One of the things I love about Winter themes is their flexibility! Now that the hustle and bustle of the holiday season is over, it’s nice to have a few themes prepped and ready to go that I could use with my own discretion over the next month or so that don’t have to follow a calendar like Halloween, Thanksgiving, and December holidays might. Arctic Animals is a great winter theme because of its versatility! There are so many different ways to incorporate this theme into therapy and adjust it to work for different ages, goal areas and skill levels. Here are some fun activities I love to use during Arctic Animals week!
Don’t Break the Ice: Anyone else remember this from their childhood?! My students love it and it can be used to target any goal areas! Do some articulation/phonology drills before students take their turns, have your kids follow a direction or two before they can begin. Do you have student’s working on overall verbal language output?! Just play and model commenting, exclaiming, protesting, and more during the game! Sometimes I will tape vocabulary targets to the ice blocks and have my students knock out the block that is a synonym or antonym of the word I give them.
Thin Ice: Another game that can be used to target tons of different therapy goal areas! I like to have my students work together to see how many marbles they can balance on top before it breaks the “ice!” I used to keep a tally on my board so different groups could see which grade levels or classrooms had the highest total!
Yeti in my Spaghetti: My students love this game! The Yeti is adorable and it’s just a fun silly game. Like the games above, use this game to target any speech or language goals before each turn!
Do you have any wiffle balls or ping-pong balls at home? Well now you have some snowballs! When I have very active and energetic students, I need to get them up and moving during therapy otherwise I have no shot at keeping their attention during therapy.
For a tabletop game, print off a picture of an igloo, laminate it and cut out the entrance. Attach it to a box or a bag, with a space cut out at the entrance and have your students try to roll a ping-pong ball (“snowball”) into the igloo! If you want a larger version, draw a larger igloo on a sheet of poster board and cut out a larger entrance. I’ve used boxes, or anything with some weight to support the igloo so it stands upright. Let your students kick or roll the wiffle balls (again, “snowballs”) into the igloo! I’ve targeted following directions, speech sounds/patterns, vocabulary targets, pragmatic language skills and more while playing this game with my students. It’s always been a ton of fun and my kids request this game even when it’s not winter anymore!
One of my COVID friendly sensory bin hacks has been using this Boon Grass Drying Rack which is much easier to clean instead! I have the classic green one and a white one to use as snow for the winter months too! I love to stick pictures, task cards, sensory bin pieces, you name it in here for my students to explore and take out! You can even build a little winter scene using this clipart freebie here! Using the boy and girl from that set, and the different story prop/sensory bin pages from my Winter Thematic Unit, you can target pronouns, following directions, prepositions, vocabulary, answering “wh” questions, asking questions and more! The Story Prop pages from my Winter Unit make great backdrops, and then the other pieces and pictures can be placed and moved in a more three dimensional way using the Boon drying rack. I would love to hear how you have utilized sensory bins this year, and see how you’ve used my thematic units in therapy; share your ideas below!
Look at these adorable Animal Suncatchers! I love anything that can brighten up my therapy space, but these could also be used in tele-therapy! I know a lot of therapists prepare materials and packets of resources to be sent home to parents and families for fully remote students. If this is a craft you’d like to complete with your distance learning students, simply package up the materials and make it the next time you see them in therapy! Do any of you co-treat with other service providers? Talk to your student’s occupational therapist for ways this craft could be used to target both of your goal areas!
Have you ever made homemade Puffy Paint?! It makes the perfect paint for winter crafts! You can use it to make snowmen, snowflakes, polar bears, etc. All you need is Elmer’s glue and Shaving Cream (not gel). Depending on the size of your project, or the size of your group, measure equal parts glue and equal parts shaving cream and mix until the consistency looks like marshmallow fluff. You can also add any food coloring, glitter, sequins, etc., depending on your project.
Do you have students who love hands-on activities or STEM?! Try freezing a few plastic arctic animals into a bowl or dish overnight, then using different things like cold water, warm water, and salt to try and rescue them! I like to put the frozen animal out onto a larger bowl or on a tray, then have smaller bowls of other items (salt, water, etc.) for all of my students to reach. I give each student a paint brush (you could use a pipette or eye-dropper instead) and see who can rescue their animal from the ice first. It’s a great way to use language, to target verbs, and to practice different pragmatic functions like commenting, labeling, exclaiming, and more for young language learners. If you try this with older students you can practice predicting and making inferences about which technique works the best. Do you have any other fun winter themed STEM activities you’ve tried in therapy?!
Here are some of my favorite Arctic Animal Books to use in therapy this time of year:
Ten on the Sled
A Loud Winter’s Nap
If you were a penguin
Polar Bear Polar Bear What do you Hear?
For those still seeing students remotely, there are tons of free activities to learn more about Arctic Wildlife. The Shedd Aquarium in Chicago has tons of videos and resources for children and families to learn more about some of their animals which include Beluga Whales, Penguins, Sharks and more! Each animal has its own page with tons of facts and information. Check out some of their other resources below:
Shedd Experts Help Rescue Stranded Canadian Beluga: This video and article are great for older students with reading comprehension goals!
Sea Curious: Perfect for elementary students! These videos help answer questions other children have asked about different animals at the Aquarium such as “Do Animals Play?” What do Animals Do at Night?” “What do Animals Eat?” “Do Animals Go to the Doctor” and more! I love that each video is posed as a question, which means I can ask my students and have a conversation or discussion about it before we watch the video to practice making predictions, inferencing and using prior knowledge. It would also make a really cute creative writing activity, kids could come up with their own ideas about what animals do at night and write a story about the adventures penguins or beluga whales might get up to once the aquarium staff leave each night.
Arctic Animals make great reading comprehension and writing activity topics because there are so many different ways to practice these skills! Have your students research different animals and answer “wh” questions to summarize facts and important information about them. You can have your students compare and contrast different animals to see how their habitats, eating habits, skills, and lifestyles are similar or different. Have a debate about which animal is their favorite and why! Have your students write informative texts teaching others about the animal they researched, or target persuasive writing to get others to think their animal is truly the best.
Here are some of my resources I use during Arctic Animals Week:
Quick Prep Seasonal Book Companions (now available with Google Slides)
Check Out These Other Freebies:
Penguin Dance (YouTube)
Adventure through the Snow (YouTube)
Molly Denali Sled Dog Dash (Game)
Grab more ideas in my Free Lesson Plans here!
Enjoy these ideas from my therapy to yours!