Have children place a plastic bag on their hand and hold a piece of ice. Talk about how the bag is like skin and how skin alone does not keep us or animals warm. Then take a second plastic bag and place quite a bit of shortening in it. Place the first bag inside the bag with the shortening, making sure the shortening stays to one side. Have the children slip their hand into the inner bag with the shortening side on their palm. Again have them hold ice. They will not feel the cold. Talk about how animals eat a great deal in the winter to build up a layer of fat that will keep them warm.
For my Science class (ages 3-5) I discussed Hibernation, Migration and Adaptation of animals during the winter. We talked about how bears, raccoons and other hibernating animals build up fat stores and we played with a Ziploc bag of lard and ate berries and played with nuts and leaves that animals ate.
We played in a bear cave and talked about which animal we would most like to be. Finally, when no good form could be found to help children learn which animals do each different thing I made one in Microsoft Word with clip art and three columns (Adaptation, Migration, Hibernation) and children had to choose which they thought it was using stickers I gave them. Since they only had to know the first letter even the three year old nonreaders could do it.
For your forest or hibernation theme try this, our preschoolers loved it. I use placemats or use the sensory table. I made brown play dough then had the children knead coffee grounds into the play dough for a bumpy texture and a fun smell. With the play dough we added Kleenex boxes cut in half, yogurt containers, toilet paper rolls for logs, green stems, leaves, ferns and some forms of flowers if you wish that I purchase at Wal-Mart. We put in nuts, seeds, corn for winter food. We have the children help gather the animals that they think may hibernate or live in the forest!
Our preschoolers had so much fun making the forest and building homes for the animals!
It is so rewarding to watch and listen to these little minds. As one child figures out that they can add little people to take a walk through the forest, then one runs and finds a rubber snake and puts it in a hole in the clay! They had a blast!
As part of our winter studies and animal hibernation we also talk about how the plants go dormant. IN preparation for Spring we plant an amaryllis bulb with the children and have them wonder what it is. We say that because it is indoors that we are going to try to wake this bulb up by planting it in the warm indoors and giving it water. Then we wait and watch. The children are fascinated in wondering what it is and noting haw it changes over the weeks. We chart it growth and comment on its changes in a classroom log. Often is it the first thing that the children rush in to look at when they first get to school. It is such a spectacular flower once it blooms.
In the Fall we begin talking about animals and where they go for in the winter. One fun activity we do (to teach the concept of hibernation) is to take a large box; paint it brown, then glue leaves, grass, etc,. on it. This becomes our “bear cave.” We discuss hibernation and the children use the “bear cave” throughout the winter season in their dramatic play area.
For a Hibernation project: use large brown supermarket bags to make individual caves….we shortened them about 3 inches on the bottom, painted them Cave Gray, and after they dried, glued cotton batting on the top and along the bottom to look like snow. We cut a flap on the front for a door. The we put small stuffed animals inside where they will stay for the rest of the winter…when Spring comes, we will wake up our Hibernators and have a party!!!