Hibernate, Cluster, Burrow, Freeze: How Animals Survive Winter’s Chill


During the few days of reprieve from bitterly cold temperatures, my children noticed a slight increase in animal behaviors.  Squirrels were skittering about, flocks of small birds were perched in the trees, and several different animal tracks crisscrossed through the snow in our yard.

backyard critters

Now that the below freezing temperatures are back the animals seemed to have disappeared again.  This has raised some questions from my kids: Where have these animals been hiding?  How have they been staying warm?  What have they been eating?

Like we do when we are beginning research on any topic of interest, we first headed to our library.  We found these wonderful books, most of which touch on a wide range of animals and their unique survival skills.

books: animals in winter1234.

We also visited a few websites and watched some videos…

My children were most amazed to learn that some animals, like North American wood frogs and painted turtles, go into a state of deep freeze with their cells protected by a sort of natural anti-freeze substance.  How cool is that?!  And being New England residents they could definitely relate to adding on extra layers and shivering to get warm.

So, after a visit to a local arctic museum the experiments and crafts began.

winter animal fun

  • We tried a blubber experiment and added our own touch by comparing feathers, leaves, and fur (using craft fur or wool sweater scraps).
  • The kids always have fun with sensory bins and they loved hiding the animals for each other in our winter camouflage bin.  You might find inspiration for your own here and here.
  • You might like to try some of these Arctic animal activities from Gifts of Curiosity.
  • Exploring Nature.org has a downloadable activity to try: Where Do Animals Go in Winter?

Have fun exploring and learning about the amazing ways animals survive winter’s chill!


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