Get Outside and Create: 7 Fantastic Outdoor Winter Art Projects

Cover Image winter outdoor art ideas

Winter is a beautiful time of the year. The snow sparkles and frost paints magical pictures on the trees and on our windows. There is so much inspiration for art and creativity in the winter. Unfortunately, many people see winter as a time to stay inside. We don’t take the opportunity to get outside and be inspired. Let’s make this your year to get outside, create, and thrive. Here are 7 outdoor winter art projects that you can do with your students so that they too can get outside and enjoy the beauty and magic of winter.

two kids dressed in winter clothing

Before You Start- Winter Outdoor Education Safety

Taking the time to ensure that everyone is safe and comfortable will help your students have a positive experience and want to get outside more during the winter.

1. Dressing for the Weather

To ensure your students stay comfortable, warm and dry it’s important to ensure that everyone comes dressed for the winter weather. Kids who don’t come with ski pants or forget their mittens will get wet and cold rather quickly and not enjoy their time outside.

The basics of dressing for winter weather are:

  • dressing in layers
  • avoiding cotton clothing (it gets wet and stays wet)
  • a shell (wind and waterproof layer) as the outer layer on both top and bottom
  • warm winter boots (warm and waterproof)
  • mittens, toques, scarves etc.- bring extras

Take some time to prepare your students so that they know what dressing for the winter weather looks like. You can find some handy tools for communicating with families in our “Get Outside Tool Kit.”

2. Check the Snow and Weather Conditions in Advance

As part of ensuring your student’s safety, be sure to conduct a site assessment of the area you plan on using. Before taking your students out to build, ensure that you check the snow and weather conditions in the area that you plan to build in.

Some Additional Things to Consider Are:

  • how deep is the snow? can the kids easily travel through the snow? Is it accessible to everyone?
  • is the snow covering up any potential hazards?
  • are there icy areas that kids need to be aware of?
  • are there any hazards in the area that need to be mitigated?
  • are there areas with overhanging snow or ice that could fall?
  • what is the temperature and windchill?
  • do we have a warm-up space?
4 kids dressed in winter clothing

7 Fantastic Winter Art Projects

1. Snow Water Colour Painting

Materials: water colour paper, brushes, water colour paints, clipboards, masking tape

I love to do this activity when the snow begins to melt. Students use the melt water in puddles, or from downspouts to wet their brushes for their watercolour paintings. Students enjoy the novelty of being able to use a natural source of water for their paintings. An added bonus is that they can also be inspired for their artwork by the nature that surrounds them outside.

For Snow Water Colour Painting:
  1. Tape watercolour paper to a clipboard
  2. Provide students with watercolour paints (I prefer solid paints) and a brush
  3. If students are unfamiliar with watercolour paints, show them how to use them
  4. Instruct students to play with the watercolour paints using melted snow, water from clean puddles, or water from downspouts to wet their brushes
  5. If you wish, students may paint what they see in their learning space, or they may simply play and experiment with the watercolour paints.
a child's winter water colour painting

2. Spray Paint the Snow

Materials: food colouring, spray/squirt bottles, extra mittens

Here is a great tutorial from Sprouting Wild Ones on Painting the Snow!

This is a great activity for students both young and old. Younger students will simply enjoy the novelty of painting the snow. Older students will have the opportunity to get more creative and layer colours and create intricate, large-scale works of art.

Here are some tips that I have found helpful when spray painting the snow:
  1. Mittens will get wet doing this activity. Have students bring extra mitts so that they can continue to play outside when they are done painting the snow.
  2. Begin a collection of spray and squirt bottles early. If you are purchasing spray bottles, check the quality. I have had varying luck/success with dollar store bottles (some of them break very quickly in the cold.)
  3. Supervise students closely and ensure that they are only painting the snow. I once had a small group of kindergartens spray the steps on the playground because it made a really cool dripping effect…the steps on the playground then became very slippery and were a bit of a slipping hazard!
colourful spray painted snow

3. Colourful Cubes

Materials: Ice cube trays, food colouring, storage container for ice cubes

Creating colourful ice cubes takes a bit of advanced preparation, but can lead to days to weeks (depending on how long your ice cubes last) of creative fun. Check out this tutorial from Happy Hooligans Art, Crafts, Play for how to get started with coloured ice cubes!

Kids will love using the coloured ice cubes as jewels, decorations on their snow forts, or even for creating pictures in the snow. You can also use coloured ice cubes as a way to integrate art and math. I have also used the colourful ice cubes as a way to have my students create patterns. They can also be used for sorting, counting, or even practicing addition and subtraction.

Some tips for using coloured ice cubes with your students:
  1. As the coloured ice cubes melt they can stain your student’s clothing. Provide parents with advanced warning so that they can send old/dark-coloured mittens. You may also wish to have your students wear muddy buddies/new suits if they have them available to protect winter clothing.
  2. This is another activity where students will get wet mittens. Have students bring an extra pair of mittens to use once the first pair gets wet.
  3. If you keep them frozen you can continue to use the coloured ice cubes for days to weeks.
coloured ice cubes

4. Ice Block Sculptures

Check out this tutorial from Barley and Birch on creating your own Ice Block Sculptures! Here is a similar, yet more challenging activity from Wonder How To on building an Ice Block Igloo!

This is a great activity for students both young and old. For younger students, the teacher or adult can take responsibility for creating the ice blocks. When I do this activity with older students I have them plan out their sculpture first and then they are responsible for all of the stages of building their sculptures. This includes selecting and bringing the moulds required for making their blocks, creating their ice blocks, and then building their sculpture. It is a great collaborative activity that keeps the students involved from the planning stage to the building stage.

Some tips for Creating Ice Block Sculptures:
  1. Find a safe outdoor space to have your ice blocks set. They will be intriguing to curious students and may become part of their outdoor play before they are ready to be used.
  2. If you are having students create their own ice blocks have a water filling station that is close to the doors so that students are not walking through the school with containers of water. Set clear boundaries/procedures for filling up the moulds with water. (Example, if you splash water everywhere, make sure to clean it up.) Have clean up supplies readily available for your students.
ice block castle

5. Snow Sculpture Contest

This is a great sticky snow activity. Provide your students with some criteria or a theme, give them a time limit, and have them build to their heart’s content.

Some fun snow sculpture themes could be:
  • creative snow people
  • snow dragons
  • snow animals
  • build a village
  • sculpt your teachers
  • snow carnival/amusement park
  • book characters or scenes
  • a snow banquet
two children building a snowman

6. Nature Ice Art

Materials: Ice moulds (such as pie tins), found nature objects (sticks, needles, leaves, berries, etc.), string

Check out this post from Community Play Things on creating your own winter ice art!

With nature ice art students create their own nature decorations by freezing found nature objects into a mould. This can be a great way to bring nature inside when it is too cold to go outside. It can also be a fun activity for younger kids to do outdoors with adult assistance. I find it fun to do around Christmas time as a way of decorating our outdoor learning space.

leaves frozen in ice

7. Snow Patterns or Mandalas

Materials: A collection of found nature objects (sticks, leaves, branches, berries, cones, etc.)

Some excellent ways to get started with nature mandalas can be found at Discovering Anew!

With snow patterns or snow mandalas, students use found objects to create circular, repeating patterns. These can be built as a class, in small groups, or even as individual student art projects. For younger students you may want to work on simply creating linear patterns.

nature mandala in the snow

Now Let’s Get Outside and Thrive…

Winter is magical and the perfect time to get outside with your students. Don’t let a little bit of cold stop you from getting outside with your students and experiencing the many benefits of outdoor learning. There are so many ways that you can take learning outside and still meet your curricular outcomes, even your art curriculum. Why not get outside and create this winter? Let the beauty of nature inspire you and try out one of these awesome winter outdoor art activities today.

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