Tuesday, January 29, 2013

"Studying" Nature in the Wintertime with Preschoolers

I am not an outside person, I admit it, I never was growing up either. But I know how important it is to get the children outside to study nature, the great creation of God's. In fact, outside time is scheduled once a week in the My Father's World curriculum (I believe this is due to the Charlotte Mason influence). However, I still find it really hard to get outside, especially with a baby, to study nature in the wintertime. The children have gone out to play, when it was warmer, but even then mommy stayed inside with the baby. The last week or so it has been too cold for the girls to go outside to play. Even on nice looking days when the sun is shining I have to explain to them that they can not go out when it is 19 degrees or 10 degrees. So, what can we do to study nature in the wintertime?

I thought it would be fun to make bird feeders out of pine cones, my older children have done that in the past and it seems like a fun and simple activity. In case you have never done this, all you do is take a pine cone, preferable one that is open and spread peanut butter on it, then you roll it around in bird seed. When you are done you hang it on a tree branch and hopefully the birds will find it and eat from it. And if you are really lucky you will get to see said birds eating from it.

Unfortunately, we didn't have any decent pine cones. Then I remembered the bird feeders they made in Children's Church a while ago. These are also really simple, though I wasn't sure if there were any specific quantities for the ingredients. This is what we did.

We needed oranges, bird seed, oats and peanut butter. Plus some string (we used yarn)

 First I cut the oranges in half and scooped out the insides (the children enjoyed snacking on them). I poked holes in the sides with a knife and stuck the yarn through, tying it off at each end. No, the girls did not help with this part.

Then I put 1/2 cup of peanut butter in the bowl and the girls helped add 1/4 cup of bird seed and 1/4 of oats. The lady who did this with the children had also used raisins, but I didn't have any.

Then we just stirred it all together.

And we scooped it into the orange cups.

We then hung them outside.

Now we are just hoping some birds will find them. 

In the past we have had some fun experiences with snow.

We have used the snow to experiment with. I have had the girls measure snow with measuring cups and then bring them inside to discover what happens to the snow. They understood the concept of warmth melting the snow, but I think they were amazed that when the snow melted there was less in the cup.

Here are some pictures from a few years ago.

And today the girls were able to have a little time outside as the weather was a bit warmer (34 degrees vs teens). I thought they might like to observe a couple of things about snow. So they gathered a cup of snow and brought it inside.

I asked them how long they thought it would take to melt and if they thought there would be a full cup of water when it melted. At first they thought it was going to take days to melt. I talked them down a bit. Tabitha said it would take an hour and Amelia figured it wouldn't be melted until the morning. They also thought they would have a full cup of water. Well, 3 hours later they discovered their snow melted into about 1/2 a cup of water.

Another thing children can observe is the changing of the trees. In fact, that can be an ongoing observation throughout the year with the change of the seasons. I love the idea mentioned in the book For The Children's Sake by Susan Schaeffer Macaulay. On page 134 she mentions Charlotte Mason's idea of children adopting a tree in a patch of woods. I have yet to decide how we are going to do this as the park would be a great place, but they are closed in the winter. However, we can observe the trees through our back windows (yes, the park is right beyond our back yard).

I love this art project I have done in the past with the girls and am now doing with the children in the preschool group at co-op. We use an empty paper towel roll for the tree trunk (I staple it on to paper). Then the children draw branches with a brown crayon or marker. Each season will then show how the tree is different. In the winter, there are no leaves on the trees and the children use their finger to put fingerprint snow falling out of the sky and on the tree. Then they add cotton ball snow to the ground. This year I hope to take pictures (or have the children take pictures) of trees for each season to go with their artwork.

Here is the girls work from 3 years ago.

What fun ways do you study nature in the winter time (and year round)?
If you would like to see some more ideas, head on over to The Schoolhouse Review Crew's Winter Nature Study Blog Cruise (of which this post is a part).



  1. I love the orange bird feeders my kids will want to make them now!

  2. I love this! I came across your blog from the Hip Homeschool Hop and am so glad I did. I really love the bird feeders - need to do that, we have plenty of trees outside the apartment. We tend to hibernate in the winter and really hot summers so that works.

    And the trees are fantastic. I may implement that if you don't mind to help him with the seasons. :)

    ~ Crystal @ Homeschool Dreams ~


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