Grandparents Teach, too

Swedish snolykta (snow lantern) spreads light in winter

Sabin, Davis, Hetrick, Anderegg, Macalady, Walker, Darling and Katers

“You have to find what sparks a light in you so that you in your own way can illuminate the world.”

— Oprah

When the days are short and darkness is long, the Swedish people make their own light. One of their proverbs is: “Those who wish to sing always find a song.” Those who want light and happiness will make their own even in the darkness of winter. Their shortest days now are about six hours.

One of the first structures Swedish children learn to build is a snolykta, pronounced sno-lik-ta. It is symbolic for many things. One is that great light shines in all of us. A snolykta or snow lantern is a cone made of large snow balls, with many tea lights in the center. They can be large, small, tall and thin, or short and squat. Sometimes the top is left open like a volcano. Other times a person of honor, perhaps the youngest child or the oldest relative places the last ball on the top.

Packing Snow

To make a snolykta, children need snow that packs. If snow is powdery, shovel it into several plastic storage containers and bring snow inside to warm up. The snow either needs a lot of pressure or an increase in temperature. Changing the temperature is easier. You can start making snowballs indoors about 5 to 6 inches in diameter and take them outside before they stick together.

Choose a place in the yard where children will be able to see the snolykta from windows at night. Remove snow from the area where you want the snolykta to be placed. They can be 2 feet or more in diameter. Like snowmen, you can make a family of them or line the sidewalk as a welcoming display for guests.

Shining Light

A large 3-foot diameter family sized snolykta will require more than a hundred large snowballs. Young children can make a small one with less than 30 snowballs. Start by making a circle of snowballs on the ground. You’ll need a perfect circle, which is a little math problem. What will the children do to make a perfect circle since an oval will not look the same? Do you have any big circles around the house to use for a pattern? Children can also use a center spike and a string to make a circle.

Outline of the snolykta with snowballs and make each succeeding layer slightly indented toward the center. Leave spaces between the balls for light to shine through. Place many tea lights inside the snolykta on the ground next to the balls and cap with a large snowball, if you wish.

For more family fun see grandparentsteachtoo.blogspot.com;wnmufm.org/LearningThroughthe Seasons live and podcasts; Pinterest, and Facebook.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Grandparents Teach, Too is a non-profit organization of elementary and preschool teachers from Marquette, Michigan. The writers include: Jan Sabin, Mary Davis, Jean Hetrick, Cheryl Anderegg, Esther Macalady, Colleen Walker, Fran Darling, and Iris Katers. Their mission since 2009 is to help parents, grandparents, and other caregivers of young children provide fun activities to help prepare young children for school and a life long love of learning. They are supported by Great Start, Parent Awareness of Michigan, the U.P. Association for the Education of Young Children, Northern Michigan School of Education, the Upper Peninsula Children’s Museum and the Northern Michigan University Center for Economic Education.


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