Math – Snowmen At Night

This might seem really strange to many child care providers, but I do not build my units focusing on language and literacy. To me that is a natural byproduct of working with books as part of a lesson/unit study. I also have a major bias, that math is more natural for children and is really important as a foundation for building language and literacy. Math is about understanding relationships and symbols. Without that understanding how does a child understand letter forms and our interesting phonemics?

I love looking at developing my units thinking about STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math). I’ve always found the curiosity of children to naturally lead into learning the foundational concepts of math and getting excited about the natural world and science. Add in the Creative Arts and how can you not find a way to engage children. I also like using all kinds of technology tools available as part of the learning occurring within my program. Technology for me doesn’t just mean computers or tablets. We do use both here, but also tools like a camera, a laminator, magnifying glasses, and thermometers to work their way into usage for the “Winter” unit.


“Young children are natural mathematicians. Even as infants and young toddlers they engage in matching and sorting activities. Children age three to five are eager to learn the role of math in everyday life, and benefit from rich learning environments and adults who introduce important concepts and content to them. This approach supports an appreciation for math and gives the young child a foundation in math which builds upon their natural curiosity and desire to learn.” 

Mathematical Practices:

  • Develops positive attitudes about math
  • Participates in whole group and small group math-focused activities
  • Recognizes the idea of a “problem” and “problem solving” in the physical and social world.
  • Communicates math ideas verbally and non-verbally 

Counting and Cardinality Cluster:

  • Rote Counts to 10 and beyond by ones with increasing accuracy
  • Recognizes and names written numerals 0-5
  • Recognizes the relationship between numbers and quantities: connect counting to cardinality (0-5).
  • Shows understanding that the last number name spoken tells the number of objects counted up to 5 (cardinality)

Operations and Algebraic Thinking:

  • Responds with number words and/or counting strategy, when asked the question, How many?
  • Transitions from rote counting to 1:1 correspondence 


  • Recognizes and names/describes simple shapes
  • Matches similar shapes
  • Explores three-dimensional and two-dimensional shapes in the environment
  • Uses physical movement to gain understanding of orientation and directionality
  • Responds to words indicating directionality and position through physical movement (near, far, beside, up, down, over)

Measurement and Data:

  • Matches and groups similar objects
  • Recognizes measurable attributes of objects, such as length, weight and capacity of everyday objects (e.g., long, short, tall, heavy, light, big, small, full, empty)
  • Sorts, orders and classifies familiar objects by a single attribute (e.g., size, shape, color, texture, orientation, and position) and explains the reason
  • Uses seriation as a strategy for organizing materials (formation, arrangement, succession, or position in a series or orderly sequence)
  • Demonstrates an understanding of time periods (a short time /a long time, “five more minutes”, morning, afternoon, night)
  • Relates concepts of past, present and future to daily activities
  • Explores and begins to use measurement tools 

Math concepts are a large part of the natural world that children are curious about, yet so often I hear providers stating they are not comfortable with math. Snowmen provide many opportunities to explore math concepts. You have 3-D spheres, 2-D circles, small/medium/large circles, measuring, counting, preposition language understanding (beside, under, on top off, behind, in front of), sequencing and time, just to start. You can make your own materials, but there are many quality materials being shared by other teachers that cover just about every math concept you are interested in.

There are many expansion ideas shared online around “Snowmen At Night” and the other books in the series. Many of these have been pinned to a special board: FCCAM Book Discussion – Snowmen At Night. The expansions cover math, science, tactile play, and creative arts focusing on “Snowmen At Night”, but other snowman books are also mentioned. If you don’t read “Snowmen At Night” with your group, most of the expansion activities can be adapted for almost any snowman book.

Here are some activities I have included as part of my Winter unit over the years.

Measure & Data: order snowmen by size pdf

Order written numeral puzzles pdf (video of activity in use)

Build a snowman pdf

Hat and Mitten pattern strips pdf

Snowman Glyph pdf

There are many printables like this one to be found on Pinterest.

I don’t use a lot of these types of printables for any group here on the whole, but for some children they are appropriate and of real benefit. Hands-on games and manipulatives are my initial go to as I find most children can use as originally designed or with some minor adaptation. I find these types of activities are more adaptable for mixed ages and to the materials I regularly have on hand.

Here are other activities I have included regularly within my “Winter” unit:

Draw a more life size snowman. Write numbers scattered over it. Have children toss beanbags, rolled socks, etc. onto the snowman. Have them call out the number they cover. Can do with individual or group calling out answers. If you make the snowman reversible you can do letters on the other side, or colored snowflakes, or shapes. Adapt for the needs of your group.

3-D Snowman (video): You can adapt the directions from either of these sites: retro papercut ornaments or easy Christmas ornament to make the individual balls. We ran the hanging yarn down through each ball to build the hanging snowman. I don’t do the fancier gluing with a younger group, as the time required usually stretches past their attention point.

Snowball Sensory Box (video) This box is constructed by using a variety of white sphere shaped objects such as cotton ball, white pom poms, styrofoam balls of different sizes and textures, white wrapping ribbon, and different size containers to be filled. I also added flat circle cotton pads. You could cut circles from different white fabrics or white foam sheets. I find it important to have sensory boxes available for children. You are able to have wonderful conversations where it is easy to expand language and discuss concepts. 

Circles = Snowmen (video): Go on a hunt for circle shapes that can be easily traced around within your space. I also always have a variety of precut shapes from cardboard (usually recycled cereal or cracker boxes) on hand. The children can trace around these circles to build a snowman on long sheets of paper (background color is optional). Where you go with this activity is driven by the children and supplies you have on hand. 

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