Dominik is still too young to really understand what’s going on around the holidays, so we have been keeping it low key around the house. I try to keep up with seasonal cooking, but we haven’t really done anything to mark the start of winter. But as he gets older, I would like to start making a point to celebrate and learn about each season. It’s important for kids to learn about the yearly cycle, especially because so much time is spent inside and away from nature.
Here are 10 ways to celebrate winter with kids:
- Unplug everything. The winter solstice is the longest night of the year. A lovely way to mark this, is to unplug for the night. And I mean everything. No television, no lights, no computers. Light some candles and spend the night playing games and reading books. What a lovely way to mark the end of the darkest time of the year.
- Cook some seasonal food. With supermarkets that give us anything we want year round, it can be easy to forget what’s actually supposed to be in season. A trip to the farmer’s market will supply you with seasonal and super fresh food and be a great trip for the kids. Plus, if children get involved with picking out food and cooking it, they are more likely to eat it. Winter fruits and vegetables include: beets, broccoli, broccoli rabe/rapini, grapefruit, cauliflower, leeks, kale, cabbage, onions, mandarins, oranges, persimmons, potatoes, winter squash, sweet potatoes, turnips, pommelos, parsnips, kumquats, fennel and carrots.
- Create some winter art. Art is amazing, and I’m not just saying that because I used to teach it. It expands the mind of a child, develops fine motor skills, shows their imagination, and teaches them about art theory as well as the visual world. Using art to learn about winter and to celebrate it, is so much fun for kids. Small kids like toddlers and preschoolers benefit from just some paper and freedom. It can help to provide some inspiration like, “What emotion would your snowman have?” And let them draw, with gentle guidance snowmen with happy or sad faces. Here is an easy art project you can do with your kids (kindergarten and older) that makes winter birch trees. Have them put three pieces of tape halfway down a paper. Draw a line across the middle as the horizon. Paint the top half with watercolor and sprinkle salt to make “snow”. Paint the shadows of the tree by painting diagonal blocks of color down from each tree. Take off the tape and use black marker to outline the trees, add branches, and draw on the lines of the bark.
- Feed the birds. It is not just winter for us, it’s also winter for animals as well. Winter can be hard on animals searching for food, especially with natural habitats dwindling. Make little bird houses and fill a bird feeder to give our feathered friends a safe place. It will be great for children to look out into the yard to see all kinds of birds stopping by. My sister and I used to collect acorns and leave them out for squirrels too.
- Read a book. There are some great choices out there for winter themed books. Here are some good ones:
- Sun Bread: All about a baker that makes sun bread to get the sun to come out during the chill of winter.
- The Tomten: This is one of our favorites. This is a gentle story of a little friend called the tomten that comes out at night.
- Winter Waits: A beautifully illustrated book about Father Time and winter personified as his son.
- Owl Moon: A father and his daughter walk into the woods one winter night to search for an owl. A lovely story.
- Bear Snores On: A great little story that teaches a little about hibernation.
- Create a winter wreath. Evergreens were important to many cultures throughout history. They symbolized lasting life and strength, at a cold time of year when nothing else was green. The wreath itself has many different historical purposes, but today is mainly for decor. Decorating a wreath with natural objects like pine cones, leaves, and other natural treasures can be a fun way for kids to get hands on with nature.
- Light some lanterns. When the nights are long and dark, creating little lanterns is a beautiful way to symbolize the returning of longer days. You can use paper bags with designs cut out or glue tissue paper onto jars to create colorful lanterns.
- Make orange pomanders. Take an orange and stick cloves into it until it is covered and hang it as decoration. Super easy, smells amazing, and acts as a symbol of the sun.
- Sing a song. Music is important for all ages. It helps with memory, math, rhythm, rhyming/language, and creativity. If you can find some wintery songs, awesome. But I usually just make up silly little songs. Here are some ideas to start with here at teachingmama.org
- Get outside! The best way to teach kids about seasons and celebrate them is to experience them. Even if you don’t have a snowy winter, like us here in Southern California, it’s important to learn about local weather.