Few animals are as universally loved as panda bears. This makes them a natural subject for preschoolers. Using the giant bears to teach basic lessons is as easy as doing a craft. Other simple activities give young children a foundation for understanding these cuddly creatures. As natives of China, tie in your panda activities with the Chinese New Year. You can also celebrate Zoo and Aquarium Month in June by devoting one day a week to a panda activity.
Read, "Panda Bear, Panda Bear, What Do You See?" by Bill Martin Jr. and Eric Carle, aloud to the children. The story focuses on pandas and nine other endangered species. Written for a preschool audience, the book lends itself to a discussion of the importance of saving these animals.
Use a panda craft to teach circles, counting and colours. Give each child a white circle made of cardboard as the base of a panda face. Also supply two large black circles as ears and a smaller black circle for the nose. Use two 50-cent piece-sized black circles, two smaller white circles and two tiny black circles as the eyes. Ask the children to identify how many of each colour and how many of each size circle they have before gluing them together. Finish the craft by drawing the mouth in black marker.
Print drawings for the children to colour that highlight a panda's environment, including bamboo shoots and leaves. You can feature the letter "P" by including a pond, pig or even the letter itself on the same page. Ask the kids to colour the background with crayons that start with "P," like purple or pink.
Create items the children can simply enjoy using. Download a premade mask from the National Zoo (nationalzoo.si.edu) and add string or ribbon to wear. Glue a paper bowl upside-down to the top of a paper plate for the beginnings of a panda lying on its back. Cut out arms, legs and ears from black foam and attach. Finish the panda by colouring its face on the bowl with black marker. Use the panda's "belly" to hold a snack.
A Day in the Life
Watch the panda at the San Diego Zoo (sandiegozoo.org) by logging on to the zoo cam. Record what the panda is doing at different times of the day. Check the camera feed at the same times each day for a week to see if the panda has a routine. If you are lucky enough to live near a zoo with a panda, arrange a field trip to observe the bear first-hand.
Create a simple maze where the panda needs help getting to its bamboo. Print out pairs of panda photos and laminate them as cards. Use the cards for a memory game.
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