WEATHER TO PLAY: The Snows of August, Part 1

I've been reading about the terrible heat wave sweeping across the United States this summer, so I thought my American friends might like to cool off with a look at what August is like here in New Zealand!

Winters are generally pretty mild here. In fact, we haven't had any snow in recent years but that all changed a few weeks ago. And this being my granddaughter's first snowfall, I couldn't wait to shovel out and head over to my daughter's to be part of Caitlin's first official snow day... snowballs, snow angels, snow forts and my favorite of all, snowmen... not to mention the hot chocolate waiting for us when we come back inside.

When I arrived Caitlin was sitting by the window fascinated by her snow covered garden. 

I invited her to come out make a snowman with me. But uncharacteristically, she DIDN'T want to.

I hid my childish disappointment.

"Too cold," she said, quickly reminding me that little ones don't always share grown-ups' enthusiasm for such things as snowmen. After all, they don't know what they don't know.

I sat down next to Caitlin and we pressed our noses to the cold window pane. We talked about how different the garden looks when covered with snow. We identified all of the familiar things in the garden by their shape... the picnic table, the play house, the swing set. Nothing had really changed after all.

We talked about the idea that snow is just like rain. (Caitlin loves rainy days and puddles in particular). We talked about how rain and snow fall from the clouds and change the ground. Rain makes things wet. Snow makes things white.

And we talked about the cold. I explained that it needed to be cold otherwise the snow would melt to rain and the ground would be wet not white. "And you can't make a snowman out of rain."

Caitlin nodded knowingly.

Then I added, "I wonder what our snowman would look like?" I could see Caitlin was wondering too.

And before long, we were bundling up and heading out the door.

Caitlin's mum put on some hot chocolate for our return.

And I hid my child-like excitement.

Children react differently to different things. Sometimes they jump head first into a new experience. Other times they shrink back and hold tight to you. I always say a bad first impression can be overcome by a good first experience. If your child appears uncertain about trying something new, it's important to take the time to help her prepare in order to give her the best chance to relax, enjoy, and stay focused.

Here are a few ideas to consider the next time you run into that wall I call "Preschool Resistance"...

MAKE IT FAMILIAR. Draw on reference points your child already knows and likes (such as Caitlin's backyard toys). Familiar things will make her feel more secure while helping her project into the future to imagine what this new experience will be like.

EMPOWER WITH KNOWLEDGE. We never really know what's going on behind a child's reticence, so guiding and coaxing her from different angles often helps. For instance, providing simple, factual explanations for why things are the way they are (such as the cold preventing the snow from turning into rain) helps your child reason things through in her own way while giving her the confidence that comes with acquired knowledge. Of course, the trick here is to explain things in terms she's ready for. Knowing that Caitlin loves rainy days gave me another positive reference point to draw on. And while it's unlikely she fully understood the dynamic effects of temperature on precipitation, she now had the basis to compare snow with rain and a reason for the cold she said she didn't like.

ENTICE WITH ENCHANTMENT. Tapping the natural, motivational energy of your child's imagination is a great way to kick start just about anything, and especially trying new things. By wondering aloud what our snowman might look like, Caitlin's imagination was making it "real" in her mind before we even had our boots on. And notice I didn't describe the snowman to her. I simply wondered about it so she would wonder about it too. In so many ways, giving your child too many cues makes the idea more yours than hers, and let's face it, we all prefer our own ideas!

Bundled up and out the door, tune in tomorrow to find out...

Was it really too cold outside?
Will Gill ever get to make a snowman?
Who needs the beach when you've got snow?

Click here... THE SNOWS OF AUGUST, Part 2


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