort,
· Make snow angels by lying down in the snow,
· Try to catch snowflakes in your mouth,
· Leave some seeds out for the winter birds,
· Have a winter walk to look for foot prints.
Find a local place that offers hay/sleigh rides.
Find an outdoor skating rink (or indoor).
Explore the options around where you live and see if there are any winter carnivals or ice festivals around.
If you live in an area without snow go on a nature walk and write down, photograph or discuss the differences in nature during your winter. Print out a copy of my Nature Walk Printable and have your child fill it out (writing or drawing) after you’ve gone for your walk.
Photo: C Wright
Go for a wintery walk!