Here in Wisconsin, this winter’s been bitter cold. The older I get, the wimpier I get. Bundling up myself and a toddler in sub 10ºF just isn’t my idea of a good time — not to mention the fact that several days have been dangerously cold (like -40ºF with the windchill — no kidding!)
As far as keeping Jax’s attention, this activity was literally the biggest hit ever. Jax kept himself busy for more than 60 minutes. This is without a doubt a record for my active 2-year old. He was thoroughly engrossed with the snow and all the tools I presented him. I loved watching his concentration as he experimented over the course of the hour.
I adapted the activity a bit for Jax’s young age by using materials he could manipulate and toys that I guessed would capture his attention. This is how we did it:
Large bowl of snow. I used my largest mixing bowl and filled it to the brim with fluffy, fresh fallen snow.
Empty bowl or bin. Jax is in the “put things in, take things out” stage. So an empty bin for him to dump the snow into was a must.
Drop Cloth. I used an old plastic table cloth.
Spoons and scoops. I laid out a large mixing spoon, soup ladle, a melon baller, cups and a huge waffle batter scoop for Jax to choose from. I threw some Popsicle sticks in for good measure.
Ice cube tray filled with paint. I simply watered down washable tempera paint and filled the ice cube tray compartments with different colors. I had plenty left over and sealed it in small Ziploc containers for next time.
Medicine droppers. I save them from my infant medicine bottles, but you can purchase them for about $1 through Amazon.com (this isn’t an affiliate link – maybe someday I’ll set that up. Sigh.)
Various toys to drop and hide in the snow. I used river rocks, plastic gems, Matchbox cars and plastic dinosaurs — but anything your child is into will do.
At this age, Jax engages with this sort of activity (i.e., sensory bins) best on the floor. If I set him up at a table, he’d dump the snow on the floor. So, I laid the drop cloth on the floor, filled the large bowl with snow, and set it next to an empty bin.
I laid out all the “scooping” options for him to choose from first. I like to introduce new activities in stages, giving him an opportunity to do some basic exploration before introducing new components. Not only does this extend the time he plays, but it prevents him from getting overwhelmed with too many options.
He spent the first 20 minutes simply scooping the snow from the bowl into the empty bin with the various spoons.
Okay, so I probably need to explain why Jax is pant-less. He’s potty training, and I find the fewer clothes we have on the bottom, the faster we get the pee in the right place. I trust you’re with me on this one.
When I saw his attention waning, I introduced the paint and medicine droppers. He caught on to pinching the dropper to suck up and squirt out the paint quickly. I loved watching his fascination as he drew up the paint and watched it bleed into the snow.
Again, when I noticed he was ready for something new, I set out the rocks and gems. I didn’t instruct him on how to use them; I just let him do his own thing. He plopped them into the snow, dug them back out and transferred them back and forth in the melon baller for what seemed like forever. Honestly, I couldn’t believe how long he played.
Lastly, I set out the cars and dinosaurs. He used these much like the rocks, but then discovered he could bury them in the snow. He giggled as he covered them up and dug them out. Super cute.
Jax went through three huge bowls of snow over the course of the hour. We will definitely do this a million more times before our spring thaw. Jax and I both give this activity an enthusiastic thumbs up. Let us know how you mix things up if you try it at home!