Inside: We use lots of hands-on activities while teaching our 2 year olds about animals that hibernate. A cave they can actually crawl into, caves they can build with arch blocks, bears and loose parts in the sensory bin. It creates a very meaningful environment that they love!
One of our winter themes is hibernation.
Every age level in our preschool includes this in their winter curriculum.
However, I wanted to keep it on a super simple and meaningful level for our youngest children.
I decided to focus on bears, since they are familiar with stuffed teddy bears, and many books involve bears as characters.
I also added some teddy bears to our circle time songs, we built caves out of blocks, and we went on a bear hunt around the building.
It ended up being a week filled with fun learning and exploration, and a deeper love for all bears!
How to Teach Toddlers about Animals that Hibernate
When our teaching teams came together to talk about props we’d use in each of our classrooms, we decided to make a bear cave out of a big cardboard box.
Playful learning is so important in preschool, where children can mimic what they’ve learned. In this case, after reading the book Bear Snores On, we pretended our big stuffed bear was the bear in the book.
This took on a whole new meaning for each hibernation activity we planned for the week.
Seeing the Cave
When our 2 year olds entered our classroom to start the day, it took them awhile to notice the bear cave that was tucked in our dramatic play area. In fact, at first they stood back to take in what they were looking at.
We hadn’t yet read the book about a bear who would not wake up, so the cave was not yet really interesting.
Learning About Hibernating Bears
As we called the children to come to the carpet for circle time, my co-teacher read Bear Snores On.
We talked about how bears love to sleep in the winter when it’s cold outside. Sometimes it’s hard to wake them up!
We compared it to when we take naps at home, cozy in our beds.
Acting out the Story
After circle time, we had more time to play with our cave.
I watched as the children got into the cave with Big Bear, pretending to be sleeping.
They then made him lots of tea, trying to wake him up.
They were excited to then notice a small white bear sitting at the table in our kitchen area.
Unlike Big Bear, this little guy was awake and hungry!
That delighted the children, who then made more tea for him, along with some grapes and crackers from our pretend pantry.
Learning About Hibernation Throughout the Classroom
I love using plexi-glass page holders to display photos in books! It’s a nice visual that invites the children to come and explore.
Across from the dramatic play area we set up a science table with hibernation books, plastic bears, tree blocks, and caves made out of paper bowls.
We also had bears in our sensory bin with rocks, pine cones, and dried beans and peas.
We removed our trains and turned our train table into an area where the children could build caves from arch blocks and play with our bears from our Little Critters set.
At the light table we once again turned paper bowls into caves, painting each of them a different color. We then added some of our colored sorting bears that matched the caves, and I placed matching colored masking tape in front them.
(Note: We did not put the smallest bears out, and kept a close eye on our 2 year olds when working with them.)
Our 2 year olds loved lining the bears up on the tape!
We turned process art into bears. You can see the activity here: Winter Bear Art for Toddlers
We rolled out cookie dough, stamped them with bear cookie cutters, and made bear cookies as a cooking activity.
We also went on a bear hunt.
While we were putting our cookies in the oven, we realized Big Bear not only left his bear cave, but he also left the classroom!
We followed paper bear paw prints that led us upstairs to the other side of the building.
We found bear in one of the offices, sitting in a chair.
We were so engrossed in this activity that I forgot to take photos!
All in all, it was a great week and very meaningful to our young preschoolers.
More Bear Fun
Come see how our 3 year olds made their own stuffed bears and beds:
See how we learned about bears with our older preschoolers:
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