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February 4, 2022

Exploring, Noticing, and Enjoying Winter Beauty.

Living here in Arlington, Va, we are fortunate to experience four distinct seasons each year. Each season brings new experiences that may seem routine to us as adults, but these changes can be exhilarating and awe inspiring for our children. Now that winter is fully underway, we can help our children observe and name the everyday joys winter brings us. Perhaps in the process, we may even reignite our own sense of wonder with winter.

A good first place to begin is just to observe the sensations of life in winter. This comes easily, because we do it naturally. As we walk out the door, often our first statement is, “brr, It’s cold!” Start with simple sentences and phrases like this, and build on them with more descriptive words and comparisons. “Look, because the air outside is so cold, when I talk, we can see steam coming out of my mouth!” Point out and name the phenomena we only get to experience in the chill of winter. There’s frost on the grass in place of dew, there may be snow, or icicles, or salt streaks on the street. You can say, “I see frost on the grass, it looks like the grass is frozen in time!”, or “I notice white streaks on the street. This looks like trucks are preparing the roads for snow.” Thinking of streets, you may also be able to point out the different ways ice presents itself outside. When children consider ice, they often think of the cubes we use to chill drinks, but ice in nature is very different. You can point out the way that water freezes in puddles or sheets. In particular, phenomena like black ice can be both a point of interest as well as a safety observation. 

Another area to consider is our animal friends. If you have pets, talk about how the winter weather affects them differently. Dogs may need coats or sweaters to go for daily walks. Cats who usually go outside may stay indoors more often. Even our outdoor animal friends behave differently in the cold months. The birds we see in the trees are different. The squirrels are more plump. At the park, we may not see the animals we usually see in the warmer months. Instead of seeing our animal friends, we may see their footprints in the snow or evidence of digging up buried food stores. 

All these points of interest help children make sense of the changes in the seasons and their surroundings, which makes the environment more understandable and predictable. Naming these little joys helps build children’s vocabulary naturally and organically. Providing words to describe observations as we live through and witness them binds the new information with the experience, giving it more meaning and making the learning more impactful. Don’t be afraid to use “grown-up” words. Use the words you’re comfortable with and you might be surprised to hear your children using them, too!

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