Many young children love animals and the sounds they make. A unit on zoo animals will delight most preschoolers as they learn about exotic creatures, their natural habitats and the sounds they make. Games, arts and crafts and story time are age-appropriate ways to teach preschoolers about the most common and best-known animals at the zoo.
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Circle Time Songs
Sing interactive zoo animal-related songs during circle time and get all the children to participate by using familiar tunes. For example, the website Preschool Rainbow has a zoo-related song called "The Itsy Bitsy Monkey," which is sung to the tune of "The Itsy Bitsy Spider." The song goes, "The itsy bitsy monkey climbed up the coconut tree. Down came a coconut and bumped him on the knee. Out came his mommy and wiped away his tears, and the itsy bitsy monkey climbed up the tree again." The website Perpetual Preschool includes several zoo-themed songs for preschoolers to sing. One song, sung to the tune of "Farmer in the Dell," is "Keeper of the Zoo," which goes "The keeper feeds the tigers, the keeper feeds the tigers. Heigh-ho the derry-o, the keeper feeds the tigers." The song can be repeated with several other zoo animals. Another one is " The Animals at the Zoo," sung to the tune of "The Wheels on the Bus," and goes "The lion at the zoo goes, roar, roar, roar." The song can continue with other zoo animals.
Reading books about the zoo to preschoolers teaches them about what certain animals look like, what sounds they make and what a zoo is. Spend story time with age-appropriate books related to the zoo. Suggested books include "If I Ran the Zoo" by Dr. Seuss, which is about a little boy who imagines what he would if he were in charge of the zoo; "Dear Zoo" by Rod Campbell, a pop-up book about a child looking for the perfect pet at the zoo; and "Curious George Visits the Zoo" by Margret Rey, where Curious George visits the zoo and creates a ruckus.
Arts and Crafts
The children can create several zoo-related art projects during the unit such as paper plate lions. For this craft, each child is given a paper plate. Teachers can draw the eyes, nose and mouth of a lion with permanent marker on each plate. The children then colour in the face using yellow and orange colours. Each child is given yellow and orange-coloured yarn to glue around the edges of the plate to create the mane. While the students are creating their craft, teachers can talk about lion habitats and family structures and the difference between male and female lions. Another easy craft for the children to create is a giraffe, which can be made by sponging brown paint on a cut-out of a giraffe shape on orange construction paper. During the activity the teacher can discuss the benefits of a giraffe's long neck and fun facts such as a giraffe's black tongue. Zoo collages are another craft the children can create using wildlife magazines. The children cut out pictures of their favourite zoo animals and paste them onto construction paper.
An engaging zoo activity for preschoolers to play is animal cracker charades. For this game, one child picks an animal out of the box and hides it from the other kids. The child eats the cookie and then pretends to be that animal, making the sounds and trying to act like the animal. The first child who guesses the animal correctly is next to choose an animal cracker. In another game, the kids are given four zoo animals to choose from. They should not speak their choice out loud. After everyone has chosen, the children close their eyes and find other classmates who also selected their animal using sound only. For instance, children that chose lion must roar to find each other. The first group that thinks they have all their members sits down.
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