In winter, nature rests… but not the senses!

That’s it, it’s winter!

We continue our tour of the seasons with this article devoted to winter. Whether you think of the cold wind or the warmth of the fireplace, the early nights or the end-of-year illuminations, here are a few tips on how to make the most of it with your young children. As always, the aim is not to “keep them busy”, but to give them the opportunity to enjoy multi-sensory experiences with you, that are as useful as they are fun.

Winter, a key learning season

In winter, nature seems to come to a standstill. Does that mean it’s of no interest for learning? Quite the contrary!

So you can start by explaining the rhythm of the seasons in simple terms. In winter, nature rests and is reborn. Fallen leaves decompose and disappear to nourish the soil. Water from the rain or snow “gives a drink” to the earth, which has been in great need of it since the summer, and to the plants that will be able to grow thanks to it. Many animals hide in the warmth and rest before coming out again.

Winter is also the ideal time to become aware of the opposition between day and night. A young child gets up before daylight and is still awake when night falls. They will discover the night and what it means: there is less noise and less activity outside at the end of the day, but they are also very attracted by the lights that shine in their homes and on the streets!

The season of light

Throughout the ages and cultures of the world, people have compensated for the lack of sunlight with lights, both at home and in the streets. Several religious celebrations at the end of the year, such as Christmas for Christians and Hanukkah for Jews, are marked by illuminations.

Light is also important for children, enabling them to see the world around them. It is even, in itself, a tool for wonder and play: children are particularly sensitive to the shapes it reveals, the shadows it casts and the colours it covers. It’s also an easy-to-use learning tool.

So now’s the time to draw your child’s attention to the phenomenon of light, a precious part of our lives and rich in sensory experiences! Here are a few ideas for family evenings and weekends:

* Talk to your child about natural sources of light: the sun, the stars… and even the moon, which gives us indirect light. Explain the rhythms of the day, the seasons of the year and the importance of light for plants.

* Lamps, nightlights, garlands, but also torches and candles: show them all the possible sources of light in the home, including those to which they are probably less accustomed. This is an opportunity to teach them to be careful: all are beautiful in their own way, but some sources of light hurt the eyes, others can burn…

* Play with lights (colours, intensity) but also with the shadows they produce: Chinese shadows on a white wall always work!

* At home, and especially in your baby’s bedroom, opt for soft lighting, with low-wattage bulbs and several light sources to create a subdued effect. Avoid dazzling lights that could be aimed directly at him.

A very special atmosphere at home

In winter, the weather often encourages us to stay warm. So it’s the perfect time to enjoy your home… and your family! Bear in mind that the atmosphere in your home will leave a lasting impression on young children. Even if they don’t have any specific memories of it as they grow up, they’ll still have a comforting memory of family times, end-of-year celebrations and playing with their parents.

You can take advantage of this to spend some special time with your child, playing, singing and talking.

* Would you like to relax with a cup of hot chocolate? Don’t worry: he’ll enjoy your rest, you, your gaze, your exchanges… and he’ll share this delicious moment!

* Stimulate his ears with soft music (jazz, classical) and seasonal rhymes: Vive le vent, Clic clac dans les mains..

* Read winter-themed stories with them, and show them seasonal photos or drawings.

* Ask them to watch you cook, do crafts, decorate… and to a certain extent to help you with older children. These are all great opportunities to teach them about time management and tidying up, and to develop their fine motor skills.

* In the kitchen, your child will discover new foods, their shapes, colours and smells. They’ll be able to taste new flavours. This is the season for sweet potatoes, salsify, squash, chicory, leeks and spices like cinnamon. And there’s plenty of fruit too: bananas, pineapples, pomegranates, dates, apples, pears… and of course oranges, mandarins and kiwis!

* Here’s an idea for citrus fruit: stick cloves into an orange. It’s a small decorative object, a natural deodoriser and a multi-sensory learning tool for your child, who can look at it, touch it and, of course, smell it.

To keep things decorative, don’t hesitate to decorate your home with seasonal items that will give your child a sense of place: fir branches, pine cones, cottons that simulate snow, etc

But don’t forget to enjoy the outdoors!

Cocooning doesn’t have to mean TV and a sedentary lifestyle… Beware of screens: early childhood specialists strongly advise against their use before the age of 3, especially without the presence and interaction of an adult. And let’s not forget that even in winter, children need to be physically active and get out into the fresh air.

* Make sure they’re well protected by covering them up with appropriate clothing, from hats to shoes, and even moisturising cream for fragile skin…

* Pick up twigs and dead leaves while you’ve got them!

* Is it snowing? It’s wonderful for a child. Explain that when water comes into contact with the cold, it transforms, forms flakes and freezes – you can play with it! Let them touch the snow or lie in it (not too long and always covered!), feel it melt, show them how to make a snowball and, if you feel like it, a snowman! As well as touching the snow, children will also enjoy the transformed landscape, the muffled sounds and the fact that their footsteps echo differently.

* Winter is full of opportunities for sensory discovery!