Learn and Play on Snow Days

Stacia Jackson is the Education Manager for Jumpstart.

As a child growing up in northwest New Jersey, I was always incredibly excited for the first snow. There was something magical about waiting for the first few flakes to fall. After dark, my mother would turn the lights out upstairs and turn on only the outdoor lights. “Look,” my mother would say as my younger brother and I pressed our noses against the windows, “sparkle snow.” Sure enough, the snow outside would glisten like glitter had fallen from the sky. We would stand there breathless, just watching the snow fall, and add to the drifts of sparkle snow accumulating around outside.

The best part of the snow was going outside, which required lots of layers. Our favorite snowy day activity was sledding. There was a slightly hill in our backyard but to us, it was a mountain. We would pretend to be explorers, hiking up the largest mountain in the world. Upon reaching the top, we would be greeted by the abominable snowman and sled away to safety. This game would be repeated until the sun began to set and we were summoned inside. With bright red cheeks, we would remove all of our snow gear and be wrapped in warm blankets by the fireplace to thaw. As we drank steaming mugs of hot chocolate, our mother would read picture books aloud.

Memories of our days playing in the snow have always reminded me of Jan Brett’s The Hat. She tells the story of Lisa and the adventure her sock has. After one of her socks falls off the clothesline, a curious hedgehog named Hedgie finds it. As he investigates the sock, it gets stuck to him! Adorned with his new hat, Hedgie encounters a host of laughing critters, who tease poor Hedgie about his absurd hat. You’ll have to read the book to discover how Hedgie gets the last laugh!

This story will delight readers of all ages. Jan Brett’s illustrations and engaging storytelling will transport you to a Scandavian forest full of chatty, giggling animals. Jan Brett uses rich colors and incredible detail to bring her story to life. You can bring her world to life too from your own home! Using crayons and white construction paper draw a scene from the book. After you’re done, it’s time to make it snow! Combine four tablespoons of salt with a quarter cup of warm water (the warm water will help the salt dissolve) in a small bowl. Stir well. Dip a paintbrush into the salt mixture and paint over the entire picture. Every time the paintbrush is dipped in the saltwater, be sure to stir it! The more salt that ends up on the brush, the better! This will help create your very own sparkle snow. After the entire paper is covered in the saltwater mixture, leave it to dry. The water will evaporate, leaving salt crystals that resemble snow.

Looking for a sensory based activity to do? Make it snow inside. This recipe can be doubled or halved, depending on the amount of flour you have and would like to use. Take eight cups of flour and pour it into the center large container. Create a crater in the center and pour one cup of vegetable oil. Gently combine your ingredients to create a fun, mushy, pliable snow-like dough. What can you make with the snow? Add in figurines or the makings of a snowman for some extra snow-based fun.

After arts and crafts, take part in a scavenger hunt. Scour the house looking for items that start with /h/ as in hat and /s/ as in sock. Make a list of all of the items you find. Which letter was easier to find items for? Which letter was harder? When that game is done, time to play a matching game! Empty out a sock drawer and lay all of the socks out in front of you. Be sure to mix them up! Match up all of the socks (and see if you have any missing their mate!). While you’re matching socks, be sure to talk about the colors, patterns, and textures of each sock. Do any of your socks look like Lisa’s?

The Hat provides so many opportunities to play with the child in your life. As you take part in these activities, be sure to ask open ended questions that start with how, what, or why. The memories of playing alongside each other last a lifetime.

Together, we can help all children build the key language and literacy skills they need to take on the world.

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