Ever a sunshine and summer girl, winter sets upon me with a blanket of gloomy darkness. It wasn’t until I had children that I got a glimpse of the possibility this darkness offers. In darkness lights shine brighter, no longer competing with the strength of the sun. Seeing the darkness and cold of winter through their eyes helped me to view my world differently. Now while I try to wait patiently for the long days of sunshine to return, I embrace the darkness with a renewed energy through our collective search for light. Here are some of the ways that we explore light in the darkness.
Art Exploration of Black and White
In the winter our art table is covered with a variety of black and white medium. We paint, color, and glue with white and black. We mix. We draw. We dab, we pour. We splatter. We explore how white and black interact, combine, and move together. Our first explorations were simple. Often this means a simple piece of white paper and black paint or a black crayon. Gradually the scale of these explorations can grow to enormous papers covering tables or the floor. Later we move on to contrasting through side by side explorations of white and black.
Light tables or light boxes offer the perfect tool for exploration. Dark winter afternoons are perfect for light table explorations. Following cold explorations outside, our toddlers huddle around the light table in their playroom. The glow of the table shines on their faces as they manipulate the materials. Some of our favorite materials for the light table are: colored eggs and containers for sorting, colored binder dividers, paint and paper, shaving cream, paper with markers, and contact paper with collage materials.
Making the concept of white accessible for toddlers involves a multitude of sensory experiences. We begin, of course, with snow. The way snow reflects the sun is a natural brightening agent in winter. Exploring of the white, cold, wet substance happens both inside and out. Catch snowflakes on mittens and on pieces of paper. Scooped and mold snow with sand toys. Collected it and bring it inside to the sensory table for further investigation. You may also explore white materials with different textures and consistencies. Our toddlers enjoy the cool, slimy feeling of shaving cream and grainy texture of salt. However, their favorite sensory experience is flour. They will sit around a bin of flour happily exploring it with their fingers. Once they familiarize themselves with the dry flour, they can help pour water into the bin. The resulting gooey mixture is intriguing and delightful.
One of a toddler’s greatest joys is a flashlight. This most simple of material can bring an hour of bliss to the end of a busy day. All you need is on flashlight for each child. It is best if you can find a smaller one that they can use independently and comfortably. Allow them the freedom to turn it on and off, roam from room to room, look under and behind things. Excellent opportunities for language development evolve as your child explores “on” “off” “under” “up” “down” “behind” “floor” and “ceiling.”
As the dark days of winter envelope you, I hope you embrace the opportunity to explore the potentials for brightness and light in this new season.
Erin Buhr lives with her husband and two year old twins in Wisconsin. She enjoys traveling, trying new things, taking photos, and being outside in the sun. She has a Master’s Degree in Early Childhood Education and is the co-founder of Bambini Travel, which hopes to inspire exploration and travel with young children.