This month we got our first snow and it paired perfectly with our new theme in preschool: The Arctic. We read a variety of picture books on the topic. Students learned about snow and icebergs. Arctic animals were introduced, along with the characteristics of these animals that allow them to survive harsh Arctic conditions. We also relished in these 8 fun, interactive, and educational activities. Enjoy exploring the Arctic with us!
Favorite Arctic Books
#1 Arctic Animals Sensory Bin
I honestly couldn’t say who was more excited, myself or the students! This sensory bin was full of faux snow and Arctic animals figurines that I was so eager to introduce to the students.
Before introducing this fun Arctic Sensory Bin, the students and I read a few picture books about the Arctic. The stories became inspiration for the students’ play in the sensory bin. Seeing the books come to life ended up being the most fun aspect of the entire sensory bin activity.
Once our reading was finished, and we moved towards the sensory bin, the activity came to life. The faux snow was a big hit! Students observed the dried snow granules as they grew after adding spoonfuls of water. We explored the faux snow, which feels just like real snow, and found that it can also be packed similar to real snow.
This activity also brought on an excellent discussion about the color of the animals and how their color can protect them from predators, again drawing from the books we read. Learning about these animals from another part of the world was fascinating for the preschoolers. They were proud of their newfound knowledge.
#2 “Snowball” Transfer Counting Game
This counting game exercises fine motor skills and practices numbers. It might even serve as a snack when completed!
In this case, “snowballs” are actually mini marshmallows. Students sat down to the table and were presented with a plate full of mini marshmallows. I then invited them to use the mini tongs on their tray to transfer “snowballs” from the plate to their bowl.
But how many marshmallows to transfer? In the picture below, you can see that each student has a red dice with numerals 5-10. Students rolled the dice and counted the same number of marshmallows to transfer, individually, from plate to bowl.
Once the bowl is full the game is completed. Students enjoy their hard work by eating the tasty “snowballs”.
#3 Arctic Animal Pictures With Labels
This art project encourages children to practice writing and vocabulary.
For writing practice one morning, I displayed several pictures of the Arctic and invited the students to draw their own picture. Once completed, I pulled each student aside and asked that they share with me what they drew. I labeled their drawings as they shared. It was impressive to see how well some students remembered the newly introduced Arctic vocabulary.
#4 Matching Animal Tracks In Play Dough
Like the sensory bin before, the real fun of this activity came from bringing stories from the Arctic books to life.
- Arctic Books (see above)
- “Arctic” Play Dough (play dough recipe with added glitter. click here for play dough recipe)
- Arctic Animal Figurines
Students press the figurines into the “Arctic” play dough to form an animal track. They had fun with this experiment and were able to match the tracks with the animal and then start all over again. The activity evolved into playing out and retelling the stories with the animals in the snow. Matching animal tracks in play dough was simple (based around imaginative play and fine motor skills) and highly enjoyed by the students.
Here, William and his classmate are retelling the story from the book Whale Is Stuck.
#5 Blubber Experiment
A well-known science activity that will teach students, first-hand, all about the way blubber keeps animals warm in the Arctic.
- Plastic Ziploc Bags
- Bin full of Ice Water
After a discussion about blubber, what it is, and its purpose, I placed a bin full of ice water on the table. I also passed a bag of “blubber” to each student. The blubber was made in advance by putting shortening inside a ziploc bag (to save on clean up, add another bag after the shortening). Each student put one hand inside their blubber bag. I invited the students to first place their bare hand into the ice water and describe how it feels. After the bare hand felt the water, the blubber hand can go in, and again the students describe what they feel. Which hand was colder in the ice water?
#6 Video Clip: Arctic Fox Hunting Mice in Snow
More for kicks and giggles, I decided to share this with my preschoolers after my children watched and thoroughly enjoyed the PBS Documentary.
- Prepare a way to display and watch “Fox Dives Headfirst Into Snow” in your circle time area
- Gather students in circle
We watched the video twice. The first time through I asked questions and explained why the fox was diving head first into the snow. The second time was strictly for laughs. It really is a funny clip that gets the preschool giggles going!
#7 Melting Icebergs Counting Game
This is a great activity that incorporates counting and fine motor skills. Our group was very inspired by the results and a valuable conversation opened up about how ice melts.
- Bowl of Warm Water
- Water Dropper
- Empty Bowl
- “Icebergs” -frozen blue water in plastic cups
Each student received an “Iceberg” in their bowl (freed from the plastic cup) with a bowl of warm water, a water dropper, and dice. The game is to roll the dice and then drop the same number of warm droplets on the iceberg. Watch how the ice melts!
#8 Arctic Animal Sort
During our theme the students spent some time learning about where different Arctic animals live. We came to the conclusion that the animals could be found in the water, the land, or in the air.
- Homemade Nomenclature Cards from a book of Dover Stickers
- 3 different trays, labeled “Land”, “Water”, “Air”
Students sorted the cards by placing them individually in the three categories according to where they thought the animal would be found. When the categories were filled, and the display was observed, we were able to examine the characteristics that allow each animal to fit into each category. For example, Arctic animals that are found mostly on land have fur, animals found mostly in the water have blubber, and animals that fly (Arctic birds) have down to keep them warm. We found that some animals, like seals and walruses, fit into more than one category.