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Fun with Water: The Polar Bear Experiment


Polar bears, seals, penguins, and other polar animals slip in and out of ice-cold water without any problems, thanks to their thick layers of fat. You can teach your child how it feels to be a polar bear swimming in ice water—without having to take a bone-chilling polar bear plunge.

First, you’ll need a big bowl of freezing water filled with ice cubes. To simulate how we’d feel swimming in such cold water, have your child dip a hand in the bowl and count how long he or she can keep it there. Most kids will quickly pull their hand out. If you’ve got a child who’s determined to endure the cold no matter what, have them take their hand out after a count of thirty.

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Once they’ve taken their hand out of the water and dried off, have your child make a fist. Pull a rubber glove over the child’s fist (don’t try to get their fingers into the finger holes—that’s not necessary). Put on a rubber glove yourself, and slather the child’s glove in shortening. Really smear it on, so you’ve got a nice thick layer.

Take off your own glove, and wrap the fat-covered glove in plastic wrap (this has nothing to do with the experiment itself, it’s to make cleanup easier). Have the child put her fat-covered hand back into the ice water. She’ll be surprised to find she can’t feel any cold, just like a polar bear. If she wants, she can dip her other hand into the water to feel the difference.

Cleanup is easy. Just carefully slide the child’s hand out of the glove. If you’re doing the experiment with more than one child, you can then carefully slide the fat-glove over the next child’s fist.

Hands-on experiments such as this help children develop an understanding and appreciation of the world around them. From here, you can guide the conversation towards other aspects of polar life, animal behavior, and the effect humans have on such a delicate ecosystem, all while bonding and learning with your child. While a Pelican can’t survive icy Arctic conditions, a Pelican NaturSoft system can help protect the delicate ecosystem.

Pelican Combo System Salt-Free Water Softener Whole-House Water Filter