Winter Wonders

Julia Eastes offers great ideas for exploring the wonders of winter with young children.

Winter Wonders


“Everyone begins as a child by liking weather.  You learn the art of disliking it as you grow up.  Noticed it on a snowy day? The grown-ups are all going about with long faces, but look at the children-and the dogs? They know what snow is made for.” C. S. Lewis-

Isn’t winter a fascinating, magical season? Recently, after days of mighty wind escorting the storm, it began to snow. Silently, the snow fell in huge clumps, quickly covering the ground.  As the snow landed and broke apart, the exquisite details in each flake were visible.  It was wet snow, not always common in Wyoming but perfect for all kinds of outdoor play. For a bundled-up child, the possibilities are endless!  There was so much moisture in the snow it was perfect for building a snowman, making tracks, creating snow angels, all kinds of active exploration and, imaginative learning. Our community experienced wind gusts over 80 miles per hour in the same week, rain, sleet, snow, thunder, and lightning all in just 24 hours. I am sure this unpredictable, unruly weather led to thoughtful questions and conversations in early childhood classrooms and homes.

When I taught preschool, exploring and learning about seasons was always something I wove into my teaching. The seasonal changes encouraged us to spend extra time outside taking walks, playing, reading, and wondering.  I loved sharing the rhythm of the seasons with children. It is easy to reduce learning about seasons to a calendar and daily weather observations. The uniqueness of winter encourages curiosity, interaction, and big questions.  Spending time with children observing, listening, and documenting their questions are tools teachers can use to extend learning throughout the year.

On a recent walk along the river, I watched ducks and geese as they maneuvered through the icy water.  Their down feathers kept them warm and protected as they swam and dived for food.  When they walked on the ice, their webbed feet slipped a bit. I wondered how it was that their webbed feet didn’t freeze.  I contacted the Wyoming Game and Fish Department and spoke to my friend,  Brian Olson.  He explained the circulation of the blood from the heart to the feet preventing the duck’s feet from freezing. He also shared additional fun facts and told me about other animals to watch for in winter.  Using resources (especially experts) available to teachers is a great way to honor children’s big questions! 

The best questions come from the children or are in response to their wonderings and observations. As they ask questions, educators and families can extend their learning. What other questions could you ask to extend children’s thinking?

Besides the snow and colder temperatures, what is different outside? 

What colors do you see when playing outside?  How could you mix paint colors that look like what you noticed? 

Could we create a class book or mural of how our outdoor spaces change with the seasons?

What do animals do in winter?  Why do some animals hibernate and others don’t?

What would bears or frogs need if they wanted to stay up all winter? 

Be sure to document children’s questions, encourage their writing and art and photos to make their learning visible. 

We can create wintery learning opportunities for children as we plod our way through the chilly days ahead. Allowing the time for authentic, extended learning experiences as we marvel at the dramatic change of seasons. There is a saying attributed to Scandinavian counties, “There is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes!”  The point being, there is value in spending time outdoors, when possible, even in the winter.  As we all expected, Groundhog Day in Wyoming was predictable, and we will have many more weeks of winter to enjoy!


Connecting outdoor experiences to children’s books further supports their learning, whether providing answers to big questions or delighting in favorite stories. Remember in The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats, when Peter brought a snowball inside his cozy warm house? What if Picasso or van Gogh did paint a snowman?  For more book titles to share with young children, check out the winter book list on the WYECPLC website!

Big Questions for Young Minds Extending Children’s Thinking by Janis Strasser and Lisa Mufson Bresson is an excellent resource as you support learning in outdoor spaces.  Built on the reimagined Bloom’s Taxonomy, this book is full of ways to extend learning as you, “Step Up Your Questioning Technique!”.

Be sure to document children’s questions, encourage their writing and art and photos to make their learning visible. 


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