Drifting away on a cloudy day

New activities on a lazy summer day compare to cloud watching. My daughter, Tessa, 5, and I love to spread out a blanket on the grass, lie down with a glass of lemonade and watch the clouds drift. We’ve found animals, letters and anything else our imaginations can conjure from the dancing clouds.

But cloud gazing isn’t just fun—it’s also a great opportunity to teach your kids about science.

There are three basic types of clouds: cumulus, stratus and cirrus. Cumulus are the big puffy clouds that make up the majority of formations that kids love to interpret. Stratus are the thinner, layered clouds and cirrus are the high, wispy clouds. Any of these types of clouds can spark the imagination.

“Clouds form from rising hot air on a sunny day or when a cold front comes through,” says Tammie Souza, meteorologist for the Fox News Chicago morning show."Usually clouds build in the late morning and into the afternoon as the heat of the day builds.”

Part of the fun of cloud gazing is watching the shapes you identify continue to transform as they float across the sky. The wind pushes the clouds or they change as air pushes up from below, says Souza.

As we all know, sometimes those clouds drop a little rain, but you can still cloud gaze in a book. Just go to your local library and check books that teach about clouds such as It Looked Like Spilt Milk by Charles G. Shaw, Clouds by Ray Wandelmaier or The Cloud Book by Tomie de Paola.

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