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Early childhood education has been my life for over 30 years. I have taught all age groups from infants to 5-year-olds. I was a director for five years in the 1980s, but I returned to the classroom 22 years ago. My passion is watching the ways children explore and discover their world. In the classroom, everything starts with the reciprocal relationships between adults and children and between the children themselves. With that in mind, I plan and set up activities. But that is just the beginning. What actually happens is a flow that includes my efforts to invite, respond and support children's interface with those activities and with others in the room. Oh yeh, and along the way, the children change the activities to suit their own inventiveness and creativity. Now the processes become reciprocal with the children doing the inviting, responding and supporting. Young children are the best learners and teachers. I am truly fortunate to be a part of their journey.

Saturday, April 6, 2013


The second week in February we still had a good bit of snow in Minnesota.  In fact, we just got rid of most of the snow on the ground the last weekend in March. And the truth be told, there were still snowflakes in the air just two days ago.

When we have a good winter for snow, I like to do two indoor activities with snow.  The first is to bring snow into the sensory table to let the children play with it without having to wear all the cumbersome gear---snowsuits, boots, mittens, hats---that they need when they go outside to play in the snow.  This year I added Snow Tubes to this activity.

The second activity I like to set up is Painting Snow.  For that I attach the wooden tray in the middle of the table so it serves as a platform on which the the children can work and as a place on which to put the paint cups.  The paint cups are filled with watered-down tempera and long-handled brushes.

Since the season for snow is pretty much over, I really debated whether or not to do a post on Painting Snow.  Looking over the videos and pictures of the activity, though, convinced me to post. The setup is just an example of an invitation to explore and, in the grand scheme of play, their explorations are more important than the activity itself.

There is, of course, painting the snow with the brushes.  Sometimes that type of painting can be quite attractive because the colors show up vividly on the white snow.

Once the children get into it, though, it takes different variations.   In the following video, the girl in the foreground is painting the snow in the table.  The boy across from her is asking to dump the paint in the table.  The girl next to him is painting the tray.  The boy next to her is holding a clump of cold snow and painting it.  How does he do it?   And the girl across from him is painting the snow she has gathered into a bowl.  As the video comes back to the first child, you see her begin to pour the paint from the paint pot.  (I think she was reading the request of the child across from her.  It is amazing how children pick up on another's operations.)

Different Ways to Paint Snow from Thomas Bedard on Vimeo.

Children need to transport the snow out of the table (Axiom # 1 in the right-hand column of the blog).  Depending on how that is done, that can be simple or more complex.  The girl in the video below has chosen to transport the snow from a pot to the side tub.  That is not as easy as tipping the pot and dropping the snow in the tub.  Somehow she knows that to get the snow out, she has to bang the pot against the tub.  Where does that knowledge come from?

Transporting the Painted Snow from Thomas Bedard on Vimeo.

In addition to satisfying that inner drive to transport the snow, she has also created a new level on which to paint the snow.

The Painting Snow activity incorporated the snow tubes mentioned in the previous post.  That led to many interesting operations.  Here is one that is especially fetching.  At the beginning of the video, the boy has lifted the tube from the snow.  There is a little pillar of snow left in the table. He carefully places the tube back over the little snow pillar.  He then reaches down into the table to scoop some more snow.  As he does that, it is interesting to watch how he uses his other hand on the tube for balance, especially as he reaches further into the table to scoop the snow.  After getting some snow, he tries to drop in into the tube.  He gets some of the snow in but most lands on his hand---which must be cold---and back into the table.  He lifts the tube up again and implores me to "look it."  This is a happy and capable two-year-old who has just created his own 3-D puzzle.

Painted Snow in the Snow Tube from Thomas Bedard on Vimeo.

I must caution you that if you are averse to messy activities, stay away from this one.  By the end, the color is "mud" brown and the children are covered with splatters of paint.

If, on the other hand, you appreciate full-on sensory exploration, keep this in mind when the snow flies in your neck of the woods.  If it never snows where you live, then just delight in watching these children paint the snow.


  1. Love this idea, you were lucky to have enough snow to paint with!! I remember years ago we got loads of snow & I brought it into the water tray but never thought to paint it. We have have fun painting it outside though.

    1. Thanks Kierna. The bright white of the snow is just an irresistible canvas for the watered down tempera, I just couldn't resist bringing it inside.