Brrr…when the weather gets cold and the winds are gusting, hibernation activities are fun ways to help kids develop specific skills with the theme of winter. Hibernation on the sofa is my place to go, but that doesn’t mean that adding a creative ways to learn about winter and how animals survive the cold can’t be included into therapy themes! Let’s explore different hibernation ideas to support kids!
This activity set is just one theme in our weekly themes for occupational therapy. However, these are great winter activities to add to a preschool setting, kindergarten classroom setting, or learning lessons at home.
Or, use them along with a favorite book about hibernation which is great this time of year.
When the weather gets colder, coffee or hot cocoa, a warm throw, a good movie, and the fireplace on, ah, now that’s what I call good hibernation for humans. However, animals don’t have those luxuries so they deal with the cold winter with the harshness of winter season by going into their own form of hibernation. Some animals essentially curl up in a safe place and stay there until winter ends. Some sleeping for their hibernation entirety!
Children love learning about animals and there are plenty of fun ways to explore animals in the winter season!
Not only are these hibernation themed ideas great for the cold of winter, but there are many learning lessons here too that relate to self-regulation, the occupation of sleep hygiene, and heavy proprioceptive input that occupational therapy professionals often cover with their caseloads.
Think about using hibernating animals as a tool to teach kids about a slowed heartbeat (interoception), deep sleep, and the calming environment a cave or sleeping space can have.
We’ve pulled a variety of hibernation activities together so you can pack your sessions with hands-on activities that include some animals in the wintertime. There are a variety of animals that hibernate in the winter months such as, bears, snails, bats, lemurs, bumblebees, hedgehogs, groundhogs, and raccoons.
You will find many fun and easy-to-implement ideas to bring the hibernation-theme to your sessions. So, go exploring and grab some inspirational fun that will engage your kiddos while theming it up for wintertime!
We’ve sorted these various hibernation theme activities into skills, so you can pick and choose the activities that work for your needs.
Fine Motor Hibernation Activities
Fine Motor Hedgehog- You can make a fine motor hedgehog with a bit of play dough and some toothpicks. Create a ball of play dough (read about the benefits of play dough, too) and then poke the toothpicks into the back. Add googly eyes and draw a face on the playdough using one of the toothpicks. This hibernation idea provides kids with the engaging activity of hedgehog creation using play dough and toothpicks to create! Tactile, fine motor, and eye-hand coordination skills are in use with this fun little guy!
Weaving Hedgehog- by Ryan & Marsha | This cute little activity works on bilateral coordination and delicate touch in order for the child to gently weave strips of construction paper through the slits in the body of the hedgehog to create a rainbow-bodied hedgehog. Read more about the benefits of weaving paper in developing fine motor skills and bilateral coordination skills.
Build a Hibernation Den- All you need is a blanket to make bear caves, or a nest used by sleeping chipmunks, squirrels, or skunks. This center is designed for kids to be creative in using blocks to create dens for hibernating animals. Children use the materials provided to create their den using prompts provided by an adult such as, build a covering for the top and a small entry for the animal. Works on eye-hand coordination and visual perceptual skills.
You can check out our polar bear cave which we used for a polar bear theme, but it would be a great addition to any hibernation theme.
Feed the Animals Activities- This activity would work for many different animals, and you can even have each child make their own hibernation animal craft. Start with a paper plate and create an animal’s face such as:
- Ground squirrel
- And more!
Children can use crayons, paper scraps, markers, etc. to create the winter animal of their choosing. Then, cut a hole in the middle to make a mouth (You may want to start with the hole cut in the plate before decorating.) Then, children can use tongs to pick up and move small objects like beads, craft pom poms, either real or fake acorns, crumbled paper, etc. as a counting activity to feed the paper animals that are placed on plastic cups. Works on fine motor strength and grasp patterns as well as counting skills.
Clothespin Hedgehogs- A clothespin activity that works on fine motor strengthening and pinch grasp to place the clothespins on the back of a paper plate hedgehog to build the spines. The child can create the hedgehog first by cutting and painting the plate to extend the activity.
Gross Motor Hibernation Activities
Bear Brain Breaks – These movement activities are perfect to use for sleep time and/or winding down in preparation for bedtime. They include stretches and whole-body movements that happen in a calm manner to prepare for sleep.
Squirrel Brain Breaks– Just like the bear brain breaks listed above, these squirrel themed heavy work activities support calming input of brain breaks.
Hibernation Den- Use the bear cave described above as a home base for obstacle courses, animal walks, and heavy work. This is a great way to work on crawling skills or the bear walk movement so as to have a child crawl or bear walk to the large cardboard box that has been turned into a den. Or you can drape a blanket over a small table and create a bear den for children to hibernate in to read a book. This den will allow them to be cozy and comfy while inside.
Hibernation Obstacle Course- You could use sorting activities along with the den described above tape along the floor to create a path for winter animals heading to their home before the long winter. Discuss how the den is created after exploration of how animals survive in winter. Think about using multi-sensory materials such as tree bark, rocks, crumpled paper, fake trees, pine cones, sticks, nuts, a forest habitat and pond, and stumps. This is an open
project that uses whatever you can get your hands on!
Bear Walk Gross Motor Dice- This activity is perfect for a chilly day that you need to get the wiggles out with kids as it focuses on deep impact body movements with different directions and speeds. We incorporated other motor skills too, such as fine motor skills to roll a dice, visual motor skills and visual perception, and handwriting skills to track motor actions. You can find this resource inside our Member’s Club (Level 2)in the Arctic Animals Therapy Theme. The printable worksheet is geared toward polar bears, but it works well with any bear theme, too.
Visual Activities with a Hibernation Theme
Groundhog Vision Activities Slide Deck -This slide deck is designed with activities
specifically for vision therapy including visual perceptual skills and visual motor integration. It’s always a hit around Groundhogs day but perfect for including in a hibernating animals activity. It’s free so go grab your copy today!
Groundhog Day Shadow Matching (COMING SOON)- This is a free printable worksheet where children work on matching the groundhog to its shadow while working on visual discrimination and visual memory skills.
Hibernating Animal Food Ideas- Cooking with kids is a powerful way to address various skills, including fine motor skills, social skills, direction following, sensory motor skills, and more.
We made this Bear Snack Food to go along with the book, “We’re going on a Bear Hunt” but they would be great for books like “Bear Snores On” by Karma Wilson, or other hibernation books about bears.
These cute food ideas can work on assembly skills with the use of snack foods to create two bears! Cute and tasty!
Please be aware of any food allergies before doing these activities as one activity uses peanut butter. You have the child work to create, but they get the reward of eating at the end! Yummy!
Teddy Bear Apple Snack- This bear themed snack is another fun activity to work on skills through cooking. We used sliced apples and small items like raisins and mini marshmallows to create a teddy bear face.
Note: You can switch out peanut butter with SunButter, which uses sunflower seeds to create a butter that tastes very similar to peanut butter! That is what our family uses as we have a child that is very allergic to peanuts.
Hibernation Craft Activities
We’ve covered a hibernation craft idea or two above, but these ideas are fun, too:
Popsicle Stick Hibernating Bear- Make this craft by Glued to my Crafts as a cute bear cave craft. It’s a fun activity that uses craft sticks to build a bear cave and then create a bear that lies inside of it. This activity works on cutting and pasting skills and the important process of sequencing to assemble accurately. There’s a small tactile element with the use of cotton balls to create the snow.
Paper Plate Hedgehog Craft- You can support development of scissor skills, graded grasp and release, eye-hand coordination, and bilateral coordination skills by snipping into the edge of a paper plate. Start with the plate cut in half. Then, draw a small face in one corner. Then, snip into the curve of the plate to create spines along the back of a hedgehog.
This activity directly works on cutting skills to cut on lines to create the hedgehog body and then repetitive lines on the back to create the spines of the hedgehog. A great time to work on scissor grasp and cutting on lines.
Bear Craft– Use a cardboard piece cut into a bear head shape. Then, wrap string, yarn, or twine around the form to create a textured bear craft. This is a great motor skill activity that challenges bilateral coordination and crossing midline.
Tissue Paper & Paper Plate Raccoon or a Sleeping Bear craft– This idea by Glued to my Crafts are fun ways to make different hibernating animals. These cute paper plate crafts are the perfect time to work on either snip cutting strips of tissue paper to create the faces of these hibernating animals or you can have a child work on pinch and tear skills and just
leave the scissors in the pencil bag!
Hibernating Bear Paper Plate Craft– This cave craft by A Little Pinch of Perfect is a cute craft that uses simple materials for children to create a cave for a bear to sleep in for the winter. Children work on cutting, drawing, pasting, and painting skills. Sequencing skills are an essential piece of this craft.
Racoon Craft– Use a clothes pin, newspaper print, and black paper to make a cute racoon craft that supports fine motor skills.
Hibernation Sensory Bins
Hibernation Sensory Bin- To make a hibernation sensory bin, all you need are various textures, possibly animal toys or figures, and hands! Use a large bin and add items such as:
- dry beans
- crumbled paper
- dry split peas
- cotton balls
- pine cones
- wooden trees
- glass gems
- and more
Making a sensory bin with a hibernation theme is great for visual and tactile exploration of various textures but you could also incorporate fine motor skills by making sleeping animal homes for winter. We have some examples in our polar bear sensory bin that would transfer well to a hibernation sensory bin.
These sensory bins can go along with a preschool hibernation theme as literacy activities when incorporating different preschool books.
Hibernation Theme Play Dough- Use a plastic tray and play dough along with animal figures, rocks, glass gems, beads, popsicle sticks, etc. to create a woods small world for hibernating animals. Press the animals into the play dough to create animal tracks as they retreat for their winter sleep. There is so much possibility with this idea!
There are multiple ways for kids to engage with this tray to include building dens and hibernating spots for the animals. Scissor use helps to provide opportunities for grasping skill development and hand strengthening. When children manipulate the play dough, they are strengthening fingers, developing eye-hand coordination and bilateral hand skills.
Bear Deep Breathing Activity– We used a polar bear for this deep breathing activity, but you can make it into a bear for a hibernation activity, too. Print it off and work on deep breathing as a sensory and self-regulation tool.
We hope that you enjoyed this round-up of hibernation activities listed here as they are simply perfect for the winter season! They build essential skills that kids need while allowing them to remain engaged and provide opportunities for creativity!
Regina Parsons-Allen is a school-based certified occupational therapy assistant. She has a pediatrics practice area of emphasis from the NBCOT. She graduated from the OTA program at Caldwell Community College and Technical Institute in Hudson, North Carolina with an A.A.S degree in occupational therapy assistant. She has been practicing occupational therapy in the same school district for 20 years. She loves her children, husband, OT, working with children and teaching Sunday school. She is passionate about engaging, empowering, and enabling children to reach their maximum potential in ALL of their occupations as well assuring them that God loves them!