I recently posted some of the “special” polar activities I do with my students. We don’t have snow or ice very often, so we improvise. When I taught in New Jersey, there were a lot of fun activities that involved real ice and snow. Here’s a snippet of some of the other activities we do with this unit: Fine Motor Activities
**Cut snowflakes, or for smaller ones, practice cutting skills by allowing kids to cut white paper into little bits. Think SNOW!!! **Write or draw in shaving cream. **Tear white tissue to make a snowy picture. **Make “snowballs” with recycled paper crumbled into balls. Use for snowball fight (see below). **Cut out pictures of things that begin with “P” to make a collage.
Large Motor Activities **Walk on all fours like a polar bear **Walk on hands dragging legs behind, like a walrus **Waddle like a penguin **Ice skate indoors, using a little wax paper under each foo. This is a great large motor activity and the kids just can’t get enough. I can’t tell you how many rolls of wax paper we’ve used in the last 2 months---and it only takes 2 small squares for each kid! **Winter Hokey Pokey: You put your mitten in, you take your mitten out …boots …coat ….hat ….scarf **Slide down a small hill on a piece of cardboard to simulate sledding. **Make “snowballs” with recycled paper crumbled into balls. SNOWBALL FIGHT!!!! Always fun and gives great range of movement! Can be done with rolled socks or cotton balls, too! **Build an igloo with large cardboard blocks. (If you don’t have a set, make your own from covered Capri Sun boxes. They are the perfect size for little hands to build large structures without fear of injury during crashes!) **Read “The Mitten”. As each animal crawls in, students can take turns being the animals and crawl under a white sheet or large piece of bulletin board paper. **HIBERNATE Game: Sort like the “Freeze Dance”, but when I stop the music, I call "HIBERNATE!". The kids crunch up and pretend to sleep. I change this up and use it for many things, including working some phonemic awareness activities into the game. **A few of my favorite large motor animal songs include: Greg and Steve’s “The Freeze”, and “Animal Action” parts 1 and 2, and “Sammy” by Hap Palmer.
Eskimo Indian Olympics:
BLANKET TOSS: Have students hold the edges of a baby blanket and toss stuffed animals in the air.
GREASED POLE WALK: practice walking on balance beam. We sometimes use sock feet for friends who are a little more skilled and wish to add difficulty.
ARM PULL: First express they must pull gently---we don’t want to hurt each other. Have 2 students face each other, feet touching, knees bent. Hold each others arma and gently pull back and forth to make a “rocking” motion.
BIG PROJECT: MILK JUG IGLOO
I do this once every couple of years, as it takes a lot of advance planning, someplace to store jugs in between stages of building and a very large area for construction and play. Build an igloo from recycled milk jugs.
Place milk jugs (lying down) side by side until almost a full circle is made, leaving a space for a door entry. Hot glue or use packing tape to secure together. Continue adding layers until a dome is formed. These turn out really cute, and I leave it up as a playhouse for most of the year. I have a relatively small room this year, so we make one. One of our Pre-K rooms is the size of 3 or 4 classrooms put together. If I ever move to that room, I’ll DEFINITELY do this again.
Note: It helps to have parents begin saving jugs at the beginning of the school year. I let the parents know in August that we plan to do this, and they send us their jugs as they use them. We start building when we have enough to make one layer. We have usually collected enough jugs by “Polar Pal” week to complete the igloo and use it as a dramatic play area.
Talk about the size of an Emperor Penguin. When you tell them how big an Emperor Penguin is (avg. ht. 44 in.), they may not be impressed. First, have them build with blocks to the correct height to give them a visual of the actual height. Next, help students measure and draw a life sized Emperor Penguin. Measure how tall they are in relation to the penguin they’ve made.
Talk about how daddy penguins incubate the eggs. Explain how they stand still for very long periods of time, just holding the egg and trying to keep it warm. Ask the kids to try to stand still with a plastic egg on their feet. How long can they stand?
Now, try “waddling” with the egg in place. We make a relay game with it. (I don’t like to say race, because we try to find ways where no one loses”.)
Observe ice as it melts. Put a dish in a warm place like inside, one outside, one in the refrigerator and one in the freezer. Make periodic checks to assess melting. Which one is melting faster? Why doesn’t the ice in the freezer melt at all?
Talk about camouflage and how it is nature’s way to protect animals. Show a polar bear die cut in front of a black or green piece of construction paper. Then show the die cut against white paper. The camouflage of the polar bear’s coat helps him hide in the snow. What other animals can blend in to the environment?
Explore blubber. Fill a bowl with ice and water. Have children place hand in water and describe what it feels like. Once everyone has had a turn (and little hands warm back up), fill a quart Ziplock bag ¾ with Crisco. Have children place a latex glove on their hand and place in the ziplock, zipping the bag as close as possible to gloved hand. Now place in icy water. The hand stays much warmer when insulated by blubber!
Sensory Table ideas
Fill sensory table with packing peanuts, chunks of ice, shaving cream, or cotton balls. Add polar animal toys and you are all set!
Insta Sonw from Steve Spangler is great, too, but a little expensive. Usually I make the InstaSnow in a small storage bid with a lid and allow them to use it at a table. (Plus, now you have 2 sensory areas!)
Walrus/Penguin Adding Game
Helper rolls large die –that # of students waddle to front. Roll again that many join. 3+3=6 count total of walrus or penguin friends The kids love to come up with scenarios, which inevitable lead to more math problems!
Phonemic Awareness Activities
Here’s a few quick things that can be done anytime. I tend to use them as time fillers for transition times or waiting times.
“P” is for polar pals- each student gets to say a word with the “P” beginning sound. “W” is for walrus- each student gets to say a word with the “W” beginning sound. Clap syllables of polar animals.
“Hibernation Rhyme Game” Children pretend to sleep while the teacher says a pair of words. If rhyming words are said, students “wake up” and come out of hibernation.
I have been teaching early childhood for about 20 years. I love what I do---it's the best job in the world!!! Where else can you go to work each day and do art, play games, have snack and get hugs regularly AND get paid for it?! I love to share ideas with other teachers and see what they are doing in their classrooms. Teaching is the best profession---we love to share!