Cold Weather Outside, Bold Learning Inside!

Winter Weather Offers Early Childhood Programs The Chance to Take a Deep Dive Into Learning

From freezing rain to super-chilly days, many early childhood programs have a bit less opportunity to use the outdoors as a bonus classroom in Indiana winters. But there’s still plenty of ways to use the plunging temperatures to build children’s skills and understanding.

Want to help your little learners explore science and language arts in the winter? Try these ice cube-inspired activities:

Younger Babies

You already know that talking is teaching, especially with young infants. Add to the emergent vocabulary by talking about temperatures throughout the day.

  • “Oh, this bottle is warm. When you gobble it up, I know it’s just right.”
  • “Are those toes cold. Let’s put that sock back on!”
Older Babies & Young Toddlers

Very small kids are still learning how to use their hands and fine-tuning their motor skills. Give them a little bit of snow or tiny pieces of ice and watch them play with them. Tell them it feels cold and that when your warm hand touches the cold, it melts. Their little hands can get cold quickly, have a rag around to warm up their hands. Mittens can also come in handy for these explorations. Make sure the ice pieces aren’t a choking hazard, in case children try to put it in their mouth. Don’t have an ice maker? Try putting cups in the freezer with a little bit of water, and they can explore  the cold cups.

Older Toddlers

Make a tray of ice. Once your ice cubes are ready, place them in a bowl and let the kids explore what happens when the ice cube melts in a bowl of water or on a piece of paper. Ask them which ice cubes melt faster and why they think that happens. Some fun ways to extend this activity:

  • Put out cups of nontoxic paint and paintbrushes (or water droppers to build their pincer grasp) and invite children to paint the ice.
  • Place some ice in a sensory bin with water and have children scoop out the ice with ladles.
Preschool and Pre-K Learners

Older kids can understand more complex science concepts like measuring and mixing. Make a tray of ice with a little bit of food coloring and water with different colors. Have the kids sort the colors into different bowls. “What happens if you mix one red ice cube and one yellow ice cube?” Have them try different combinations, “What happens when you mix two red ice cubes and one blue ice cube?” You can also use spoons and cups so kids can learn measuring terms. Bonus explorations to add:

  • Paint with the colorful ice cubes. This can be a bit easier, and gentler on little hands, if you freeze them with tongue depressors or spoons in the middle of each cube.

Want to share similar ideas with the families you work with? Check out Brighter Futures Indiana’s Play & Learning Guides, which offer insights into child development by age and Early Learning Foundation!