Inside: our top forty picks for hands-on weather investigations to do this week with your kids.
Weather. We talk about it, or we think about it virtually every day. Do I need a jacket or is it warm enough without it? Should I leave home early so that I can get to my destination before the snowstorm? Is the weather good enough to go to the beach? And here in Chicago when we run into our neighbors, we often say, “what a windy day!” or “the sun sure feels nice.”
Most people don’t find weather all that fascinating. They just want to know if they need to grab an umbrella on the way out the door.
Kids, on the other hand, don’t take the natural world for granted yet. They take time to marvel at a cloud’s shape over their heads and wonder where the wind comes from. And it’s a good thing. As children get more and more isolated from nature, weather becomes all the more important as a link to the planet and the natural world outside our windows.
What I love about the weather, besides the way it connects us to the planet, is that it builds up many valuable skills: observational, measurement taking, prediction-making, data collecting, and pattern discerning.
Weather: how to start
Weather investigation doesn’t have to be complicated. Weather is simply a daily state of air in any given place. Print out our calendar for the current month and ask kids to record daily weather observations.
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When kids are just getting started with their daily observations, you might need to ask questions: Is it cold out or hot? Is it rainy, windy, or calm? Is it cloudy, partly cloudy, or sunny?
With younger kids who are not yet skilled in writing you can record the weather with drawings.
My kids also like to use weather cards. I print out a couple of sets every time I have a preschooler, and we pick a card or two each morning before heading out. Not only are they learning about the weather, but they also find it calming to make a transition between being at home and going outside. (My baby likes to play with cards too).
Older kids can record more detailed observations. Here is our printable.
Another fun way to explore the weather is to pick a spot near your house and record a day of weather with your camera.
You probably already have come across a few weather books, but how about weather songs? There are so many of them! Make a CD with some of the best-known weather-related songs in the world. Here are some suggestions: “Here Comes The Sun” (Beatles), “Singing in the Rain” (Jamie Cullum), “Mr. Blue Sky” (Electric Light Orchestra). Don’t forget to include kids’ classics like “Rain, rain, go away,” “It’s raining, it’s pouring,” and more.
I’m a pluviophile, a lover of rain. I’m also a language fan, so I love the word “pluviophile” from the Latin word for rain: “pluvia”+ Greek word “philos,” loving. In case you are confused, pluviophile is someone who finds joy and peace of mind during the rain.
Even if you are not a pluviophile, don’t let a rainy day give you the blues. Instead, make a rain catcher to help you record the rainfall in your area. Or make a rain cloud and discuss where the rain comes from.
Go for a walk, find a nice puddle, and use yarn to mark the outline of a puddle or use a piece of chalk to draw around it if the puddle is on the sidewalk. Then return later and spread yarn/draw around your puddle again. Repeat as many times throughout the day as you want. Use a tape measure to see if your puddle is growing or shrinking.
Do you know that sailors look to the gulls to predict changes in weather? Yes, it’s true. Seagulls can tell the weather.
Experiment with how we can stay dry during the rain (you can start this experiment on a sunny day, so you are ready by the time it rains).
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Do your kids know how to read a thermometer? It’s the best way to end the coat confusion. If the thermometer reading is below a certain number (you’re comfortable with), then they have to wear coats. If it’s above, then it’s their decision. It’s a win-win. You give kids the power of decision making while satisfying your own needs to keep kids dressed for the weather.
If your kids already know how to read the thermometer, they might be ready to tackle the difference between Celsius and Fahrenheit or they might even make their own thermometer with things you already have in your house!
Are you kids ready to tackle greenhouse effect? Find two thermometers, a bar of chocolate, and some baking soda. Pick a warm day and have fun with our three outdoor experiments that demonstrate why our world is getter hotter.
The difference between cold and hot temperatures offer many opportunities for play and learning. My kids especially like Hunting For Temperatures and the Goldilocks’ Porridge Experiment. Younger kids also tend to like this dressing for the season game.
Kids can practice graphing daily temperatures in your area for a few days and then turn the results into colorful weather graphs.
Learn about the temperatures around the world with this simple activity from Mama Smiles. MaryAnne and her three kids picked up a handful of cities from around the world, looked up the temperatures in each one, and wrote them down on post-it notes. They placed the notes on the corresponding places on the map and talked about “high” and “low” temperatures.
Windy Day Weather Experiments
A windy day offers so many opportunities to experiment, play, and wonder. Do you know why wind vanes point in the direction where the wind is coming from, while windsocks point in the direction where the wind is going? Learn all about it with a Darth Vader wind vane.
Do you like kites? I have a washi tape addiction, so the most fun kite we ever made was this one because it uses 3 yards of washi tape. But you can also make a kite in two minutes with just a string and a plastic bag.
Many kids love the excitement of wild weather. Whenever there is a snow storm or a torrential downpour, my kids reach for their boots to head outside. I remember doing the same as a kid. But do your kids know the wild weather safety rules?
Here is how to start. Do a thunderstorm experiment, read books about thunderstorms, and discuss thunderstorm safety tips. Make a tornado in a bottle. Then discuss tornado signs and how to stay safe during a tornado.
Rain or shine, celebrate every day with these simple, kid-friendly weather science experiments! We gathered together the best ways to play and learn with the weather. Try one today!