Snow Castles

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This weekend, my brother sent me a video of his kids playing on the beach in Tasmania, it's summer there right now. Ok, I have to admit I was a little envious...I live in Canada and it's winter here, cold and snowy! But the video got me thinking and inspired a sensory play activity outside that encouraged exploration of the natural environment and creativity.

I left a few empty, washed out plant pots, spoons and spades in the snow and it wasn't long before they were being filled with snow, turned upside down and emptied out. Leaves and stones buried in the snow were dug out and incorporated into the play and the question, "Why do my gloves smell different?" initiated discussion, problem-solving and discovery. The sprigs of rosemary used as trees had not only made the snow castle smell nice but had left their scent on the gloves!

Look at what we made!

And if it's too cold to play outside, bring some snow inside!

What you need::

(This is just a suggested list of resources, you do not have to use everything on it. Be creative and use what you have.)

  • Recycled plant pots, yogurt pots, plastic cups etc. (Make sure that these are empty and have been washed out)

  • Spoons, scoops, ladles, spades

  • Natural resources e.g. pinecones, leaves, sticks,

  • Sieves or plastic tubs with holes punched in the bottom

  • Plastic measuring jugs

  • Buckets

  • Small world toys, e.g. dinosaurs, sea creatures, animals (make sure that toys are waterproof and age appropriate)

  • Spray bottles filled with water and a few drops of food colouring. Spraying coloured water onto the snow enhances the sensory experience. (Remember to make sure that anything you add to the water is non-toxic and suitable for use by children.)

  • Appropriate clothing for the activity (warm and waterproof)

Top tips:

  • Encourage your child to dress for the weather. If they are wearing hats and gloves, warm waterproof coats, over-trousers/snow pants and boots, they are more likely to stay warm and dry and enjoy being outside.
  • Before you go outside, talk about what the weather is like and what it might be good to wear. Doing this provides opportunities for developing your child's learning and independence.

What skills does snow play develop:

Fine motor skills and hand-eye co-ordination are developed as your child scoops snow into containers and manipulates natural resources in their play.

Gross motor skills and muscle strength are developed as your child begins to lift and move heavier containers of snow.

Language and communications skills. Snow play provides lots of opportunities for developing language and communication skills.

Encourage your child to:

  • Build their vocabulary as they listen to and use new words, e.g. scoop, empty, full, half-full, melt, cold

  • Ask for objects that they want to play with.

  • Talk about what they are doing.

  • Use their senses to investigate the world around them.Talk about how the snow looks, feels and sounds.

  • Sing and retell favourite snow themed songs and stories from memory using toys as props.

  • Create and share their own stories about playing in the snow or what they have built.

Social skills. Social skills such as waiting and turn-taking are developed as your child plays alongside or with others. e.g. waiting to use a container, or, working co-operatively with others to build something.

Cognitive skills

Snow play activities provide lots of fun, hands-on opportunities for observing and investigating scientific and mathematical concepts and problem-solving.

Listen to what the children are saying and use their questions e.g.

  • Why is my glove wet?

  • How many stones do you think I need to make a path here?

  • Will my snow castle still be here tomorrow?

as starting points for creating opportunities that enable them to self-discover the answers.

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