Hibernation Theme for Preschool
Interested in teaching your preschoolers about animals that do NOT sleep in winter?
Click on Winter Animals to leave this page and go to our Winter Animals Theme Page. What is Hibernation anyway?! Technically, it is a time when animals sleep through the cold winter. However, it is very, very different than a human's deep sleep. An animal can actually be moved or touched and not even be aware of it!
A hibernating animal's body temperature drops drastically and thier breathing slows. Their body fat (from all of the extra eating they did in the summer and fall to prepare for this time) gets them through the winter. During the winter, these animals can actually be moved or touched and not even be aware of it! In springtime when they awaken, they are very thin, but healthy.
Some animals that hibernate are badgers, bats, chipmunks, dormice, ground squirrels, ground hogs (wait--really? So THAT'S why Punxatawny Phil seems so groggy and docile on GROUND HOG DAY!), hamsters, hedgehogs, racoons and skunks. Also on this list are sloth, iguannas, frogs, snails, snakes and some turtles. You can also add bees and earthworms to the list!
Now, here's something you may not have known: Bears do NOT hibernate! I know, I know...it just CAN'T be a myth!
Bears actually go into what is called torpor. This is a when they sleep soundly for sometimes weeks! Their body temperatures do go down and their breathing slows. But, they can wake up, it just takes them longer and they are groggy for a while! Most bear cubs are born in the winter months and Mama Bear needs to wake up to feed them! No wonder they are cranky in winter!
However, because torpor is a light form of hibernation, we'll leave Bears on this page and just be sure to tell our preschoolers that bears sleep a lot in winter, but not all winter, so shhhhhhh....don't wake the bears! Let the Hibernation Theme planning begin!
You can either scroll down through this page to see all of the preschool activities for this Theme or click the link below to go to specific preschool activity types you are looking for.
What Kind of Bed?
Materials Needed: Pictures of animals that hibernate (from magazines, online, etc.); glue sticks; construction paper; markers
Look at the pictures with the children. Ask them where they think each animal would make its bed in the winter when it hibernates (in a tree trunk, a log, a cave, in the mud-for snakes!).
Have the children choose just 1 animal picture.
Encourage the children to write their name on their paper. Then instruct them to draw a bed and/or home for the winter for their animal and then, using the glue stick, place their animal in its home.
As the children are making their pictures, be sure to ask each of them (individually) where their animal will sleep and write it down.
When done, write what they told you on their papers and hang to display.
*You do not need to just write "My snake sleeps in the mud." Write down EVERYTHING they say....it could be come quite the story!
EXTENSION: After the pages have been on display for a couple of days, make them into a class book by stapling them and add it to your classroom's library for the children to read!
They love to see their own work in print! Also, read this book at story time to the group!
Skunk, Squirrel or Ground Hog?!
Materials Needed: White and black paint; construction paper; wiggly eyes.
Show the children pictures of a skunk, ground hog and squirrel! Remind them that these animals hibernate in winter.
Provide black and white paint for the children to paint their sleeping animals.*
Have them glue on 2 wiggly eyes on the painted paper when done.
*Remember- this is art, not a craft! The picture might resemble an animal or it may just be black and white (or gray!) paint on a paper! It's the process, not the product!
Materials Needed: Empty boxes, cans, egg cartons, etc.; paint
Ask the children where animals might sleep during the winter. Discuss the many different places-snakes in mud pits, turtles under mud, frogs in logs, bees in the ground, animals in holes in the ground or in tree trunks, in caves, etc.
Tell them they are going to create some animal homes! Let them choose from the items to come up with a home they'd like to paint.
EXTENSION: When dry, use their homes at interest learning centers througout your classroom.
Place them on a table or on the floor with beanie babies, in the block area with some small, toy animals and reptiles and bees!
Build A Bed
If possible, suspend a dark colored sheet or piece of fabric over the block area to make it a bit dark. Add smalled stuffed or other toy animals, snakes, frogs and bees in the block area and encourage the children to make winter homes for them to sleep in.
Circle Time is such a great time for children to learn the social skills of being together as a large group AND to learn more about your Hibernation Theme!
Going On A Bear Hunt
Materials Needed: None, well-perhaps a copy of the book. Discuss bears and where they sleep and live, what they eat, etc.
Tell this story in a rhythmic voice. Tell the children you need their help. You are going to teach them the words and they are going to repeat it. Encourage the children to repeat after you. If possible, have another teacher copy/echo with them and possibly clap to the rhythm.
Act out the parts while sitting. Later in the day, perhaps you can act it out in a larger space (see Music and Movement section further down on this page for instructions).
Little Mouse, Where is your House?
This is a favorite activity for our preschoolers...we use it throughout the year as a transitional activity as well!
In advance draw out and laminate 1 small mouse and 1 house shape (each of different color). Make sure your mouse is SMALLER than the house shape!
Tell the children they are going to help find the hibernating mouse! Tell the children to close and cover their eyes! You hide the mouse under one of the houses.
Tell the children to look now. Ask them to join with you in saying "Little Mouse, Little Mouse, where is your house?" Ask one child which house you should look under. (Encourage them to NAME the color, not just point, to reinforce color recognition*).
"Little Mouse, are you under the orange house?" Have the child lift up the orange house. "NO! Where could she be?"
Continue with each child until found. Keep playing until every child has had a turn.
* Program the houses to work on the skill you are working on in the classroom such as letters, numbers, shapes, etc. (Little Mouse, are you in the "A" house? Are you in the "2" house? Are you in the "star" house").
The Mitten-a hands-on version!
Materials Needed: A copy of the book The Mitten by Jan Brett, a large adult sized mitten, pictures of the animals from the story mounted on craft sticks. There are 8 animals in the story. If you have more than 8 children in your group, make duplicates of a few of the animals so that each child will have one.
Before you read the story, show the children the animal sticks. Pass them around one at a time. State what the animal is and whether or not it hibernates!
Give one stick animal to each child. Ask each child which animal they have. Tell them it is their job to listen for you to say the name of their animal.
Explain that as you read the story and say the name of their animal, they should place their animal in the mitten that is in the middle of the circle area.
Where do I sleep?
Materials Needed: Pictures of animals and pictures of the homes they sleep in. Frog--log Snake--lake and mud Turtle--mud Ground Hog--the ground (of course!)--his burrow Squirrel--tree trunk Bat--Cave
Show the homes and ask the children if they can tell what they are.
Show the animals and ask the children to identify them.
Hand out the animals to the children. Place the home animals on the floor in the circle. Ask the children, one at a time, where an animal would live. This is a group activity, so don't put any one child on the spot (i.e. Where does YOUR animal sleep in winter?". Instead, say "Cheryl, which animal do you have? Childen, where do you suppose a snake would sleep?" Have the child place the animal on the home.
Cooking with children helps develop their math skills and helps them to learn how to follow directions. It also allows for some great conversation! Ask many questions while cooking with your children to encourage conversation! Be sure to ask specific theme questions while making these fun snacks!
The disclaimer: PLEASE, PLEASE check files for allergies..we've had a child allergic to strawberries, another to hazel nuts (all tree nuts, actually) and yet another to egg products. It is important for you to know before doing any cooking with the children.
Berry, Berry Good! Winter Salad!
Ingredients and Items needed: Wide assortment of berries!--blueberrys, strawberries, rasberries, cranberries (or craisins!), etc.; strainer (collander); plastic knives; paper cups or bowls; and teaspoons for the children to eat with.
Rinse the berries off before using. Have children wash their hands before making their fruit salad. Encourage the children to take a tablespoon of each type of berry and put it in front of them.
Encourage them to investigate what each one looks like! Hibernating animals also pick berries, check them out and eat them! Look for stems still left on blueberries, the green on the strawberries, etc. Encourage children to cut the fruits in half with a plastic knife to see what the inside looks like. ENCOURAGE TASTING HERE! They should place their cut fruit into a cup and put it aside for snack time!
VARIATION: You could add a spoonful of vanilla yogurt as a topping, if children like it!
EXTENSION: I usually encourage the children to write their own names on the cup before the activity. ANY chance for them to write their own name is taken advantage of! The more often they write their own name, the better chance they will be able to recognize and read it in the future!
Ingredients and Items Needed: Bread, Toaster, jelly or jam; animal cookie cutters; plastic knives.
Give each child a piece of toast. Have them use the cookie cutter to make an animal shape. Spread with jelly-yum!
EXTENSION: Do not throw away the extra crust! Take a walk later after snake with the children and let them break up the toast and leave it outside for the birds and animals who do NOT hibernate!
Materials Needed: Provide blankets, pillows, flashlights and stuffed animals for the children to pretend to live outside in winter. Add books about winter animals as well.
I'm sure you knew that this was coming!
Materials needed: A box for a cave or you can cover a tall table with a blanket! Put some of your kitchen/housekeeping items in there. What fun to play house in a cave! Perhaps instead of a play stove, you could have a campfire made from blocks or paper towel tubes or actual firewood!
Provide paint at the easel. Have the paper already on the easel. Place one animal sticker somewhere on the paper. Just let the children do what they will! They may paint over it, around it, etc. Listen to and write down their conversations about what they are doing, what is happening in their picture, etc. When their pictures are dry, attach the conversation of theirs that you wrote down to the bottom of the picture!
Not everything needs to be themed! ;)
Materials Needed: Parachute
Children seem to innately want to shake a parachute as soon as they touch it! Do some crazy shaking to allow them the time to get the excitement of using the parachute out of their system!
Tell them they are going to move the parachute up and down the way an animal would go. Name and animal and ask if it moves fast or slow. Then move (or shake) the parachute accordingly. Examples; snake, skunk, bear, sloth, elephant, bird, frog, etc.
EXTENSION: Have soft, stuffed animals ready. When done with above parachute game, tell the children that it is winter and the animals need to go back to their homes to sleep. Tell them to wait until you say go before they shake and that you need their help counting the animals.
--I also recomend that before you place the animals on the parachute, decide ahead of time WHO will get the animals once they are ALL off the parachute. I can't tell you how many times children just left the parachute and went running after the animals! We assigned several "zookeepers" to get 2 animals only after ALL of the animals are off. Then we assigned new zookeepers for the next round!
Have them count together with you as you toss each animal on the parachute.
Once they are all there, say "GO HIBERNATE" and start shaking. When the animals are all off the parachute, one person, or the zookeepers, collect them and you play again!
Animals-Get To Your Homes!
Materials Needed: Lots and lots of stuffed animals and 3 large bins, boxes or baskets.
Place the stuffed animals in three piles on one side of the room.
Place a large bin, box or basket on the other side of the room.
In pairs, have the children run together to a pile, choose an animal and get it to its home on the other side of the room!
Book Suggestions for the Library
Animals in Winter by Henrietta Bancroft (also great for Winter Animals theme! All about how different animals prepare for winter-some eat to prepare for hibernation, some gather food to eat during the winter, etc.).
Animals In Winter by Henrietta Bancroft & Richard G. Van Gelder
Bear Snores On by Karma Wilson
Don't Wake Up the Bear! by Marjorie Dennis Murray
Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown
Hibernation by Margaret Hall (GREAT non-fiction book!)
One Snowy Day by Jeffrey Scherer
Skunks! Go to Bed! by Ted Bailey
Time To Sleep by Denise Fleming
The Animals' Winter Sleep by Lynda Graham-Barber (also great for Winter Animal theme)
Wake Me In Spring by Jame Preller
What Do Animals Do in Winter? by Melvin and Gilda Berger
Library Wall Hibernation Theme Decor
Hang pictures of many different animals. Include those that hibernate and those that don't.
As they learn about which animals hibernate and which prepare for winter but do not, they will be able to identify each picture.
It may be fun to put the words HIBERNATE MIGRATE and ADAPT on the wall and discuss this throughout the theme. Whic animals do each action in winter? Then move the pictures to be under those words!
Felt Board Animal Sorting
If possible, provide a smaller version of the HIBERNATE, MIGRATE, AND ADAPT words and pictures as described above for use on the flannel/felt board in the library area for the children to sort the animals on.
Playdough Porcupines Sorting
Materials Needed: Playdough, toothpicks and wiggle eyes.
Children should manipulate dough and make it into different shapes. After a short while, encourage them to make a shape for their porcupine. Talk about what porcupines look like and discuss their quills. Their quills are actually smooth when down so I'm told! ;)
Have children place wiggle eyes on their playdough shape and then, one at a time, place quills (toothpics) all over it from it's "neck" to its back.
Materials needed: Large construction paper, scissors
In advance, draw a swirl on the paper with a bold marker. Start in the middle and swirl in circles to the outside. Instruct the children to cut on the bold line (as best they can) and when they are done, there will be a snake.
Provide materials to decorate the snakes and then hang from the ceiling (decorated part facing the floor so the children can see the side they decorated!
Materials Needed: Different colors of modeling clay and a tray for display (WOW! Now THAT was a lot of rhyming!).
Let the children manipulate the clay. This is GREAT to help develop their hand muscles! As they are working with it, ask them to recall animals that hibernate. Encourage them to make those animals, "I wonder what a clay snake would look like?".
Place their creations on a tray display with a small piece of paper with their name and what they called their creation next to it!
Hibernation Board Game
You will need: large piece of construction paper, a picture of a hibernation animal (any one will do); a cave shape cut out of construction paper; blank stickers (dot stickers work best..you know-the kind that are put on your large items at the grocery store when the item isn't bagged?!); a marker; dice.
IN ADVANCE: Place the large construction paper in front of you. Glue the animal picture on the upper left hand corner of the paper. Glue its home on the lower right hand corner.
Using the dots and marker, make a path from the animal to the home.
On the dots, draw the footprint of the animal you chose.
Laminate for durability.
In the classroom: You will need the board game, the dice and 2 small gameboard pieces (mini animals are great or simply pieces of crayon, bingo chips, etc.)
Offer this as a two person game. The children put their pieces where the animal is. One child rolls the dice, and moves thier game piece that number of spaces toward the animal home. Continue taking turns until both have reached the home.
Use the type of dice that works best with the age of your children: only use numbers 1-3, get dice that have numbers on them instead of dots (or tape numbers on yours!).
Going On a Bear Hunt
Materials needed: ANY version of this CD and a large space! We have used the Dr. Jean version and the Greg and Steve version--both are well loved!
This is an especially great activity to do if the children have already been read this story as a large group.
Rather than sitting and acting out the parts, have the children get up and walk together to act it out!
There are two ways you can do this with the children!
1. Don't use anything elaborate. The the children they will be using their imaginations.
As they go on their hunt, be sure they are all going around the room in the same direction together. When the CD instructs them to "cross the river", "climb the tree" etc. tell them they should stop where they are and act it out.
2. Or, you can, in advance, set up the different areas they need to go...use a balance beam for a bridge, chairs for a boat, meet at a specific wall (perhaps you've drawn a large tree
or bunch of small trees on paper and hung them on the wall in one area?!!) and then follow the instructions of the CD!
sung to the tune of Frere Jacques
Fill in the blank with a hibernation animal name and repeat for all!
________ are sleeping. ________ are sleeping.
All winter long! All winter long!
Sleeping all through winter is called hibernation.
They're snug and warm. Snug and warm.
Hibernation Freeze Dance
Tell the children that they should dance when the music is playing.
When you STOP the music they should FREEZE and LISTEN!
You will say the name of an animal. If it is an animal that hibernates, they should all drop to the floor and pretend to sleep until the music starts again.
*When you say the name of the animal, ask if it is a hibernating animal. "Ground Hog! Does it hibernate? (give time for them to answer) then, YES, they do! Good night Ground Hogs!"
or "PUPPY DOG! Does it hibernate? (give time to answer) NO, they do not! Keep dancing! (and put the music back on).
EXTENSION: In advance, print pictures of hibernating and non-hibernating animals. When you stop the music, show a card. Ask the children which animal it is. Once identified, ask if it hibernates and continue as described above.
Hi-bernation! sung to the tune of Alouette
Hibernation. Time for Hibernation. Hibernation. Time for a deep sleep.
In the winter where's the bear? Sleeping for weeks in its lair. Where's the bear? In its lair. OH! O! O! O!
Hibernation. Time for Hibernation. Hibernation. Time for a deep sleep.
In the winter where's the frog? Sleeping by a pond or log. Where's the frog? Pond or log. Oh! o, o, o!
In the winter where's the snake? In the mud beneath the lake.
In the winter where's the bat? In a cave is where its at.
Add plastic animals and small boxes or cups (for caves) to your sand table.
Bottom of the Lake!
Use water in your sand and water table this week. Add some sand to make it a bit muddy and some plastic snakes and turtles to go along with your Hibernation theme! Of course, still provide water wheels, spoons, measurers, cups, etc.
Storing Fat for Winter
Materials Needed: Ziplock baggies, lard (such as Crisco), ice cubes.
Put a large amount of Crisco in a baggie. Flatten Crisco to a layer in the baggie and seal. Make several of these bags.
This would make a good Circle Time discussion.
Give each child an ice cube and discuss winter animals that sleep (hibernate) through the winter. They eat a lot in summer and fall and the fat keeps them warm.
Now give a few of them a Crisco baggie. Lay it flat on their open palm. Place the ice cube on top. They should not feel the ice. This is similar to how animals' fat keep them warm from the cold weather.
If you have any, put out old bee hives and bird nests with magnifying glasses for the children to investigate. Provide paper and crayons as well so they can draw what they see!
Planting-Preparing for Spring
Materials Needed: An Amaryllis flower growing kit.
This time of year we find these kits everywhere--the supermarket, drug store, etc. With the help of the children, follow the directions to plan the bulb.
This will be a long-term project...weeks! Have journals at the table where this is (we had one for each child) so they can record the changes as they see them.
We talk about how it comes out of it's own state of hibernation (so to speak!) as it gets warmer.
A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words!
Paper, animal stickers, markers.
Instruct the children to make a sticker paper and then use the markers to draw or write on their pictures to embellish it!
Match the Animals
Materials Needed: animal stickers, markers, paper
Encourage children to make a sticker collage paper. Ask them if they can use the marker to draw a line to match the animals. "Can you draw a line from that owl to that owl?" Great fine motor practice as well as visual discrimination! Their own home made eye spy of sorts!
Otherwise known as PAJAMA DAY!
Choose one day (and give families PLENTY of notice!) to be your Pajama Day! On this day, the children can bring in a stuffed animal to lounge around with! We usually serve Hot Cocoa and make popcorn on this day to make it special.
For my favorite flavored popcorn to make in the classroom using a Hot Air Popper===> Click Here! (a new window will open, the recipe is near the bottom of the page).
Hibernation Cave Thank you to Diane from Greensboro, NC for this idea!
I send a note home to parents preparing them for our hibernation theme along with the date that the Hibernation Cave activity will take place.
I explain that I will need their child pick out a small stuffed animal that will go into hibernation in our classroom cave until spring.
At the end of our theme I introduce our classroom cave (that I have prepared ahead of time for our animals). The students then bring in their stuffed animals and place them in our cave until spring.
When spring arrives we celebrate and at this time the animals wake up and go back home at the end of the day.
There are many opportunities with a Hibernation theme for visitors to your classroom! Survey parents for opportunities as well as your local community!
Some ideas for visitors:
Visiting Animal Farm (There are some companies that go to preschools and schools with different animals. It can be pricey, but not much more than it would cost to charter a bus and the entrance fee to an outside field trip!).