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Over and Under the Snow

“Plants and animals don’t fight the winter…They prepare. They adapt. They perform extraordinary acts of metamorphosis to get them through.”

–Katherine May

Over and Under the Snow by Kate Messner with art by Christopher Silas Neal

Over the snow, the world is hushed and white. But under the snow is a secret world of squirrels and snow hares, bears and bullfrogs, and many other animals who live through the winter safe and warm under the snow.

Over and Under Hideouts and Homes

Create hideouts and homes for toy animals over and under the ground where you live.


  • Snow or nature treasures such as rocks, sticks, leaves, pine straw, moss

  • Digging implements and containers for gathering such as small shovels, sticks, buckets, cups, etc.

  • Weather proof or washable animals (bonus connection if they are animals from Over and Under the Snow!)

NOTE: Use what you have in your area! When we lived in Iowa, this time of year was wonderful for creating burrows and tunnels in the deep snow. Here in South Carolina, we create hideouts and homes with fallen leaves, sticks, pine straw and moss. Each area is unique and many different animals live under the top layer we see whether it be snow, leaves or something else! Find wonder in what your region has to offer.

Set Up:

  1. Find the materials above and make them available to your children in your yard or other greenspace.


  1. Wonder with your explorers → “How can we create homes and hideouts for animals?”

  2. Decide on a toy animal with your child to start with and wonder about that animal specifically. For example, How does a mouse stay cozy? Where do mice live in the winter? What do they use to make their homes? How do they dig out the snow or dirt? How do they gather grass or leaves for their nest?

Guide Play:

  1. Encourage your child to gather the materials they name. Gathering items into a container helps to develop the vestibular system which is centered in our inner ear and triggered when we change the position of our heads. This system also supports balance, muscle tone and focus. So just gathering treasures is already such wonderful work for your child’s development!

  2. Wonder where a good spot for the home or hideout could be and begin to bring treasures or digging tools to that spot. Ask “Should we try making a home/hideout for our mouse?” (or whichever creature your child chose).

  3. Now it’s time to follow your child’s lead! Choose one of our Play Facilitation Techniques to support your child’s work as they explore and build a home or hideout.

Language Connection:

Prepositions help us describe where objects are in relation to something else. Over and Under the Snow is a great way to begin talking about prepositions over and under. Depending on your child’s developmental stage, there are many ways you can practice these two prepositions together. Here are a few examples to try, keeping in mind that often, young children gather information through listening first and outputting at a later time. So it’s okay if you are the only one saying or doing the actions. Keep it fun! Exposure to prepositional vocabulary while playing is key here, not mastery.

A. You as the adult model. Put animals over and under the snow/ground and say what you are doing in simple repetitive sentences such as “The mouse is under the leaves. The mouse is over the leaves.” or “It is over. It is under.”

B. Whenever your child demonstrates either over or under with an animal, you sportscast, which is honoring their play by narrating aloud what you see them doing. You can use sentences similar to those above.

C. If your child is ready to participate with language, you can use the sentences above but leave out the over/under and let your child fill in the blank such as “The mouse is _____.”

D. Wonder aloud “Does the mouse want to be over the leaves? Does the mouse want to be under the leaves?” Your child may answer with words or actions – both are valuable!

E. Encourage your child to use the sentences above to describe where their animals are as they move them over and under the homes and hideouts you create together.

F. Ask where else the animals can be (over, under, in, on, between, etc).

Celebrate and Wrap Up:

  1. Celebrate your child’s work and playful learning! If your space allows it, let your child leave their hideouts intact. They may add to them later or they can simply be a good reminder of the hard work they achieved today in their play!

What are we learning?

🔹Behavioral Schema → Gathering and arranging objects to create hideouts and homes activates several behavioral schema, most notably transporting and enclosing.

🔹Prepositions → Prepositions help us describe where objects are in relation to others and learning how to do this both hands on and with repetitive sentences supports language development.

🔹Persistence → Just seeing how animals persist and thrive in winter supports your child’s ability to persist.

🔹Empathy → As your child thinks about the needs of other creatures, they develop cognitive empathy.

🔹Creativity → Using found objects to create a home or hideout for a pretend animal supports creativity and imaginative play.

More Playful Learning

Looking for another playful way to practice prepositions and enclosing schema? Check out We’re Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen and the rest of Kate Messner’s Over and Under series.

I’d love to hear which ideas sparked play and joy with your explorers or if you have any other connections for play! Comment below or tag me in your play on Instagram @magnoliaoutoor.


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