Counting down to spring: playful projects for speeding it up

It may be not-quite spring, but regardless of what the calendar or thermometer say, most of us are oh-so-done with winter. Help kids look forward to sunnier days with these colorful, playful learning activities.

Painting with Kool-Aid (“Sensory Painting with a Scent”) is a multisensory idea from Gayle’s Preschool Rainbow (scroll down). Along with the springtime colors it produces, it smells great, and kids can guess at naming the scents/flavors. Gayle’s Preschool Rainbow does suggest wearing smocks—and one might add, putting a couple layers of paper on the work surface—noting that this “paint” can stain both countertops and clothing.

The same source also offers directions for making Grass Heads. Materials needed are: an old pair of nylons/pantyhose, grass seed, soil, small plastic containers, elastic bands, sew-on googlie eyes, pipe cleaners and a spray bottle. Full directions can be found at Preschool Rainbow,  but kids fill the foot portion of the hose with soil and grass seed, add googlie eyes and pipe cleaner “glasses,” then keep the “head” watered, as its “hair” sprouts. What fun!

Talk with your child about the new beginnings of a season just around the corner, and make these Birds in a Nest from All Kids Network, using paper plates, plastic eggs, and a few other supplies. The resulting nest makes a great centerpiece to remind the entire family that spring is drawing closer. The same site offers other fun crafts like Bottle Cap Caterpillars, Coffee Filter Butterflies, and much more.

Encourage kids to think about spring—its weather, plants, activities, and so on. Then take turns making up riddles about spring. For example, “I’m not quite a frog, but I will be soon. What am I?” (Tadpole.) “I’m a bright yellow flower that pops up early. What am I?” (Daffodil.) “I’m black and white and smell just awful.” (Skunk.) Your riddles may be oral or written. If you write them down, help kids use correct capitalization and punctuation. This activity sharpens several skills at once, including listening, critical thinking, and vocabulary-building.

Help kids work on teaching your canine family member a few new tricks for ushering in a new season with this Dog Tricks and Training Book & DVD. Heather Hammonds, U.K.-based author of over 100 fiction and non-fiction books, is a passionate animal lover. She has spent her whole life working with and training animals, including working as a volunteer dog obedience instructor and a veterinary nurse. Part one begins with simple obedience exercises and basic tricks: sit, stay, and drop; shake hands; roll over; and go fetch. Part two expands on those to include waving, spinning and twisting, and holding and carrying. Part three concentrates on more difficult tricks. Kids and their favorite furry pal will learn some snazzy new tricks—or at least have lots of fun trying!

With a little creativity, spring will have sprung before you know it.