Helping Kids Understand Changing Seasons
For little developing minds, the seasons can be a tricky thing to grasp. As adults, we have a strong sense of the passing of time, but for our little ones, a year is totally intangible. It seems like an eternity!
Children thrive on routine, so adjusting to the changes that occur as the year passes can feel a little stressful, however, when we engage our kids in not only learning about but discovering joy in the seasons we can help them adjust as temperatures change and the days get longer or shorter.
Getting To Grips With The Basics
You might want a globe and a lamp to hand in order to demonstrate this! Our planet, the Earth, orbits around the sun. As it goes around, it also spins on an axis of rotation that is tilted by an angle of roughly 23.4 degrees. Both the light and the heat that we see and feel come from the sun and, because the planet is tilted, different parts of the planet are closer to, or further away, from the sun at different times of the year. This means that places further away from the sun are cooler, and get less light, and places closer are warmer with longer days. It also means that when it is winter somewhere, it is summer on the opposite side of the Earth, and vice versa.
The seasons are a cyclical experience. Nature has evolved to work in patterns that utilise the changing seasons. To explain this we can compare it to the way that in each day we eat, learn and do things while the sun is up, and sleep and rest in the night. In nature, growth and activity happen in the warmer seasons, and rest and dormancy happen in the colder seasons.
In the spring months, the days start to get longer and the temperature starts to increase. These changes trigger an awakening in nature. Plants start to grow, leaves appear on trees, seeds germinate and spring flowers will appear. Many types of animals will have their young in this season, and birds will sing much more. There might be a very rainy period in the spring, known as “spring showers”.
In the summer, the days will be at their longest and the weather will be at its warmest. All of the plants will be green and bushy unless there is a drought, which can make the grass go quite yellow because the ground is too dry. In the summer insects will be at their most active.
In the autumn the days will get shorter again, and nature will finish its active time, as it enters a period where it will begin to go dormant again. This is the time when the leaves turn yellow, orange and brown before they fall to the ground. Many seasonal vegetables and fruits will be harvested at the end of the growing time for this year. This is the season of mushrooms too. It is a bit more likely to rain a lot now, but you never know with rain. Sometimes it does such unexpected things!
In the winter it will get dark very early, and the sun will rise late. It will be the coldest time of the year and it is likely to rain a lot. There may even be frost and snow! There will be no leaves on many of the trees as those trees are resting during the cold months. Many birds will have gone somewhere warmer for the winter, and the insects will be mostly dormant too. Animals will grow longer, thicker coats, and some might even go to sleep for the whole winter, which is called “hibernation”. Everything will wait patiently for spring to arrive so it can start the whole process again.
Use Play To Teach The Seasons
You can use some simple games to teach the seasons such as designing weather-appropriate outfits to go with each season, matching pictures to the season they are from and creating artwork and charts as visual aids. It is useful to be aware of what children are being taught about the seasons in school so you can reinforce what they are learning. Remember not to take for granted what is so familiar to you. Seasons are a big, unfathomable thing to a young and curious mind!
Create Associations With Birthdays And Holidays
Children tend to have a strong identity associated with their age so it is great to help them connect the ideas that each time they get a year older, the full cycle of the seasons will have gone all the way around. We can help them gain a sense of the structure of the year by looking at what special days are in each season, such as Christmas in the winter, Easter in the Spring and traditional harvest festivals in the autumn. We can also look at when the birthdays of relatives and friends fall through the seasons.
Make A Calendar Of The Seasons
Buying or making a blank calendar of the year and decorating it with our kids can be a fun educational tool. We can draw pictures or add collages to each month with the appropriate seasonal features. We can also mark the summer and winter solstice and explain that these are the longest and shortest days, and a turning point for the way light and nature will behave.
Develop Seasonal Rituals For The Whole Family
Children learn by example, and if we are grumpy about rainy weather or getting out of bed when it’s still dark, our children will likely feel the same way too. As we teach our children about the seasons we can make a point of enjoying the fascinating changes that happen throughout the year, and create positive associations that everyone can benefit from, little ones and grown-ups alike!
- Look for shoots, buds, and flowers
- Hunt for bird nests
- Plant seeds to grow our own flowers or vegetables
- Press flowers in a book
- Identify different types of trees from their leaves
- See how many different insects we can spot
- Make food from local, seasonal ingredients
- Collect leaves of as many different colours as possible
- Hunt for different seed pods and make drawings of them
- Make autumn soups from seasonal vegetables
- Walk in the rain or jump in puddles!
- Make snowflake shapes to stick on the windows
- Enjoy fruit and spiced herbal teas
- Engage the kids in some winter baking
- Make a bird table or animal feeder for critters who are toughing out the winter
- Keep an eye out for snowdrops as the first sign of nature waking back up
Make Gentle Changes To Encourage Enjoyment Of The Shifting Seasons
Because the changes in light and temperature can be difficult to adjust to, be proactive around the changes that are coming so it doesn’t seem like something stressful. Get winter clothes out and ready before the cold weather arrives. When the clocks are about to go back, explain to your children that it is very important to start going to bed a little earlier the week before and be forgiving if it feels like a struggle to them as they get used to waking up earlier. Before you know it, they will be finding comfort and curiosity in the sway of the seasons, and the next season on the way will be something to look forward to rather than feeling overwhelmed by it.