Teaching Children About the Seasons

by Mary Ann on November 8, 2011

kids playing in autumn leaves

Playing in the Autumn leaves. Ah fall!

WINTER IS COMING! I don’t know where you live but here in Utah when winter comes there is a huge shift in what we do, what we eat, what we wear, how we play and where we go. The weather is the master and we just obey!

I will admit that I do not like winter, not even a little bit. What I do like about Utah is that it has four very distinct seasons. We lived for 25 years in Montana and they only have 2 seasons, summer which is darn hot and winter which is darn cold. We loved Montana but spring and fall are short if you have them at all. Why we have used sleeping bag to watch fireworks because it was so cold, had snow in May and snow in September. That is Montana.

But here in Utah, at least where I live, we have four wonderfully distinct and long lived seasons. I really like that. I love the fall best. It is a sublime season and fits me perfectly. It is waning and I wanted to spend some of the last beautiful fall days outdoors. So I decided that we were going to take the Closet traveling to the seasons. (Remember that information for older children can be found towards the end of the blog). Teaching children about seasons was fun.

Friday morning Jack called to say that what he wanted to do was make cupcakes (man he is on a cooking streak!) So we began our day by making gingerbread muffins, a good choice of food for fall. So delicious you don’t need any embellishments. See recipe below.

kids making muffin batter

Maggie loves stirring but prefers to use her hand over a spoon.

kids  making muffin

Cooking with children is full of surprises!

You will notice in the photos that the bowl was tipped over numerous times. I guess Maggie just wanted to stir with her hands, a method that works well for a child with CP. We fished out egg shells. Flour ended up on the floor, as well as baking powder and soda. The molasses took a dive. Jodie and I were glad Mary was sleeping because we were having trouble managing the three children we had. I tell you my working with children is as real a deal as yours!!

Then we looked at the one book about seasons that I had in my personal library. It was a great choice. On the cover were four clear pictures of the four seasons. We talked about what a season is. We looked at each of the four pictures and found the differences. We counted how many seasons there are and practiced saying their names. All this just from the cover!

Then we read the book. We spent a lot of time in that book talking about each page. What happens in spring? What changes happen when summer comes? What is different about the fall from the summer? What can we do in the winter we can’t do in the fall? We talked about the years being like a circle. We just go round and round and round from one season to the next. Each time we have all four seasons a whole year is passed and we have a birthday. The children wanted to know who had a birthday in our family for each season.

kids reading books about seasons picture

Jack teaching Maggie about the seasons

Then to the good part, a walk outdoors! The snow was coming that night, so the weatherman predicted, but Friday morning was glorious. The first thing we did was rake up a huge pile of leaves and jump in them and throw them about. When we went for our walk we were on a hunt for the most beautiful fall leaves we could find. We collected a whole bag plus a few late blooming mums and tree bean pods, long brown ones.

Then home to make a fun fall craft project,  stained glass-like sun catchers with our treasures, to hang in the window. I didn’t look up how to do this. I just searched my memory for how I did it as a child. Here is what we did.

Making a stained glass-like sun catchers:

First tear off two sheets of waxed paper that are the same size. Place the leaves in a beautiful arrangement on one sheet of waxed paper. Tip: We put down pieces of rolled clear tape so the children’s leaves would stay in place. Their little hands and arms tended to brush them and mess up the arrangement.

making sun catcher pictures

Making sun catchers with fall leaves

Next we put an old towel on the ironing board to protect the ironing board cover from melting wax from the waxed paper. Then we laid the waxed paper with its leaf arrangement on the towel and placed the other sheet of waxed paper on top. Over that we put a thin dish towel. I set the iron to high and then ironed the dishtowel over and over till the waxed paper sheets had stuck together.

making sun catcher images

Keep really good tack of the iron. It is hot!

Tip: The flatter the item you use the easier it is for the waxed paper to stick around it. However we just couldn’t pass up the bean and the mums. So I used the tip of the iron straight on the waxed paper to seal as much around those items as I could. Of course, when you use the iron without the dish towel you have to wash it off with soap and water so the next time you iron there isn’t wax on your blouse!

Voila, sun catchers that looked like stained glass and were beautiful. We hung them up in the sunny dinning room window and stood back to admire. This was a wonderful project.

fall leaf sun catcher picture

Fall leaf sun catchers - Beautiful!

Learning about the seasons for older children – books and activities:

season books pictures

• If you have older children why not introduce them to the autumn equinox or the winter solstice. You can find some great information and activities here.
• Copy some cut paper art from the children’s book “It’s Fall” (Celebrate the Seasons) by Linda Glaser. This would be a wonderful challenge for children 8 and up.
• Explore the seasons of the ocean with the book Ocean Seasons by Ron Hirschi. Although this is a children’s book older kids will find some interesting facts to explore further. This book reminds readers that seasonal changes don’t just take place on land, but in the ocean as well. This book discusses the life cycle of water plants, ocean warming, food webs and animal migration.
• Here is another children’s book that will appeal to the older set because f the opportunity for projects and cooking. Discover the Seasons by Diane Iverson. This book is more of a field guide to the four seasons. It features recipes, activities and crafts, along with the general information on each season.
• Study and memorize some season related poems. A Year Full of Poems by Michael Harrison. A book of poems written in chronological order by month, yet seasonally appropriate. These poems are above a young child’s reading level, but would make a great read aloud.
• Learn a bit about what the seasons are like in more tropical locations in the book Sun and Rain: Exploring Seasons in Hawaii by by Stephanie Feeney. In Hawaii and elsewhere in the tropics, the change in seasons often goes unnoticed. By calling attention to subtle details in the world around them you can still find the seasons in the tropics. Color photographs vividly illustrating plants, animals, and weather patterns make the book suitable for young children, while older ones will find the clear, simple text engaging and instructive. A section for parents and teachers includes ideas on sharing the book with children of different ages.
• Have older children study the night sky as it changes through the seasons with the book The Kids Book of the Night Sky by Jane Drake and Ann Love. In this book in the Family Fun series, boys and girls will discover all the secrets the night sky holds. They can play games like “Night Sky I Spy,” keep an astronomer’s log and read about night sky myths. Star maps are included for each season — so kids will know what to look for, when and where. Then as the sun goes down and the sky goes dark, they’ll be ready for the night sky’s all-star show.
• Watch a satellite Image of the Seasons. Check out this interesting animation that shows the seasons and was created using NASA images (It’s basically a slide show of satellite images of the earth–one for each month of the year). Blue marble monthlies animation

Books about the seasons for younger children 4-8:

season books images

• A Book of Seasons by Alice Martin Provensen. The book we used in our Traveling Closet adventure
• Fall (The Four Seasons) by Maria Rius. A picture book describing the four seasons.
• When the Wind Stops by Charlotte Zolotow. In this “perfect introduction to natural science a young boy asks his mother a series of questions about wind, clouds, seasons.
• Red Sings from Treetops-A Year in Colors by Joyce Sidman. This book about seasons takes a unique approach, exploring each season in relation to colors and senses.
• Green Eyes by Abe Birnbaum. It features a curious little kitten that ventures outside the safety of his red box to greet each new season and discover what makes them unique.
• A Tree for All Seasons by Robin Bernard. As the title suggests, this book looks at a tree throughout the year to see how it changes with the seasons
• Sunshine Makes the Seasons by Franklyn M. Branley. This newly updated classic explains how the rotation of the earth creates our seasons, and includes a simple experiment to help students actually see how the tilt of the earth plays a role.
• Sky Tree-Seeing Science Through Art by Candace Christiansen. Another ‘tree through the seasons’ book, this one featuring Thomas Locker’s dramatic oil paintings and lyrical writing style.
• The Reasons for Seasons by Gail Gibbons. Gibbons covers solstices, equinoxes, the earth’s tilt and orbit…all the basics.
• It’s Fall (Celebrate the Seasons) by Linda Glaser. A young boy describes what happens to animals, plants, and people in the autumn. He explains that geese, hawks, and monarch butterflies migrate while other creatures hibernate, including the ladybug, earthworm, and frog.
• Skip Through the Seasons by Stella Blackstone –Whirl through the months of the year in this action packed seek-and-find book that takes young readers on an outdoor adventure as the months pass by.
• Seasons by Paul P. Sipera. This book is a great resource for explaining how seasons affect the weather. This book features a great index for younger readers navigating the text.
• Project Seasons: Hands-On Activities for Discovering the Wonders of the World by Debra Parrella A collections of hands on activities for kids that are tied to the four seasons.

A fall muffin recipe:

Gingerbread Muffins

½ cup water ½ tsp salt
½ cup molasses ½ tsp. baking powder
½ cup oil ½ tsp soda
½ cup honey ¾ tsp ginger
1 egg ¾ tsp cinnamon (I use 1-1/2 tsp)
1 ½ cup flour

I also like a bit more spice and so I add ¼ tsp nutmeg and ¼ tsp cloves.
Mix the water, molasses, oil, honey and egg in a bowl. Put the dry ingredients in another bowl and mix together. Combine and stir. Put mixture in paper lined muffin tin and bake at 400 degrees for 15-30 min.

kid smelling spices picture

Smelling the spices brought varied reactions

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