Groundhog's Day Fun
Ground Hog's Day is coming on February 2nd! Here are some fun and educational ideas for celebrating with your little ones...
The History of Groundhog's Day
Explain Groundhog's Day to your child in a way they can understand. Basically, legend has it that if the groundhog comes out of his burrow and sees his shadow (because the day is bright and sunny), he will get frightened and run back in his burrow bringing 6 more weeks of winter. If the groundhog comes out of his burrow and does not see his shadow (because the day is cloudy and overcast), he will stay outside and we will have an early spring.
The "official" groundhog is named Punxsutawney Phil. He lives at Gobbler's Knob in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. On February 2, Punxsutawney Phil comes out of his burrow to predict the weather for the rest of season to crowds of onlookers and fans. This grand celebration of Groundhog's Day in Punxsutawney, began with Pennsylvania's earliest settlers and has roots in other traditions.
February 2nd happens to be the day that winter is half over -- as it lies half way between the winter solstice and the spring equinox. Celebrations derive from a combination of elements, including the observation of the natural habits of hibernating animals, the ancient pagan ritual of Imbolc (that used fire to celebrate the return of sunlight after a long, dark winter), and the Christian religious tradition of Candlemas (hand-made beeswax candles were blessed for use during the coming year on February 2nd). The traditional Candlemas recitation sheds some light on the topic...
If Candlemas day be fair and bright,
Winter will have another flight.
If Candlemas day brings clouds and rain,
Winter is gone and won't come again.
Of course, all of these aspects of February 2nd can lead to some wonderful learning opportunities about seasons, hibernating animals, light, shadows, and more! Here are some suggestions...
Great Groundhog Reads:
There are lots of books about groundhogs and Groundhog Day written with preschoolers in mind. Take this list to your library and see if you can find some to enjoy with your children -- or click on the links to purchase from Amazon.com. (Your purchases help support this website! Thank you!)
- How Groundhog's Garden Grew - by Lynne Cherry
- Groundhog Day - by Michelle Aki Becker
- Groundhog Gets A Say - by Pamela Curtis Swallow
- Groundhog Stays Up Late - by Margery Cuyler
- Go To Sleep Ground Hog - by Judy Cox, Paul Meisel
- The Secret of the First One Up - by Iris Hiskey Arno
- Geoffrey Groundhog Predicts the Weather - by Bruce Koscielniak
- Gretchen Groundhog, It's Your Day! - by Abby Levine, Nancy Cote
- Go To Sleep, Groundhog! - by Judy Cox
- Punxsutawney Phyllis - by Susanna Leonard Hill
- Groundhog Weather School - by Joan Holub
Make a Paper Bag Groundhog!
Show your children how to lightly stuff a brown lunch bag with newspaper. Tape or staple the bag closed. Mold it with your hands to give it a roundish "goundhog" shape. Let the children use markers to put eyes, nose, ears, and mouth on their groundhogs. Show the children how to give the illusion of fur by making streaks with a brown marker all over the bag. Get fancy by attaching pipe cleaners for whiskers. Use your imaginations to create other features. Make a family of groundhogs with different size brown bags. Have fun!
Once you've made a groundhog, hide him in a "burrow" somewhere in the house. Use a stop watch, digital or analog clock. Time how long it takes to find the groundhog. If using an analog clock, show your child the clock. Point to the big hand, and notice where it is when you begin the hunt. Then notice where it is when you find the groundhog. Count the dots (minute marks) on the clock from where it was when you started to where it was when you ended. That's how many minutes it took!
Make your own Groundhog Burrow!
Get a big cardboard box (either from your grocery store or a big appliance dealer, etc.). Make sure it's big enough so that you and your child can crawl in and out of it easily. Decorate it to resemble a burrow. Use markers, paint, or contact paper. Pretend you are groudhogs and crawl in and out of your burrow!
While you're playing....
- Sing Groundhog Songs and act them out!
- Fun with Shadows!
Turn off the lights in the room. Shine a flashlight on a bare wall. Ask your child to stand in front of the bright light and experiment with making shadows of all shapes and sizes on the wall. Show them how to make Hand Shadows. Experiment with casting different kinds of shadows by holding different objects up in front of the flashlight. Try a stuffed animal, scissors, a pencil, a toothbrush, small toys like cars and action figures or doll house dishes and cups. Puzzle pieces cast interesting shadows too. I'm sure your child think of many more to try.
- Trace a Shadow!
Tape large sheets of paper (or butcher-block paper) to the wall. Have one person hold the flashlight while your child stands in front of it -- casting their shadow onto the paper on the wall. Trace your child's shadow. Then, help your child cut it out and paint it black. Mount your child's permanent shadow on the wall, or the ceiling, or behind a door!
- Groundhog Breakfast Treat!
Surprise the kids at the breakfast table by putting a picture of a groundhog on a toothpick and place it in the center of a bagel (the burrow). The kids will love it!
- Groundhog Coloring Pages
- More Groundhog Fun...
Get print-outs, activities, a free groundhog e-book story, and a printable groundhog mask!
Now, for those of you who want to extend the learning further, visit:
This is the official website of the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club and it offers all kinds of curricular activities for a wide range of ages and grade levels. Please be very careful not to force curriculum on preschoolers. Use the ideas and lessons here as a guide. If your children enjoy them -- great! If not, put it away and move on to something that really peaks their interest and imagination. The site includes:
- Activities for Kids -- Free, downloadable and printable coloring pages of Phil (the Groundhog) along with a Groundhog themed math activity, puzzle, maze, wordsearch, and even some printable cut-out decorations! Most of this stuff is geared for elementary school age kids -- but the coloring pages are just waiting to be printed out and scribbled upon. :)
- Lesson Plans for Teachers -- Well, not really lesson plans in the traditional sense, but you will find Groundhog themed games for the classroom that can be adjusted for families to play at home. You'll also find the lyrics to some Groundhog caroles -- sung to familiar holiday tunes.
- Interactive Fun Games -- Try the Groundhogese Translator and turn English into groundhog speak or let the groundhog oracle predict your future! Some little kids will enjoy this -- others may not "get" it.
- Groundhog Poetry -- Read groundhog poetry that may inspire you to write your own!
- Make Groundhog Cookies -- A recipe for some sweet groundhog treats!
Be sure not to miss the Fun Facts About Groundhogs. It will help you answer all of those questions your preschoolers are sure to ask once they know about Groundhog's Day.
Happy Groundhog's Day!