How to Teach about Arctic Animals So Kids are Engaged

January is the perfect time to teach about arctic animals. The Arctic is one of the two coldest places on planet Earth, the other is obviously the Antarctic! Kids love learning about the climate and the animals that live there. I wanted to share with you some ideas that you can use while planning your Arctic Animals unit and lesson plans.

Before starting any unit, I always like to start a KWL chart just to see what the kids already know. It is fun to get a list going. Under the K column, KNOW, you will have the children tell you what they know and you can record it there. Then the next day, you can ask them what they WONDER, and add all of their questions under the W column. This is really great information for you because it will allow you to see what is missing from your plans and adjust accordingly. Leave the L for last, L, stands for LEARNED and you will fill it in on the last day of your unit.

What is the Arctic?

The arctic is one of the coldest places on earth. It is found in the extreme northern tip of the planet and is inhabited mostly by people from Sweden, Russia, and Norway. Around the places located within the Arctic Circle, there are cool summers and very cold winters. The arctic is also where the North Pole is located. It is a good idea to discuss the word climate and discuss the arctic climate.

Types of Arctic Animals

There are many different animals that live in the arctic. Arctic wildlife have special adaptations that enable them to survive in their icy environment. 

When teaching early elementary students about arctic animals they will pay attention to what they are, how they move, what features they have, and what they eat. For example, here are five arctic animals you can focus on:

Puffin arctic animals


  • Puffins are birds.
  • Puffins can swim.
    • They can spend two-thirds of their lives in the sea.
  • Puffins have color-changing beaks with their white and black coats.
    • Its beak is bright red during the summer and a grey-white during the winter.
  • Puffins eat small fish such as sand eels, hake, and herring.
arctic animals beluga

Beluga Whale

  • Beluga Whales are aquatic mammals.
  • Beluga Whales can swim.
    • They can also create various clicks, whistles, and clangs to communicate with each other.
  • Beluga Whales are white.
    • When they are born, they look grey to brown and fade to white once they mature.
  • Beluga Whales eat fish, worms, and crustaceans.
arctic animals polar bears

Polar Bear

  • Polar Bears are bears.
  • Polar bears are the largest carnivorous land mammal
  • Polar Bears can swim in cold seas and walk on slippery ice.
    • They have webbed, large front claws that allow them to not lose footing on ice and swim lots.
  • Polar Bears have transparent underfur on top of black skin
    • The reason they appear to be white is due to the fur reflecting off natural light. 
    • They can appear off-white due to oils all over their fur due to their eating habits.
    • Their skin is black so that they soak in the sun’s rays better.
  • Polar Bears eat mainly other Arctic mammals but can also eat local plants and eggs when needed.
arctic animals walrus


  • Walruses are large, social mammals.
  • Walruses can swim.
  • Walruses have brown skin and large white tusks.
    • They use their tusks for many things, from lifting themselves off the water to defending themselves.
  • Walruses eat shellfish.

Books on Arctic Animals

There are so many great books to read during your arctic animal unit. Here are some ideas to get you started:

Over in the Arctic: Where the Cold Winds Blow by Marianne Berkes

Starting off this list is a great book written by Marianne Berkes and drawn by Jill Dubin. Let your students see the Arctic tundra through the animal’s eyes on each page. Not only that, they can learn how to count, what their baby’s names are, and rhyming words!

Busy Penguins (A Busy Book) by John Schindel

John Schindel and Jonathan Chester book shows more about these famous flightless birds. Students will learn interesting facts such as how they go to the bathroom in their natural habitat! I am sure the kids will love that!

Animal Babies in Polar Lands by Kingfisher

Written by Kingfisher Publications, this book focuses on what Arctic animals looked like when they were young. They presented it in a way that will keep your students guessing on what name it is. Students will love the great photographs they used to show each animal.

The Polar Bear Son: An Inuit Tale by Lydia Dabcovich

Introduce your students to love nature by reading this tale made by Lydia Dabcovich. It follows the story of an Inuit girl who adopts a polar bear cub. They learn how a story between two living beings can inspire children of any age to love nature. Students will learn about the few groups of people who live in the coldest region on Earth.

Tips on Teaching Arctic Animals

Here are some ideas to bring the arctic to your classroom.

Introduce each animal with the sounds they make

It is always fun to hear the sounds that animals make.  You can use the video to first learn the sounds. Then you can set it up and play each sound and have the students guess the name of the animal.

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Sing a song about arctic animals

Get them on their feet while learning about these animals by singing a song with them. Music helps them remember simple concepts better while exercising their creativity at the same time! Use them during transitions, morning of afternoon meeting. Here are a few that are a lot of fun.

Arctic Science

Animals in the arctic spend their time in freezing weather. You can prepare a fun experiment to show how the blubber on arctic animals keeps them warm.You will need 2 ziplock bags. Fill the bags with crisco shortening so that there is atleast a centimeter of thick crisco in the bags. Spread the crisco and seal the bags. Then using duct tape, seal the edges of the bag and create a mitten like pocket. Students will stick their hand in the mitten and then submerge their hand into ICE COLD water! To make the water interesting add lots of ice and blue food coloring! You can even get an arctic animal toob off of amazon to create a small arctic environment.

There are so many fun activities you can use to teach students about arctic animals. What are some fun activities you do in your classroom? Comment it down below!