Winter Activities

Winter Activities

Winter Activities for You and Your Class

The dark cold days of winter can sometimes make us feel like summer will never return. But instead of hiding from the weather, why not embrace the great learning opportunities that winter can offer? Take a look at our favourite winter activities for you and your class this season.

Winter Weather

With the chill winds and icy mornings making us shiver it’s easy to talk about British weather at this time of year. These great winter activities help you to teach your pupils about the causes and effects of the cold weather.

Thinking About Winter Weather

Ask your pupils to think about what kinds of weather can occur in the winter time. They could choose from snow, hailstones, sleet, rain, frost, sunshine, wind, storms or drizzle. Can they think of any more?

Now ask your class why they think it is colder in winter than at other times of the year. It’s actually nothing to do with us being further away from the sun! In fact, in January we are closer to the sun than we are in July. Winter coldness is caused by the tilt of the earth’s axis and where the sun hits the equator, which causes the shorter days as well. You can find out more here.

Keeping Warm

Now we’ve established why it’s colder in winter, you can discuss the things we do to keep warm. This could include putting the heating on in school, having extra-thick duvets and blankets on our beds at home and of course wrapping up in hats, scarves and gloves when we go outside. But it’s not just humans who have to keep warm in winter. What different techniques do animals use to stay warm?

1. Migration

Some animals, including species of birds, toads, bats and butterflies, head for warmer climes in winter. For toads this may only mean moving a couple of hundred metres and for bats a short hop over the English Channel, but for others, such as Painted Lady Butterflies and Swallows, these journeys can be many thousands of miles long. It’s not just animals migrating away from the UK in Winter though, thousands of birds arrive over here, including Bewick’s Swans from Siberia and Brent Geese from Canada.

2. Hibernation

There are three types of British mammals that truly hibernate: Hedgehogs, Dormice and Bats. Before going into hibernation, they will eat as much as they possibly can. This is to make sure that they have enough fat stored to last them through the winter. Hibernating animals are able to slow their bodies right down: they can slow their heart rate and breathing down, and also lower their body temperature. This means that they use much less energy during their long winter sleep.

3. Adaptation

Many UK animals can adapt to the cold weather by changing their body. Red Deer, Exmoor Ponies and Herdwick Sheep (which mainly live in the Lake District) all grow extra thick coats to keep them warm in winter. Deers also gain as much weight as they can before the winter, as the extra layer of fat will keep them warm. This is the same as Grey Seals around the UK coastline, whose thick layer of blubber helps them to cope with the drop in temperature. Up in the highlands of Scotland, the Ptarmigan turns completely white to blend in with the snowy ground. Their plumage is incredibly thick – they even have feathers on their toes!

Get Crafty

In the first half-term of the year, it’s lovely to stay warm and cosy in our classrooms. These lovely artistic winter activities give you a great opportunity to get creative in class.

Chalk Pictures

This is one of our favourite winter activities. Ask your pupils to recreate the dark winter nights by creating chalk drawings on black sugar paper or card. This is a great method for creating snow scenes or pictures of towns and villages at night with streetlights and shining windows.

Silhouette Landscapes

Whilst the weather may be poor in January and February there is also a good chance of some beautiful (but cold) sunny days in winter. This can give us some beautiful sunsets. Why not ask your pupils to create some sunset silhouette scenes? If you’re looking for some inspiration, take a look at the works of artist Joseph Farquharson, especially his painting ‘Herding Sheep in a Winter Landscape at Sunset’.

On a damp sheet of A4 paper get your pupils to use red, pink, yellow and purple paints to create a beautiful sunset sky. Then about half-way down a piece of black card or sugar paper ask them to cut out a silhouette of a scene to place over the sunset. This could be a cityscape, a forest or even mountains.

Winter Art from the Greats

If you’re looking for some brilliant inspiration on different ways of creating winter scenes in art, take a look at this great BBC article.

Feed the Birds

Without leaves on the trees and birds having to brave closer human contact to access food, winter is the perfect time of year for a bit of bird watching. Use the winter activities in this section to get closer to nature.

Why Feed the Birds?

With the ground frozen and most of the berries and insects that birds eat gone until spring, winter can be a difficult time for our feathered friends. A constant supply of food is important to keep fat levels up and keep warm through the winter months. That’s why it’s really important to help them through the cold season.

Why not set up a bird feeding station outside your classroom window or in the playground? You will need bird feeders and a bird table and a good range of different bird foods. This could include bird cakes and bars, as well as sunflower seeds, nyger seeds, mealworms, lard, cooked rice and uncooked oats. Your pupils will love to see the different birds that visit the café. You could even keep a list of all the sightings.

Big Schools’ Birdwatch

Looking after your local birds in the wintertime ties in well with this year’s Big Schools’ Birdwatch. This gives you a great opportunity to engage your pupils with wildlife and could fit well into a variety of different subjects, including maths, environmental science and art. Find out more about the Big Schools’ Birdwatch here.

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