When the long-anticipated white stuff starts falling from the sky, chances are that your ever-inquisitive preschooler will start up with questions like, "Why is it snowing?" or "Where does snow come from?" Instead of just shrugging your shoulders, teach your little learner how snow is formed through a few fun-filled lessons and activities you can do together at home.
Before getting technical -- or at least as technical as you can get with your 3-year-old -- start your snow formation lesson with an introduction to winter weather. Remind your child that there's no possibility of snow falling from the sky if the weather isn't cold enough. To get this point across, talk to him about the winter season and how it differs from summer, spring and fall. Talk about major points, such as the drop in temperature. Ask your child to tell you what he wears in the winter -- sweater, warm coat, scarf, hat, mittens -- and why he needs to bundle up. If the winter season is upon you, go outside and measure the temperature with a thermometer. Go back indoors and take the temperature in a heated room to compare the two environments.
Liquid and Solid
Rain, sleet and snow all come from the same thing: water. Without water, you can't have a wintry mix or just plain snow. Help your preschooler to learn about this concept, and show her how water turns into snowflakes, with a state-of-matter activity. If you have snow that is easily accessible, bring a snowball inside and place it in a plastic container or a bowl. Ask your child if the snow is "solid" (easy to hold) or if it is a liquid like her favorite drink. Check back in on the snow in 15-minute intervals to observe how it changes from one state to another. When it is fully a liquid, ask your child what it looks like now. This can help her to understand that snow comes from water and enable her to see the changes it goes through.
Teaching your preschooler how snow is formed need not include a lengthy lecture on environmental processes and scientific theories. Instead, try a simple ice exploration in which you turn water from a liquid to a solid. Treat this lesson as the opposite of the "melting snow into water" experiment. Start with a cup of water. Pour it into an ice cube tray and place the liquid in a chilly freezer. Another option is to place it outside on a frosty day. After it chills, take out a piece of ice and encourage your child to touch it gently to feel just how cold it is. Use a cheese grater, or other similar kitchen tool, to shave off some of the ice into "snowflakes." Never allow your child to do this part, as the grater can easily cut or injure little hands.
You can't always have all of the answers to your child's questions every time he asks why. When teaching your preschooler about how snow is formed, add in a picture book or two to help the process along. Choose a book that focuses on snow, such as "The First Snow" by David Christiana, "The Big Snow" by Berta Hader or "When Winter Comes" by Nancy Van Laan. As you're reading the books to your child, ask him how he thinks snow is formed. Fill in the blanks for him -- with pages from the books -- if he doesn't seem to quite know the answer.
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