Teaching About Leap Year: Leap Year Activities

A leap year comes once in a quadrennium and 2024 is the perfect opportunity to teach about it! Read on for tons of leap year activities and tips for helping your students understand this tricky concept!

Do you know 1,461 people? If you do, chances are you have a friend with a Leap Year birthday! And if you didn’t before, now you do! 

I am a “Leapling” and this upcoming February, I will be 12 years old!

Kids have so many questions when they find out about Leap Year! Here are some FAQs and tips for teaching about it while having fun with leap year activities!

Teaching about leap year in kindergarten and first grade can be tricky but fun! Read this hands-on way to teach about leap day and leap year 2024 to your students and grab the freebie! My resource also has tons of leap year activities to make it fun!

Sooo, long story short, an Earth’s orbit around the Sun actually takes 365 days and 6 hours. Instead of having a 6-hour day (there aren’t enough hours as it is!), we “save up” those extra hours for 4 years, hence Leap Day, hence Leap Year.

Explaining this to kids is a little more complex but try this fun activity with your students to teach them about the Earth’s daily rotation and yearly orbit.

This is one of my favorite leap year activities! It’s a hands-on way to break this tricky concept down for young students.

  • Have kids sit in a circle, leaving the middle empty.
  • Invite 2 kids to play the Sun and Earth: The Sun stands in the middle and Earth off to its side. Place a sticker on the floor where the Earth stands.
  • Explain that it takes 1 day for the Earth to spin 1 time and spin the Earth child in his/her place. (Have the Sun child hold a flashlight towards the Earth to show daytime and nighttime)
  • Then, explain that it takes 1 year for the Earth to orbit the Sun and have the Earth child walk around the Sun child.
  • Then, remind kids that the Earth does both at the same time so have the Earth spin as he/she goes around the Sun (super fun, but watch out for dizzy kids)!

Now that they understand the Earth’s orbit, explain that it actually takes a year and a few hours for the Earth to complete its orbit.

Since a few hours is not a full day, and we can’t just have part of a day (“Don’t let’th be thilly!” as the Mad Hatter would say), we put these hours into a “bank” (draw a piggy bank on the board and relate it to saving money).

Make a paper circle to represent 1 day and cut it into 4 pieces. Then, help the Earth child rotate around the Sun (1 year), stopping just short of a full rotation (remember the sticker?) and tape 1/4 of the circle to the piggy bank.

I repeat this 3 times, each time stopping just a bit farther from the sticker and taping another circle piece to the bank.

When the circle is complete, we take it out of the bank and have an extra day! Have the Earth student LEAP up to the sticker to catch up with the new year!

To help you with this activity, I made a freebie with headbands for your students to wear while role-playing.

Grab these free headbands to help you act out the Earth's rotation when teaching about Leap Year! Read for tips on teaching your students about this once-in-4-years event!

I also created a book that illustrates this and you can find it in my Leap Year pack. You can display the large color version on your interactive whiteboard to read to the class and have them reread and color in their own mini versions.

Learning about Leap Year is fascinating for kids. It may be hard to understand, but this book breaks it down and has a fun activity to role-play the event! Grab free headbands to help you act out the Earth's rotation when teaching about Leap Year! Read for tips on teaching your students about this once-in-4-years event! These leap year activities are perfect for kindergarten and first grade!

Another question I get is if only 1 in a million people have that birthday. NOPE! Actually, it’s 1 in 1,461 (365 x 4 + 1). 

People usually think this is an awful birthday to have, but here are some reasons it’s actually a great birth date!

  • You get birthday wishes on TWO days! (In fact, my brother always texts me “Happy” on February 28th and “Birthday” on March 1st.)
  • You can say you’re younger than you are.
  • You can drive at 4 years old.
  • Your students get a real kick out of it and, in K and 1st grade, their attempts at figuring out your real age are so funny!

And, the #1 question is, “So when do you celebrate it when there’s no February 29th?”

My husband always debates me on this, but I think since it’s my birthday, my answer wins, right? His argument is that I don’t fully age a year until March 1st, but I say my birthday is on the last day of February! #mybirthdaymyrule

I never reveal my opinion to my students until after they do the following writing activity! I have them write their own opinions first, then make a class graph to see what most people think.

The #1 question people ask me when they find out I'm a Leapling (born on Leap Day) is "When do you celebrate it?" Before I tell them, I have them write their own opinions on when Leaplings should celebrate their birthday on a Leap Year. So much fun! Read this blog post for more ideas on teaching and celebrating Leap Year in your classroom!

If you need resources for Leap Year, my pack also includes differentiated mini-books, posters and fun activities to celebrate! Here is a peek into the Leap Year pack contents.

Teaching about leap year in kindergarten and first grade can be tricky but fun! Read this hands-on way to teach about leap day and leap year 2024 to your students and grab the freebie! My resource also has tons of leap year activities to make it fun!
Grab these leap year posters for 2024! This pack of leap year activities is great for kindergarten and first grade. Read this blog post for ideas on how to teach about Leap Day and Leap Year to your students.
Want a fun leap year craft for your students? This pack of leap year activities is great for kindergarten and first grade. Read this blog post for ideas on how to teach about Leap Day and Leap Year to your students.
Want to teach about leap year in an easy-to-understand way? This pack of leap year activities is great for teaching about leap year to kindergarten and first grade. Read the post for how I break down this tricky concept and make it easy and fun for students!
Want to teach about leap year in an easy-to-understand way? This pack of leap year activities is great for teaching about leap year to kindergarten and first grade. Read the post for how I break down this tricky concept and make it easy and fun for students!
One of our favorite Leap Year activities is dabbing ways to make 4 or 29! Read this blog post for more ideas on teaching about Leap Year in your classroom!
Two of our favorite Leap Year activities are "building and writing" a frog and learning about the frog life cycle! Read this blog post for more ideas on teaching about Leap Year in your classroom!

To grab all of the books and Leap Year activities on sale, click here: Leap Year Pack

Here’s a quick video I found on YouTube that may also help your kids understand.

Leap Year VIDEO

By the way, here’s a lesser-known Leap Year fact: It’s skipped 3 out of 4 centuries.

Why? Listen up, because Imma ’bout to get really nerdy in here. Earlier I mentioned we have an extra 6 hours every year. To be precise, it’s actually 5 hours, 48 minutes, and 46 seconds. That means we actually owe back 11 minutes and 14 seconds every year.

After many years, this adds up! So, we skip it on century years unless it’s divisible by 4. The year 2000 was a Leap Year, but if I live to be 124 years old, I’ll be out a birthday for an additional 4 years!

GET YOUR FREE Leap Year Headbands below.

Any fellow leaplings out there? Reply and let me know!

2 responses to “Teaching About Leap Year: Leap Year Activities”

  1. Stefanie H. Avatar
    Stefanie H.

    I’m not a fellow leapling but I’ve taught a leapling 6 years ago. I remember asking her about when does she celebrate her birthday and her response was February 28th. She still attends our Pre-K -8 school so when I saw her at the beginning of February, I joked with her about her finally having a birthday coming up. She immediately giggled!
    I hope you have a great11th Birthday Brenda!!! ?

    1. Brenda Avatar
      Brenda

      See, it’s in February, not March! 🙂 Thank you so much and happy birthday to your former student!

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