Winter Wonder: What am I going to do with the kids in the middle of a pandemic addition.

This post approaches winter play ideas with something a little deeper than a list or a Pinterest wall. Both of which are great and essential- but sometimes as parents we are looking for something a little deeper than a one stop activity.

So that’s what you will find below. A detailed Principle Play list for Root Learning and the details.

Or just skim it like Pinterest! I go both ways here 🙂

Principle Play: Winter Inspiration


•••••••••1. Wish Wash••••••••

It’s not wish-washy to say we want our children to have empathy, to appreciate their tools and toys, and to pay attention to how things are treated- all things.

As humans, tools are a big part of our lives. The ability to build and use tools actually defines us as human. This is true in early childhood, even more so. You’ve probably noticed how exciting it is for your child to have something that is only theirs. My interpretation of this intrinsic pride and ownership is that it’s about understanding they have a relationship with the tool, or toy. We have similar relationships. As we get older sometimes they are sentimental: a table that was your grandmothers, an old note, a little figurine of your favorite animal. These are tools that connect us to ourselves. Tools in early childhood do that too, and they also connect children to the world. When we encourage care for their tools it translates into an incubating practice of empathy, and an awareness of how things around them need care and attention- including people, flowers, animals etc.

This tool is NJ’s car. She got it her second birthday from Nana, and she adores it. I got her some warm soapy water in a bowl. I told her “we have to wash your car it’s so dirty! We have to take care of it.”

I use “we have to take care of it” a lot. From people to tools- to our own bodies. I think families have a lot of different ways of saying this.

I held out two wash cloths, one pink, one white, and I asked which color she wanted- she picked pink… but later she did want to switch and asked for the white.

She loved cleaning the car, learning how to squeeze the washcloths. She even got her little vacuum out and vacuumed it. We got out some cloths to dry the car, and at the end she ended up putting all the cloths in the bowl and she called it eggs. It reminded her of cooking. That’s wonder in early childhood!

You can do a scrub down with lots of little toys toys together in a big bin, or bigger things in your home like cabinets, tables, walls, door knobs, floors etc.

•••••••••2. Little Lessons••••••••

Little Lessons are about exploring learning itself, not necessarily the little lesson. And interestingly these tiny little adventures into the learning universe don’t have much talking.

They are quiet, slow and delicate. It reminds me of Maria Montessori.

In this picture Nancy is taking the spices out of our low to the ground spice cabinet. She’s lining them on the counter- meticulously, This is a few weeks after I did my Little Lesson. When I started the lesson NJ was across the room. I started with sound. I played an instrumental cello and piano album- this is the quickest way to create an intentional environment in the classroom (Proves true for home!) Then I just started slowly moving the spices into a line on the countertop. When NJ noticed this interesting event in the kitchen she came over and I said, “hi” with a smile and kept working. I never described what I was doing. Sometimes I would “fix” different bottles to bring them back into a line. And when I was done I started gently putting them back. We ended together and moved onto something else. A few days later she came in while I was cooking dinner and began practicing getting the spices onto the counter just right so they didn’t fall backward (tough work at 2ft 9in) and standing back to see how the line was coming along. When she completed the line I said- “your learned how to make a line!”


There is something so powerful about pointing out learning. Sometimes it’s easier to point out other people or animals learning. It could be a dog at the park who is getting trained. Something that happened in a book or on a Tv show. A moment when you yourself are actively learning or learned something (following a recipe for example). Or when your child learned something. Pointing out learning and bringing awareness to the process enriches learning itself. It can also make things less frustrating when we can remind a toddler they are in the middle of learning something, but they can begin to truly understand what that means.

•••••••••3. Open Art••••••••

A random box, a few sticks, bubble wrap, noodles, tinfoil, rocks, Saran Wrap, leaves, tissue paper, balloons. All of these things next to the words, “we are going to paint this.” It’s not just painting something free and available- these odd shapes, delicate textures, and how to hold and move them while painting provide something pretty incredible.

Ever tried to paint inside of a box?

Talk about writing muscles. There is so much available in an open ended material, I think the best way to investigate is to just start using them. They can transform into so many unique learning universes. Social, emotional, feeling, physical, kinesthetic – Art is really the academics of early childhood and the avenues are endless.

And that’s where rituals come in.

•••••••••4. Ritual Play ••••••••

The beginning of winter is sort of a shock. So is the middle of a pandemic. Every ounce of outdoor time suddenly feels empty and desolate. What I’ve found in the classroom is that it’s a great opportunity for a new ritual. When I started freaking out about what I was going to do with this huge seasonal shift in Nancy’s life- I just started thinking about the classroom.

Make washing the car a ritual, the little trains, the babies, the blocks. Make art, I mean early childhood academics, a ritual everyday. Just fill in the blank during that time. It will come to you. Even on the hardest days filling that time will start to feel natural. Crumple up some tin foil and paint it, get that amazon box ready for a makeover- whatever it is- it’s that time for art. Or maybe it’s that time when you do a little lesson. Maybe it’s an incredible little lesson that keeps showing up – but maybe it’s just a little exploration. What I love most about ritual is that all of the little lessons come together as something much bigger. The same goes for all of the little art projects and all of the little wish washes.

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