11 Winter Children's Books That Encourage Outdoor Play

November 10, 2017



I know that the official first day of winter isn't until next month, but since the snow doesn't patiently wait until Winter Solstice to start falling down in these parts, well, neither do I (besides, we saw our first flurries just last night). While I'll wait to reintroduce the bulk of the wintry tales till nearer to December, I've taken a few titles down from the shelf to remind and prepare Ramona for the season ahead of us.

As adults, it's so easy to get into the habit of begrudging winter - driving on icy roads, shoveling driveways, dressing squirmy toddlers in multiple layers (undressing squirmy toddler in multiple layers), cleaning puddles of melted ice in hallways. The magic of the first snow is quickly outweighed by the inconvenience. It seems so commonplace to complain about winter, which I feel so much more keenly aware of now that I have an impressionable toddler who listens to everything we say, positive or negative. I don't want to prematurely taint her view of a truly enchanted time of year just because my feet are cold from November to April. After all, I have fond childhood memories of being snowed in, playing in snow banks, sledding, building snowmen and snow angels, and hardly noticing the cold through all of it.

Here are some of my favourite books that celebrate winter in all its beauty and magic, and encourage children (and hopefully their parents) to explore and enjoy it.

And if you're interested, here's a great article called Why We Have to Change the Way We Talk About the Weather to foster a greater love for the outdoors, in rain, snow or sunshine.

Winter by Gerda Muller is a beautiful, wordless board book that captures the spirit of winters in snowy climates - sledding, snowball fights, shoveling snow, ice skating, making garlands and decorating a tree, even catching snowflakes on tongues. Gerda Muller's illustrations are a joy to look at, and while there is no text, there is much to see and talk about on each page. My favourite page is a two-page spread is a happy scene of a family in their backyard - one child filling a bird feeder, another rolling a large snowball with her father, and the mother peeking out the back door. This book is part of a seasonal series that includes Spring, Summer, Autumn.

The Story of the Snow Children by Sybille Von Olfers is a magical story of a little girl, Poppy, who is taken on an adventure by the snow children to a snow kingdom. There she is greeted by the queen, and dances with snow royalty in an ice palace until she realizes that she misses home terribly, and is quickly whisked away on a sleigh right to her front door where her mother greets her. It's a simple story, and we enjoy reading it over and over for the gentle, calming flow of events. The illustrations are what truly makes the story worthwhile - scenes of snowflake children dancing and swirling in the air, a beautiful snow queen and princess, snowmen guards, and a palace made of ice. The contrast of Poppy in her bright red coat amid the monochromatic whites and blues of the winter wonderland is especially striking.



The Tomten and the Fox by Astrid Lindgren is a story of a hungry fox in search of food on a snowy winter night near Christmastime. He approaches a farm and starts poking his nose into the barn and shed, and finally the chicken coop. Before he can cause any mischief, along comes the Tomten in the snow, a gnome-like creature who protects the farm during the night. I love the exchange between the Tomten and the fox - the fox trying to convince the little bearded gnome that he was "only looking - there's no harm in looking" and the Tomten kindly offering the fox his porridge, and saying if he's hungry, he's welcome to come back for more. This story is so tender and heartwarming, with such a gentle, rhythmic narrative. It was one of Ramona's favourite last winter, and we've since got her the companion book The Tomten to read to her this winter. I have a feeling we'll be searching for a Tomten on out outdoor walks this year.

The Mitten by Jan Brett is a story based off a classic Ukrainian folktale about a boy, Nicky who loses his snow-white mitten in the woods. A mole comes across it and makes himself right at home inside, and then a rabbit, a hedgehog, owl, badger - and so on - all squeeze themselves in beside him one by one until there's no room left! Brett's illustrations, as always, are so classic and beautiful, with foreshadowing in the panels of each page, and images Nicky playing and exploring in the snow. Last year we gave Ramona her own copy along with the matching Ostheimer woodland animals so we could reenact the story (her favourite part, of course, is when the bear sneezes and sends all the other animals tumbling into the snow).


Over and Under the Snow by Kate Messner is a story of a child cross-country skiing with their father in the woods. On the surface, the winter woodland seems quiet, empty and still, but the father describes the "secret world" that lies beneath the snow - and even above it if you're paying close enough attention. This book opens children up to the natural world around them, sharing information about the habits of wild animals in winter, encouraging them to be on the look out for signs of animal life when outdoors. Each of the books from this nature series by Kate Messner and Christopher Silas has been a favourite of Ramona's, with so much to see and talk about on every page. The other titles from the series are Up in the Garden, Down in the Dirt and Over and Under the Pond.


Owl Moon by Jane Yolen follows a child and their first experience "owling" with their father on a quiet winter night in the moonlight. The story and illustrations have this beautiful, calm, slow quality about them as the child describes the brightness of the moon, the stillness of the trees, the shadows on the snow - and how when you go owling you have to be quiet, and brave, and make your own warmth. You get a sense of the magic of doing something for the first time - all the new sensations, the little details that all seem so significant - and finally the wonder of seeing a Great Horned Owl in the moonlight! Ramona and I love to spot the little animals hiding in the forest - a raccoon asleep inside the hole of a tree, a curious fox, a well-hidden deer.


The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats is a story about a little boy on his adventures in the first snow of the season - making footprints, dragging sticks in the snow, shaking snow down from trees, sliding down snowdrifts, making snow angels, and wishing he was big enough to join snowball fights (maybe next year). The illustrations are beautiful, with bright colours and clean lines, following a red gnome-like child through the snow. This was a childhood favourite of mine, embodying all the excitement to explore and the possibilities that come with a fresh, untouched layer of snow.



Sadie and the Snowman by Allen Morgan is a sweet story about a girl, Sadie, and her winter of building and rebuilding a snowman. Each time the snowman melts, and his face (made from a variety of food) is stolen away by wild animals - she takes what's left of her special snowman and starts over with each new snow. There's a lovely, optimistic message as Sadie is never discouraged that her snowman melts, always knowing that there will be a chance to rebuild him again. Even as spring approaches and the snowman melts down to a bowl full of water beneath her porch, Sadie simply puts it in the freezer knowing that winter will come again next year, and she can use what's left to rebuild her wintry friend all over again!


Ollie's Ski Trip by Elsa Beskow is the story of a little boy, Ollie, who receives his first pair of skis, and as soon as the first snow falls he takes off on a magical wintry adventure. On his journey, he meets Jack Frost, King Winter, and Mrs. Thaw. He visits a snow palace with polar bears and icy turrets, meets children making Christmas presents, and has a huge snowball fight. Eventually, Mrs. Thaw starts to melt all the snow and ice for spring to arrive, which Ollie is quite disappointed about until he sees Spring arrive in a chariot pulled by butterflies. As always, Elsa Beskow's illustrations are wonderful, and she builds a beautiful world to expand children's imaginations.


First Snow by Bomi Park begins when a little girl wakes up to see the first snowfall outside of her window. She puts on her winter clothes and goes into her yard, and starts to roll a snowball - the book follows her as she pushes the snowball out of her yard, past houses, through the country, and into the woods as the ball slowly becomes bigger and bigger. She eventually meets other children, also rolling snowballs, in a field, and they all begin to build snowmen - and then the next day the child awakes to see the same snowman she built in her yard. There's a lovely dreamlike quality to the book - a child's big imagination that took her on a big adventure in her own yard. The illustrations are beautiful, shades of black, grey and white - and the contrast of a bright red scarf.



Snow Balls by Lois Ehlert shares the story of a family who has collected items - string and seeds, pasta and ticket stubs, buttons and bottlecaps - all year long to decorate their snow creations all winter long. The story is sweet, sharing some facts (and presenting some questions) about winter while sharing a colourful snow family. Like many of Ehlert's book, this book encourages some creativity using odds and ends to create something unique and new - in this case, a snowman!

This post is in partnership with the Amazon Associates Program and contains affiliate links. As part of this program, I receive compensation. However, as always, all thoughts, opinions and run-on sentences expressed here are my own.

1 comment :

  1. Such a great blog entry, thank you! Inspirational indeed! Would you mind sharing a list of your favourite parenting and other types of books and perhaps the mentioned book wish-list for you and your lovely daughter?

    ReplyDelete