Learning about hibernation and how animals survive the cold winter months is such a fascinating topic for preschoolers! You can teach about hibernating animals with these creative (and free) hibernation activities for preschoolers. (And you can see more thematic activities on my blog!)
Be sure to grab the free hibernation themed preschool lesson plans at the end of this post.
Have you ever taught a hibernation theme as part of your winter preschool lesson plans? Hibernation is a fitting topic to include.
Not only are preschoolers curious about animals in the winter, but it’s also such an easy segue between all the winter topics to include in your winter theme activities.
FAQ About Teaching Hibernation to Kids
Winter is the perfect time to teach hibernation to preschoolers. After all, hibernation is all about what (some) animals do in the winter. The very best time to do hibernation activities with preschoolers is during your winter theme in preschool.
I like to snuggle them in between classic preschool winter activities about ice and snow and an arctic animals theme. We spend a few weeks learning about all the characteristics of winter, and then we spend a week or so learning about hibernating animals. That week of doing hibernation activities is the perfect segue into introducing an arctic animals theme.
Hibernation is when an animal sleeps for a long period of time during cold weather. Hibernation lasts anywhere from a few weeks to several months. The length of time an animal hibernates depends on the species, the time of year, ambient temperatures, and how healthy the animal is. [source]
Animals such as rodents, reptiles, and insects all hibernate. Technically, a bear does not. Bears fall into a deep sleep called a torpor. [source]
When animals hibernate, they fall into a state of dormancy. This means their body temperature, heart rate, and breathing rate all drop.
Animals hibernate to survive the winter season, when the weather is cold and food is scarce. To prepare, animals might search for, eat, and/or store extra food in the fall. Their fur also thickens to keep them warm.
Hands-On Preschool Hibernation Activities
These hibernation lesson plans are a part of my Learn At Home Preschool Lesson Plans Collection. This is a collection of weekly lesson plans for preschool that focus on a single theme at a time and offers at least sixteen hands-on preschool activities per theme.
Be sure to grab your free hibernation themed preschool lesson plans from the end of this post.
Literacy Activities for a Hibernation Theme
Bear Snores On Retell – After listening to the story The Bear Snores On by Karma Wilson, invite your preschooler to draw quick pictures of the story. After the pictures have been drawn, cut them out and place them in story order. Encourage your preschooler to retell the story, offering help as needed.
Create Your Own Bear Story – Follow the above activity by inviting your preschooler to help you write or draw their own bear story. Encourage them to tell you about the characters or animals they would like to include. Help them write letters for the beginning sounds of words. What happens in the beginning, middle, end? They can copy words or trace them. Ask your preschooler to be the illustrator of the story and use detailed and colorful drawings to make the story come to life. You can even get stuffed animals and act out the story, too.
Math and Science Activities for a Hibernation Theme
Squirrel Stash Counting – Squirrels prepare for winter by gathering and hiding acorns and nuts. Grab some small snack foods and invite your preschooler to play a counting game. Roll a dice, identify the number, and count out that many snacks to add to a pretend winter stash. You can get a similar squirrel counting game here.
Bear Den More & Less – Paint two paper bowls brown and turn them upside down. Cut out a small half circle to be the entrance to the cave. What animal toys can fit under the bowl (and in the cave)? Play a game and put an unequal amount of counters in each den. Which den has more? Which den has less?
Hibernation Animal Sort – Find some pictures online of animals that hibernate and animals that don’t. Print or draw the animals and sort by yes or no. Alternatively, you can also do a Google image search for “animals” and go through the photos online, having your preschooler say yes or no to each image.
Playful Learning Activities for a Hibernation Theme
Bear Cave – Create a cave (fort) with blankets, sheets, or towels. Pretend to be a bear waking up from a long winter’s nap. Are you angry? Hungry? Grumpy? Act out different moods. But more importantly, just have fun pretending to be an animal hibernating in the cave. This is also a good opportunity to teach your preschooler about how different animals hibernate in different kinds of homes.
Bear or Hibernating Animal Puppets – Using paper lunch bags, grab assorted craft materials from around the house and make hibernating animal puppets. Use googly eyes, pipe cleaners, stickers, feathers, you name it! Once the puppets are dry…put on a puppet show!
Junk Mail Art – Grab some junk mail and encourage your preschooler to cut out things that interest them. This is great for building hand strength and fine motor development… plus it’s fun!
Social-Emotional Activities for a Hibernation Theme
Don’t Poke the Bear – We know the phrase ‘Don’t Poke the Bear’ means not to make someone angry. Invite your child to pretend to be a sleeping bear. Another person taps them on the shoulder…the bear is angry when he wakes up. What are some ways to manage feelings of anger? Discuss with your preschooler how they could help calm their body when they are angry. Switch roles with each other and continue waking the bear with new emotions!
Hibernating Animals Role Play – Grab those hibernating animal puppets you might have already made and use them for modeling manners and kindness. Invite your preschooler to act out a scene with the characters. Perhaps in the scene, one animal or character is sad because he feels left out. How can the other characters make him feel included? Encourage your preschooler to be the voice of an animal and make their voices and body language model the emotions. Continue making scenes together to model other social skills like sharing, waiting for a turn, and following directions.
Just Plain Fun Activities for a Hibernation Theme
Playdough Animal Homes – Using brown or tan playdough, invite your preschooler to make animal homes for the winter. What does a raccoon den look like? How about a notch in a tree for a squirrel? Where does a frog hibernate? Etc. etc. You can find all my playdough recipes in my playdough book.
Nature Walk – Go on a walk and try to find different animal homes. What kinds of animals might hibernate in each home? Note that hibernation homes can be above ground or underground.
Hibernation Craft – Cut a paper plate to look like a cave. Add leaves and colored construction paper to the bottom. This makes a cozy den, but also camouflages the animals. Add toys or drawn animals.
Get Online Activities for a Hibernation Theme
Online Story – Go to YouTube and listen to the book Hibernation Station by Michelle Meadows. Pause periodically to talk about the illustrations and all the different animals that hibernate. This develops oral language skills.
Research Animals that Hibernate – Research different kinds of animals that hibernate. Check out these links: Hibernating Animals and Getting Ready for Hibernation. Help your child write a list of all the animals that hibernate.
Hibernation Song – Enjoy this clever song that helps preschoolers learn about some animals that hibernate and when it’s time to wake up!
Get Your Free Hibernation Lesson Plans Here
Think these hibernation activities for preschoolers will complete your winter theme lesson plans? Then grab your copy below. Just click the image and the PDF will be sent to your email.
I’m Sarah, an educator turned stay-at-home-mama of five! I’m the owner and creator of Stay At Home Educator, a website about intentional teaching and purposeful learning in the early childhood years. I’ve taught a range of levels, from preschool to college and a little bit of everything in between. Right now my focus is teaching my children and running a preschool from my home. Credentials include: Bachelors in Art, Masters in Curriculum and Instruction.