Animals in Winter

Children will explore ways animals prepare for winter.


Lesson Objective

Children will explore different ways animals prepare for winter and make a hibernation cave.


What You'll Need

  • Small tissue boxes with the open end cut off – 1 per child
  • Black and brown paint – 1 bottle of each
  • Sticks and dried leaves – enough for each child to cover their box
  • Straw – 1 handful per child
  • Small paper plates – 1 per child
  • Paintbrushes – 1 per child
  • Glue – 1 bottle per table
  • Scissors – 1 per child
  • Markers or crayons – 1 pack per 2 children
  • Plastic animals – at least 1 per child

What To Do

  1. Discuss the ways different animals prepare for winter, and the difference between true hibernators and winter sleepers (see Did You Know?).
  2. Tell the children they will be making a hibernation cave.
  3. Display the materials and ask the children how they could create a cave for hibernation out of them.
  4. Allow each child to choose a tissue box.
  5. Place the plates of paint, paintbrushes, glue, sticks, leaves, and straw on the tables and let the children go to work.
  6. Ask the children questions about what animals need for their winter home (see Guiding Student Inquiry).
  7. Allow the children to choose a plastic animal to place in their cave for winter hibernation.

Guiding Student Inquiry

  • Describe for me some different ways animals get ready for winter.
  • Explain the difference between an animal that truly hibernates and an animal that sleeps in the winter.
  • Describe what an animal might need inside its cave for hibernating.
  • Explain how you used the materials to create your cave.

Explore, Extend & Integrate

  • To demonstrate hibernation and waking up, cut two animals (approximately 4" x 6") out of newspaper for each child. Prepare two bins of water: one cold and one hot. Have the children fold their newspaper animals into fourths. Place one animal in the cold water to represent winter and observe what happens (the newspaper will stay folded up). Have the children place the other newspaper animal in the hot water to represent warming up in the spring and observe what happens (the newspaper animals will unfold and wake up).
  • Create a bear cave in your classroom. Use a large appliance box and allow the children to paint or use crayons or markers to decorate the inside and outside of the box and allow the children to paint or use crayons or markers to decorate the inside and outside of the box to make their own cave.

Check for Children’s Understanding

  • Could children describe the different ways animals get ready for winter?
  • Could children explain the difference between a true hibernator and a winter sleeper?
  • Could children explain how they created their cave?
  • Could children describe what an animal might like to have inside their cave?


Did You Know?

Many animals change their bodies or their behavior to adapt to the winter weather. Many animals grow new, thicker fur to keep out the harsh wind and cold. Some animals have difficulty finding food in the winter, so they migrate or move to other places where the weather is warmer and food is more plentiful. Many animals hibernate for part or all of the winter to conserve energy. Some animals sleep in the winter but are not true hibernators. They can wake up to eat and then go back to sleep. Winter sleepers like to burrow into caves, hollowed out trees, and rock crevices. They may rake leaves, twigs, and other plant materials into their den to form a nest. Bears, skunks, raccoons, and opossums are animals that sleep in winter but are not true hibernators.

An animal that truly hibernates goes into a deep, deep sleep during the long, cold winter. When animals truly hibernate, they do not eat at all unless they are awakened. The animal’s body temperature drops and its heartbeat and breathing slow down. Sleeping all winter takes preparation, and animals that hibernate begin preparing in the fall. They try to put on as much fat as possible because they will not be eating during the winter. Groundhogs, chipmunks, and bats are examples of animals that hibernate.

Vocabulary: Child-Friendly Definitions

  • prepare – to make ready.
  • hibernation – to sleep through the winter in a den or a burrow to conserve energy.
  • migrate – to move from one region to another.
  • adapt – to change for a particular reason.
  • cave – a natural hole in the Earth that is big enough for an animal to enter.
  • behavior – the way an animal or a person acts.

Lesson Tips

If children are having difficulty getting started, suggest painting the inside of the tissue box with the black and brown paint so it is dark for the sleeping animal. Then they can cover the box by gluing the sticks and dried leaves on the outside.


  • Over and Under the Snow by Kate Messner
  • The Animals’ Winter Sleep by Lynda Graham-Barber
  • Time to Sleep (an Owlet Book) by Denise Fleming
  • The Jacket I Wear in the Snow by Shirley Neitzel

Home School Resources

Home educators: use these printable lesson PDFs to teach this lesson to your home schoolers. They're available in English and Spanish.

Home/School Connections

Las Conexiones a la Casa

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Content Provided By

Common Core State Standards Initiative – These lessons are aligned with the Common Core State Standards ("CCSS"). The CCSS provide a consistent, clear understanding of the concepts and skills children are expected to learn and guide teachers to provide their students with opportunities to gain these important skills and foundational knowledge [1]. Visit the CCSS