Let’s learn how to identify clouds as part of our learning about the weather unit. You can use these printable cloud ID cards and cloud activities to explore the sky above.
Cloud activities for forest school with printable cloud ID cards
The best way to learn about the weather is to head outdoors and look up!
By playing and learning outdoors we have a natural relationship with the weather. We experience the warmth and cold, the feel of the wind, and the fun of splashing in puddles. We can see the effect the weather has on our familiar outdoor space, and how the plants and animals around us are effected by and adapt to changes in the weather.
When our children are regularly playing outdoors they are about to learn from their everyday experiences and see how we adapt to the weather too, as we make use of different clothes, drinks, shelters and campfires. It’s a very natural way to learn.
We can develop our children’s curiosity about and understanding of the weather by drawing attention to and asking open questions about what’s going on.
Why do the leaves looks different today?
What’s happened to the puddles?
Why are we giving our plants extra water today?
A fun way to bring children’s attention to the clouds in the sky above us, is to lie down and take a look at them.
Set out a large blanket or find a patch of dry grass and lie back. Look up at the sky and ask your children what they can see. Remind them not to look at the sun, but instead to take a look at the clouds.
:: What are the clouds like today?
:: What colour are they?
:: What shape?
:: How big?
:: How high?
:: Does the shape of the clouds look like something? An object, an animal, a person?
:: Can you tell a story about what you can see in the clouds today?
Learning the types of clouds lesson
Different types of clouds have different names and can indicate particular weather is on the way.
If your children are noticing the clouds each time they play outdoors, you can extend their interest by learning about these different cloud types. It’s a good way to link their everyday life and what they are noticing and experiencing about the world around them to the beginning of scientific explorations and observations.
You can use my printable cloud identification cards: follow the instructions below to print them on card, and laminate them if you wish for extra durability and rain-proofing.
You can use the cards as flash cards, or punch a hole in the corner of each and attach them to a key chain so you can easily take them out and about with you.
The cloud ID cards include the following cloud types:
Cumulus clouds are puffy white or light grey, and look like cotton wool balls. When the tops of the clouds look like cauliflowers, rain showers are on the way.
Stratocumulus clouds which are low, lumpy, and grey. They can appear in rows or spread out, and typically bring only light rain.
Cumulonimbus clouds are very tall and indicate heavy rain or snow. They can bring thunderstorms and sometimes tornadoes.
Altocumulus clouds are greyish white and usually appear in groups. They indicate warm, humid weather and can be followed by a thunderstorm.
Cirrocumulus clouds are small rounded puffs of clouds, usually in long rows high in the sky. They’re often called a mackerel sky as they appear like the markings on the sides of a mackerel fish. They’re common in winter and pair with fair but cold weather.
Cirrus clouds are wispy, long, and thin and appear high in the sky. They’re a sign of fair weather.
Stratus clouds are low in the sky and grey. They can cover the whole of the sky above and appear foggy. They often bring light mist or drizzle.
Altostratus clouds are mid-level in the sky and appear grey or grey-blue. They can cover the whole sky and indicate rain or snow is on the way.
How to use the cloud ID cards
Take a look though the cards and say the names of each type out loud.
Look at each picture and describe how the clouds look. How are they different? You’ll notice that the descriptions refer to differences in colour, shape, size, and location in the sky.
Talk about how the different cloud types can predict the kind of weather that is on the way.
Look up at the sky and see if you can identify the types of clouds around you today.
Take the cloud ID cards out with you for a sequence of days, or stick them up as a display by your window, so you can check the sky and identify they cloud types each day.
What are the most common types of clouds where you live? You might like to make a chart to record the cloud patterns you notice each day, or even devise and record your own weather forecasts.
More cloud activities for children
To extend your learning, try these cloud activities:
More weather activities
Learning about clouds fits well with a wider project exploring the weather. You can use these further activities to support your weather topic:
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