Whatever the weather

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Make the most of our variable climate, says Sue Cowley

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One of the many joys of working in the early years is that you and your children can find inspiration for learning all around you, and in the simplest of things. A plain cardboard box becomes a spaceship, in which you fly to the moon.

The weather is a great resource for learning too, especially in a country where it is so changeable. On a sunny winter’s day, you can examine the length of your shadows, and talk about how low the sun is in the sky. Yes, expensive resources in glossy catalogues are tempting. But every early years practitioner knows that the most powerful resource of all is the imagination.

During this unusually mild, wet winter, we have spent plenty of time digging in our mud kitchen, splashing in puddles and ‘singing in the rain’.

For those in areas of the country that have been flooded, this has been a traumatic time. In the last week of January, though, Mr Freeze finally came to visit our setting, bringing all kinds of learning with him. Why did the water turn into ice? How do the frogs and newts in our pond survive when it gets cold and icy? Why do our hands feel so cold when we touch the ice? (If Mr Freeze is slow to visit your setting, you can always help him along by putting arctic animals in a plastic tray, adding water and leaving them in the freezer overnight. In the morning the children can have fun figuring out how to free the animals from their icy prison.)

But, of course, the very best moment, for the children at least, is the day that Little Miss Snowflake arrives. (For the grown-ups, her arrival brings the usual panic about closing settings and notifying parents.) Is there anything quite as magical as watching a young child encounter snow for the first time? The look of puzzlement and wonder on their faces as the flakes stick on their eyelashes and melt on their tongues. Yes, the Great British Weather can be a challenge at times. But we know that, whatever the weather, it will always teach our children (and us) a lesson or two.

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