Friends, it is cold in Tennessee! The kids and I are spending more time indoors, under covers, and tucked into some good books. Thus, I find it fitting that “The Nature Book Club” is focusing on animals in the winter this month.
My kids are also very tired of spending too much time indoors and are ready to move around a bit more. So I created a quick game that helped them recognize which animals hibernate and which do not.
Animals in Winter
As humans we have three main ways we can deal with winter. We can move to warmer weather, find shelter, or tough it out! Animals are in a similar predicament. They can migrate, hibernate, or stay active and tough it out. Some animals adapt by displaying different social habits or changing their diet. For example, raccoons typically sleep alone, but may choose to share space with friends when the temperatures drop.
Animals in Winter
This book is a lovely introduction to the different methods animals choose to survive the winter. Short and to the point it is a great conversation starter for learning more about what the animals in our own backyard do during the winter.
Animals mentioned include:
Focused more on social understanding than science, this book does a great job of capturing the kids interest on the topic of hibernation. I have been asked to read this book a few zillion times this week. I exaggerate, but it has been highly requested.
The book specifically mentions bear, skunk, beaver, and raccoon. Pictures include other animals such as pigs and cats, which scientists agree do not hibernate! This makes it perfect for talking about which animals in the picture are true hibernators and which are not. It also sparks discussion about whether hibernating animals eat, drink, or use the bathroom.
The Seven Sleepers: The Story of Hibernation
This is great for those wanting a little bit more scientific information. My elementary level kiddos enjoyed going through this book one or two sections at a time over lunch. The book gives specifics of how animals prepare and endure hibernation or deep sleep (torpor).
True Hibernators: The Ground Squirrel, Earthworms, Slugs, Snails, The Woolly Bear Caterpillar, Ladybird Beetles, The Mourning Cloak Butterfly, Monarch Butterfly, Salamanders, Frogs, and Toads.
Hibernators that Sleep but easily wake: Woodchuck, Little Brown Bat, Jumping Mouse, Bear, Chipmunk, Skunk, Raccoon
Quick Win Hibernation Activity
One great example offered by this book is a quick activity showcasing how the ground squirrel conserves body heat. The book suggests having kids put one hand into a fist (like a curled up squirrel) and leaving the other hand open. Wait one minute and then place both hands open onto their cheeks. The hand that was curled up has conserved more body heat than the one that was kept flat. Cool, right?
Although my kids love books, they also love getting outside and having a chance to move around while we are learning. This game is perfect for the movers and shakers.
- Name an animal.
- Have all players act out what the named animal does to survive the winter.
- Migration – Flap wings and fly around the room
- Hibernate – Curl up in a ball to sleep
- Adapt and deal – Stand straight with legs shoulder width apart and strike a pose (body builder style)
These three motions are so different that the players have to fully commit to their decision and there may be some disagreement. Disagreement is great, it leads to discussion and research and learning! Referee if needed.
If you could use a refresher yourself about which animals hibernate, migrate, and adapt, feel free to use my list! It’s included on my free pdf of the game!
Hibernate, Migrate, or Tough it Out: A Wildlife Survival Game
As the kids play it’s really easy to slip in tidbits from your reading about how the animals behave in the winter. Garter snakes hibernate in groups. Frogs drop their body temperature to freezing. Snails use slime! There is so much wonderful information out there to excite them about science.
When animals migrate or hibernate the biggest threat is often human interference. One of the coolest conservation efforts has been the building of wildlife corridors to help animals avoid traffic. The kids and I really enjoyed learning more about local efforts to aid our native wildlife. Check out this Citizen Times Story about a highway overpass being built for bears, elk, and deer!
Books for Kids
- Over and Under the Snow by Kate Messner
- What is Hibernation? by John Crossingham
- Hibernation by Tori Kosara
- How and Why Animals Prepare for Winter by Elaine Pascoe
- Time to Sleep by Denise Fleming
Books for Parents
- Winter World: The Ingenuity of Animal Survival by Bernd Heinrich
- Science Made Simple – Hibernation Reading and Activities for Kids
- Free Download Activity Sheet on Hibernation from Teachers Pay Teachers
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