Polar bear with two cubs

Celebrating Polar Bear Day in Your Early Childhood Service

This blog is jam-packed with inspiring ideas for celebrating World Polar Bear Day in your early childhood service. There are many events across the year you can get involved in to support children to become socially responsible and show respect for the environment (Outcome 2: Early Years Learning Framework, Australia). One of our favourites is International Polar Bear Day, held annually on 27th February. This coincides with the time when polar bear mums and cubs are snug in their dens. The focus is on raising awareness and taking action to conserve polar bears and the sea ice they depend on.

We’ve partnered with many childcare centres over the years to plan and run meaningful and memorable polar bear themed celebrations. In this blog, we’ve shared our top tips and activity ideas to inspire people caring for young kids and/or working in long day care, family day care, preschool, kindergarten, outside school hours care, playgroups or other organisations providing early childhood support services.

Polar Bears deserve celebrating across the entire year

Because Polar Bears are so awesome, there are two celebration events for them each year. As well as Polar Bear Day in February, there is also Polar Bear Week which is held annually during the first full week in November. In 2022, Polar Bear Week will be held Sunday 30th October to Saturday 5th November. Bookmark this webpage so you can find it easily throughout the year. Both Polar Bear Day and Polar Bear Week are run by Polar Bears International. They have some fantastic free resources in their Education Centre including polar bear trackers, live polar bear cams, webcasts, videos, and teaching and learning materials.

Why should you celebrate Polar Bear Day?

There’s something about polar bears that people, especially children love. Based on our experience, polar bear celebrations in childcare leads to wonderful outcomes not just for polar bears, but for children, staff and families. Strengthening environmental sustainability actions at your early childhood service contributes to Quality Area 3 (Physical Environment) under the National Quality Standard. Furthermore, it supports collaborative partnerships (Quality Area 6). Building a mutually beneficial partnership with Polar Bears International will widen your community links and support children to have the opportunity to experience quality learning and understand the world in which we live!

Between 2018-2020 we helped plan and support annual polar bear celebrations at Goodstart Preston Regent Street. The examples used in this blog feature celebrations from this early learning centre. Goodstart Preston Regent Street loved the topic so much they extended Polar Bear Day celebrations across an entire month!

Make an impact

What can we do to help polar bears when we live so far away? You can take local action and be part of effective change. Polar bears lives are intricately linked to the Arctic Sea Ice. Global warming, caused by the burning of fossil fuels is melting the sea ice.

But can’t they swim? Yes. However, swimming long distances is not preferred as it requires so much energy for polar bears and can be fatal to young bears.

You don’t need to wait for Polar Bear Day or Week to come around to help polar bears. You can take action any day of the year. Using less energy produced by fossil fuels reduces emissions and can slow and even stop climate warming.

An artistic map of the world showing where polar bears live and the Arctic Ocean.
Polar Bear Day is a great opportunity for children to explore maps and understand how they connect to other places in the world.
Small actions to make polar bears happy

While you’re celebrating polar bears at your childcare service, consider how you can implement small, achievable steps to act local, but make a global impact.

  • Reduce your energy consumption (reliant on fossil fuels) by:
    • Installing LED light bulbs
    • Using natural light where possible
    • Using energy efficient appliances and equipment and turning them off when not in use
    • Washing clothes in cold water and line drying where possible
    • Using natural ventilation when possible
    • Making every degree count! Set your thermostat to 25-27°C in summer and 18-20°C in winter.
    • Wearing the right clothes for the weather – wear light, airy clothes in summer and layer up in winter
    • Using renewable energy sources where possible like solar
    • Planting natural shading around your home or workplace
    • Making sure the building is insulated. Check for draughts in the building and repair.
  • Use public transport, walk or ride when possible instead of using your vehicle
  • Turn your vehicle off when stopping at the lights
  • Refuse, reduce, reuse and recycle – minimise your consumption!
  • Buy local
  • Avoid buying products with excess packaging
  • Use no more water than is needed.
Share your positive impact with others

If you have an electricity usage tracker or meter, this is a fantastic way to see what difference your actions are making and share this information with children, staff and families. Over the course of Polar Bear Day and implementing energy-saving actions in 2020, Goodstart Preston Regent Street dropped their fossil-fueled energy consumption by 10% (tracked using Jemena).

Raise money to help protect polar bears and their habitat

Get your staff and families involved in raising money for organisations like Polar Bears International who are working hard to conserve polar bears. You can also donate to Polar Bears International as an individual at any time of the year. Here’s an example of how we ran a fundraiser at Goodstart Preston Regent Street:

  • We approached IKEA for a donation of a couple of adorable polar bear toys.
  • Families could then enter into the draw to win a polar bear toy for their child. Each entry was one gold coin.
  • To enter, children shared what name they would give their polar bear if they won.
  • The fundraiser ran over a few weeks with information communicated to families through online communication platforms and posters across the service.
  • The polar bear toys were featured as part of the polar bear display (see tips on creating an engaging display below).

Goodstart Preston Regent Street raised $135 (in 2018) to donate to Polar Bears International and over 50 staff and family got involved. If you arrange a donation to Polar Bears International they will provide you with a thank-you certificate which can be displayed at your service.

Building interest with a polar bear display

A display at the entrance of your service and/or in the children’s playrooms can draw attention to the plight of polar bears and how people can support your activities. We recommend using recycled or donated materials to for your polar bear display. In addition, you could ask staff or families to donate resources, or partner with a local organisation to help gather the items you need. Here’s some examples of polar bear displays from Goodstart Preston Regent Street.

Activity ideas for young children to explore polar bears and the Arctic

Provocations

Here are some examples of open-ended questions to stimulate children’s ideas, curiosity, and imagination.

  • I wonder, where polar bears live?
  • What do you think polar bears like to eat?
  • How do polar bears stay warm?
  • I wonder if polar bears are good swimmers?
  • How do polar bear mums look after their cubs?
  • What can we/you do to help polar bears?
  • Why do you think bears need sea ice?
  • What do you think makes sea ice melt?
Read books with children

Reading books on polar bears and their habitat allows children to imagine and expand their understanding about the world around them. If you let your local library know you are planning a celebration on polar bears they will be happy to make recommendations of books they have available. Also in our experience, they will put books aside so all you need to do is pick them up.

Here’s a list of books successfully tried and tested with preschool children to help get you started:

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

Little Bear Dreams by Paul Schmid

There’s a Bear on My Chair by Ross Collins

Snow Bear by Piers Harper

Rainbow Bear by Stephen Michael King

Polar Bears by Norbert Rosing

Watch videos with children on polar bears and their habitat

Polar Bears International have a range of videos in their Education Centre to explore the wonderful world of polar bears including (cue excitement) …live polar bear cams! BBC Earth also have some fantastic videos for example, this video on Polar Bear Cubs Taking Their First Steps.  

Sensory play

Snow slime, shaving cream, jelly, Arctic animals, melting ice …polar bear celebrations are the perfect opportunity for sensory play. It supports children to explore and investigate, stimulates curiosity, problem solving and creativity. This is a wonderful invitation for children to explore why polar bears need ice, and why ice might melt. It also helps children understand the reality polar bears are facing with the sea ice they depend on disappearing.

*Tip: if you don’t want to use shaving foam, try making aquafaba. To make aquafaba, use the leftover juice from canned chickpeas, add in either some cream of tartar or cornflour, and whip until it forms semi-firm peaks (can take 3-6 minutes depending on your equipment).

Draw a polar bear

Encourage children to draw what they think a polar bear looks like. Have a discussion, look at pictures and/or watch videos of polar bears with children prior to this activity to explore the body parts of a polar bear.

Polar bear drawings from children
Polar bear drawing by children at Goodstart Preston Regent Street
Polar bear process art project

We love this fantastic polar bear painting activity by Play to Learn Preschool.

Polar bear paper craft

 iHeartCraftyThings has a great guide on how to make polar bear masks with children. Make sure to choose materials that can be composted, recycled or reused afterwards.

Polar bear paper handprints are also a favourite with children. For inspiration, check out these guides by Grandkids Make Life Grand or Simple Everyday Mom.

Polar Bear masks made by children
Polar bear masks made by children at Goodstart Preston Regent Street

A special thanks

Thank-you to the educators and management at Goodstart Preston Regent Street for your support of polar bear conservation. The activities, classroom displays and other ways you have engaged children and families in learning about the plight of polar bears is an inspiration to us, as well as other early childhood services.

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