Winter Fun with Little Ones

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[Note: a similar article by me was published on Red Tricyle. This one includes links to lots of my posts with more details on every one of the ideas.)

After the intense busy-ness of the holidays, we move into the quiet, boring days of January. And in the rains of Seattle, it can be easy to feel the cabin fever of being “trapped” at home with your toddler or preschool age child. I’ve written lots of posts over the past few years on “Cheap Dates with Toddlers” – easy, fun, and cheap activities. Here’s the best ideas for winter fun:

  • Go to the playground in the winter – just bundle up and bring a towel to dry everything off! (For reviews of several Kirkland area parks, click here.)
  • Try an indoor playground – lots of large motor play with new friends, out of the rain.
  • Hike in the woods and have a nature scavenger hunt to see what you can find.
  • Take a ride on a bus or train – or on a ferry – just for the fun of the journey. (Just because you don’t think riding on a bus is exciting doesn’t mean it’s not for your child!)
  • Find a construction site and watch the work.
  • Attend library story time – they’re free, happen at several locations each week, and are great for encouraging a love of reading.
  • Go to the store – a hardware store, a grocery store, whatever – focus on sharing the experience with your child instead of on what you need to buy.
  • Wander around a rock yard looking at big rocks, and collecting a few small pebbles to bring home.
  • Go to a pet store (or as we like to call them “small animal zoos with free admission).”
  • Watch the fish at the Seattle aquarium, or even just in the small aquarium at your local Chinese restaurant.
  • Go to a dog walk, watching very happy pups is a great mood lifter.
  • Check out a sushi restaurant with a conveyor belt – just watching the food go around is great entertainment!
  • If you can find your plastic Easter eggs, you can pull them out for a fun hunt any day.
  • For lots more ideas, for songs, books, games, and crafts you can do at home, check out my “Fun with Toddlers” series, which are all focused around a theme such as ducks, farm, winter, zoo, or moon and stars.
  • Also, check out Inventors of Tomorrow, which is my blog focused on hands-on STEM activities for teaching kids about science.

If you’d like someone else to do all the planning for enriching varied activities for your child (from music to art to big motor play), check out classes sponsored by the parent education programs at our local community colleges. Great play-based learning for kids from birth to age 7, and parent education and support for you!

If you still need more ideas, then we have a fabulous resource here in Seattle. Check out parentmap.com for a never-ending supply of ideas for things to do with kids in the Puget Sound area.

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Fun with Toddlers: Winter Theme

Bring the snow inside!You may be several days into a winter break from your school and work routine now, with several days left to go, and looking for new ideas for fun activities for your toddler or pre-schooler. Here’s a collection of winter-themed fun.

Sensory Activities to Do:

Snow in the Shower. If it snows, you may excitedly bundle your child up, take them out to play, and then watch them just sit and shiver. Try bringing the snow inside! Make sure your bathroom is nice and warm, then bring a big bucket of snow and dump it on the floor of your shower and put your child next to it with shovels and toys. As the snow melts, it disappears down the drain, so no clean-up required! When your child is done playing, run a warm bath or shower to warm him back up.

Ice Play

  • Excavation: Use a loaf pan or bowls to make blocks of ice. Freeze items inside (e.g. plastic penguins or Legos) – give your child a toy hammer and other tools to excavate the toys. (You can have them sit on the shower floor or in an empty bath tub if you want clean up to be easy.)
  • Hockey rink: freeze a cake pan of water. Make mini “hockey sticks” and use a checker as the puck. Hit the puck back and forth to score.
  • Melting experiments: Give your child ice, water with pipets or eye droppers, salt to sprinkle. Let them explore how to get the ice to melt. Add food coloring or liquid watercolors to make it prettier.

Dry Ice Experiments: Check out my post for lots of ideas.

Games to Play:

Indoor Snowball Fight. Make or buy big white pompoms, or soft white balls. Or just wad up a bunch of paper into balls. Fill a basket with them. Then spontaneously start snowball battles anytime you want to! Not only is this tons of fun, I like playing games where I throw (soft) things at my kids. It helps them be a little bolder about ball games later in life – a little more willing to “head” the ball in a soccer game.

Rhymes to Say

Up the Mountain rhyme
Sit child on your lap
Up the mountain (run your fingers up one of their arms)
Down the other side (then run fingers down their other arm)
Brr it’s cold out… (hug them tight)
Let’s climb inside! (tickle their neck as you reach your fingers under their collar)

Chubby Little Snowman rhyme
See gestures at http://wiki.kcls.org/index.php/Chubby_Little_Snowman
A chubby little snowman had a carrot nose.
Along came a bunny, and what do you suppose?
That hungry little bunny, looking for his lunch,
Ate that snowman’s carrot nose,
Nibble, nibble, crunch!

Songs to Sing

Little Snowflake Swirling Round or Snowflake Fancy Free. Give your child a paper snowflake and have them put it on their head, their knee, etc.

Sing the My Mittens song in those inevitable moments when you’re searching for your child’s missing mittens.

Crafts to Do:

http://www.howwelearnathome.com/2013/01/build-shape-snowman.html

howwelearnathome.cm

Mittens: Cut out 10 paper mittens. Have your child decorate them. (Or for younger kids, have them scribble / finger paint all over a piece of paper, THEN cut out mitten shapes.) Then do the 10 little mittens rhyme together.

Tracks in the Snow. Make white play-dough. Play with toy animals in it, and point out the tracks they make. (Source, with pictures.)

Shape snowmen. Check out original idea here.

Books to Read:
Amy Loves the Snow by Hoban. Sweet simple story for little ones.

The Snowman Story Book or The Snowman by Raymond Briggs. These are the same story, but the Snowman is wordless – you tell the story in your own words. Beautiful illustrations. Story of a snowman who comes to life. Note: sad ending.

The Red Sled or The Red Hat by Judge or The Mitten by Jan Brett. All three are stories of woodland creatures getting into mischief with children’s belongings.

The Snowy Day by Ezra Keats. A little boy in the city enjoys a snowy day. This book, published in 1963, was noteworthy for being one of the first picture books to feature an African-American child.

More ideas (and source citations) at: http://www.pinterest.com/bcparented

For my full collection of theme-based “Fun with Toddlers”, click on “Fun with Toddlers series” in the right hand side bar. Or if you would like them in printable handout form to share with students, click here.

Cheap Dates with Toddlers – Winter Outings to the Playground

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During the summer, the most obvious place to take your toddler is on an outing to a playground.

But in the winter, parents hesitate to go.

Playgrounds are just as fun in the winter – you just need to plan ahead!

Bundle up your child for the weather – gloves and hats help a lot. Even more important for your enjoyment is to bundle up yourself! Your child will be kept warm and distracted by running around – you’re the one more likely to get cold. Bring along an old towel or two to wipe down wet slides and wet swings to keep your child’s bottom dry. And bring an extra set of clothes, just in case!

I keep our rain boots in the car to allow for spontaneous outings in the winter. Some day I’ll remember to keep old towels in the car so I always have one available. (Instead, I’m the one whose kid gets soaked pants every time we go – good thing I always have extra clothes in the diaper bag!)

For lots more ideas for fun, cheap outings with a toddler, click on the category Toddler Date on the right…