7 Quick & Easy Ways to Keep Kids Learning All Winter Long

by Dalaney Sotolongo | Lakeshore Senior Product Developer 

Winter brings lots of opportunities to learn and explore the outdoors, but frigid temperatures often mean that kids are stuck inside—sometimes for days on end! To keep boredom at bay, check out these terrific winter activities that help kids to make the most of their time indoors—while also exercising creativity, encouraging scientific discoveries and more!

Upcycle Holiday Wrapping Paper Rolls

Save the rolls from holiday gift wrap and use them to create fun characters! Provide your child with basic art supplies like construction paper, markers, glue, collage materials and scissors to create winter-themed characters like a snowman and penguin…or their favorite storybook characters. Display the finished characters as wintertime decor—or use them to act out a scene from a story!

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Discover Gingerbread Geometry

Help your child build a gingerbread house using graham crackers and icing! For young children, precut the crackers into various shapes, including squares, rectangles and triangles. Invite your child to identify the shapes as you stick them together. Challenge older children to figure out the surface area of the house by calculating the area of each cracker and adding them together! (Hint: To find the area of a triangle, multiply the base and height and divide by two. To find the area of a square or rectangle, multiply the length and width.) As you build, encourage your child to choose where to place each graham cracker piece to develop problem-solving skills. When you’re done, work together to make a simple graph to show how many of each shape you used.

Enjoy a Marshmallow STEM Challenge!

After sipping some hot cocoa, rally the family to build constructions with marshmallows and toothpicks! For added fun, provide challenges for the whole family to try. Who can build the tallest skyscraper using the same number of pieces? Who can include the most shapes? Whose structure can withstand being blown by a fan? STEM activities like these draw upon children’s natural curiosity, stimulate their creativity and encourage problem solving in a super-exciting way.

Try a Cinnamon & Sugar Word Search

Fill a bowl with sugar and cinnamon to create a sweet and spicy mixture. Write winter-themed words on pieces of construction paper, using simple words like “hat” and “yam” for younger children and multisyllable words like “snowman” and “cinnamon” for older kids. Hide the words in the wintry mixture and invite your child to find and read each one. The multisensory experience of sight, touch and smell actually helps your child make connections that support the learning process! To boost even more skills, have your child trace the letters in each word; this strengthens fine motor control and provides printing practice, too.

Capture Holiday Memories

Gather up photos, drawings, cards and other mementos from family festivities. Provide your child with a blank scrapbook or make your own using thick construction paper. Invite your child to arrange the mementos in the order they happened and then write captions for each one. In addition to preserving cherished memories for years to come, children develop sequencing and writing skills—and exercise their creativity!

Create a Winter Sensory Bin!

Grab a variety of textured objects, put them in a tub—and you’ve got a sensory bin! Sensory bins allow kids to explore their sense of touch, which is a key component of cognitive growth. Infants and children use their senses to process information and understand the world, but people of all ages can benefit from sensory stimulation. Engaging the senses actually boosts brain activity, making it easier to learn and remember information. For this activity, gather a variety of winter-themed tactile materials such as Speedy Snow or white rice, natural objects like twigs and pinecones, plus animal figurines and play vehicles. Arrange them in a shallow bin to create a winter scene—and let your child explore! In addition to free play, you can also encourage your child to act out a scene, describe textures and compare objects—boosting language development, social-emotional skills, fine motor control and more!

Construct a Cozy Fort

Building a blanket fort is not only fun, but it also promotes creative problem solving! Encourage your child to sketch a plan for a fort and then try to build it. There’s a good chance the fort won’t be perfect at first, which encourages kids to troubleshoot and revise their design—just like real engineers! If your child runs into problems, avoid offering direct solutions. Instead, ask leading questions that inspire critical thinking and perseverance. For example, “I noticed the sides keep falling down. How could you make the fort stronger? Is there another material that might work better?” The completed fort will make the perfect setting for imaginative play, and the small, enclosed space can also have a calming, regulatory effect on some children. Want to double the learning fun? Put some books inside for a private reading corner!

Finally, here’s one more bonus tip: Be sure to get in on the fun! Your time is the most important gift you can give your child, so set aside a short block of time each day to enjoy these activities together. You’re guaranteed to have just as much fun as your child!

5 Classroom Crafts for Multicultural Holiday Celebrations

Guest Blog by Chelsey | Instagram @hipsterartteacher | Photography by Photo By Bokey

I was super-excited when Lakeshore reached out to me to share some DIY holiday craft ideas for the classroom. As a longtime K–12 art teacher, I wanted to come up with projects that are unique, colorful and fun, so I enlisted the help of my Instagram following to find out what types of projects teachers are interested in—and home decor was the winner! Here are five multicultural holiday projects that you can easily make in your classroom using Lakeshore materials.

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1. Elf Emotions Garland

The emoji trend is big right now. This DIY garland is perfect for displaying in the hallway at school or for hanging above the fireplace at home.

You’ll need: Yarn Laces with Tips, Make-A-Face Sheets, glitter, green and red construction paper, Felt, Glitter Pom-Poms-Class Pack, cotton balls, Tacky Glue®, hot glue, scissors, markers, pencils, Project Templates

Directions: Using the Project Templates, trace and cut three elf hats per student out of red or green construction paper. Use Tacky Glue to draw patterns on the hats, sprinkle with glitter and set aside to dry. Give each student three Make-A-Face Sheets. They come in a variety of People Colors®—perfect for every student in your class! With a pencil, students should draw a silly emoji expression on each face and then use markers over their pencil markings.

Tip: Print a sheet with emoji faces to help guide students as they draw. Remind students that the face should fill and be centered on the face sheet.

Glue a construction-paper hat to the top of each face shape. Hot-glue a glitter pom-pom to the top of the hat. Using Tacky Glue, attach cotton balls along the bottom edge of the hat where it meets the face.

Using the Project Templates, cut three elf hats out of felt in the same colors as the construction-paper hats. Cut two small holes near the top of each hat for stringing, being careful not to cut too close to the edge. Lay a length of yarn on a table or the floor and string all three felt hats onto the yarn so that they are evenly spaced and centered. Hot-glue an elf face (with its decorated hat) to each felt hat. Your elf garland is ready to display!

2. Stacked Present Boxes Ornament

These mini presents make a festive ornament, magnet or picture holder!

You’ll need: Wooden Craft Cubes – Class Pack, ribbon in various sizes and colors, acrylic paints, paintbrushes, Tacky Glue, hot glue, scissors

Directions: Use only the largest craft cubes for this project—you can use the remaining cubes as math manipulatives! Paint five faces of the cubes with acrylic paints. (The bottom won’t show, so you don’t need to paint it.) Encourage students to use the colors that represent the holidays they celebrate.

Have students paint the cubes with two coats to really make the color pop. Once the cubes are dry, students will wrap a thin piece of ribbon around four sides and glue it in place. Hot-glue the ribbon to the cubes. For the cube that will be on top of the stack, leave a gap between the ribbon and the top of the cube so you can thread another ribbon later. Then hot-glue the “boxes” together. (I like to have the presents off-center so each one stands out.) Lastly, cut a piece of ribbon, wrap it through the gap on the top present and tie a knot at the end.

3. Santa’s Beard Wall Hanging

I was inspired by the macramé wall hangings I’ve seen on Pinterest—and parents will love displaying this one each year!

You’ll need: White and pink Pom-Poms, Wooden Craft Dowels, white yarn, paper plates, tan acrylic paint, green and red construction paper, cotton balls, black marker, hot glue, Tacky Glue, scissors, Yarn Laces with Tips, Project Templates

Directions: Creating the Beard: Holding the end of the white yarn in your hand, wind the yarn around your elbow and back up to your hand five times. Cut the ends you have in your hands and keep the yarn folded. Follow the images below to attach the yarn loops to a wooden dowel. Repeat this process until there are seven tied loops on the dowel. Then give Santa’s “beard” a trim! Cut the yarn at an angle on each side to form a point in the center. Center the beard on the dowel.

Creating Santa’s Face: Using tan acrylic paint, have students paint the back side of a small paper plate. This will be Santa’s face. Line up the dowel so that the beard is slightly below the halfway point on the plate. Hot-glue the dowel to the plate.

Using the Project Templates, cut a Santa hat out of red or green construction paper. Glue the hat on top of the paper plate with Tacky Glue. Also using Tacky Glue, attach cotton balls along the bottom edge of the hat where it meets the face. Hot-glue a white pom-pom to the top of the hat and a pink pom-pom (Santa’s nose) above the beard. Have students draw two “U” shapes for Santa’s closed eyes. To hang, cut a long piece of yarn and tie it to each end of the dowel.

Tip: Hot-glue the ends of the yarn so they don’t slide off the dowel.

4. Hanukkah Felt Garland

This festive garland holds “gelt” (chocolate coins) for each of the eight days and nights of Hanukkah!

You’ll need: Felt; yellow, blue and white construction paper; Yarn Laces with Tips; Peel & Stick Jewels; scissors; hot glue; hole punch; Dreidel Template

Directions: Using the Dreidel Template, trace and cut three yellow, two blue and three white dreidels out of both construction paper and felt. Punch a hole in the top center of each construction-paper dreidel. Evenly string each paper dreidel onto a length of yarn, alternating the colors to create a pattern. Hot-glue each felt dreidel on top of a matching construction-paper dreidel so that they are lined up. Cut three yellow, two blue and three white rectangles (for the gelt pockets) out of felt using the template. Hot-glue three edges of each rectangle to a matching dreidel, keeping the top of the rectangle open to create the pocket. To capture the light, attach Peel & Stick Jewels along the edges of each pocket. Your garland is ready to hang!

5. Kwanzaa Ear of Corn

During the celebration of Kwanzaa, an ear of corn (Muhindi) is placed on the table for each child in the family. You can also make this fun, easy craft to celebrate Thanksgiving!

You’ll need: brown and green construction paper, yellow tempera paint, Magic Craft Noodles, green tissue paper, scissors, paper plates, cotton balls, hot glue, Corn Templates, hole punch (optional), ribbon (optional)

Directions: Trace and cut two “cobs” out of brown construction paper. Pour a small amount of yellow tempera paint onto a paper plate. Have students dip a craft noodle in the paint and stamp it onto each cob. The noodle will disintegrate as students stamp, which will give the corn texture. (Students may need two noodles to complete this.) Allow the corn to dry for 24 hours. Students will then trace and cut a “stalk” out of green construction paper. Prompt students to fold green tissue paper in half, bunch it up and hot-glue it onto the construction paper to give the stalk some dimension.

Once dry, hot-glue one side of the two cobs together to create a pocket. Students will “stuff” the pocket with cotton balls to make the corn three-dimensional. Once the pocket is full, hot-glue the other side to close it up.

Hot-glue the green stalk to the front of the corn. To make the corn into a wall hanging, punch a hole near the top, string a piece of ribbon through the hole and create a loop.

I can’t wait to see your creations! Happy holidays!