Preschool children are just learning about the world around them, including the animals. They're probably familiar with a few domestic pets and may know a little about farm animals. Expand their knowledge with a topic that introduces new animals and gives them a sense of the larger world by teaching a forest animals unit. Use many different modes of conveying information, such as pictures, discussions, books, songs and role playing.
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Discuss with children that forests are homes to many types of animal, from ants to bobcats. Let the children talk about what they need in their homes and compare this to what animals need in their homes. Give them a colouring page or have them draw what their room looks like and what a certain animal's room looks like. Then turn one corner of the class into a human house with chairs, plastic food, blankets and stuffed toys. Turn another corner of the room into a home for a forest animal; for example, bears would need a covered space (use a blanket fort method) and something soft to sleep on.
Use picture books to help children understand which animals live in the forests and what the animals' lives are like. Choose some stories that are more whimsical, such as "The Mitten" by Jan Brett, and be sure to include more realistic books, such as "Who's in the Forest?" by Phyllis Gershator and Jill McDonald or "In the Woods: Who's Been Here" by Lindsay Barrett George. Use stories to examine the differences between rainforests and temperate forests with books like "Amazing Animals: Rainforest Romp" by Tony Mitton.
Make up songs or download some from sites like Preschooleducation.com. Sing "I'll be Gathering All the Acorns" to the tune of "She'll be Coming 'Round the Mountain," or use a song like "Did you Ever See a Lassie" and have the students make up songs about what forest animals do. For example, "Did you Ever See a Racoon" and end the song with "washing his food" or "Did you Ever See a Deer" and end with "eating some leaves."
Movement and Role Play
Preschoolers can learn through movement, so have them act out the various animals that you want to teach them about. Gather pictures of forest animals and play a game by stacking the pictures and flipping one over. The children can pretend to be whichever animal is shown in the picture. Encourage them to walk like the animal and make the sound that the animal makes. Once children understand this game, have them pick pictures one at a time and play a version of charades where the other children guess which animal their peers are acting out.
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