Leap years are so fun to explain to students! They get so excited about having an entire extra day in the year! I like to incorporate activities that will both educate young students about leap year and celebrate it.
Why do we have leap year?
The first thing I do is give my young students a very simple explanation of why we need to have leap years. I try to keep it simple enough for them to understand and use visuals as much as possible.
We first talk about a calendar year being the time it takes for the earth to go around the sun one time. I demonstrate this by using a globe to represent the earth and a large ball to represent the sun. I have one student hold the sun (ball) and another student walk the globe around them in a circle one time.
I then explain that a normal calendar year is 365 days, but it actually takes the earth 365 1/4 days to go around the sun. Since we can’t have 1/4 day, we have a leap year every 4 years. I then draw a circle divided into quarters and show that it takes 4 quarters to equal 1 full day which is why leap years are every 4 years. So every 4 years we get an extra day in the year which is called leap day. Since February is the shortest month, the extra day is added to the end of February on the 29th (I show them this day on the calendar).
After our discussion, we do this page during reading groups. We read the passage together and then students answer the comprehension questions.
Leap Year Writing Craft – What Will You Do With the Extra Day?
Since my young students get excited about having a “bonus” or extra day in the year, I like to guide them towards making the most of it by spreading kindness. We discuss ways that we can “do good” with the extra day leap year gives us and make a big impact.
After our discussion, we do a writing craftivity that allows them to write/draw about what they plan to do with the extra leap year day.
We talk about the meaning of the word leap and I ask what animals they think of when they hear the word. Of course frogs are the first and favorite, so we make a frog craft.
It is a simple paper plate craft that I have done before during the spring and they always turn out sooooo cute!
Then students write their leap year plans on lily pads.
I then hang the frogs and lily pads on a bulletin board entitled “Hoppy” Leap Year!
I’ve also used the title An “Un-frog-ettable” Leap Year and We’re Making This Leap Year “Un-frog-ettable”.
How Far Can You Leap? Activity & Leapfrog
This fun activity combines math with leaping like a frog! First, students predict how far (in inches) they think they can leap forward.
Then, I lay out a measuring tape on the floor and we measure how far each student can leap forward like a frog. You would be surprised how far some of them can go!!
I have students record their predictions and actual leaps and then figure out the difference between the two (with a little help).
Then of course we play leapfrog during recess! If you are not familiar with leapfrog, this video is a great demonstration. It is loads of fun!
Leap “Four” Leap Year Math
I try to focus our math activities around the number 4 since leap year happens every 4 years.
First we hunt for lily pads in the pond that make 4 and then we do some word problems.
The next day we use a number line to help us figure out when leap years will occur. Sometimes, as a bonus activity, we figure out our ages at each leap year as well which is very depressing for me LOL.