Creative Play for Winter

We’ve been learning about winter this week. Our topics focused on what animals do in wintertime and what changes we notice as the season begins. We will also cover how the Earth’s orbit around the sun makes the seasons, but I’ll write about that later.

So ironically, this is expected to be like “the warmest December on record” in Baltimore. It feels like Texas going out with no jacket in December! But I’m sure the cold will eventually set in and we will be able to see even more evidence of winter with snow and frozen waters.

One of my son’s favorite activities has always been small world play with his beloved animals. As he’s gotten older, I’ve let him build his own. I include these creative play scenes in many of our unit studies. We leave it out for several days as he adds things and plays with it. Even though I give him materials to get started, he always asks for more supplies to create things I never would have thought about making.

We started our unit with the book, Winter’s Coming: A Story of Seasonal Change and then went outside to see if we could spot some signs of winter.

We collected a few little treasures and I saved them to use in our small world activity.

Nature Walk Treasures

We especially focused on the change in the trees and lack of many insects and animals. We had already talked about hibernation, migration and adaptation a few weeks ago, so this was a perfect way to put that knowledge into use. The next day, I set out these items along with white kinetic sand, glass stones, and snowflake confetti. The kids went straight to work!

Sensory Materials

We also used some white play dough to help the “trees” stand up. My son quickly pointed out that we needed some animals to add. Can you spot the frog? He’s a wood frog that has buried himself under the ground and frozen solid!

Learning through Creative Play

The bear’s cave for hibernation was made using a paper towel roll and later on we made some logs for hedgehogs from textured card stock. Our collection doesn’t include a few of the animals he wanted so we just cut them out of paper. We made a squirrel, woodpecker, woolly bear caterpillar, dead mosquito, mole, and lemming.

DIY Snow Play

He really enjoyed making this scene and I love how much it sparked his creativity. As he added items and animals, we talked about how they would survive and change over the winter. (You might not be able to see in the photo below, but there’s a turtle buried under the “frozen pond.”)

Winter Scene

One thing I struggle with is how to keep my two-year-old occupied when I need to give more attention to my son. These types of activities are great because she can just play along. She got her own tray and materials. Here’s her creation– the cans of play dough are buildings!

Sensory Snow Play

She always prefers to be included and if she doesn’t want to do something or is finished before he is, she is free to play her own thing. Her attention span is obviously not as long as his.

Something I’ve been thinking about is how to document learning. I thought this might be a good opportunity to make a little movie explaining his winter scene. You can watch it here:

Before he shot the clips, we talked about what he wanted to say. Of course I showed him how to do the editing. I’m hoping after a few more times of watching me, he can do it himself. It was really a fun project from start to finish. Work like this uses so many skills from observation of the world around him to imagination to fine motor.

Learn about Winter with a nature walk and creative play snow scene


What are your favorite hands-on learning techniques?






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