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Exploring clouds: Activities for the classroom

by Cathy Abraham


The goal of a curriculum unit on clouds is to raise the children’s awareness and knowledge of clouds and the world around them, while sparking their imagination and creative thinking process.


Art center
Easel painting. Place easels next to windows, so children can paint as they look at clouds. Or take easels and art materials outdoors.

Paper as cloud shapes. Introduce the concept of cloud shape by providing paper cut into billowy cloud shapes to use at easels.

Cloud-shaped sponges. Provide sponges cut into cloud shapes instead of brushes. Variation: Paint with a cotton ball with a clothespin hooked on the back for children to hold on to.

Puff paint. Mix equal parts of white glue and non-menthol shaving cream. Children paint with it while it’s wet. It dries stiff.

Cloud paint. Mix equal parts of flour, salt, and water, and put the mixture into a squeeze container. Use on heavy paper.

Cloud blot. Have children place a dollop of white paint on blue construction paper folded in half, and then fold the paper back together. Talk about what they see when they open the fold again.

Wet chalk. Have children dip chalk into a cup of water before drawing on dark paper.

Scribble cookies. Provide old, melted crayon stubs (without wrapper) for drawing.

Powder clouds. Invite children to cut out cloud shapes from dark paper and then run a glue stick over the paper. Provide cotton balls and a shallow container of baby powder. Children will dip a cotton ball into the baby powder and then pat it onto the paper cloud.

Watercolor. Invite children to draw clouds on easel paper with a white crayon. Or they may draw the outline of a cloud with a pencil. Then they paint outside the clouds with blue watercolor, leaving the empty space as the clouds.

Cloud collage. Invite children to represent clouds by tearing white paper into small pieces and gluing them on blue paper. In addition to (or instead of) white paper, offer gray, blue, black, pink, and yellow paper or paint swatches to represent the different colors of clouds as they change with daylight and weather. Variations: Children can glue feathers (for cirrus clouds), cotton balls (for cumulous clouds), or dryer lint (for stratus clouds). Offer white string or curling ribbon to glue under clouds to represent rain.

Straw blowing. Show children how to blow through a straw to move thin paint on paper. Talk about how the wind moves clouds across the sky.

Cloud mobile. Overhang two metal coat hangers and fasten together at the top with wire. Use fishing line or string to hang clouds, which can be cotton balls, inflated white balloons, pictures of clouds cut from magazines, photos of clouds taken by the children, or small white plastic bags stuffed and knotted. Children may wish to add a sun or rainbow.

Sky mural. Invite a group of children to create a mural of the sky on a large piece of butcher paper. Children may paint not only a variety of clouds but also add the sun, a rainbow, birds, and an airplane.

Silver lining clouds. On a cloud shape have children draw a picture of something positive or that they like (like baseball or an ice cream cone). Invite them to then glue silver glitter around edges of the cloud. Older children can discuss looking at the positive side of things (having to move, but making new friends, for example).


Science center
Condensation. Have children breathe on a cold mirror. Discuss what happens when warm air (breath) contacts a cold surface.

Cloud making. Fill a metal pie pan with ice cubes. Pour very hot water (not boiling) into a glass bottle. (Have an adult pour the water.) Leave the water in the jar for about 10 seconds (the bottle should be hot). Pour out all but an inch of water. Set the pie pan on top of the bottle. Have children observe the cloud that forms as the warm air meets the cold. You may be able to see it better by placing a piece of black construction paper behind the jar.

Steam. Bring in a humidifier. Keep away from direct contact with children. Watch as the steam billows upward. Discuss observations. Variation: Explore dry ice under careful supervision. Talk about how ice can burn.

Wind. With careful supervision, turn on a portable fan. Observe how it blows and moves things. Compare with the wind. Have children keep a balloon in the air by blowing upward on it.


Sensory table
Finger paint. Squirt a generous amount of shaving cream on a cookie sheet for each child. Encourage children to squeeze the cream in their hands, rub their hands together, and finger paint. Variation: Add two 16-ounce boxes of cornstarch to one can of shaving cream.

Cloud dough (sometimes called moon dough or moon sand). Mix one cup of baby oil and eight cups of flour. Use a pastry cutter to mix the dough until it’s crumbly. Empty into the sensory table and provide cups, bowls, and utensils.


Literacy center
Cloudscape. Tape paper clouds to the walls and ceiling, and place old, recycled white bed pillows on the floor. Fill a plastic pool with packing peanuts for high-in-the-sky reading. Stock the shelves with books about clouds, such as those listed at the end of this article.

Cloud book. On separate sheets of large white paper, write dictation taken from each child as they observed clouds. Encourage children to draw or paint a picture of what they said and write their names at the bottom. Assemble the papers into a book, prepare a cover, and bind it with staples, brads, or string. Set out the book for children to explore on their own.

Board book. Go outdoors, read Little Cloud by Eric Carle or It Looked Like Spilt Milk by Charles Shaw, and invite children to observe the clouds in the sky. Have each child complete the sentence: “Sometimes the cloud looked like a [name of something].” Write each child’s observation on a separate page. On the last page, write: “It was just a cloud.” Assemble the pages into a book.

Word play. After reading a book about clouds at story time, write common words (cloud, white, fluffy, sky, blue, high) on a poster. Invite children to think of words that rhyme with each.

Story sticks. With older children, write each cloud-related word on a craft stick and invite them to put the sticks together to create a story.

Puff paint words. Have children use puff paint from the art center to spell out cloud-related words.

Finger play. Encourage children to use finger and hand movement to poems, such as the ones below.


Finger play: Rain Cloud
One sunny, summer morning (Make a big circle overhead for the sun.)
A fluffy cloud sailed by. (Make waving motions with hands.)
When all at once it saw a field (Shade eyes and look down.)
That really did look dry. (Nod head.)
“All out!” it cried. “There’s work to do.” (Cup hand to mouth.)
And stopped right in the sky. (Stand still and stiff.)
A million raindrop passengers (Make rain motion with fingers.)
Jumped out and called, “Goodbye!” (Cup hand to mouth and call upward.)


Finger play: Two Little Clouds
Two little clouds one April day (Make two fists.)
Went sailing across the sky. (Move fists side to side.)
They went so fast, they bumped their heads (Bump fists together.)
And both began to cry. (Rub eyes with hands.)
Out came the big round sun, who said, (Make big circle overhead.)
“Never mind, my dears, I’ll send down sunbeams (Wiggle fingers downward.)
To dry your fallen tears.”


Finger play: Fluffy Cloud
What is fluffy, white, and floats up high (Point up at the sky.)
Like a pile of cotton in the sky?
And when the wind blows hard and strong (Wiggle hands side to side.)
What very gently floats along? (Wiggle fingers gently back and forth.)
What brings the rain? (Open palms up.)
What brings the snow that showers us down below?
When you look up in the sky, (Look up.)
What is that thing you see floating by? A cloud! (Clap hands.)


Finger play: Fluffy Cloud (Spanish)
¿Cual es blanco, blando, y flota alto, alto, alto
Como una cadena de algodones en el cielo
Y cuando el viento sopla duro y fuerte desaparence?
¿Que suavemente flotan?
¿Que trae la lluvia?
¿Que trae la nieve que nos cae sobre nosotros?
Cuando tu miras al cielo
¿Que es aquello que ves flotando? ¡Una nube!


Finger play: Five Little Clouds
Five little clouds floating in the sky. (Hold up five fingers.)
One saw a bird and wanted to fly. (Wave hand to the side.)
Four little clouds floating in the sky. (Hold up four fingers.)
One saw a friend and went to say “Hi.” (Wave “Hi.”)
Three little clouds: One got sad and started to cry. (Hold up three fingers, and rub eyes.)
Two little clouds: One saw the bright sun and said, “Oh, my!” (Hold up two fingers.)
One little cloud alone in the sky, (Hold up one finger.)
Went to find the others and said, “Bye, bye.” (Wave goodbye.)


Music and movement
Float like a cloud. Encourage children to float like a cloud while playing dreamy music—for example, the 1950s song Stormy Weather by Harold Arlen or Clair du Lune by Claude Debussy. Or teach the songs below. You can use the songs and movement in transition between activities.


Song: Clouds Are Floating
(Tune: Frere Jacques)
Clouds are floating
Clouds are floating
Up so high
Up so high
Floating up above us
Floating up above us
In the sky
In the sky


Change the words to match children’s moods and weather. Here’s an example, using the same tune:


Wind is blowing
Clouds are building
Big and gray
Big and gray
Lightning and thunder
Lightning and thunder
Boom! Boom! Boom!
Rain falls down


Song: Changing Cloud Shapes
(Tune: Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star)
Floating cloud up in the sky,
Changing shapes as you pass by.
Floating by without a sound,
Won’t you come and touch the ground?
Floating clouds up in the sky,
Changing shapes as you pass by.


Dramatic play center
Turn this center into an airplane for a trip above the clouds. Invite children to arrange chairs like seats in an airplane, with a section for the pilot and a section for baggage. Make a cockpit and controls from a large cardboard box, hang a blue sheet on the wall and attach cut-out paper clouds, and set up a table for plane tickets. Add props such as suitcases, pilot’s cap, serving trays, magazines, and earphones.


Manipulatives center
Cloud lacing card. Cut a cloud shape out of sturdy poster board, and punch holes all along the edge. Provide yarn or shoelace for lacing.

Cloud puzzle. Cut a 22-inch by 28-inch poster board into a cloud shape. Cut the cloud shape into the number of pieces appropriate for your age group. Place the pieces into a basket or tray for children to put together. Or use a cloud photograph. (Place an uncut copy of the photo in the tray so users will know how the finished puzzle should look.)

Cloud matching. Cut two each of various cloud shapes for children to match.

Estimation. Place cotton balls into a transparent plastic jar. Invite children to guess how many, then count. Children might also guess the weight and then weigh.


Outdoor play
Fly around clouds. Drape old white cloths or towels on the ground to represent clouds. Invite children to be airplanes or birds as they fly around the clouds.

Cloud hopscotch. Have children use chalk to draw clouds on a sidewalk. Invite them to hop or step in and out of the clouds.

Cloud relay. Divide children into two or more teams. Children hold a pillow (cloud) by pressing it between their tummies—no hands allowed. They move as a couple to the finish line without dropping their cloud.


Books for children
The Cloud Book, by Tomie De Paola. New York: Holiday House, 1975.
Cloud Boy/Nino Nube, by Rhode Montijo. New York: Lectorum, 2006.
It Looked Like Spilt Milk, by Charles G. Shaw. New York: Harper Collins, 1994.
Olga the Cloud, by Nicoletta Costa. New York: Holiday House, 2014.
Little Cloud, by Eric Carle. New York: Philomel, 1996.
Once Upon a Cloud, by Rob Walker. New York: Blue Sky Press, 2005.


NASA Earth Observatory, “Weather Forecasting Through the Ages,
NASA Education, “What Are Clouds?”