Homeschooling the winter-weather months in Canada means that a lot of time will be spent indoors. But there ARE occasions when we can take our education outdoors instead!
Over the years it has continued to be very important to our family to make an extra special effort towards spending time outside – the rays of sunshine, fresh air, and the lack of electricity (and phones and computers) are so valuable to our personal health. I try to think of different sorts of things to do out there, so we can enjoy our natural environment whenever it isn’t too hot, too cold, or too wet.
Below are 10 categories with some ideas for “what can be done in the snow” – outdoors on your own property or in a park!
Legal Disclaimer: Peppermint Stick Learning Company Inc. and its blog author(s) are not responsible for any results from what you choose to do with the ideas on this post. You remain fully responsible for your own actions and decisions. Please keep in mind that wisdom must be prioritized above “just having fun”. Be safe in whatever you choose to do and however you choose to do it. Appropriate caring and attentive supervision of children remains necessary indoors or outdoors.
Play in it!
- a snowman
- a snow family
- snow houses (to “play house” in), snow stores, snow church – oh, why not an entire “snow village”?!
- trails – tramped down and perhaps shovelled paths
- Set up…
- a “floor hockey rink” – a play area with nets, sticks, and a ball but without ice (no puck)
- a broomball area – a play area with a large ball (plastic or rubber) and a bunch of household brooms (e.g. corn brooms). (Some balls don’t last well in the cold but some balls are fine at those temperatures.)
- a traditional “Fox and Geese” game – marked out in the snow
Work in it!
- to cover or wrap burlap around tender perennial shrubs, small trees, etc.
- to shovel your porch(es) and/or deck with lightweight, small-enough shovels
- to shovel your sidewalk(s) and paths to your parking area
- to bring in wood from a shed with a child’s wagon
- to brush snow off vehicles with a soft brush
- as a family team to clear snow from neighbours’ properties (with their permission)
- winter birds at a birdfeeder
- deer (with deer feed found at agricultural and maybe hardware-type stores)
- squirrels (or try to invent ways to keep them away from birdfeeders)
- Keep Chart Observations… by being a “citizen scientist” – helping with research from your own backyard
- Example: see this link if you are interested in a more-involved study of birds at feeders: https://feederwatch.org/
- (Full Disclosure: The above link leads to another website. It is not an affiliate link. We do not receive compensation for linking to it.)
Walk in it!
- Take a nature hike (or even a drive in the countryside) together!
- What can you see?
- bird tracks
- animal tracks
- animal droppings, etc.
- feathers, fur
- bent over sunflowers and other plants
- rotting leaves
- broken branches
- birds, squirrels, deer, etc.
- seafoam (we saw this while walking briefly on a cold, windy beach)
- What can you hear?
- rustling movements in trees
- crunching of snow
- airplanes behind clouds
- sloshy slush
- Christmas music
- What can you smell?
- smoke from chimneys
- evergreen trees
- What can you see?
- Play “Follow the Leader” and everyone tramps in the same footprints as the leader.
- How far can everyone jump forward (and not fall backwards)?
And who can forget taking a field trip to see a maple sugar shack – now that’s really sweet outdoor education!!! 🙂
Sing in it!
- Go carolling as a family near Christmas. Arrange “stops” at family, friends, neighbours, people Daddy works with, or other people you know.
- Sing silly songs or descriptive songs outdoors sitting on large snowballs in a circle.
Use natural manipulatives (items found in the natural world) for math!
- gather small sticks in the yard after a windy storm – who collects the most?
- snowball stacking – how high can a stack be built (and measured)?
- handprint dips – count along a path if the sides are at a good level to walk and hit a mittened hand into the soft enough snow. Try counting by 2’s if using both hands! What about counting by 5’s if you have gloves on which can make distinctive little prints?!
Write in it!
- Use a stick (or a hand) to write(vertically or horizontally)
- own name
- spelling words
- simple sentences
- themed lists (e.g. as a group, write as many words as you can think of in 2 minutes that relate to the theme of “winter sports”)
- penmanship – practice letter formation (cursive or printed)
- Use sticky packing snow to “pack on” letters to stick to brick walls or tree trunks.
“Paint” in it!
- Colour some water with food colouring in a squeeze bottle. Use that coloured water to draw or write. Caution: The food colouring could stain clothing.
- Take a pan of snow (e.g. a rectangle casserole dish), pack it down, turn it upside-down to remove the snow from the pan, and then paint with a brush and water-based paints outdoors. Leave the painting in an area where it is OK when the weather melts it or covers it with additional snow. Like drawing on a chalkboard, this is only a temporary painting so don’t forget to take a photo of it when it looks the best.
Adapt a lesson for the snowy situation!
- Volleyball… in the snow instead of the sand or grass! Use a clothesline for the net and practice volleying! As the winter goes on (and the area gets higher) the net will get easier to get a ball over it! (Beachballs don’t like cold weather. So far, a regular volleyball seems to handle the cold OK.)
- Measure snowfall in a math measurement unit instead of just measuring things indoors. Chart changing weather patterns (e.g. wind, temperature) too in a storm system and graph it.
- If your hydro goes out and you have an upcoming lesson relating to pioneers, this is a great time to pull that out.
Shelter from it!
- Think of ways to be able to comfortably spend longer times outdoors.
- It might mean investing in adult-sized snow pants to be able to play in the snow with your kids, more comfortable boots to be able to hike more without hurting or freezing your feet, warmer mittens (e.g. alpaca yarn is nice), or wearing a scarf as a hat to shield more from wind.
- Think of structures which have natural light but shield from precipitation and wind and then think of what sorts of things you could do in those structures during the day in the winter months. Examples: – a playhouse-type of shed, a greenhouse, a bunkie. A greenhouse stays reasonably warm, bright, and dry unless it’s really stormy or cold/overcast, is transparent (so you can watch kids playing in the snow nearby and work on some small projects at the same time), and smells great if you still are growing flowers or herbs in there!
Read in it!
Sure, it might be too cold or wet to do this activity much in the winter BUT on the milder, less rainy/windy/snowy days, it is possible to get comfortable reading for a little while… in a shelter at least! I have a small table and a couple of lawn chairs set up in my 6 x 8′ greenhouse and sometimes I (alone or with a kid or two) go there. We can read nicely in there and it’s a wonderful space to do some of my little jobs!
In fact, I’m learning something recently about improved eyesight and being outdoors in a space such as that…
One weekend when I was cutting out patterns (for upcoming sewing projects) in my greenhouse, I suddenly noticed I was seeing tiny details and reading well WITHOUT my glasses on! “That’s interesting,” I thought.
Later when I returned indoors, I went to my fridge to read a paper posted on it but automatically reached for my glasses. “Now, wait a moment, I COULD read this size of print this afternoon better than this!” And I grabbed my page and coat to test this out, even in the dusky sunset lighting.
Yep, I didn’t need my eyeglasses outdoors but I did indoors. I realize that I’m more sensitive to slight changes in my environment compared to average folks but this did perk my scientific query so I asked my optometrist if he had heard of anything like this before. Yes, he had, and it was another good educational moment.
It has to do with aperture size he told me. People have larger pupils indoors with indoor lighting. “Blur circles” is what makes our image understandable – what we see. The bigger the pupil, the bigger the “blur circles”, and thus the blurrier the image becomes. Outdoors in natural sunlight, the aperture size is smaller (smaller pupil) and thus, a clearer image.
That means a better ability to read outdoors.
Knowing this makes me want to do more reading under a tree with the kids next summer too!
How about you?! 🙂
(Photo: Helping Mommy to brush off the greenhouse roof with a snow brush from our van – we have fun memories being inside that greenhouse in the winter for some “school stuff”!)