...And the seasons they go round and round, and the painted ponies go up and down. We're captive on the carousel of time..." ~ Joni Mitchell
Any parent knows that having children makes this "carousel of time" go even quicker, but as adults, we don't slow down enough to question how this happens, how time does go by, and how come the seasons go round and round.
But our kids, inquisitive and curious as they are, do ask. And when they do, it's just as easy to have a qualified answer as it is grope your way through a response.
Begin by characterizing the 4 seasons in a way your child can understand. For example:
- We ski in the winter, when it's cold and when it snows.
- We swim in summer, when it's hot and there are leaves on the trees.
- We go apple picking in autumn when school starts and the weather turns a bit colder.
- We plant flowers in spring when the snow melts and the air becomes warmer.
Your family likely has traditions that are particular to seasons - and this is a simple way to explain a more intricate definition which involves the tilt of the Earth's axis, which will likely be over your preschooler's head.
Pictures are also great way to examine the seasons. Finding coloring pages which clearly define each season is an easy, interactive way to get your child thinking about which season is which. Listening to and singing songs about seasons is another idea for implanting the seed into a child's head. Even just taking a moment several times a week to talk about the weather and pointing out the season is helpful for your child's understanding.
Another interesting concept for a preschooler is the idea of the sun. While the scientific explanation about the sun and its job is far too advanced for little minds, start with talking about the fact that each morning, the sun rises. Explaining that the sun is a star is a wonderful place to start. Make a picture of a star inside of the familiar sun and set it over a picture of your own house. Talk about daylight versus nighttime darkness. Explain that the same sun that shines over your home needs to go shine over other little kids in other parts of the world while we sleep. The book, The Grouchy Ladybug by Eric Carle, shows the progression of the sun throughout the ladybug's day - and can even be used as a tool to introduce telling time.