If you’ve ever been around children at a farm, zoo or aquarium, you know they are absolutely fascinated by animals. We’re sure you’ve seen the awe-struck look on a child’s face: eyes wide and mouth agape as they stare in wonderment at a new or unique creature.
They’re intrigued by the interesting sounds animals make, the unpredictable behavior they witness and more than anything the exciting and mysterious qualities animals possess. After all, other than family pets, they likely don’t come into contact with these fascinating beings on a regular basis.
And while not everyone can take a field trip to a farm or zoo, reading about them and adding projects where animals are the focus can be just as exciting and attention-grabbing for your kiddos. That’s why incorporating animal activities for preschoolers into your curriculum can be such a powerful tool.
When you introduce animals and animal activities into the classroom, you achieve a number of benefits.
For example, you can stimulate your preschoolers’ senses by posing questions like, “do you think this animal has a smell and if so what’s it like?” or asking what a particular animal’s coat looks and feels like.
Or perhaps you use animals as a way to teach your preschoolers to explore the world around them. For instance, you can take your class on an imaginary safari halfway around the world.
If you do have the ability to bring in or visit live animals, you can use these experiences to help teach empathy and kindness.
And if nothing else, by including animals as part of your lesson plan, e.g. using farm animal activities and toys for counting and sorting games, the lessons will stick much better.
If you’ve never incorporated animal activities for preschoolers into your lesson plan, we’re sharing 10 of our favorites below.
1.) A whale of an activity: All you need for this outdoor science activity from KC Edventures is some sidewalk chalk, a tape measure and space! Simply draw the outline of a whale on the ground and let your children see just how big these creatures are. You can also choose a variety of other animals and do the same. If you’re able, take a photo of each child next to the outline and then show them how they compare.
2.) Comparing animal tracks: This simple activity from Teach Preschool combines animals and art. You simply take plastic animals, dip their feet in paint and press them on paper. Then, you have your preschoolers compare and contrast the different tracks.
3.) Counting using the farm animal activities for preschoolers worksheet: If you’re short on time, and looking for a fun counting activity, try these free farm animal activities for preschoolers worksheets from Preschool Learn & Play. This is an easy, no-prep activity that works on counting and number tracing.
4.) Handprint fish counting and color matching: Grace, Giggles & Naptime brings us a fun and easy way to work on counting and color matching. You begin by having your preschoolers create handprint fish. Then they add matching colored Fruit Loop “gills.” If you’re worried about using sugary cereal, you can easily substitute other small craft items.
5.) LEGO Duplo animals and the alphabet: This project from Adventures in a Box has it all: animals, building, literacy and more. You can also incorporate color matching, but sometimes it’s more fun to let your preschoolers’ creativity flow by using all the colors.
6.) Paper plate lion safari craft: This fun and quick activity from The Keeper of Memories is perfect for helping develop fine motor skills in kiddos. That’s why it ranks high among our favorite zoo animal activities for preschoolers.
7.) Paper plate sheep: This is one of our favorite farm animal activities for preschoolers. You only need five items for this easy arts and crafts project from Housing a Forest. It can also be a great science activity that explores different textures by substituting cotton balls for the shredded paper.
8.) Sensory habitats: This hands-on activity from The Pinay Homeschooler lets children explore different sensations as they learn about various animal habitats. For example, you can fill a tub or tray with sand and then place “desert” animal toys in their natural habitat. As an added bonus, you can work on creativity by having your students make up stories about these animals.
9.) Walk like an animal: This is another simple activity that requires little to no prep or materials. All you have to do is gather your children and instruct them to move like whatever animal you call out. It’s a wonderful physical activity that works on creativity and large motor skills.
10.) Zoo math with animal crackers: This idea from Motherhood on a Dime is another one of our favorite zoo animal activities for preschoolers. It’s a great way to explore math and it’s delicious to boot!
If you’re interested in learning more about how to incorporate creative teaching exercises like the ones above into your lesson plans, then consider one of ChildCare Education Institute’s online courses on curriculum and assessment.
And, while you’re at it, try exploring our 150+ other courses in English and Spanish that cover everything from classroom management to leadership building.