Winter | Critters: Pre-K and Kindergarten

Who Lives Here? Dens and Nests

Summary: We know lots of animals head south in the winter because of the cold weather. As fall begins, we can watch flocks of birds on their annual migratory trek south but what about the animals that stick around? Today, we’ll take a peek at the animals that settle in and snuggle up for the winter. 

Before Visiting the Garden: 

  • Gather: Materials to create your own den! Suggestions include chairs, blankets, clothespins, pillows, anything you want to store in your den
  • Explore: The sculpture Grapes by Ai Weiwei: Does this sculpture remind you of a nest? 
  • Read: Over and Under the Snow by Kate Messner and illustrated by Christopher Silas Neal 

In the Garden: 

Animals that do not head south in the winter have a different tactic for survival—hibernation! Squirrels make dens in the hollow parts of trees and cushion them with grass, twigs, and leaves. They keep warm in these sturdy nests. They grow a thick winter coat (if you have a dog, you might notice its coat thickens in winter!) and hide pinecones and nuts during the fall for winter snacking. Similarly, chipmunks make their burrows under trees. They collect food during late summer and spend the winter in their warm nests snacking on stored food or sleeping. Raccoons, skunks, and badgers also spend parts of the winter hibernating 

Questions to Explore:

  • Do you see any nests here in the garden? Look up and near the ground. 
  • Can you gather materials in the garden for nest/den building? Hint: leaves or sticks
  • Would you rather live up in a tree nest or down near the ground in a cave or tree root? Why? 
  • If you were building a nest, what would you use?


  1. Start in the garden with the materials you collected. Can you create a den/nest? 
  2. When you get home, use the materials you gathered to create a more elaborate, people-friendly den. 
  3. Push chairs together and put a blanket over the top to create a cave or lay a blanket over a bunch of pillows to create a nest.
  4. Once you have a spot to snuggle, grab your favorite book and settle in for a winter nap!

Beyond the Garden | Keep Looking!

On a cold, wintery day take the opportunity to bundle up, get out of the house, and explore the neighborhood. See if you can spot any additional animal homes using the web link below as a reference. Do you see a squirrel’s nest or a chipmunk’s burrow? What materials were used to make them? Are they easy or difficult to spot? Next, compare the materials in the animal dens/nests to the building materials in the homes around you. Do you see any similarities? 

Continue Exploring | Supporting Materials

Additional animal homes:

Note for Parents:
Each lesson suggests you explore a piece of artwork and read a specific book with your child. The artwork and books are easily available for view with an online search. However, these suggestions are not necessary to complete the lessons.

Guiding Principles


Learning, though not always visible, is always happening. The lessons are designed using inquiry as a base. Rather than “right answers” be more concerned with asking good questions.


Things may not go as planned. The lessons are designed to be used in whatever way works best for you. You can use all of the lesson or just pull a piece out of it.


Planting and cultivating a garden is believing in possibility. The lessons are designed to generate excitement about the future.


Each lesson includes a way to take the learning out into the community for more learning and more connection.


When a young child’s innate curiosity is unleashed in a garden the possibilities are endless. Any topic is open for exploration.


You will get dirty. There will be bugs.