Polar Bears: Books & Activities

This winter we are learning about arctic animals. Our plan is to start out with one of our favorite arctic animals… Polar Bears!

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Easy Polar Bear Activities

Polar Bear Journals

Make a journal!

Draw about your favorite thing you learned about the polar bear.  I usually “think aloud” about what I’m going to draw to help my son make a plan of what to do;

“I’m going to draw a polar bear and a seal because polar bears eat seals.”. Older kids with more experience reading and writing could use this same simple journal to write their own book. They could draw their own illustrations and write about what they’ve learned.

Sometimes his drawings and letter scribbles are related to what we read and sometimes they’re not I ask him to tell me about it,.

It’s REALLY important to allow kids time to develop their stamina for writing, at any age! Accuracy WILL improve with age and maturity so if your child enjoys drawing keep it that way!!!

Fine Motor Practice

Use stickers, construction paper and a sharpie to help with cutting practice.  Scissor skills is something I was reluctant to begin until he had more self control. I compromised on a pair of kids safety scissors which he now in his process art organizer and loves when I set out paper cutting activities.  You can always make some DIY playdough and roll it into snakes and cut those as well.

Arctic Small World Invitation

Small World activities are always a hit! To make an Arctic small world play invitation you need:

  • Arctic Animal Toys
  • Sensory Material (decorative marbles, flat)
  • Sensory Bin or Tray with high enough sides that the sensory material won’t make a huge mess.

The Polar Animals Activity Calendar above is how I keep track of all of our activities.  We spent part of our time learning about polar bears, time learning about other animals and the remaining time we spent exploring our curiosities.

Blubber Experiment

Materials needed:

  • Snow or ice in a bowl
  • stick of butter (1 per child), room temperature
  • zip lock bag (1 per child)

Ask the kids how Polar Bears and other arctic animals stay warm in the arctic snow?

Explain that they have blubber (or read aloud a book that talks about this animal adaptation).

Place the materials on the table and have the kids put their hands in a bag with the stick of butter. Their fingers will be inside the stick of butter, they may need help with this.  Place their “blubber” hands in the snow or ice.

  • What does it feel like?
  • What do you notice? What do you wonder?

Now try putting the bare hand in the snow, repeat the above questions and compare your answers.

Non Fiction Books-

National Geographic Readers: Polar Bears by Laura Marsh

National Geographic non-fiction leveled readers are a childhood favorite for beginning readers. They always have beautiful photographs and levels 1-3 are simple enough for kids to read.

Polar Bear; a day in the life by Katie Marsico

Marsico does a wonderful job in this book perfect for kids Kindergarten to Second Grade habitat reports. The photographs are great and this book shares the life cycle of a polar bear and includes information about their environment, what they eat and how they live

The World of the Polar Bear by Norbert Rosing

This simple text may not have many words (perfect for younger readers) but it has amazing photographs of polar bears in their environment.  This is one to have in your home library for sure!

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If I knew a Polar Bear by Rives

An incredible pop up book about polar bears. Appropriate for ages 2- 4 years it makes a wonderfully short but poetic bedtime story.

The Great White Bear: A Natural and Unnatural History of the Polar Bear by Kieran Mulvaney

A wealth of information about the history of polar bears and the history of human impact on the arctic habitat.  The format is ideal for an advanced reader.

Wildlife of North America: The Polar Bear by Annie Hemstock

One of the few polar bear books my local library has to offer.

It is best suited to an older audience of readers (3rd grade and up). I liked the author’s writing and I felt it had enough information about the polar bears physical characteristics, lifecycle, relations with humans, etc. to help with a report or support a habitat project.

Natural World: Polar Bear by Malcolm Penny

Great information but is better suited for older students needing to do some animal research.

Knut: How One Little Polar Bear Captivated the World by  Craig Hatkoff 

A zookeeper cares for an abandoned polar bear cub. It’s a very nice story and I didn’t think anything of it at the time but be advised my 4 year old had A LOT of questions about why the bear abandoned her cub.

Polar Bears and Penguins: A Compare and Contrast Book

This book is perfectly suited to our Arctic Animal habitat study. I wanted 2 animals (one from the arctic and one from the antarctic) as these are the two animals we decided to learn about, it was perfect!

Reading Advance books with Preschoolers

My son is still 4 and his book stamina is not fully developed. Our local library is small and does not have the best arctic animal section. I checked out what we had available and most of the books were WAY too advanced for my boy.

If you ever find yourself stuck with a book that is too high of a level to read to your child I have a quick short cut until you can find a better suited book.

  1. Show the photos and briefly paraphrase the main idea (1-2 sentences)
  2. Have a related project ready to go (art or craft- see below for more ideas)

For a complete list of all our favorite Arctic animal books click here. Some of these books are better suited for an upper elementary animal report.

Fiction Read Aloud Books

Hush Little Polar Bear by Jeff Mack

A board book best suited for the littlest of readers is a great rhyming bedtime story.

Polar Bear’s Underwear by Tupera Tupera

Super silly story of a Polar Bear who has lost his underwear. This book is best suited for kids 2-6 and may be a good addition to your home potty-training book collection!

Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What Do You Hear? by Bill Martin Jr. and Eric Carle

Who doesn’t love Eric Carle? His illustrations are amazing and the rhyming text is easy for kids to memorize. My son LOVES Brown Bear, Brown Bear so this book was a no brainer for our home library!

 

All About Polar Bears- facts we learned

Ice Bear or White Bear are other names for Polar Bears. Their Latin name is Ursus Maritums and means “sea bear”.

These enormous bears live in the Arctic Tundra in countries such as Canada, Greenland, Norway, Russia and the United States (Alaska). Adult polar bears live alone for most of their life.

How big are Polar Bears?

Female Polar bears grow to be 6 to 8 feet tall and weigh between 330 and 550 lbs (pregnant females can weigh up to 1,100 lbs.) and male polar bears can grow to be 8 to 10 feet and weigh from 700- 1,500 lbs.

What do Polar Bears Eat?

Polar bears are consumers. That means that they depend on other plants and animals for survival.  They are carnivores and mostly eat meat. They prefer to eat fatty meat or blubber and their favorite meal is seal.  Seals have blubber which is a rich food source for them. Polar Bears will hunt other animals like walrus’, whales, fish, birds, plants and even human garbage when other food is not available.

There are 3 main hunting methods for the polar bear:
  • still-hunting. They hunt by waiting for seals near openings in the ice to come up for air.
  • Stalking to hunt.  Polar bears use their sense of smell to locate a seal then will stand very still when they have spotted their prey.  They slowly creep up on the seal until they are close enough to try to catch it.
  • Raid seal caves. Mother and baby seals have higher amounts of the nutrients that polar bears need.

Only part of the seal (the blubber and skin) is eaten and this is beneficial for other arctic animals. They mainly eat the skin and blubber of seals because it provides them with the most energy. Then they leave most of the seal meat behind. This benefits arctic foxes, seagulls and younger polar bears since they do not have to work hard for a meal.

Facts about Polar Bears:

  • “The largest polar bear on record was a male that measured 12 feet (3.7 meters long). He weighed 2,209 pounds (1,002 Kilograms).” The Polar Bear by Annie Hemstalk
  • “A polar bear can run at 30 MPH (50 km/h) on land or ice, but only for short distances.” Polar Bear by Malcolm Penny
  • “Polar bears are most active during the winter.”  The Polar Bear by Annie Hemstalk
  • “In the summer, the ice melts and seals are harder to catch. Polar bears have to find other sources of food.” Polar Bear by Malcolm Penny
  • “The soles of polar bear’s feet are covered in snow so it can move silently without slipping on the ice…The bears toes are partially webbed to help it swim.” Polar Bear by Malcolm Penny

How do polar bears survive in the arctic?

All animals have special things about them that help them survive in the wild. Did you know that polar bears have natural adaptations (special things about them) that help them survive in arctic?

They are born with large paws which act like snow shoes and help the polar bears move well even on the ice. Their thick fur helps keep them warm & dry and a thick layer of blubber (about 3-4 inches) also helps to keep them warm even when temperatures dip below freezing! It’s small ears and tail help maintain body warmth and are less little be frostbitten.

Baby Polar Bears or Polar Bear Cubs

Baby polar bears or cubs are TINY compared to their enormous parents! When they are born they are about 12 inches (30 centimeters) long and weigh 16-24 ounces (450- 680 grams). Cubs are born blind, deaf and with thin fur coats and are helpless. They depend on their mothers for food, warmth and protection. They do not hunt for their own food until they are about a year old and leave their mother to live on their own around 2 and a half years old.

Do polar bear have predators?

There are no known natural predators, however, humans once hunted polar bears for sport.  Now only native arctic tribes, who depend on Polar bears for survival are allowed to hunt them.

Why are polar bears a vulnerable species?

Polar bears are classified as a vulnerable species. This means that their population (the number of polar bears in the world) is getting smaller and smaller each year. Although humans no longer hunt polar bears for sport they still affect the population.  The human lifestyle affects the environment and contributes to habitat loss and global warming. Global warming is a huge concern for many. Polar bears prefer to live and hunt from the ice. It is easier for them to get food and maintain their nutritional needs.  As temperatures increase the ice melts and decreases their hunting grounds.

What would happen if polar bears were extinct?

The plants and animals that depend on the polar bears would need to adapt or they would not be able to survive. Arctic foxes, seagulls and young  polar bears would completely have to find their own food since the polar bears would no longer leave them seal scraps. Seals, walruses, and other animals could become over populated if the polar bears were no longer eating these animals.


References:

Hemstock, Annie; (1999) Capstone Press, Wildlife of North America: The Polar Bear

Tocci, Salvatore; (2005) Franklin Watts,  Arctic Tundra, Life at the North Pole

Penny, Malcolm; (2000) Steck-Vaughn Company, Natural World: Polar Bear

Arctic Animals Books to Read

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