Polar Regions kids activities for preschoolers and kindergartners to learn about the North Pole and Antarctica animals and their habitats, as well as sorting by land, water, air.
Today, we are learning about polar regions of the Earth, also known as the Earth’s frigid zones that surround Earth’s geographical North and South Poles. These regions are very cold, covered by snow and polar ice caps: the northern resting on the Arctic Ocean and the southern on the continent of Antarctica. We are also learning about the differences between the North Pole and Antarctica animals with lots of fun and hands-on Polar Regions Kids Activities.
Adrian is using Montessori Sandpaper Continent 🌎Globe (read a detailed post here).
The differences between the Arctic and Antarctica:
Antarctica, or the south pole region, is a continent that is covered with an immense ice cap. The Arctic, on the other hand, is a polar region surrounding the North Pole and consisting of the large Arctic Ocean, adjacent seas, and parts of Alaska, Canada, Finland, Greenland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, and Sweden. Polar habitats are too cold for trees to grow, so tundra, the only place where any vegetation grows, takes up a lot of the area. In tundra, during spring and summertime, the ground only thaws just enough for short grasses and moss to grow, but the tree’s roots can not go as far down into the ground as they need to because deep down the ground is frozen. Animals who live in polar regions have adapted by having thick fur or feathers to keep warm, and hunting fish or each other rather than relying on plants and vegetation which are scarce to maintain their diet. Polar bears live solely in the Arctic, while penguins are found in the southern Antarctic regions, amongst others. So, since penguins reside only in the Southern Hemisphere, they had never crossed a path with a polar bear.
As a first lesson, in our Polar Regions kids activities series, Adrian sorted animals by their habitat: LAND, WATER, AIR, rather than by the pole’s geographical location.
SORTING the North Pole and Antarctica ANIMALS
To represent LAND, I placed some soil in a glass jar.
We talked about Inuit people in the Arctic building igloos from snow as a shelter (also known as snow houses or snow huts). Air pockets trapped in snow make it an excellent insulator, so the temperature inside the igloo when warmed by the body heat alone may range from −7 °C (19 °F) to 16 °C (61 °F) while on the outside, it can be frigid cold as low as −45 °C (−49 °F) – that is more than 100 °F difference!
Caribou, also called reindeer (buy similar here), are native to the Arctic region. In the spring, herds of Caribou make a long journey north from the Arctic forest. It is the longest migration made by any land animal. On the way, they give birth to new calves. When they finally reach the tundra, caribou eat everything in sight. When winter comes and the food is scarce, the fat stored in their bodies gives them needed energy.
Musk Ox (buy here) have inhabited the frozen Arctic for many thousands of years, and their long shaggy hair is well adapted to the frigid climate. The outer long furry hairs called guard hairs, keep Musk Ox warm and cozy. Underneath all that hair is a layer of shorter wool undercoat, which provides additional insulation in winter. This undercoat falls out when temperatures climb at winter’s end. Musk Ox roams the tundra in search of the roots, mosses, and lichens that sustain them. In winter, they use their hooves to dig through snow to graze on these plants. During the summer, they supplement their diet with Arctic flowers and grasses, often feeding near water. Musk Oxen are herd animals, and groups of two or three dozen animals are sometimes led by a single female. Herds use cooperation to deal with predators, such as wolves. When threatened and to protect the young calves, they “circle the wagons” and array themselves with their young in the middle and their sharp horns facing outward toward their foes. A cornered musk-ox can be a fearsome enemy, charging with its massive bulk and attempting to use its horns to deadly effect.
Seals (buy here) live in the cold ocean waters of the Arctic or off the coasts of Antarctica. Some seals make caves in the snow to live in, while others never leave the ice pack and poke breathing holes in the ice. Fur seals and sea lions (buy here) live in the Northern Pacific between Asia and North America and off the coasts of South America, Antarctica, southwestern Africa, and southern Australia.
A polar bear (buy here) was tricky for Adrian to sort, so he placed it in between the LAND and WATER. The polar bear is the only bear considered to be a marine mammal because it depends on the ocean for the majority of his food, while spending a lot of time on ice hunting, mating and denning. Its fur is thicker than any other bears’ and covers even the feet for warmth and traction on ice. A thick layer of blubber beneath the fur provides warmth and insulation. The front feet are large, flat and oar-like, making a polar bear an excellent swimmer. The polar bear is the largest land carnivore in the world (rivaled only by the Kodiak brown bears of southwestern Alaska), thus sitting at the top of the food chain in the biologically rich Arctic. Polar bear feeds primarily on seals, the remains of which provide food for many other Arctic wildlife species, but it is also known to eat walrus, beluga whale, birds’ eggs, and (rarely) vegetation.
Orcas (buy here) are marine mammals, and although called killer whales, they are not actually whales, but are the largest members of the dolphin family, in the order Cetacea, which includes whales, dolphins, and porpoises. Some killer whales feed exclusively on fish, while others hunt marine mammals such as seals (known to grab them right off the ice), sea lions, seabirds, and even other adult whales, employing teeth that can be four inches long. Orcas were given the name “killer whale” by ancient sailors’ observations of groups of orcas hunting and preying on larger whale species. They called orcas asesina ballenas, or “whale killer.” Their Latin name, Orcinus orca, also reflects this observation as Orcinus translates to “of the kingdom of the dead,” and orca refers to a kind of whale. “Killer whales” are one of the world’s most powerful predators, which can be found in each of the world’s oceans in a variety of marine environments: from the Arctic to the Antarctic to tropical seas. Orcas are also an apex predators – meaning that there is no other animal that preys on them. For more on Orcas, read here.
A snowy owl (buy here) is a large species of owl, but due to a snowy habitat, it often has snow-white plumage that echoes its Arctic origins and protects it from chilly Arctic winds. A snowy owl has a thick feather coating even on its feet, protecting them from the frigid Arctic cold. The snowy owl is a patient hunter that perches and waits to identify its prey before soaring off in pursuit. Snowy owls have keen eyesight and great hearing, which can help them find prey, such as arctic hare, that is invisible under a thick snow-cover. Find out 15 fun and mysterious facts about owls HERE.
Atlantic puffins, (buy here) also known as dubbed “sea parrots” and “clowns of the sea,” have large brightly-colored beaks. Crisp black and white markings on their plumage, as well as superior diving capabilities, have led people to compare the northern seabirds to penguins. However, Atlantic puffins are actually not related to penguins at all. They are in fact small seabirds (about 25 cm, or 10 in., long).
In continuing our Polar Regions of the Earth unit study, Adrian enjoyed putting together Parts of a Penguin Puzzle (buy here). Having an aesthetically pleasing wooden design, the puzzle stands faithful to the Montessori ideals of beauty, simplicity, and realism, while teaching the child parts of the animal.
View a video of Adrian putting this puzzle together in this post.
MORE Polar Regions Kids Activities
First, to learn the names of the animals, Adrian is using Polar Animals matching cards.
In the process, he is practicing recognizing written words and matching a picture to an object. This video is featured in a post – Polar Animals Matching Cards Activity” – see here.
Secondly, we explored through sensory play. See here North vs South Pole Frozen Sensorial Invitation to Explore.
Also, we did another sensory bin~ see here Frozen Hydrogels Icy Arctic Snowy Sensory Bin• Winter Inspired Unit Study.
I hope you enjoyed our Polar Regions Kids Activities. For more on Winter activities, see here Winter Inspired Unit Study.
You might also like to read here our Ocean Unit Study.
Read here about matching stages for Montessori 3-Part-Matching cards.
If you have missed our Holiday Inspired unit, see here a roundup of December activities in the Christmas Inspired Unit Study.