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Night Sky Playdough; Our Favorite Way to Study Space

Let me begin this post by saying we made this night sky playdough NINE MONTHS ago and it is still going strong!

I don’t know how, I don’t know why, but this playdough lasts forever. (We store it in a ziploc storage bag inside a cupboard inside a cool room).

We’ve used it to study constellations, galaxies, planets and for just plain fun. The glitter – which was my main concern – magically stays contained inside the playdough.

Again, I don’t know how. It’s just plain magic, folks.

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Here is the Recipe for Night Sky Playdough:

Mix together:

  • 2 cups white flour
  • 1 cup fine salt
  • 3 Tbsp cream of tartar (helps make it smooth and elastic)

Stir in:

  • 1.5 Tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 cups of boiling water (carefully!)
  • 5-10 drops blue or purple food coloring

Knead it together until it’s nice and smooth. Then, pour a small amount of glitter in the center of the dough, and knead it in a little at a time.

Add star sequence or beads and press them in to make constellations.

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Or, use stars or marbles to make galaxy spirals.

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Use different colors of playdough to form planets and create a solar system.

There are so many ways you can play with this playdough!

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DIY Kids’ Space Room – With REMOVABLE Wallpaper!

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My boys share a room – and they’ve been collectively asking for a space room for, well, years. So a few weekends ago, we sent the boys away to their grandparents’ house and surprised them with their new space room.

By far, the coolest part of their new room is this Constellations wallpaper from Coloray.

This isn’t traditional wallpaper. This is actually PEEL-AND-STICK wallpaper. That’s right, folks. Slap it up there, and then when they change their minds or change rooms or if we decide to move – it PEELS RIGHT OFF. And, it’s REUSABLE.

(I am talking in all caps because I have spent a month slowly scraping wallpaper off four walls and THIS IS A BIG DEAL.)

So, yes, this is a life-changing home décor product – but, you do need to know how to hang it properly or you are going to get yourself in trouble. Ask me how I know.

**Note – make sure to remove all jewelry before hanging the wallpaper. We noticed our rings made tiny scratch marks when we first started out – so learn from our mistake!**

Step One – Clean and Prime Your Walls

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This is the most important step.

I repeat – the most important step!

Wipe your walls down with a wet cloth (because you know if it’s in a kid’s room, it’s going to be covered in all sorts of grime). If the wall is painted with a latex paint (especially a gloss paint), the wallpaper won’t stick properly. Your best bet is to lay a quick coat of primer on the wall and let it dry completely.

Step Two – Remove Baseboards and Outlet/Light Switch Covers

Our baseboards were a bit tricky to remove in one piece, but we were able to get them off without doing any damage.

Step Three – Lay Out the Wallpaper Panels

Carefully lay out your wallpaper panels on the floor (with clean hands). Make sure the design on the edges line up and double check the length of your wall. If you have slightly more length than you need, you may be able to overlap the panels a bit, as long as the designs still match up.

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Step Four – Start Hanging

Once you’ve determined your left-to-right panel order, get ready to hang. Starting at the top of the wall (and working in a left-to-right fashion), peel back the first four or so inches of the backing.

(Note: I would NOT recommend peeling the backing on the carpet or bed or any surface that may have dust or hair on it. The first time we did this on the floor, all kinds of little things immediately stuck to the back of the wallpaper and affected its sticking power in those spots.)

Line up the top of the panel with the top of your wall and press it down, making sure it is straight across. Have someone step back and verify that it’s straight. If not, you can peel if off and try again.

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Step Five – Work Your Way Down

You’ll want two people for this step – one person to pull the backing off from behind, about a foot at a time, and one to smooth down the paper by pressing from the middle out to the edges. Smooth out all those little creases and bubbles.

If you’re finding that the paper isn’t laying flat, peel it up a bit and try again. Continue smoothing it down, one foot at a time, until you get to the bottom of the wall.

Step Six – Cut Around Outlets and Light Switches

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If you run into an outlet or light switch as you’re laying the paper down, make note of where it is and lay the paper right over it.

Then, before you do anything else – GO TURN OFF THE POWER.

Seriously, don’t try to cut the hole out with the switch power on. Use a flashlight if you must for this part (we did).

Using a sharp utility knife or a single edge razor blade, carefully cut a hole as big as the opening in the drywall. The cover will give you some leeway to work with, so don’t worry about it being perfect.

Step Seven – Cut Off the Excess

Once you reach the bottom of the wall, cut off the excess below where the top of your baseboards will be. (You’ll want a little wiggle room.) Then, press really well and voila! You’ve just finished your first panel.

Step Eight – Repeat Steps One Through Seven

Keep following this process with additional panels until you’ve finished your wall.

You may want to run your hands over it once more to smooth out any additional bubbles. If there’s a tricky spot, you can run a blow dryer over it and then try smoothing it out – this works surprisingly well.

Step Nine – Install Your Baseboard

(Or convince your husband to do it thirty minutes before your kids’ bedtime while you get the kids dressed for bed. I mean, he’s a lucky guy.)

That’s it! So much easier than traditional wallpaper – as long as you follow the important preparation steps.

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We chose the Constellations pattern, but there are so many beautiful categories to choose from:

Coloray Vintage

Coloray Floral

Coloray Patterns

and Coloray Kids

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Have you ever tried removable wallpaper? Tell me what questions you have!

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Little Brown Bat FREE download

Little Brown Bat Printable

What with Halloween approaching, my kids are currently obsessed with bats – and after watching the Wild Kratt’s little brown bat episode – well, now we are the proud owners of a backyard bat house.

What can I say. Nature is my weakness.

I’ve created these Little Brown Bat nature study pages, if you and your littles would like to study bats along with us.

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And here’s a fun craft to go along with it, if you’re into that sort of thing.

Download the FREE Little Brown Bats Printable

 

 

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A Fun Science Experiment to Teach Kids About Pollution

earth day pollution science

Today is Earth Day, and we ditched our regular lessons to spend the day learning about pollution and how it affects our earth.

We began with this oil spill activity that was really eye-opening, even for me! We started with a pristine-looking ocean scene which turned yucky very fast. The boys tried several times to wash the slimy oil off their sea creatures and it was harder than they thought it would be.

We got the idea from here, if you want to see the original post.

Oil Spill Science Experiment

First, we started with a large, clear plastic tub to hold our ocean animals and water (plus some blue marbles to add a sensory element).

I added two drops of blue food coloring so that the water would be more visible. The boys played in the ocean with their animals for a bit, and then we added the boat.

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To make the oil look like crude oil, we mixed some cocoa powder into the vegetable oil before pouring it into the boat’s compartment. It looked like oil, but smelled like brownies. 😉

Now it’s time for the oil spill. Once the boat gets bumped around enough, the oil will begin spilling into the pristine blue water. The boys thought it was fascinating to see the oil droplets swirl around in the water. And actually, so did I.

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Now, it’s time for cleanup.

First, they tried cleaning up the oil spill by scooping it out. They soon found, though, they were scooping way more water than oil, and the water was looking dirtier.

Next, they used items to try and suck up the oil – cotton balls and a sponge. Both materials were able to remove a bit of the oil, but not enough to make a real difference.

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I think they were beginning to understand how irreversible some types of pollution are.

Now it was time for animal rescue. Using tongs, they took turns removing the ocean creatures from the water and washing them with soapy water. It took many tries to wash all of the slimy oil off. Another good lesson.

We also dunked a real bird feather into the oily water so the boys could see the effects of an oil spill on real animals.

Pollution Walk

After our science experiment, we put on disposable gloves and headed to our neighborhood’s nature trail for a pollution cleanup walk. We found SO. MUCH. TRASH. Either I never noticed it before or today was just a messy day in our neighborhood, but I’m sad to say we filled half a trash bag full of litter on our short walk.

The boys were pros at spotting the trash – it was like a treasure hunt, but less glamorous.

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Honestly, I was pretty disgusted at the amount of litter we picked up. On our walk we talked about what happens to trash when it sits on the ground (and what biodegradable means) and why it’s important not to litter.

Earth Day Picture Books

**You can probably find most of these at your local library, but we try to add our favorites to the shelf, because ALWAYS more books!**

Oil Spill!

The Lorax

The Curious Garden

Compost Stew

Miss Rumphius

Once There Was a Tree

Pond

 

 

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What Makes the Seasons? {Spring Equinox Science Experiment}

spring equinox seasons

Have your kids ever asked you what makes the seasons?

The days are finally getting longer around here and the snow is almost gone, which is making us all slightly giddy. After a long, cold winter, the spring sunshine feels GOOD.

A few weeks ago, I prepared a little lesson to teach my boys about the spring equinox, and what makes the seasons. We ran a quick little experiment to visualize how the tilt of the earth makes it summer, fall, winter and spring in different parts of the world.

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It was a great way for them to see why we have seasons and I think it’ll really stick with them.

Here’s What You’ll Need

  • Flashlight
  • Orange
  • Marker
  • Pencil or Wood Skewer
  • Pushpin
  • At Least 2 People

First, grab your orange (the “earth”) and label the equator and Northern and Southern Hemispheres. Place the pushpin approximately where you live. Push the pencil or skewer through the center of the orange – this will act as the earth’s axis.

Now, assign one kid to hold the flashlight in the center of the room – he/she is the sun. Kid number two will hold the earth and move in a wide circle around the sun. The person with the flashlight keeps it pointed at the orange as it moves around the circle.

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The MOST important part of this experiment is to make sure whoever is holding the earth is keeping it tilted slightly, with the top tilted towards them and bottom tilted away from them. The trickiest part of this activity is making sure the earth remains tilted in the same direction as their body moves around the sun. So, on the opposite side of the circle, the top of the orange will be tilted away from them and the bottom will be tilted toward them.

On opposite sides of the circle, have the person holding the earth pause and note which hemisphere is receiving more light. As the earth moves around the circle, you’ll be able to see the sun hit each hemisphere differently – full strength in the Northern Hemisphere (our summer), partial strength in the Northern Hemisphere (our fall), full strength in the Southern Hemisphere (our winter), and partial strength in the Southern Hemisphere (our spring).

You can also ask them to make the earth rotate as it moves around the circle (this requires slightly more hand-eye coordination, a little trickier for smaller kids). observing night and day.

For more reading on the spring equinox and seasons, we loved these books:

The Reasons for Seasons

A New Beginning – Celebrating the Spring Equinox

The Spring Equinox

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Happy Spring, friends!

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DIY Tide Pool – Ocean Science Activity for Kids

This week we studied ocean zones while following the Classical Conversations Cycle 1 Week 19 curriculum – and to add an extra element of fun, we also studied the Intertidal Zone.

Did you know that the Intertidal Zone is one of the harshest environments on earth? It’s true. Animals who live there have to withstand extreme variations in temperature and water levels, not to mention crashing waves and predators.

Amazingly, so many little creatures still make tide pools their home, like sea stars, puffer fish, crabs, anemones, barnacles, mussels and even baby octopuses!

See, I bet you learned something. Class dismissed.

Jk.

One of the ways we studied tide pools was this fun little backyard activity. I know it’s winter and 30 degrees outside, but my boys were not opposed to playing in the water. It’s a mystery, but it’s true.

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DIY Tide Pool

  • First, get some sort of large container to act as your tide pool. We used the top of an old plastic bird bath, which was perfect. You could also use a trash can lid or storage container.
  • Put a few scoops of sand or crushed rock in the bottom.
  • Add some seashells or small rocks. Check your local dollar store or craft store for shells, sand dollars and starfish. We got a very inexpensive bag of shells (since we live nowhere near the beach) and it was so worth it!
  • Add some mini sea creatures – but only ones that live in the intertidal zone! We used sea stars, sea turtles, crabs and a little octopus.
  • Have your kids fill up the tide pool with buckets of water. They can take turns making it high tide and low tide. My boys especially loved making waves by rocking the container back and forth.

This activity kept my boys occupied for hours!

Further Resources

 

Wild Kratts Stars of the Tides episode

Tide Pool Secrets

Look Inside a Tide Pool

 

 

 

 

**I’m an affiliate of Amazon, which means every purchase from product links helps keep this website going. I only write about things I’m truly passionate about, and products I actually recommend and use for our family.**

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Classical Conversations Cycle 1 Week 19 Activities + Resources

cc cycle 1 week 19 lesson plan

Science

We did a lot for science this week, since we LOVE learning about the ocean.

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Ocean Layers Activity
This was a great way to visualize the epipelagic, mesopelagic, bathypelagic and abyssopelagic layers they learned about at CC.

Learn how to do it here.

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Tide Pool Sensory Play
If you’ve been around here for any length of time, you know I’m all about sensory play. We created a little tide pool from a discarded bird bath top (you could use any kind of container), play sand, pebbles, shells and mini sea creatures from the dollar store. Add water and let them play in their mini tide pool.

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Ocean Layers Felt Board
My biggest boy and I made this scene out of felt scraps and it ended up being such a great tool to learn about which species live in each layer of the ocean. So fun!

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Growing Overnight Crystals
My kids could not get enough of crystals at CC day and begged to do more, so we followed this lesson and they turned out amazing!

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History Resources

The Usborne Encyclopedia of World History

About the Anasazi

Fine Arts

To go a little more in-depth, I set out all of our instruments with some labels and had my big boy try and group them into types of instruments: percussion, strings, brass and woodwinds.

If you’re looking for a good book that introduces little ones to the orchestra, we LOVE this First Book About the Orchestra and can’t recommend it enough!

(This is the musical instruments set we used.)

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Nature Study

This week was field trip week with Exploring Nature With Children, so we went to a local trail to search for tracks and wildlife signs. Luckily, everything in Colorado this time of year is super muddy – perfect for spotting animal tracks. We recorded what we saw in our nature journals and even played around with making tracks in Kinetic Sand.

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Resources

You can probably find most of these at your local library, but we try to add our favorites to the shelf, because ALWAYS more books!

Super Simple Ocean Projects

Oceans: A Journey from the Surface to the Seafloor (3-D Explorer)

Tide Pool Secrets

See Under the Sea: Lift-the-Flap Book

Wild Tracks: A Guide to Nature’s Footprints

Who Pooped in the Park?

Tell me what you’re doing with your kids this week!

 

 

 

**I’m an affiliate of Amazon, which means every purchase from product links helps keep this website going. I only write about things I’m truly passionate about, and products I actually recommend and use for our family.**

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Ocean Zones Hands-On Science Activity

ocean layers

This week in Classical Conversations (Cycle 1), we learned about the layers of the oceans, or ocean zones.

This was a simple and fun activity that required minimal effort and supplies you probably already have lying around.

(We got the idea from this book)

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First, gather 5 clear cups or jars and line them up next to one another. Make sure you put down parchment or kraft paper underneath if your surface stains easily, since you will be working with food coloring.

Next, fill them up 3/4 of the way with lukewarm water.

To the first cup, add 2 drops of yellow food coloring. This will be the Sunlit (Epipelagic) Zone.

To the next cup, add 1 drop of blue food coloring, for the Twilight (Mesopelagic) Zone.

To the third cup, add 2 drops of blue food coloring, for the Midnight (Bathypelagic) Zone.

To the fourth cup, add 3 drops of blue food coloring; this is the Abyssal (Abyssopelagic) Zone.

We added a fifth category: Trench. Add 4 drops of blue and 1 drop of red; it should look nearly black.

Now, have your kiddos place one ice cube in the second cup, three in the third cup, five in the fourth cup, and a handful in the last cup. This represents the ocean temperature as you go deeper, and it’s really fun to feel how the temperature changes as you move from cup to cup! You can also discuss how the pressure changes as you go deeper into the ocean’s layers.

We also printed out labels for each zone.

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To add another element of learning, we got out our mini ocean animals and the boys dropped each animal into the ocean zone in which they live. We had to reference our books for some of them – it was a great learning opportunity!

Let me know if you try this activity, and how it went!

 

 

 

**I’m an affiliate of Amazon, which means every purchase from product links helps keep this website going. I only write about things I’m truly passionate about, and products I actually recommend and use for our family.**

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Classical Conversations Cycle 1 Week 18 + President’s Day and Black History Month

Activities

Types of ocean floor cut and paste worksheet
A great way to visualize the types of ocean floor!

Ocean floor sand and water sensory play
My high-sensory-needs little one especially enjoyed this one! We used a simple storage container, Kinetic sand (this stuff is amazing!!!), some seashells and mini ocean animals to set the scene. I asked my bigger boy to try and create a continental shelf, abyssal plain, mid-ocean ridge and trench by molding the sand different ways.

Ocean floor playdough invitation
Another great sensory play activity.

Crafts

Mound builders and pizza dough
I gave the boys a chunk of pizza dough and we tried to replicate the structures of the early mound-building civilizations. Afterwards, we stuffed our mounds with cheese and pepperoni and ate them! #calzonesforlife

Picture Books

This week, our picture books focused on Black History Month and President’s Day.

*Make sure you read through these first before reading to your children, if they are very young. There were some heavy topics in these, so I’d encourage you make sure they are age appropriate first.

**You can probably find most of these at your local library, but we try to add our favorites to the shelf, because ALWAYS more books!

Martin’s Big Words, by Brian Collier

(This one is our favorite!)

Songs of Freedom, by Bryan Marshall and David Marshall

Two Friends, by Dean Robbins

Be a King, by Carole Boston Weatherford

Those Rebels, John and Tom, by Barbara Kerley

Lincoln Tells a Joke, How Laughter Saved the President (and the Country), by Kathleen Krull and Paul Brewer

Nature Study this Week

We follow the Exploring Nature with Children nature study curriculum and this week is field trip week! Our nature study day is Friday, so I’ve got nothing to show yet. 😉

But we will be taking a little trip up to Table Mountain, about 20 minutes away, to do some exploring of animal tracks, birds and plants. We will bring along our nature journals to record what we see, and of course bring back some “treasures” for our nature box.

Tell me what fun activities you are doing with your tribe this week!

 

 

**I’m an affiliate of Amazon, which means every purchase from product links helps keep this website going. I only write about things I’m truly passionate about, and products I actually recommend and use for our family.**

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Snow Science Activities for Kids

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.

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  • 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.

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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!

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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.

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Make Snow

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?

snow science for kids

 

 

**I’m an affiliate of Amazon, which means every purchase from product links helps keep this website going. I only write about things I’m truly passionate about, and products I actually recommend and use for our family.**