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With winter being upon us, I recently planned a series of learning activities to teach my kids about Arctic animals. Arctic animals are those that live in the Arctic region of the world. The Arctic region is located in the northernmost part of the Earth. It consists of the Arctic ocean and parts of Canada, Russia, Alaska, and a few Nordic countries. The animals that live in this region for all or part of the year are known as Arctic animals, and they are specially adapted to life in this unique region of the world.
This post details 9 Arctic animals learning activities we did together.
Note: For more Arctic learning resources, see my Polar Animals and Lands Unit Study page or grab my Arctic Unit Study.
To support our learning about Arctic animals, I ordered the Safari Ltd Arctic Toob which comes with a small figurines of an igloo, polar bear, Arctic rabbit, Arctic fox, husky, caribou, harp seal, beluga whale, walrus, Eskimo and musher. I decided to focus our learning on all of the animals in the set except for the husky and the Eskimo. (I’m saving those for another lesson on another day.)
1. Read about Arctic animals
Two books we read were:
In Arctic Waters by Laura Crawford
Over in the Arctic: Where the Cold Winds Blow by Marianne Berkes
UPDATE: See my review of 20 books about Arctic animals.
2. Watch videos of Arctic animals
I thought that the best way for the kids to get to know what these wonderful Arctic creatures are like – other than visiting them in real life, of course – was to see them in action. I found several youtube videos that were short but interesting for the kids.
- Polar bear emerging from the ice after 5 months with two cubs
- Polar bear stalking seal as prey
- Baby harp seal on the ice
- Orcas in the water
Update: See my review of free Arctic animal videos.
3. Where is the Arctic?
After getting the kids interested in the arctic animals, we pulled out our globe to see where the Arctic is located. Since the kids are still talking about Santa and his reindeer, they were fascinated to learn that the North Pole is also in the Arctic. We talked about how it is very, very cold in the Arctic and there is snow for much of the year.
4. Blubber experiment to learn about Arctic animal adaptations
The blubber experiment is one of my favorite Arctic animals learning activities! After talking about how cold the Arctic is, the kids and I talked about what we, as humans, do to stay warm. Of course, animals don’t have clothes or blankets like we do, so they have to rely on their blubber to keep them warm. So we decided to do the blubber experiment I’ve seen all over the web lately. I filled two containers with icy water.
Then I put a big hunk of
clarified butter blubber into a baggie for each kid, and made them stick their fingers into the middle of it so that the blubber completely surrounded their fingers and would keep them insulated in the cold water. We put their other finger into an empty baggie so that the only difference between their two fingers was that one was insulated in blubber and one was not.
Then the kids dipped their fingers into the frigid water.
The kids noticed right away the difference in temperature between the finger coated in the blubber and the finger that did not have a blubber layer.
5. Arctic animal identification
One of my goals for our study of the Arctic animals was for the kids to recognize and identify several Arctic animals. For this activity, I used the animal figures in our Safari Ltd Arctic Toob. I thought the figures were life-like (rather than cartoonish) and would be a great way to have a tactile representation of each animal for the kids to use.
The kids were so excited when they saw the figures and immediately wanted to hold them. I went through each of the animals and had the kids look at them and name them. Then I pulled out some Arctic animal cards I had made from pictures I found online, and I had the kids match the animals on the cards to the animals in our set.
As they worked to match the pictures with the animals, we named all of the animals to reinforce the lesson.
6. Where Arctic animals live
Next, I wanted the kids to identify which animals were land animals, which were sea animals, and which spent their time on both land and in the water. I created a Where Arctic Animals Live activity for them to sort the animals by their habitat.
After we sorted the animals, we looked at their feet and fins. In this way, we were able to compare and contrast the feet/fins of the animals that live on land with those that live in the water and those that live on both land and water.
7. Learning about camouflage
Did you know that Arctic animals are not white year round? I didn’t until I started doing some research to plan these activities. 🙂
In the winter there is snow so the animals turn white to make it harder for predators to spot them, but in the summer when the snow melts they turn brown in order to better blend in with their surroundings.
The kids and I looked at pictures of several Arctic animals in the summer and fall, and we talked about how they change colors. Then we did an Arctic Animals Camouflage activity to help the kids see the benefits of changing color to match the surroundings.
The kids noted how it was much easier to spot the brown animals on the snow than the white animals.
At this point my daughter was not in a mood to continue the activity, but my son was game to keep learning about camouflage. Since our carpet is red, he changed in to red clothing so he would be camouflaged.
And then he went to the kitchen to see how his red clothes made him very visible against the white tile.
But he decided he wanted to wear something that would camouflage him in the kitchen too. Since our tile is white and black, he put on a white shirt and black pants.
This was such a fun and silly way to reinforce the concept of camouflage and hopefully make it stick in his brain!
8. Polar bear song and dance
Another activity we did was a cute polar bear song and dance I found at Twiggle Magazine.
9. Arctic ice sensory play
Inspired by a post at No Time for Flashcards, I prepared an Arctic ice sensory activity for the kids.
I filled both a small tub and a plastic cup with a few inches of water. I placed the water-filled cup in the tub, and then put the whole thing in the freezer overnight. I put something under one end of the tub to tilt it up so that when the water froze one side would represent the land covered in ice and the other side – once I added water – would represent the ocean. (In hindsight, tilting it did create the ice vs. ocean habitat I was looking for, but since the ice was at an angle it made it difficult to place the animals on the land since they kept sliding off. Oops!)
After the tub came out of the freezer, I removed the small cup that I had placed inside. This created a “fishing hole” where the polar bears could dive under the ice to go hunt for food. I took the ice from inside the cup out and placed it in the ocean side of the box to represent an ice floe like the ones that polar bears will swim to for a rest. Finally, I placed the Arctic animals from our Safari Ltd Arctic Toob inside and added several inches of water right before I presented the activity to the kids.
The kids spent time feeling how cold the water was.
And they enjoyed moving the animals around the habitat. (Especially to “drown” them in the ice hole – eek! :-))
Update: See what happened when we tried this Arctic ice sensory play activity again a year later!
More Arctic learning resources
More Arctic animals posts from Gift of Curiosity:
- Books about Arctic animals
- Arctic animal videos
- Arctic Animals Printables Pack
- Arctic animals camouflage activity
- Where Arctic animals live activity and printable
- Arctic ice sensory play
- Build an igloo
- Blubber experiment to show how animals stay warm
- Arctic animals do-a-dot printables
- Arctic animals Bingo
You’ll find more resources for learning about Arctic animals on my Polar Animals and Lands Unit Study page and my Polar Animals and Lands Pinterest board.
Thanks for sharing your ideas and activities here! I especially love the blubber experiment and the activity about being visible vs. camouflage. Fun and meaningful! 🙂
I am so impressed with all the different ways you thought of to teach them about the arctic animals. And your blubber experiment was brilliant! Thanks so much for sharing on We Made That!
Tina 'the book lady'
Thanks for all the great ideas! We are talking about Winter this month & I have already picked up a tube of the Arctic Animals so that worked out great. We will definitely be doing some of these activities!
This is a really thorough study, well done you!!
I love how they experimented with the idea being camouflage. You have such great ideas!
Some great ideas, we tried some artic animals in our sensory box with shaving foam as snow, they boys wern’t too keen on teh shaving foam so i will try your ice idea.
I made a blubber mitt as part of our penguin learning with my kindergarten kids last week. It is amazing what a layer of fat can do!
I love the hands on blubber science experiment. How fun! Thank you for linking up to the brand new Hearts for Home Blog Hop!
Heather @ Upside Down Homeschooling
Your children are so blessed!! They are learning and having fun at the same time, you definitely know how to do this whole homeschooling thing! 🙂
Thanks for linking up to the Hearts for Home blog hop! Blessings!!
Aww, what a kind comment. Thanks so much!
Love the way you taught about the arctic. My boys would love to do some of these things. If you have time I’d love it if you could share this on Family Fun Friday this Friday at Happy and Blessed Home. I post on some MOPS FB pages and this would be great!
I’d love to stop on by this Friday. Thanks for the invitation!
You have some great ideas, and thanks for the printables. Thanks for sharing at Delicate Construction!
And thanks to you for hosting the party!
Great ideas, I’m working on an Artic Animals unit right now for my preschool curriculum love this! I’ve pinned it! Thanks for sharing, here from Living Montessori Now!
I’m glad you can use some of these ideas. We had a lot of fun with this unit. 🙂
What a great lesson! We just had a book out of the library on caribou. We found it interesting to read. Thank you for sharing at Sharing Saturday!!
I love how you did the camouflage experiment.
Thanks for linking to Science Sunday!
Such wonderful and practical ideas, you’ve gone into such detail and depth.
Popping over from the Fun Sparks linky.
I love the blubber experiment and the camouflage activity ! Such a great ideas. Thanks for sharing all of these at Mom’s Library!
Great activities! I am pinning this! Thanks for sharing with us at Eco-Kids! I hope you will come link up with us again this week!! http://likemamalikedaughter.blogspot.com/2013/02/an-enchanted-childhood-playschool.html
What a wonderful unit!! Thank you for sharing at Sharing Saturday!
Love this! We’re featuring your post tomorrow on Share It Saturday over at Sugar Aunts. Thanks for linking up!
Shaunna @ Fantastic Fun and Learning
Great resources and ideas for teaching about arctic animals! I love the very simple sensory bin. Thanks so much for sharing in the Discover and Explore linky. I’m featuring this post today.
Shecki @ Greatly Blessed
Your kids are adorable! 🙂 We have the same toob. I got it when we read Gannon & Wyatt – Greenland.
I had to look up Gannon & Wyatt, and it looks like a great story! My kids are still too young for it, however. I’ll have to keep it in mind for when they are older!
I recently found your website and am loving so many of the thoughtful and amazing ideas you are sharing! This arctic program by far was the most impressive and want to thank you for the inspiration it brings to me for providing more fun STEAM and sensory education to my children! You are amazing Katie, wish I can meet you!!!
Thank you so much for your kind words. I’m thrilled to know you’ve found useful resources on my site and that you’ve enjoyed the Arctic activities I’ve shared. Wishing you the best!