To toddlers and preschoolers, animals are endlessly fascinating, mostly because they seem just as silly, noisy, and cute as little kids. They’re even easy and fun to imitate — one reason most toddlers can moo soon after they say “Mama.” Lots of tots are eager to learn about their furry or feathered friends (especially if you already have a pet), so try a few of these animal activities to boost your child’s knowledge of the natural world.
Eat like an animal.
Turn snack time into a lesson on what animals eat by filling a muffin tin with animal-friendly snacks: berries for bears, pumpkin seeds for birds, sliced bananas for monkeys, or baby carrots for rabbits. As your munchkin munches, have him try to guess which animals prefer each food — he can even match the treat to a lineup of pictures you’ve printed out. (Add a few sneaky snacks, like mini marshmallows — your little one will think it’s hilarious that they’re a favorite of those junk-food fiends, raccoons.)
Build your own zoo.
Most kids have a menagerie of stuffed animals, so why not give these furry friends a home? Brainstorm the perfect habitat, like a mixing bowl of (imaginary) water for his stuffed seal or cut out some brown construction paper to create a mud puddle for his plush pig. Group animals from similar places: sea creatures in one corner, barnyard critters in another. When you’ve finished your DIY zoo, take the grand tour together.
Do a dance.
Your munchkin probably loves to get her groove on, so the next time you turn on the tunes to dance, transform the party into an animal activity. Take turns calling out different creatures to imitate. The two of you can waddle like a penguin, prance like a deer, lumber like a bear, or slither like a snake. To boost more large-motor skills, see if your tot can balance on one leg like a flamingo, tiptoe like a giraffe, or climb up the couch like a chimpanzee.