It’s Not All Mary Poppins

Mystery Solved … by SCIENCE!

We were reading Ezra Jack Keats’ The Snowy Day yesterday. Absolute classic children’s story about a little boy exploring the snow. We will be trying out some of Peter’s ideas in the coming days.

We’ll walk with our toes pointed out, we’ll walk with our toes pointed in. We’ll drag our feet to make tracks, and make tracks with stick. We might even try snowballs!

I’ve done all that before with small children. Yesterday, though, I stumbled across something new. When Peter goes in for the evening, he puts a snowball in his pocket for the next day. When he checks on his snowball before bed … it’s gone!

“Where did it go?” I asked the children. Because of course you chat about your books as you read. “Where did Peter’s snowball go?


Three pairs of eyes gaze back at me. Full of blankness. No inspiration there, at all, at all.

I point to the suspicious spot on the outside of his coat. “It sure looks like his coat is wet. Why would his pocket be wet like that?” Hint, hint…

Nope. More blankness. They truly don’t know.

Well, now. This calls for some investigation! So out we go to the front porch. Well, in the interests of efficiency, out I go. Scoop up a small bowl of snow, and bring it in. We peer into the depths and make our observations.

We discover that the snow is white, and cold, and a bit prickly under our fingers. (I think the “prickly” was their way of describing the ice crystals in there, or maybe just the intense cold on a warm fingertip.)

We put the bowl on the table and went away. Every few minutes we’d come back and have another look. And damned if the snow wasn’t getting smaller! And now there was water in the bowl, too! And maybe, maybe the snow isn’t as white as it was?

A few minutes later, we’re sure. No, the snow isn’t so white. In fact, it’s getting clearer. And there’s even more water in there!

Any ideas why?



It’s a mystery! Isn’t that exciting?!?

When the bowl is largely a small collection of watery slush, I give them each a tiny dollop of snow in their palms.

“Just hold it, guys. Hold your hands still and watch that snow. Tell me what happens to it.”

It’s a matter of seconds before each small pink palm holds nothing more than an even smaller puddle. They peer into their hands. They look at me.

“Well. Where’s the snow?”

Rory knows. “It’s GONE!”

“It certainly is! Where did it go?”


“You had snow in your hands. Now you have water. What happened to the snow?”

A light goes on in Grace’s face.

“Water!! At water! The snow is gone at water!”

And lo, there is much rejoicing, for verily, Grace is right. The snow is gone at water! I toss around some more words, including “frozen”, “warm”, and “melting”, but we have got the gist of it.

The snow is gone at water.

Toddler science is so fun.


January 5, 2012 - Posted by | books, Developmental stuff, Grace | , , , ,


  1. Now I want it to snow here so I can do this with my gang. 🙂

    I cannot express to you what a total mind-f…(er, you know) it is to me that you don’t get great enormous heaps o’snow out there. Every time you say something like this I blink in astonishment.

    Comment by Hannah | January 5, 2012 | Reply

    • We had one storm in late November and two days later it was all melted. We had snow on Dec 23 and it melted on Boxing Day. Today we had a grand total of 2cm and they are calling for rain on Saturday. We are having a freakishly warm winter, even for the east coast – although the freeze / snow / rain / thaw cycle is generally typical.

      We are having a freakishly warm winter here, too, with no snow whatsoever through most of December. Towards the end of December it got more typical. At the beginning of this week it was a seasonal -24 in the morning, two days later it was a balmy -5. Wow. Right now it’s -10, supposed to go up to -3, which, for January, is just Weird. The icicles are totally gone from my porch roof. Melted right away in the sun. We have snow, but not much. Hardly any snowbanks at all. NOT that I’m complaining!!! But it sure is odd.

      Comment by Hannah | January 5, 2012 | Reply

  2. There’s a Shel Silverstein poem my 7yo loves about that very issue. A kid makes a “pet snowball” and takes it to bed with him… but when he wakes up it’s GONE… “but first it wet the bed.” 🙂

    I have several Silverstein books, but I don’t recall this one. I’ll have to look it up! Maybe the kids will get the joke now!

    Comment by Ms. Huis Herself | January 5, 2012 | Reply

  3. I used to play a song called “Pass the beanbag” and we’d all sit in a circle and pass the beanbag until the music stopped, then see who had it. To amuse myself one winter day I used an ice cube instead of the normal beanbag. Funniest thing as they tried to pass it around, and finally one boy held up his hands and said “all gone!”

    See, in January, even those of us who live Down South teach about winter weather/snow. But I think most kids here think snow is something like cotton balls, or tissue paper, or maybe popcorn.

    So it doesn’t actually hurt when you hold it in your fist too long? Heh. I love your game, by the way. I think we will try it. Though we might not have enough hands to share the cold — it might start to hurt their wee hands by the fifth go-round and still not melted!

    Curious that you’d teach about snow. Why is that? Well, I understand for older children, but for pre-schoolers, who are still only learning understand their own environment. Unless you do get at snow, at least a little, occasionally?

    Comment by Jill in Atlanta | January 5, 2012 | Reply

    • Because, no matter where you live, winter is associated with snow and snowmen in all their books and media. We do get at least one snow worth playing in each winter, and ten inch snowmen full of pine needles are common. Best one we had was a full 4′ tall, but was still around when the temps hit 70 a few days later. Funny to see.

      I guess it would require some explanation, then, wouldn’t it? “Ten inch snowmen full of pine needles” made me grin. I can just see that! In fact, I have, when desperate kids make snowmen with that they can, at the very tail end of winter. Cute.

      We make snowmen when we can (and we certainly could now, though by our standards there’s not a lot of snow) but when the temperatures fall to more seasonal norms (which I’m sure they will, boo) it will be too cold. Cold snow is dry snow, and it doesn’t pack together at all. Just handfuls of fluff. Like trying to make balls out of teeny feathers. The older kids get all excited when there’s a milder day and “there’s packy snow!!!”

      Comment by Jill in Atlanta | January 5, 2012 | Reply

      • If I may jump in, I’m a preschool teacher in Singapore and we do teach our kidlets about snow too although it’s something that we definitely don’t see any of. We even make cotton-wool snowmen with them. 🙂

        Thank you for your comment! Now that I think on it, why wouldn’t you? When I talk about animals with the children, we’ll include monkeys, something most of them will never see outside a zoo… but which you could feasibly find not too far from your home! In part, the appeal is that it’s interesting and different!

        Comment by grace | January 6, 2012

  4. Well, how cool is that?! “The snow is gone at water.” Briliant. Aren’t little kids the best? Been catching up, some great posts. 😀

    Comment by Sheri | January 9, 2012 | Reply

  5. A friend of mine likes to tell me about one day when her brother was little, he came up to her and said “Do you know, that in China, they like to MELT ICE and then EAT IT?”

    To this day she has no idea where he got that from, but it gave her a good laugh, not to mention a chance to explain that ice is water.

    Comment by IfByYes | January 24, 2012 | Reply

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