As we herald in the beginning of the end, we start to wave goodbye to ice-lollies, sunshine and swimming costume splashes. It’s easy to get frustrated with the fickle nature of autumn weather, but it really is a wonderful time of year. And summer isn’t over yet!
From a warm summer breeze to a blustery winter gale, the wind is a fickle occurrence that can be heard but not seen, felt but not touched. It is a fantastic opportunity for learning… and of course, play!
Young children may not yet be able to grasp the complexities of air pressure, but don’t let that fool you into thinking they’re not scientists just waiting to explore. Take a moment to watch children playing in the wind- if they throw a ball which is knocked off course by a breeze, they will compensate on their next attempt: cause and effect, check. If they try to catch a falling leaf that twists and turns as it falls, they will try to predict its course: extrapolation, check. If they throw a selection of different balls into the air and catch them when they return, they will react to the different speeds at which the balls drop: understanding forces, check.
There are loads of different ways you can harness the wind to encourage children’s natural curiosity.
Fly a Kite
Nothing beats watching a kite soar in the wind. Well, maybe one thing- watching a handmade kite soar in the wind. Experiment with different shapes, sizes and materials. Does a bigger kite fly better than a smaller one? How much support does the material need? How does the length of string affect its flight? There’s loads of easy tutorials online if you’re stuck for ideas. Make sure to fly your kites in a safe place- watch out for overhead cables, nearby buildings and other people!
Streamers and Windsocks
Who wants to learn about directions?
Stick strips of brightly coloured paper, ribbon or fabric onto a stationary post outside. Watch the wind whip them into a flurry and introduce the concepts of compass directions (maybe with the help of an actual compass!), or of left and right.
Windsocks can be used in a similar way. They can usually be found on an airfield. Did you know that aeroplanes must always take off into the wind? Grab a pillowcase and hold it up into the wind, stretch out your aeroplane arms and ‘take off’.
A good quiet time activity is a spot of cloud watching. It promotes mindfulness and and teaches concentration. Get them to focus on the shape- can they find a circle? a teapot? a stomping velociraptor in a tutu? Are they all moving the same speed, or are some quicker than others?
I still struggle to walk past a dandelion clock without blowing the seeds all a-scatter. Sycamore and maple trees have seeds with ‘wings’ that flutter down to the ground. On a simple woodland forage, there are numerous varieties of seed pods to be found. This would be a fantastic time to introduce the concepts of plant life cycles.
Most children nowadays will have seen a wind farm. Experimenting with windmills is a great way to bring the concept of sustainable energy into the classroom (or the playground!). It’s super easy to make your own windmills, and you can experiment with different materials and colours. Add some bubbles into the mix and your children will be blown away!