For an Advent devotional this year my husband and I read All Creation Waits by Gayle Boss, which provides a lovely and meaningful glimpse into the natural world in winter. I also adore the book Nature All Year Long by Clare Walker Leslie — she spends January looking at animal adaptation & hibernation in winter. I have been wanting to explore some of these same themes with my kids, but December was naturally filled with LOTS of Christmas reading so I decided to wait until after Christmas to delve in to this.
I started prepping for January by doing a massive library book grab and then read and pared down the stack to what you’ll see listed below. I mainly want to just read books with my kids and learn about it in a playful way. In addition to reading books, here is my list of possible activities that we may or may not get to:
- Find and match small animal figurines to 3-Part Cards
- Sort 3-Part Cards: animals that hibernate vs. animals that adapt to winter
- Animal track memory game
- Make animal tracks in snow play dough
- Build a cave out of blankets & pillows and add hibernating stuffed animals & animal figurines. Pretend to hibernate.
- Build a small winter forest world out of play dough and natural materials — add animal figurines and play.
- Hibernating animals puppet shows (I love puppet shows for building language and imaginations)
- Hibernating animal crafts (probably using paper plates & paint with some cutting skills involved)
- Build mini winter dens for animal figurines using toothpicks & mini marshmallows
- Freeze hibernating animal figurines in ice cube tray. Use warm water + eye droppers to bring spring time and wake up the animals.
I’m sharing below what resources we’ll be using in January to explore this theme. We will also be exploring the Poles in January: the Arctic and Antarctica. My son gets little confused sometimes between a “winter animal” and an “arctic animal” so I think it will help to focus on these themes in January. We are embracing the COLD this month!
Free 3-Part Card Sets
If you click on the images below you will be taken to a PDF file of those 3-Part Card sets I created. I use all uppercase letters in my 3-Part Cards because I still have non-readers in my home.
Note that I’ve tried to mainly focus on animals we might see where we live in the Midwest (with some exceptions)–animals my kids are familiar with already. I included only insects that hibernate as adults (other insects hibernate as eggs or nymphs, and others migrate).
Obviously there are a lot more birds that adapt to winter, but I included a few of our favorites (and ones that are easily recognizable).
For simplicity sake, all the bird tracks are the same but I went ahead and made each one a card so they could be matched with the animal photo cards above. Obviously fish make no tracks so there is one empty spot!
See the end of this post for some more resources on animal tracks.
The following is a book list for what I’ve gathered to read about animals in winter, focused on adaptation and hibernation.
I did not include migration books because that felt like an entirely new topic to me (though some of the books listed below do address migration a little bit–they may mention geese or butterflies or other birds). The few migration books I checked out from the library seem to deal with worldwide animal migrations (including whales, for example) and that felt like more than what I wanted to do with my kids. Those were also more information-driven and less story-driven. I think for the topic of migration we can just keep it simple and learn more experientially: my kids can notice what birds come to our bird feeder or other birds we see around in the woods, and then we can talk about how most birds we aren’t seeing fly south for winter.
So, with that said, here are books that we will be reading for winter animal adaptation and hibernation.
My Top 5 Favorite Books for Animals in Winter:
|Over and Under the Snow (Kate Messner)
I like that this book has an easy to read & follow story that invites you to WONDER. It’s a magical picture of winer. It has vivid illustrations and also features a great set of winter animals. There is also some extra information in the back of the book for older readers.
|Animals in Winter (Henrietta & Richard G. Van Gelder)
More informative but also an engaging read. This features a wide variety of animals. A great one for summarizing migration, hibernation, and different forms of adaptation.
|Not A Buzz to Be Found: Insects in Winter (Linda Glaser)
I love that there’s a book focused solely on insects in winter!! The illustrations are wonderful. The story is informative but also engaging. This covers a wide variety of insects and is very clear about what phase the insect is in during winter (adult, egg, nymph, etc.) Very well done!
|Secrets of Winter (Carron Brown & Georgina Tee)
This is a Shine-A-Light Book from Usborne, which we have had mixed results with. This one is probably my favorite. I like that the story can be read on its own, regardless of the use of a flashlight (but of course that is super fun!). There are also extra tid-bits of information that can either be read or left out depending on the interest level (and attention span) of your child. The illustrations in this are vivid and engaging.
|The Big Snow (Berta & Elmer Hader)
An absurdly wonderful book from the ’80s! This feels a lot like reading Thornton Burgess but in a picture book format. The stories are well done, clearly inspire a love of the natural world, and each page is paired nicely with simple illustrations.
Additional Books on Animals in Winter:
|A Warm Winter Tail (Carrie A. Pearson)
This puts the reader into the perspective of the animals: baby animals ask their mamas if humans do the same things they do to keep warm in the winter. The illustrations are wonderfully realistic. I’ll admit the reading can get a little choppy–it seems to have a rhythm but was a bit off for me. At the end of the book are several pages of more detailed educational material for older kids.
|Winter Bees & Other Poems of the Cold (Joyce Sidman & Rick Allen)
POETRY! So great. There are twelve poems inspired by a variety of winter animals. The illustrations are gorgeous (as evidenced by the cover). There are also some extra blurbs of information on each page to read that are well written. I almost included this one as a Top 5–I love it!
|Winter Dance (Marion Dane Bauer)
Perfect story for my kids’ age range (2-4) — and spot on in terms of addressing a variety of adaptations to winter. Lovely illustrations. New as of October 2017 and worth checking out if your library has it! A sweet story.
|Tracks in the Snow (Wong Herbert Yee)
A fantastical story of a girl alone in the winter woods following a trail of footprints and wondering what the animals she normally might see are doing. A rhyming and easy-to-read story that’s not bogged down by too much science or information: just a fun trek in the winter woods!
|When It Starts To Snow (Phillis Gershator)
Simple, rhyming verse with a bit of humor. This includes farm animals, not just woodland animals. The illustrations are not my favorite but the story is engaging so I kept it in our book pile.
|Hibernation Station (Michelle Meadows)
This simple story just takes a fun spin on winter animals. It is not at all science-driven: there is no distinction in the story between animals that hibernate versus animals that adapt (some slow down but are not true hibernators)—though, the author does make a note of this fact at the end of the book. It’s a silly enough story to read with a light heart, though.
|Bugs and Bugsicles (Amy S. Hansen)
Another book solely dedicated to insects in winter. I will say the text on these pages is way too long and detailed and information-driven to hold my kids’ attention. I kept this for just another book to look at since my kids do love bugs and there’s a couple of great spreads. I will also say that I wish more of the illustrations included depictions of winter and not just details of the various insects. In my opinion, the Not A Buzz to Be Found: Insects in Winter book does a better job on this topic. Older kids may appreciate the content in this one, though!
|Winter Lullaby (Barbara Seuling)
A pretty simple lyrical read — nothing too elaborate. The page spreads are beautiful. Not a huge variety of animals depicted here but overall I appreciate its simplicity.
|Mousekin’s Woodland Sleepers (Edna Miller)
I found this book from a Charlotte Mason “living books” list, and it is as wonderful as it seems. Great story to follow — covers animals that hibernate and animals that are active (the ones Mousekin should be careful to avoid). It’s an older publication, so I hope your library has it!
|When Winter Comes (Nancy Van Laan)
Beautiful illustrations and just the right amount of text for a preschooler. This book includes plants, animals that migrate, and animals that stay and adapt. Story-driven and imaginative.
|Time to Sleep (Denise Fleming)
The illustrations in this book are not my personal favorite. What I do love about this book: every animal featured is an animal that hibernates!! It can be confusing (for adults, even!) to distinguish between true winter hibernation and those animals that slow down but still remain active for parts of winter, so I really appreciate that this book just sticks to one thing: hibernation. An easy read that is great for kids who may not tolerate the length of some of the other books on this list.
|The Animals’ Winter Sleep (Lynda Graham-Barber)
A nice easy-to-read story that doesn’t spend time distinguishing between hibernation and adaptation–it just invites the reader to imagine how animals might stay warm in winter. This book does a great job naming the various winter homes, e.g. den, cave, log, or lodge. In the back of the book is more detailed information and a page with animal tracks.
Winter Animal Tracks in the Snow
Considering animals that adapt to winter naturally lends itself to a lesson on animal tracks. Again, I’m mainly focusing on learning this with my kids in a playful way. I created a wood craft coin memory game [DIY below] that we have already played several times. This gets the kids to focus on the shapes and patterns looking solely at a black-and-white images. Later we will pair the footprints with the printed animal cards and our animal figurines and also make tracks in snow play dough.
- A variety of Safari TOOB animals (Nature or Into The Woods or North American Wildlife)
- 3-Part Cards: Tracks and Animals That Adapt Photo Cards
- Jr. Rangerland Animal Tracks Puzzle (my son got this for Christmas and it’s wonderful!)
- DIY craft coin ANIMAL TRACK MEMORY GAME
- Print this sheet on to white card stock
- Cut each in to circles using 1.25″ circle hole punch
- Use Matte Mod Podge and adhere footprint circles to 1.5″ wood craft circles
- Coat top with Mod Podge again
- I later took a fine point Sharpie and wrote the name of the animal by the track so I could be sure to know what it was
- Footprint rocks:
Animal Track Books
- Tracks, Scats, and Signs
- Big Tracks, Little Tracks
- Whose Tracks Are These?
- Wild Tracks!: A Guide to Nature’s Footprints
- The Animals’ Winter Sleep (tracks page in the back)
- Nature All Year Long by Clare Walker Leslie
Other Helpful Resources: Animals in Winter
- Nature All Year Long by Clare Walker Leslie (January covers Animals in Winter)
- Bear Snores On — I did not include this board book above because we have owned it for years and read it so many times already, but it’s a lovely animals-in-winter book
- Frozen Wild by Jim Arnosky (an amazing book for older kids that deals with animal survival in the cold, both in winter but also in the polar regions)
- Simply Charlotte Mason Nature Study Ideas for Winter
- Living Books Library Winter Nature Study Books
- Free cards mini-book to pair with Hibernation Station
- Free hibernating animal puppet printable
- Hibernating animals craft ideas
- Which Animals Hibernate? free worksheet
- Hibernation songs and finger plays