Everyone loves snow; at least for a little while. Watching white fluff fall to the ground this past week has made the statement that winter is here in Johnson County. Like many of you, I greeted the flurries with excitement combined with apprehension of slippery conditions to follow. There are numerous ways to enjoy the winter wonderland as a family! I compiled the following ideas from a quick Internet search, suggestions from friends and personal experience.
So layer your clothes, put on the mittens and get outdoors this winter!
Items needed: black construction paper, magnifying glass, snow
Since snowflakes melt so quickly you need to freeze your cloth or paper. Have it ready frozen and ready to go for the next snowfall, and go outside and let some snowflakes land on the dark surface. Quickly, before they melt, examine the flakes with a magnifying glass. Many snowflakes are "broken" and so you don't see the whole six-sided crystal, but with persistence you'll see some beautiful examples.
Items needed: 5 gallon plastic bucket or pail, nonstick cooking spray (optional), water, candle and some nice freezing weather
Spray the inside of the bucket with the no-stick spray or rub with a little oil. This helps if you have problems with the ice sticking to the bucket when it's time to remove. Fill the bucket three quarters of the way full and set outside to freeze. Leave overnight (depending on how cold it is!). In the morning remove the ice block from the bucket. On the bottom there should be an area that is still liquid. Drain out the liquid and slush and turn it over. Allow to freeze for at least for four more hours. The pocket where the water was now makes a great place to insert a candle. Light and place outside in your yard when it's dark for a beautiful ice "crystal" candle luminary! Be sure to have an adult help you light the candle!
Items needed: Piece of glass, hairspray (aerosol, NOT pump), snow
You can have a permanent record of your caught snowflakes if you freeze a piece of glass and the hairspray before the next snowfall. (Both may be stored in the freezer until you need them.) When you're ready to collect some snowflakes, spray your chilled glass with the chilled hairspray and go outside and let some snowflakes settle on the glass. When you have enough flakes bring the glass indoors and allow it to thaw at room temperature for about 15 min. Now you have a permanent record of your snowflakes.
Items needed: Clear plastic soda pop bottle, ruler, and (you guessed it) more snow
Take an old clear plastic soda pop bottle and cut off the top half. Mark the outside in centimeters or inches with a permanent laundry marker and place it outside in a place where it can collect the falling snow.
The Science of Snow – try these activities for real-world science
Snow Crystal Research Based on Temperature
When cloud temperature is at freezing or below and the clouds are moisture filled, snow crystals form. The ice crystals form on dust particles as the water vapor condenses and partially melted crystals cling together to form snowflakes. It is said that no two snowflakes are the same, but they can be classified into types of crystals. All snow crystals have six sides. The six-sided shape of the ice crystal is because of the shape and bonding of the water molecules. Basically there are 6 different types of snow crystals: needles, columns, plates, columns capped with plates, dendrites and stars. The type of crystals depends on the amount of humidity and temperature present when they are forming. That's why when it's very cold and snowing, the flakes are small, and when it's closer to 32 F. the flakes are larger.
Measure How Much Melted Snow it Takes to Make Water
- Collect some snow in a container and record the level of snow on the container. Let the snow melt. How much water is there? Are you surprised at the difference?
Make Your Own Glacier
- Fill a bowl with snow and bring it inside to partially thaw, then add more snow on top. Keep doing this all winter long. You will then have the "layers" of ice and snow like a glacier.
- Make peanut butter cookie cutter treats for the birds. Take old bread slices and cut out shapes with cookie cutters. Let them dry and harden enough to spread with peanut butter. Cover the peanut buttered shapes with black sunflower seeds and hang outdoors on trees or anywhere birds might come! Use a bird book to identify the birds. Our feathered friends will really appreciate this energy treat!
- Everyone knows about building snowmen, but maybe you didn't know about some variations on the age-old theme. Dress your snowmen (and women) in Halloween costumes or old clothing. Use drops of food coloring to make colorful streaks through the snowman's sparkly flesh. Have contests to see who can make their snowman look most like a famous person, a favorite teacher, or a family member.
Snow Turtles (or Owls or Bears, etc.)
- Create a wintertime zoo out of snow. You can sculpt just about anything out of snow with a little creativity. Start with turtles because a round mound is less frustrating than a complicated animal (such as a porcupine).
- Lots of kids like to run across a field of freshly fallen snow just to see their tracks. Put a twist on this activity by having your kids create animal tracks. Check a field guide out of the library and let them study what different animal tracks look like. Then they can use different tools (wooden spoons, spades, empty spools, or whatever you have around the house) to recreate the tracks on your lawn. They might be able to trick neighbors into thinking a deer has run across their lawn.
- This activity is so fun and so involved that you may have to remind your kids to take a break to warm up inside before finishing. I recall staying outside until after dark on a freezing night as a child because I was so involved with my snow fort. Snow fort building is more satisfying than sand castle building because the snow holds its shape better. Use the same principles as with sand castle building. Find big containers (paint buckets are great) to fill with snow. Then empty them upside down. That's your basic building unit. The walls can grow very tall, so remember this activity when you have a giant snowfall, the kind that keeps everyone home for the day. Snow forts can get very elaborate; kids will make tunnels from fort to fort if they don't run out of time or snow.
These snow activities are but a few ideas for having fun with snow! As you and your family play, be aware of each others' cold tolerance to avoid frostbite and fatigue. It never hurts to take a break to warm up inside with a hot cup of cocoa before heading back out to try another activity. And remember; don't eat the yellow snow!