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Winter Activities for Early Learning Programs: Nature Discovery, Collaborative Art & Seasonal Stories

Dec 15, 2022    |   Winter

Young children love to get outside to investigate the natural world. Winter is especially magical, with its crisp air, rainy weather, and the stark beauty of tree branches that have shed their leaves. It’s a great time of year to take the children in your care outdoors to notice seasonal plants, newly visible berries, temperature changes, muddy ground, and puddles! The art activities and seasonal stories below offer ideas for bringing winter explorations into your indoor learning spaces.

Activities and Art Projects

Winter Nature Garland

You’ll begin this indoor-outdoor activity by venturing into your backyard or going on a nature walk with the children in your care to collect a variety of natural treasures. These might include pinecones, leaves, berries, twigs, and any other items that the children find. Bring the items into your classroom so you and the children can create a decorative garland. You can tie the natural items onto a piece of string, or pull the string through openings created on each item with a hole punch.

For added fun and creativity, invite children to decorate their natural items before hanging them! Use glitter, paints, pom-poms, and other art supplies to make a colorful display.

Collaborative Pine Tree Art

Have you tried collaborative art projects with the children in your care? Collaborative art projects are done as a group, and they are a fun way to practice building important skills, including creativity, communication, and teamwork. For this project, you’ll need a large canvas, green paint, pinecones, and pine tree branches. The natural items for this project can be collected in your backyard or neighborhood. If you do not have pine trees nearby, ask families if they have any in their community, and invite them to bring some for the project. This is a two-step process that will begin with painting the canvas and then gluing on the natural materials after it’s dry.

There are lots of ways to make this project your own – add other leaves and natural materials, use tissue paper to make a collage instead of painting on the canvas, or paint the pinecones before gluing them. If you work in a large center, you might invite other classrooms to do this project as well, and then hang them all up side-by-side!

Pine Needle Discovery Bottles

Discovery bottles are a fun and simple activity that can be enjoyed by young children of all ages. They are especially good for infants and toddlers who might be tempted to put items into their mouths. Simply place pine needles into a water bottle, fill with water, and use hot glue to keep them closed. If you have glitter handy, you might consider adding a sprinkle to your discovery bottles, to add a bit of sparkle! Older children can help fill the bottles, but it is best for educators to take over when it is time to seal the bottle caps with hot glue.

Frosted Pinecones

This simple activity requires only three items: pinecones, white tempera paint, and glitter. Start by collecting pine cones (or ask families to bring some in if you cannot find any in your neighborhood). To create frosted pinecones, pour a thin layer of white paint into a try and encourage children to roll them around so that paint gets on the edges of the pinecones. Paintbrushes can also be used to get white paint into some of the smaller nooks of the pinecone. Before they are dry, shake the glitter on the wet paint. It’s best to do the final step over a tray, because glitter can get messy!

Once they are dry, these pinecones can be hung in your classroom or tied to strings to make ornaments. This project pairs especially well with the children’s book, Penguin and Pinecone, a winter-themed story about friendship.

Children’s Books

Winter Trees

This children’s book, written by Carole Gerber and illustrated by Leslie Evans, tells the story of a boy and his dog as they identify different kinds of trees in a snow-covered forest. The book is written in rhyming poem-like text, with simple illustrations and information about what makes different trees unique.

Find a free read-aloud video of this book on Youtube.

The Great Spruce

This picture book, written by John Duvall and illustrated by Rebecca Gibbon, tells the story of a young boy and his grandpa who have a special tree that they decorate every year.

The book highlights community, family, and holiday traditions, in a sweet story that centers around a particularly special spruce tree. Find a free read-aloud video of this book on Youtube.

Robin’s Winter Song

This children’s book, written by Suzanne Barton, tells the story of a robin who notices how the weather changes in the winter, and how different animals prepare for the new season.

Find a free read-aloud video of this book on Youtube.

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