Keeping a summer weather watch

By Beth Pinyerd
Contributing Writer
Posted 7/4/07

Since we’re outside so much during the summer months enjoying what the season has to offer this is a perfect time to teach your young children about how to “watch” the weather. 

What is weather? 

With young children explain that …

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Keeping a summer weather watch


Since we’re outside so much during the summer months enjoying what the season has to offer this is a perfect time to teach your young children about how to “watch” the weather. 

What is weather? 

With young children explain that weather is the condition of air here on earth around us. But we cannot see air. Guide your child in understanding that air is felt when the wind blows; fan your child in order for them to understand the concept of air.  Blow a balloon up to show that air takes up space.  Explain to your child that air is all around us even though we don’t see it.

Explain to your child the sun is responsible for heating up air or atmosphere, which causes water to evaporate into the air and the air rises. The way I explain evaporation to young children is to use a sponge and draw a wet stripe on the board. It slowly disappears, then I ask my young students, “Where does the wet spot go?” Then we discuss that they’ve observed evaporation. 

This can be done at home by putting a round cup of water outside for several days till you and your child observe that it has evaporated into the atmosphere.

One observation that fascinates the young scientist’s eye is the formation of clouds. Guide your child’s eye to identify three kinds of clouds.

Cirrus clouds are feathery clouds that look like they have a curl. I tell young children they look like pulled cotton candy.  Usually cirrus clouds are associated with fair weather. 

Cumulus clouds are heaping clouds. They look like pillows you can jump on.  It’s neat to point out to your child these clouds building up for a summer afternoon shower. 

Stratus clouds look like layers or blankets. Stratus clouds produce rain and drizzle.

Children love to use their imaginations in making different shapes out of clouds. 

Fog is something your child can observe draping over our bay.

Other weather events your child can learn about include thunderstorms and lightning in which the safety rules of not being in a swimming pool or under a tree where lightning can strike should be stressed for your child’s safety.

Water spouts, which often can be observed during a storm over Mobile bay, draw up large columns of water.  It’s a tornado over water.

One doesn’t want to really observe tornadoes. 

Tornadoes are the most destructive natural phenomena. Winds can get up to a high speed. At times small tornadoes can be observed from a safe distance. 

Being on the coast we have been through the high speed windstorm of a hurricane.

Dust devils are small tornadoes over land areas. A dust devil draws up dust, leaves and debris. In being near one of these make sure dust or sand doesn’t get in your child’s eyes.

The most beautiful sight to observe on a summer afternoon is an arching rainbow. Explain to your young children that rainbows are caused by sunlight penetrating raindrops and is broken into the beautiful color bands of violet, indigo, red, orange, yellow and green.

The neatest sight I have observed as a teacher is to see little ones try to chase a rainbow in a field. So many times if a rainbow is low-lying, a child can run into the prism of beautiful colors.

Some simple tools that children can use to measure and observe weather are thermometers, to measure temperature, and rain gauges. Thermometers are inexpensive and your child can read how hot or cold it is.A rain gauge could be a bucket that you use a ruler with to measure an amount of rain.

Another family activity is to watch a local or national weather station. You would be surprised at how much your young meteorologist can understand about forecasts, weather events on a map

So many times, especially during the summer when it is so hot, a young child may ask why the air feels wet.  Explain to them that the “wetness” is called humidity. It’s not too big a word for your little meteorologist to put in his weather vocabulary.

I hope this article will help you begin to be happy weather-watchers during these summer months. 

It is a fun, learning experience that you and your child can enjoy together.

Beth Pinyerd serves as children’s director at Faith Family Fellowship in Spanish Fort.