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Winter Animals – A Preschool Study about Hibernation, Migration, & Adaptation


Are you looking for some educational activities to keep your preschoolers busy this winter? Why not give them a lesson in nature that they’ll remember all season long?

This blog post is here to provide the perfect solution: an exploration of the magical lives of winter animals! We’ll be talking about their unique migratory and hibernation patterns, as well as how they adapt to survive during cold temperatures.

A beaver adapts during winter
A beaver adapts during winter

It’s a fun learning experience sure to interest even the youngest minds – so read on and get ready for some wild, wintery fun!

Kids are curious about how animals survive in cold weather. The question is a good one and prompts thinking, and more questions, such as “how do the animals find food?”

Hibernation, Adaptation, and migration are fascinating topics to discuss with children and cover a wide array of subjects.  I created a winter animals preschool theme that covers hibernation, migration, and adaption. So, I had to share it with you.

A swallow during the winter.
A swallow during the winter.

How do animals protect themselves from the cold?

Animals have a number of strategies they use to survive winter’s harsh conditions. Hibernation and migration are two of the most common tactics employed by animals.

What is hibernation?

Hibernation is the process of animals becoming inactive in order to conserve energy during cold weather. This state of dormancy enables animals to survive the harsh winter season, as they reduce their metabolism and enter deep sleep. During hibernation, an animal’s heart rate drops from around 70-180 beats per minute, down to just four or five beats every minute.

It is important for hibernating animals to enter a period of starvation prior to entering this deep sleep, as during this period of dormancy these creatures are unable to access food. During hibernation, an animal uses its stored fat reserves as energy, allowing them to survive without eating.

monarch butterflies huddle
Monarch butterflies huddle

What is migration?

Migration is a natural behavior exhibited by many species of animals across the world. From whales traveling thousands of miles to monarch butterflies that can fly incredible distances, migration is an amazing phenomenon that has been studied and observed for centuries by science.

Migration involves an animal moving from one region to another in order to take advantage of winter or summer sources of food, optimal mating grounds, or favorable climates. It often occurs seasonally, such as with the arrival of swallows in the springtime or reindeer migrating north in the summer.

While migratory journeys can be dangerous and challenging for animals, they are fascinating to watch and offer important insights into their life cycles and behavior.

What is adaptation?

Animals are incredibly resourceful and capable of adapting to their environment in order to survive. This is known as adaptation, which can involve physical changes, behavioral patterns, and even the development of new skills.

Generally speaking, adaptation helps animals better cope with environmental pressures and changes while also improving their chances of survival. For example, some species may gain thick fur in colder climates or possess longer legs to better run from predators.

Additionally, adapted behaviors might include nesting above ground in areas with extreme flooding or grouping together for warmth and protection. Through these adaptations, animals can continue to thrive in even the most challenging environments.

Teaching Kids about Animals in Winter

How Do Animals Hibernate?

Such a good question and with a scientifically remarkable answer! Briefly, hibernation is a way for animals to survive the cold winter months. It involves a deep sleep, which causes the heart’s rate to slow and the body’s temperature to decrease.

Related Resource: Simple Bear Craft for a Winter or Hibernation Unit

Therefore, these animals don’t use much energy during this time. Animals who hibernate remain “warm” during the winter, or, to put it another way, animals don’t freeze to death. Their bodies, with thick winter coats and all the energy-saving tactics, find ways to survive.

Check out this video for a fun explanation:

Winter Animals – Hibernation Activity for Preschoolers

When: I introduced this work at circle time.

Materials: My printables shop offers beautiful Animals in the Winter Montessori cards to download. I printed and laminated the cards on card stock for safekeeping. I figured we’d use these cards for a few years at least.

How: The activity is a matching and sorting activity. First, we used the control page that breaks out hibernating, migrating, and adapting animals in three columns. We talked about “Migration”, “Hibernation,” and “Adaptation.”

We talked about each animal in each column. Then I gave a mini three-period lesson to my 3.5-year-old on the names of the animals. Once I felt he had a good grasp of the names, we moved on to sorting. Using only images, my 3.5-year-old sorted the animals into their respective columns.

Extensions: I also gave him a basket of figurines to match the image.  For additional language learning, there are name labels included in this printout. So if you want to make the activity a step further, give the child an opportunity to match the label to the image too.

Winter Animals Preschool Sorting Activity

Camouflage Activity for Preschoolers

When: I introduced this work at a separate circle time.

Materials: Montessori Print Shop offers beautiful camouflage cards to download. They offer three different sets of camouflaged animals. Once again, I printed and laminated the cards on card stock for safekeeping for the next several years of use.

How: The activity is a matching activity. First, we talked about camouflage and why animals might need the ability to become camouflaged. Then, we went through the cards with the animals, not in camouflage, and named them.

Finally, we looked at the cards with the animals in camouflage and paired them with the appropriate match. Then I asked my son if he would like a turn. He went through it a few times, and then we placed the cards in the science area of our learning space.

Extensions:  I also gave him a basket of figurines to match the image. We also went on walks and hid various figurines to camouflage them. That was very hands-on, got our bodies moving, and was a lot of fun!

Animals in Winter Children's Book

Children’s Books about Winter Animals

Online Resources for Winter Animal Learning

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