I have a little scientist. He’s only 5 years old and 4 feet tall, but don’t even try to tell him he’s not a real live scientist. Since I took physics for fun in college (I was an advertising major), I can only guess where he gets it from.
Ever since January arrived, we’ve basically been wearing snow pants. I guess the last few winters in Colorado have spoiled us because we’re all like… WHY isn’t the snow melting?!?! (Me, not the boys so much.)
Which brings us to snow science.
Here are some simple science lessons and activities that the boys were wildly excited about, and ended in building snow forts. Win-win.
Snow Science Experiments
What’s In Snow?
I got the idea for this from our town’s newspaper and it’s pretty cool. (And super easy.) If your kids eat snow ALL THE TIME like mine, be prepared to be grossed out. Sorry.
- Grab three clear cups or jars, fill one halfway with water, one halfway with snow and one with ice cubes.
- Put them on your counter side by side and note the time. See how long it takes for the ice and snow to melt.
- Questions to Spark Discussion:
- What does the ice look like while it’s melting? How about the snow?
- Which one melted faster? Why?
- How do the melted ice/snow levels compare to each other? Which one is higher and why do you think that is?
- Now, take the jar of melted snow and look closely. You should see lots of little particles. We couldn’t identify them but read that they are most likely bits of dirt, grass, and even ash and animal waste. See, I told you – gross. (Upside – one of my children has not tried to eat snow since this experiment.)
- If your kiddos are interested, they can get out their science journals and take notes and draw pictures.
Examining Snow Crystals
Did you know that what we typically think of as a “snowflake” – 5 sides, looks like a star – is actually a snow crystal? A snowflake is a cluster of snow crystals all joined together.
See, I bet you just learned something.
(Note: This one has to be done while it’s actually snowing.)
- First, get a piece of black construction paper and put it outside for a bit to get cold. While you’re at it, grab a magnifying glass and put it outside with your paper.
- Now spend the next 40 minutes getting your children bundled up in their 37 layers. I’ll wait.
- Go outside and hold the black paper up toward the sky to catch some snow. You should get a mix of snowflakes (the larger clumps) and individual snow crystals which have broken off from their groups.
- Have your kids examine the snow crystals (not the clumps) with the magnifying glass. What shapes do you see? Are there some with broken sides? Do all of them have 5 sides or do some have more? Are they all different? And so on.
- When you’re done, go play in the snow since you’re all bundled up anyway!
My kids took the magnifying glasses and observed other interesting things around the yard – icycles, blocks of ice, tracks in the snow, etc. I *may* have watched from inside the comfort of my warm home.
Shout out to all my FL and AZ people! I’ve lived in both places and I might be a teeny bit jealous of you right now. 😉
If you live in an area where you don’t get actual snow – make some! I like this fake snow recipe because it’s easy and doesn’t stick to your hands.
- Pour a 2 lb. box of baking soda into a large plastic container. Add one can of shaving cream, a little at a time, mixing it into the baking soda as you go.
- Keep mixing with your hands until it is the consistency of snow. It’ll feel soft and cool to the touch.
- Alternatively, you could make crushed ice by blending ice cubes a little at a time in a blender. This will look a lot like snow but will melt quickly if your kids want to play with it.
Snow Science Resources
I’m not big on buying/filling our house with all the things, but there were a couple of resources we used that really made the lessons come to life.
The Story of Snow, by Mark Cassino is fascinating and beautiful. I usually prefer to get books from the library but, in my opinion, this one is good enough to add to our collection. I think it would be fun to paint the different types of snowflakes and label them as an art activity.
If you’re looking to go really deep, this is a fun website that delves more into snow crystals, with lots of information on how they form.
And finally, our favorite read-aloud picture books to go with our activities:
Katy and the Big Snow, by Virginia Lee Burton. We really love this one, but all of her books are amazing.
Winter Story, by Jill Barklem. We read this almost every day in the winter. Just do yourself a favor and get the whole Brambly Hedge series right now.
The Big Snow, by Berta and Elmer Hader. This one tells a story to teach about which animals hibernate during the winter and which ones stick around.
What snow activities or experiments have you enjoyed this winter?
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