December: Animals in Winter

We all live inside with warm clothes, heat and food. What happens to the animals when it gets cold out? Where do they get food and shelter? How do their lives change with the seasons?

What changes occur as the summer turns into fall and the fall turns into winter? Trees become barren (no leaves, food, shelter), the earth becomes cold and hard, the temperature drops, etc.

We will also learn how to look for clues that will tell us what animals have been around even if we don’t see them.


Migrate, Hibernate or Stay Active

Supplies:  bat, mouse, skunk, rabbit, turtle, fox, bird, squirrel, monarch, hummingbird and groundhog puppets (or pictures); bat and ladybug hibernating pictures; suitcase, pillow and blanket, bowl and spoon

What do animals do in the winter to survive?  (migrate, adapt, hibernate, or become dormant). Insects and reptiles become dormant; birds, fish and some insects migrate; rabbits, squirrels, deer, beavers, mice, bear, and chipmunks adapt; groundhogs and some bats hibernate.

Hold up one puppet to represent each type of survival, for example a mouse stays active, monarch migrates, and groundhog sleeps.  Ask the students to identify the rest of the puppets and ask how they survive. Then choose a child to come up and either feed the puppet, pack its suitcase, or put it to bed.

  • Little Brown Bat (hibernates; in a cave or mine; does not need food for winter)
  • Meadow Mouse (active; tunnels under snow; eats seeds, roots, and stems)
  • Striped Skunk (dormant; winters in fields and woods; eats insects, roots, berries, small animals)
  • Squirrels (active; gather extra food in the fall and store it to eat later)
  • Woodchuck (hibernates; burrows below frost line; doesn’t need food)
  • Rabbits and deer, (active; spend winter looking for moss, twigs, bark and leaves to eat)
  • Red fox (active; eats fruit and insects in the spring, summer and fall. In the winter, it can not find these things, so instead it eats small rodents)
  • Monarchs and Hummingbirds (migrates; flies to warmer climates)

The squirrel – nut game 

During late fall and early winter, squirrels will collect nuts and store them all over their territory, to survive the harsh wintertime.  They do this but cannot always find them again when they want to eat them.  Those nuts might grow into new trees.

Place 12 plastic or paper cups on a table. With a picture of a squirrel or a puppet, have the squirrel hide a nut under one of the 12 cups.  Have your child turn around, and shuffle the cups.  Ask your child to turn back around and try to find it.  If your child is successful, they may hide the nut for you or a friend to find.



This is a great time to make bird feeders with you little ones! Here are some simple feeders to make:

Tyler Exploration

Meadow Maze – You can find a lot of evidence of animals in winter in our meadow maze. When exploring the maze, you may find fox and raccoon scat, goldenrod galls, groundhog and chipmunk holes or even tracks of rabbits and squirrels. Print this self-guided tour, to bring with you the next time you come to Tyler!

Additional Resources

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