Build A Cozy Winter Den

Groundhogs play a special role in a tradition tied to the arrival of Spring, but they also have a hibernation superpower to survive the winter. In this activity, we invite kids to explore hibernation as they build cozy dens for pretend slumbering friends.

The Guide

Step 1: Watch the Tinkergarten Home "Hibernation Station" video lesson.

Hop into your Tinkergarten dashboard to watch the "Hibernation Station" video lesson. Kids can watch how Meghan and other explorers build cozy winter dens, then get inspired to build their own.

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Step 2: Wonder together. 

Take a moment to wonder together what the creatures in your area are doing this time of year. Which creatures are active in your outdoor spaces? Which ones have left for the season? Which creatures might still be there, but out of sight, cozying up for the winter? What else is your child wondering about the creatures in your area?

Step 3: Create a hibernation den.

A den for groundhogs: Download and print these images of groundhogs and invite kids to create a cozy groundhog den just like Meghan does in the video lesson.
Or, invite kids to make a cozy nest for one of the creatures you observed and wondered about on your walk. Wonder together where would be a good spot to make a cozy den. What could you use to build it? Support kids with gathering sticks, leaves, and other materials. Offer teamwork as feels supportive as kids try out their design. Or, suggest one of these ways to get started:
  1. Use the hole in the bottom of a tree and cover it with branches, greens, etc. 
  2. Make a small lean-to against a tree using sticks covered with leaves and grasses.
  3. Dig a hole and build a stick and mud roof over the hole.
  4. Place grasses, leaves and other cozy materials inside a cardboard box.
A hibernation den for explorers! For a simple hideaway, all you need is a bed sheet or tarp and something to drape it over (i.e. tree branch, table, chairs). You can also offer some simple construction materials, like duct tape, bungee cords or string. Work together as a team in imagining, planning and building a hideaway using your materials.  Kids can decorate the inside or outside of their den with their favorite nature treasures. Bring favorite books, stuffed animals or special objects inside. If weather allows, leave the den in place for a few days and invite your child to invent new ways to use and play in their special space. Or, if you have snow in your area, try our Build A Snow House DIY activity.

Step 4: Extend Play! 

Every year on February 2nd, the famous groundhog, Punxsutawney Phil, is watched as he attempts to find his shadow and predict the course of winter. Hands down, shadow play is our favorite way to celebrate Groundhog Day!

Attach a stick to a printable groundhog to turn it into a puppet. Then, turn off the lights and use a flashlight to enjoy groundhog shadow play. If it is a sunny day, head outside and find your shadow. Try out some of the ideas in our What Can Your Shadow Do DIY activity
Read here for more ways to celebrate Groundhog Day!

Why is this activity great for kids?

Using found objects to create a cozy space for a pretend groundhog supports problem solving, creativity and imaginative play. When kids pretend, they develop cognitive flexibility—the ability to bend the rules, imagine new worlds and substitute one idea for another. Part of persisting through obstacles in life is thinking and acting flexibly. And, thinking about the needs of another creature supports kids in developing empathy.

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