I love to be outside, and I try to get my kids outside as much as possible. I admit, I prefer it when it is not freezing cold outside, but in my experience kids aren’t bothered by the cold at all. Below are some of my favourite outdoor education winter activities to do with kids.
Snow has an almost magical way of transforming any outdoor learning space into a whole new world of possibilities. If you can, invest in some warm clothing and take learning outside with these winter outdoor learning activities for kids.
I teach kindergarten, so I try to make the activities educational, but any new hands-on experience is great for kids! I tried all of these winter outdoor educational activities with four classes of young children. So they have been tested and are kid approved by over 100 children.
I used the following winter activities for school and set up the centres in our outdoor space. However, they can easily be done at home for kids to explore and play.
My students love playing in a mud kitchen during the summer, so why not have a snow kitchen? Provide children with a variety of kitchen materials, such as bowls, rolling pins, muffin tins and even wooden spoons.
These may seem like really simple materials, and they are, but you will be amazed what children will come up with and create given these supplies.
I don’t give any direction or ideas for what I want kids to use the materials for. This encourages them to use their imagination and work and play with their peers as they come up with ideas. Plus, kids always come up with ideas that I could never even imagine!
This ended up being one of the favourite centres. There was always a large group here and they played and baked for a long time.
Some children added a bit of sand to their snow to create cookie ice cream. Then then served it to all of their guests. I love that provided with materials a child’s imagination can create things that I never imagined.
I was careful to remind everyone to not taste or eat their kitchen creations, but everyone had fun pretending.
Outdoor Education Winter Painting
Another activity typically left for the warmer months, is painting. It is definitely easier to set up and paint in the winter, and it is less messy, however, this was the most popular centre!
I used an old muffin tins to put the paints in and I added a bit of water to the paints to help make them drip and ‘paint’ the snow better.
This centre can get messy! It was a centre that required supervision so that snowsuits didn’t get covered in paint, but I have an amazing group and we didn’t end up with any art work on clothing. Just something to keep in mind if you use this centre idea.
This is also a centre that would work really well at home. The centre was so popular that we spent a lot of time refilling the paints for all of the children who were excited to paint in the snow.
I also filled some squirt bottles with a bit of paint, and water. These were very popular!
Another thing that I loved about this centre is that when all of the groups were done creating our outdoor education area looked amazing! The snow was a rainbow of colours and kids loved seeing what they had painted.
I always try to have a building activity because I have a few students who always gravitate towards these centres and will stay here for the whole period. Plus I always love to see what they come up with!
I put out wooden sticks, fabric sheets and large plastic clothes pins. These fabrics are amazing for outdoor education and I use them year round.
Children built a tent/home using the fence and our plexiglass paint easel. The kids who choose this centre quickly discovered, and loved, the fact that they were able to use the snow to stabilize their forts and sticks in the ground.
Outdoor Education with Ice
This centre took a bit more prep than the others, but children were really curious about it.
I froze a bunch of ice cubes with a few drops of food colouring. Once they were frozen, I used them for this centre. I put them all in a hula hoop and children built with them using the snow to stick them together.
Winter Water Balloons
I filled several balloons with water and food colouring. Once they froze, I removed the balloons on a few. On others, I left the balloon covering for kids to explore.
I set the balloons out on trays and warm water and eye droppers in a bowl beside the trays. Children squirted the water over the balloons.
For us, it was such a cold day that children were fascinated by the fact that their water was freezing onto the ball of ice.
If I were to do this centre again, I would have frozen little items, such as pompoms in the water in the balloon. I also would have provided salt for kids to put onto the ice to see what happens.
Winter Outdoor Education Club House
We are lucky to have a great outdoor space at my school. We have a small stage that children love to play in. Today, using fabric sheets and large clothes pins we transformed our stage into a house.
Everyone was really excited to go inside their structure and work together to seal up the sides. This was a fun way for children to create an “indoor” space. They loved being inside our winter fort.
Outdoor Learning Zoo
Whenever I do outdoor centres for kindergarten I always try to include a spot that has a variety of animal figures. There are always a few children who are drawn to these animals.
Although these animals are commonly brought out in class, playing with them in the snow adds a whole new sensory experience. Kids loved building sections for each animal and walking them through the snow.
I later added a few toy cars that were also very popular to play with in the snow!
Our last centre involved small trays filled with snow that we packed down. I then set a big bin of cookie cutters.
Children used the cookie cutters to create prints and outlines in the snow. It was a new way to create pictures and art. The trays of snow provided their canvas and they used their imagination to create awesome pictures.
This was a good sensory activity for kids to feel and compare what it felt like to create a print in snow versus playdough or food.
There is so much you can do outside in winter. I hope that the centres I used have sparked some ideas for you to bring back to do with children. As long as children, and you, are dressed warmly the possibilities are endless!
More outdoor learning activities and hands-on Activities
I love sharing ideas that I have successfully used with children that I get to spend my days with at school and my own children at home. Below are some of our favourites!