Learn Why Seasons Change in Your Homeschool

Why seasons change can be hard for many children to grasp.  It is hard to imagine how big the Earth is from our little place upon it, let alone to imagine it taking 365 days to revolve around a sun 93 million miles away.  And then to visualize how all of this controls what season it is where we live is almost too much for us adults to wrap our heads around!

So, I find reviewing some basic activities each (and every!) equinox and solstice helps children eventually gain some understanding of why seasons change.  Here are those multi-sensory activities that lead your children from learning the information to showing what they have learned to explaining what they have learned.  Make sure to download the FREE booklet, Why Seasons Change? and every three months complete the current season’s pages to help develop this understanding.

Pinnable cover for the blog post How to Study the Seasons showing printables to go along with the unit.

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Videos About Why Seasons Change

Starting with a visual representation of how the Earth revolves around the sun and thus causes the seasons is key.  Plus it is nice to have someone else explain it!  Check these out:

Booklet: Why Seasons Change?

Then, use this booklet for children to work in every three months to develop their understanding of why seaons change. It can be used with children from 1st to 3rd grades.  Even younger children could be included and complete the drawings.

The first four pages lead you through a review of what children have learned in the above videos.  Then, there are two pages for each season.  There are also quizzes at the end of the booklet if you want to assess what your children have remembered from the lessons.  It is suggested that you review this booklet every three months when the season changes.  It can be helpful to continue this for more than one year if your children are struggling with the concept.

Black and white printables pages about the seasons with places to fill in blanks.

Act Out the Movements of the Earth

Acting out how the Earth moves around the sun can really help children understand why seasons change.  Especially, if your children are tactile learners.  (If you are not sure how your children learn best, read What is Your Child’s Learning Style?)

This works best with two people in a dark room.  One is the ‘sun’ and holds a lantern or a lamp.  The other is the ‘Earth’ and revolves or orbits around the sun.  They may carry a globe or they can just be a ‘human Earth’. (Some children may need to feel themselves tilt toward and away from the sun to understand how it affects what season it is.)  Children will need to stay tilted AND facing one direction the whole time the orbit the sun.  This way they will be tilted toward the sun sometimes, tilted away from the sun at the opposite side of the orbit and titlted neither toward or away from the sun in between each end of the orbit.

Point out the equator on the globe or the ‘human Earth’ and then the northern and southern hemispheres.  The ‘Earth’ can tilt and call out what season it is for one or both of the hemispheres as he or she revolves around the Earth. It can be helpful to place a sticker on the globe or ‘human Earth’ in one of the hemispheres to help them understand which hemisphere they care calling out the seasons for.

A boy holding a latern on his head to represent the sun and another boy holding a globe to represent the earth revolving around the sun.

Play Simon Says

If your children seem to understand the movement activity above and why seasons change, make it into a game.  They will be the Earth and you will have something stationary that will be the sun.  This could be as simple as a yellow ball on the floor, a chair, or really anything else they can walk around.  Or you as ‘Simon’ could be the sun…maybe even change the name of the game to The Sun Says!  Then give them directions such as “Simon Says…:

Rotate for one day.”  Children will need to turn in a circle one time.

Rotate for ____ days.” (Make up a number.) Children will need to turn in a circle the correct number of times.

Rotate for 24 hours.” Children will need to turn in a circle one time.

Rotate for ____ hours.” (Make up a number.) Children will need to turn in a circle the correct fraction of a turn or the correct number of turns. E.g., 12 hours = 1/2 turn.  You could also call this ‘1/2 day’.

Revolve for one year.” Children will need to walk in an oval or elliptical path around the sun one time.

Revolve for ______ years.” (Make up a number.) Children will need to walk in an oval or elliptical path around the sun the correct number of times.

Orbit for one year.” Children walk in an oval or elliptical path around the sun one time.  Discuss that revolve and orbit mean the same thing.

Orbit for ______ years.” (Make up a number.) Children will need to walk in an oval or elliptical path around the sun the correct number of times.  You could also give them fractions of year such as 1/2 a year or even say 6 months.

You could make the game more advanced by adding in the Earth’s tilt and telling them to start with it being summer in the northern hemisphere or winter in the nothern hemisphere, etc.

Four Seasons Sorting Mats

While the FREE booklet above has quizzes to assess what children have learned, we have found with our boys that hands on review and assessment is much more fun.  These sorting mats allow children to look at text and pictures of the information they have learned and then match them to the correct season on a mat.  Trial and error can be used, too.  There is an answer key for children to check their own work.  These mats are great for children to work with several times and can be pulled out every equinox and solstice and even in between to help remind them why seasons change.

Photo of all four seasons of sorting mats with matching cards on most of the sections.

To buy the Four Seasons Mats:

Cover of the Four Seasons Sorting Mats with title, picture of one mat and a couple cards.

Draw a Diagram of Why Seasons Change

The last step of really understanding information learned is to teach it to someone else!  Allow your children to be the ‘teacher’ (how many kids love this?) and draw a diagram on a white board or paper or even with chalk outside.  Now, can they explain how the earth moves and the seasons change?  They may be able to draw it, but have trouble verbally explaining it.  Reviewing some of the vocabulary they have learned such revolve, tilt, equinox, orbit, etc. can help.

Use Seasonal Activities Throughout the Season

Help your children understand that seasons last from three months by incorporating seasonal activities throughout the season.  You could read books about the season like these winter chapter books or take a homeschool field trip like going to a farm in the spring to see the new baby animals or going to a pumpkin patch in the fall.  Or you could grab these four seasons bingo sheets to give you lots of ideas to use throughout each season.

How else have you learned about the seasons with your children?  Comment below and share with others!

Other Related Resources

Does this lesson inspire your children to want to learn more about the universe around them?  Check out:

Cover for blog post Children's Book and Videos About spacePinnable cover for Solar System FREE Unit Stud showing pirntables and the book.