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10 Montessori-inspired winter activities your kids will love

Winter with children can be tough, but the entire family will enjoy these activities.

10 Montessori-inspired winter activities your kids will love

Winter with children can be tough. Outside time is often cut short as it gets dark earlier and little hands get chilly in the cold. That coupled with cold and flu season can often mean lots of time cooped up inside.

While unstructured free time is a wonderful way to encourage children to exercise their creativity and discover their own unique interests, it's also nice to have a few special wintertime activities up your sleeve for those days that just seem to never end.

Try these Montessori-inspired winter activities to make all of that quality time together a little more enjoyable.

1. Bake bread together

Winter is a perfect time to experiment with baking, as it warms the whole house and fills the air with wonderful, cozy smells. Bread is especially fun as children marvel at how it rises and how just a few, simple ingredients can transform into something so delicious.

Baking bread is also a great choice because children of all ages can participate. The youngest child can help dump and mix pre-measured ingredients while older children can measure and knead. Try including a book about bread to make it even more memorable.

2. Make family picture cards

If you visited, or plan to visit, extended family during the winter holidays, try making some simple picture cards for the different family members you'll see.

Simply print and laminate a photo of each family member and collect them in a basket on a shelf in your child's room. Spend time looking at the photos and talking about each person. Not only will this help familiarize your child with family they don't often see, but it is a great opportunity for you to share stories about your family and your own childhood.

For an older child, try adding labels with each person's name and let them practice matching the names to the pictures. If you're a close-knit family, have them match their favorite foods or something more specific.

3. Write cards for family

Invite your child to help create special cards to send to family. You can send holiday cards, thank you cards for gifts received, or even Valentine's Day cards if the holiday season is too hectic.

Younger children can help decorate while older children can help write messages and address the envelopes.

4. Grate cinnamon or nutmeg

Give your child a mini grater and show them how to grate cinnamon or nutmeg into a little bowl. They will enjoy the wonderful aromas of freshly ground spices and become more familiar with some of the ingredients that flavor winter food.

Your child can then help sprinkle the spices on apple slices or transfer them to little jars to bring as host or hostess gifts to holiday gatherings. The perfect blend of sensory details.

5. Host a tea party

Not only is tea a warm and cozy beverage, but a tea party is also a wonderful time to practice how to set a table, how to serve others, and how to keep a conversation going.

This book shares ideas on how to make the most of tea time, but feel free to keep it as simple as you wish. Practice the etiquette with your child and then invite a loved one or friend over to join you and let your child practice being a host.

6. Explore ice

Winter is a fun time to do some basic science experiments with ice. If it's below freezing outside, help your child fill a pot of water and put it outside. Check on it in the morning to see if it froze. Experiment with different liquids and see what freezes at different temperatures. If you don't live somewhere cold, you can, of course, use the freezer instead!

7. Study hibernation

Many children know that bears hibernate, but they may not be aware that other animals like hedgehogs, snails and snakes do as well. Talk to your child about how you have a warm house to keep you cozy when it's cold outside, but animals use different strategies, like migration and hibernation, to stay warm. There are many great books on animals in the winter and hibernation that can add to your discussion.

8. Rake leaves and plow snow

While these tasks can seem like arduous chores to us, many young children will delight in helping, especially if given tools just their size. Most children will enjoy this the most if they are working alongside you, so you're not totally off the hook.

9. Go bird or animal watching

As the leaves fall off of the trees and bushes, it can be easier to spot animals as they're less hidden. Talk to your child about how to walk quietly so they don't scare the animals away and what animals and birds they might see. If it's snowy, keep an eye out for animal tracks as well. Write down a log of the animals you see together this winter. You can use drawing, words or photos to make this more fun.

10. Celebrate holidays around the world

So many cultures have different winter holidays. Check out a book from the library or see if your city has any open celebrations from other cultures and introduce your child to the many ways people around the world celebrate the season. Making different foods traditional to these holidays can be a fun way to bring them to life in your own home.

Winter days can seem long, but they can also be magical. It can be a great time to slow down together and notice the wonder of the changing seasons. Next time your kids are getting stir crazy and you're longing for the summer sun to return, try one of these activities to brighten up your day and make this winter a little more memorable.

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This is how we’re defining success this school year

Hint: It's not related to grades.

In the ever-moving lives of parents and children, opportunities to slow down and reflect on priorities can be hard to come by. But, a new school year scheduled to begin in the midst of a global pandemic offers the chance to reflect on how we should all think about measures of success. For both parents and kids, that may mean putting a fresh emphasis on optimism, creativity and curiosity.

Throughout recent decades "school success" became entangled with "academic achievement," with cases of anxiety among school children dramatically increasing in the past few generations. Then, almost overnight, the American school system was turned on its head in the spring of 2020. As we look ahead to a new school year that will look like no year past, more is being asked of teachers, students and parents, such as acclimating to distance learning, collaborating with peers from afar and aiming to maintain consistency with schooling amidst general instability due to COVID.

Despite the inherent challenges, there is also an overdue opportunity to redefine success during the school year by finding fresh ways to keep students and their parents involved in the learning process.

"I always encourage my son to try at least one difficult thing every school year," says Arushi Garg, parenting blogger and mom of a 4 year old. "This challenges him but also allows me to remind him to be optimistic! Lots of things in life are hard, and it's important we learn to be positive during difficult times. Fostering a sense of optimism allows kids to push beyond what they thought possible, like biking without training wheels or reading above their grade level."

Here are a few mantras to keep in mind this school year...

Quality learning matters more than quantifying learning

After focusing on standardized measures of academic success for so long, the learning environment this next school year may involve more independent, remote learning. Some parents are considering this an exciting opportunity for their children to assume a bigger role in what they are learning—and parents are also getting on board by supporting their children's education with engaging, positive learning materials like Highlights Magazine.

As a working mom, Garg also appreciates that Highlights Magazine can help engage her son while she's also working. She says, "He sits next to me and solves puzzles in the magazine or practices his writing from the workbook."

Keeping an open mind as "school" looks different

Whether children are of preschool age or in the midst of high school, "going to school" is bound to look different this year. Naturally, this may require some adjustment as kids become accustomed to new guidelines. Although many parents may wish to shelter our kids from challenges, others believe optimism can be fostered through adversity when everyone is committed to adapting to new experiences.

"Honestly, I am yet to figure out when I will be comfortable sending [my son] back [to school]," says Garg. In the meantime, she's helping her son remain connected with friends who also read Highlights Magazine by encouraging the kids to talk about what they are learning on video calls.

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For Garg, her biggest hope for this school year is that her son will create "success" for himself by embracing new learning possibilities with positivity.

"Encouraging my son to try new things has given him a chance to prove that he can do anything," she says. "He takes his previous success as an example now and feels he can fail multiple times before he succeeds."

There's no denying that this school year will be far from the norm. But, perhaps, we can create a new, better way of defining our children's success in school because of it.

This article was sponsored by Highlights. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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5 brilliant products that encourage toddler independence

Help your little one help themselves.

One of our main goals as mothers is to encourage our children to learn, grow and play. They start out as our tiny, adorable babies who need us for everything, and somehow, before you know it, they grow into toddlers with ideas and opinions and desires of their own.

You may be hearing a lot more of "I do it!" or maybe they're pushing your hand away as a signal to let you know, I don't need your help, Mama. That's okay. They're just telling you they're ready for more independence. They want to be in charge of their bodies, and any little bit of control their lives and abilities allow.

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EKOBO Bamboo 4-piece kid set

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This colorful set includes a plate, cup, bowl and spoon and is just right for your child's meal experience. Keep them in an easy-to-reach cabinet so they'll feel encouraged (and excited!) to get their own place setting each time they eat.

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Puj PhillUp hangable kids cups

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Before you know it, your little one will be asking (okay, maybe demanding) to fill their own water cups. This amazing 4-pack of cups attaches directly to the fridge (or any glass, metal, tile or fiberglass surface) making it easier for your child to grab a cup themselves. Just be sure a water pitcher or dispenser is nearby, and—boom!—one task off your plate.

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Wise Elk puzzle tower blocks

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Lorena Canals basket

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In Montessori schools, parents are periodically invited to observe their children at work in the classroom. I have heard many parents express shock to see their 3- or 4-year-old putting away their own work when they finish—without even being asked!

"You should see his room at home!" or, "I ask him to put his toys away every day, and it's a battle every single time" were frequent comments.

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