January Cultural Calendar Ideas

In Gitsenimx January is named hloxsa (1) gwineeḵw: the month of cold. 

In Cree, it is Kisepisim: the great moon. 

What is the word used to describe this month in your community’s cultural calendar? What teachings does the word contain that educators can explain to the children and explore through activities this month? Invite your Elders and Knowledge Keepers in to assist with planning for the new year, their teachings will inspire many new and thoughtful ideas!  

We are excited to go into a new year supporting AHS programs across the province and celebrating the many teachings, events, activities and interactions that will happen this year!  

Are there any resources that your program needs assistance with sourcing? Do you need assistance creating a cultural calendar or developing activities that are based on your cultural calendar? Please let your regional advisor know if you need assistance and would like a referral to our ECE specialist, Michelle Gravelle: ecespecialist@ahsabc.com who will be excited to assist you!

January is often a month where food insecurity may show up for families due to the holiday season. What resources and referrals does your program offer to families facing economic shortages this month and food insecurity?  

January is the perfect time to host a self care evening for parents to get some rest and relaxation after the busy holiday season. 

  • Think about offering a cultural cooking class with a warm, nutritious and filling meal. 
  • Suggestions that come out of our PEPs are activities that provide parents and children with an interactive play experience that involves creative play or story telling or experiences that offer parents the opportunity to interact with their child and elders to learn about traditional parenting practices. 
     
  • Other Winter fun can include inviting families outdoors to take part in a traditional activity such as snow shoeing. 

Here are some ideas to encourage inspiration in new opportunities and experiences through program set up for the New Year!  

Art Centre:

A new year brings the opportunity to add new additions to your art centre to inspire new creations and artistic interactions.

  • Source out and post colourful Northern Lights photos at the children’s level in the art area. Label with traditional language the Northern Lights and the colours that you would see represented in the Northern Lights.
  • Handheld hole punchers and shape punches make for fun tools to manipulate.
  • Ideas of Items to Have available for the Children to Explore as They Create: bubble wrap recycled from December packages, cardstock, different colors of foil, cotton balls and cotton baton, white glue, epsom salts for sprinkling on the glue, colourful chalks and watercolors, pompoms, buttons, small sticks and twigs collected off the ground in the fall, leftover winter wrapping paper, paper bags in all sizes and food coloring/water and straws to try blowing paint on different colors of paper for an Northern Lights effect!
  • Snowflake patterns, lightweight paper and scissors are also great for developing and refining cutting skills and make from some serious concentration, and they inspire creativity.

Try a new paint recipe and ways to apply these types of paint such as icing/piping bags or condiment squeeze bottles!

Craft:

January is a fun month to make 3D snowglobes with the children.

Sensory Ideas:

  • For those with snow the very best winter sensory is fun in the snow! This could be making snow people, snow angels or body imprints in the snow, finger painting in the snow etc.
  • For those without snow making ice for the children to play with as a sensory still gives that cold hands-on experience that encourages new vocabulary through the sensation of touching something cold!

Sensory Table: 

Snow, ice cubes, artificial snow, foam packing peanuts recycled from December.

How to Make Snow for Pretend Play

Playdough:

Recipe for White Play Dough

Ideas for additions to add texture to your white playdough:

Tinsel, tin foil pieces, foil confetti, white seed beads or pony beads, peppermint essential oil, white or blue sand, foam balls, twine or string.

Science Ideas: 

  • Display pictures of different patterns of snowflakes in the science area!
  • The science of snowflakes! Have microscopes for children to closer examine snowflakes!
  • Condensation and frost science experiments.
  • Grow your own polar bear activity. Polar Bear Science Experiment
  • How is snow made? How much water is in snow.
  • Build a crystal snowman.

Cooking / Food Prep / Gathering:

Traditionally, this was a great month for Bannock making while family members were getting reprieve from the colder weather. Invite an Elder or community member in to teach their favourite Bannock recipe and/or have the children learn how to make their own butter to put onto their Bannock.

What is the word for Bannock in your traditional language? These are great opportunities to make documentation boards out of the pictures and using the children’s words to describe these processes.

Take the cooking outdoors, find a clean patch of snow and have the children participate in making snow taffy. Metis and Indigenous Peoples with mixed French ancestry have been making this for hundreds of years!

Playful Additions:

Building Block/Construction Area

  • Try some new and fun activities in the block area.
  • Shape Puzzles.
  • Use painters’ tape on the floor, building table or light table to create shapes! This could be a log cabin shape, tipi shape, mitten shape, snowflake shape etc.
  • Have children fill the shapes with blocks! This is a fun activity that helps create spatial awareness.

Dramatic Play Area:

Set up an ice fishing area, skating rink, or other winter landscape to inspire storytelling and creativity.

Tie the dramatic play area into your loft décor this month!

Also have out groups of items that encourage group story telling and cooperative play!

Reading Area:

Winter is traditionally a time to gather and tell stories and legends as some legends have protocols on what season they can be shared. Does your local nation(s) have legends that are specifically told in the wintertime?

Transform your reading space into a traditionally inspired storytelling spot.

  • Teepee, longhouse, log cabin, canvas tent etc.
  • In creating a cozy area to gather:
    • This could be on buffalo or bear furs, on traditionally made quilts or blankets.
  • Children can help make a fire as a centerpiece or these can be made from felt and other materials.
  • Have books about traditional winter activities, arctic animals, and science.
  • Books about snow and ice, along with winter legends. 

Suggested Legends & Oral Stories:

  • Legends of Wesakechak (Michelle’s favourite: Wesakechak and Asnee).
  • The Ojiibway Creation Story.
  • Adventures of Nanaboozhoo.
  • Arctic tales of Tikta’Liktak! 

Does your nation have stories about a trickster or a legendary mischief maker? Which of these stories are only shared in the Winter? 

Outdoor Ideas:

Have the children create nature inspired ice ornaments to hang on trees and other areas outdoors. Invite parents/caregivers and family members for a family skating day at a local arena, skating pond or outdoor rink. This is a great way to encourage physical activity as a family in the outdoors!  

For Those Programs That are Surrounded by Snow: Invite parents/caregivers and community members for an outdoor adventure such as snowshoeing, tobogganing or for a winter walk to look for animal tracks in the snow!   

Other Daily Outdoor Ideas: painting the snow with large paintbrushes, or spray bottles and food colouring! Drawing in the snow using sticks, rocks and twigs. Colored ice treasure hunt in the snow, create a fun obstacle course or maze out of snow or play games such as freeze tag and Simon says! 

For our Southern Programs: Try being animal detectives and go for walks to search for animal tracks that may be frozen in mud or ice and listen and identify possible animal noises. Make nature art in the outdoors and create ice and do ice experiments outside!

Circle Time Area:

Innovative Ideas: The children at AMC have been learning how to sing the winter song Jingle Bells in Cree! On Dec 15th, 2023, they performed this song along with a welcoming song and a Christmas song to families at their yearly Christmas concert. Tammy who is a Cree Early Childhood Educator that supports the classroom introduced this song, worked closely with children and staff to learn this song in Cree. The children enjoyed learning more of the Cree language and had lots of fun with making music with their bells! Elder Dorothy has been joining the class for activities and teachings weekly and taught the children a welcoming song in Cree! A book of lyrics was made by the programming team and was gifted to families at the concert!

At AMC the favourite winter stories that the children and staff recommend are – Fishing with Grandma and the audio story: A Coyote Solstice Tale by Thomas King. Offering audio stories gives children a chance to listen to longer stories in a more flexible scenario!

To download audio stories in Indigenous language please check out this link:

Elder Involvement:

Invite Elders to lead nature walks to look for animal tracks, animal habitats, winter animals etc.

Create a display at the children’s eye level of photos of Elder interactions, participation, and teachings.

Traditional words, like the 7 sacred teachings etc. can be posted to accompany the photos.

Encourage Elders to drop in to lead Bannock making, storytelling, and other traditional winter activities such as beading, sewing, jigging, dancing, and fiddling activities.

Parent Involvement Ideas:

Send home a checklist of winter activities that parents can experience in the outdoors with their children and a few new creative ideas for inside.

Host a Fun Family Contest: 

Such as: an animal track finding contest, snow man pancake making contest etc.

Make a creative poster to send in backpacks, send by email, post on your App or fb page and to post at your program to advertise this family participation event. Ask parents to send in or post photos.

Host a family craft/activity night with a warm traditional meal. (Bison chili, bison spaghetti, salmon chowder, traditional meat or fish stew etc.

Activities could be physical activities in a gym, traditional crafts, scrapbooking December memories, trad activities in the outdoors, story telling in front of a fire, or any activity that encourages creative play between children and parents and or mentoring with elders on traditional parenting practices.

Create a parent board with a map on ice fishing locations.

Outreach / Activity Kits:

January is a great month to send home a healthy food box as many families struggle after the holiday season and gifts of healthy foods are appreciated!

Other Ideas From Programs Across the Province:

  • Slow cookers, recipes, bison roast or traditional stew meat
  • blenders, smoothie ingredients, recipe,
  • salmon and ingredients to make a warm nutrient filled salmon chowder.
  • large cooking pot, white fish and ingredients to make a fish head soup.
  • box of in season locally grown fruits and vegetables and locally purchased meats.

What resources are available in your community or close to your community? Do you have a bison farm, freshwater fish co-op, apple store, locally grown potatoes, turnips and other root vegetables?

If you’re a remote Northern Community perhaps a box of dried nutritionally filled pantry ingredients could be an option.


This list includes a variety of Indigenous small businesses and businesses supporting Indigenous communities.


Lofty Ideas:

Traditionally wintertime was the perfect time for trapping and bird hunting. Turn your loft into a scene from the trapline, hunting cabin or an igloo.

Hang items such as camouflage nets, furs, and lanterns. Provide child appropriate hunting gear, traditional winter clothes such as hunting mukluks, beaver hats, polar bear or hide gloves, winter animal stuffed animals that would be trapped such as rabbits, squirrels, lynx, fox, wolves and stuffed birds that would be hunted such as ptarmigan, grouse, prairie chicken. Staff can make props such as fires and traps, dog sled, skidoo etc.

Resources & Related Articles:

  1. 15+ Winter Math Activities for Preschoolers
  2. Slow Cooker Venison Roast
  3. Exploring Nature With Children
  4. Helpful Weather Tips for Outdoor Play & Learning
  5. BC Council for Families Bookstore

We are very thankful to Achilles Gentile and his team at GoodMinds/Indigenous Reflections for assisting with securing cultural resources and having these directly delivered to programs across the province. Achilles Gentile is the Indigenous owner of both Good Minds and Indigenous Reflections. As literacy is his passion and he travels the country to go to book fairs, we have asked him to forward us his favourite book list to inspire cultural calendars at AHS programs.

Please see Achilles comments on cultural calendars and a few of his and his teams’ favourite books!

A ‘Cultural’ calendar makes us think of a Lunar Calendar. Anishinaabeg, as well as many other Nations, have teachings known as 13 Moons on Turtles Back. This is our ‘Cultural’ calendar. Different nations have their own name for each full moon, and I’m not sure if the lunar calendar is part of the tradition where you are, but again, this is our understanding of a ‘Cultural’ calendar. The Gregorian calendar is the most commonly used ‘commercial’ calendar today and is based on a solar year.

This calendar gives us January, February, etc., and is why we have a ‘Leap’ Year. GoodMinds.com, and Indigenous Education Press, offer a number of publications which talk about our relationship with Grandmother Moon, including, 13 Moons on Turtles Back.

This title, and others are in the following list. I include titles of books I have enjoyed, as well as favourites from others. I trust you enjoy them as well.

  1. We all Play 
    Author: Julie Flett 
  2. Mi’kmaw Moons: The Seasons in Mi’kma’ki 
    Author: Cathy Jean LeBlanc, David Chapman 
  3. Mii maanda ezhi-gkendmaanh / This Is How I Know  
    Author: Brittany Luby 
  4. A flock of seagulls, A course of frogs  
    Author: Roy Henry Vickers and Robert Budd
  5. A winter celebration 
    Author: Wahwahbiginojii – David Anderson 
  6. Niitu and Chips 
    Author: Babah Kalluk 
  7. Whats my superpower
    Author: Aviaq Johnson

Book Of the Month: 

  

Title: Rock your Moccasins

Author: Laurel Goodluck

A interactive story that shares Indigenous joy, power and pride wearing of moccasins that represent many different nations and tell many different stories.

Recipe of the Month:

We asked Achilles who is from the Skowman First Nation in Manitoba if he had a traditional recipe to share or recommend.

His Recipe Recommendation was:

  • Halibut Cheeks – Are easy to cook, low in calories, high in protein and omega three fatty acids, potassium and B vitamins.

Health:

Parent resource recommended to check out this month: BC Healthy Kids Program Brochure