We have way too many stuffed animals. I’m not a fan. They take up a lot of room, and although they are occasionally snuggled at night…they rarely participate in play during the day. Until today. Today we made a stuffed animal zoo. It was a great indoor activity for a rainy day….and it was free! And, of course, there was a lot of conversation and learning about animals. Here’s what you do…
- Gather all stuffed animals and cages. If you don’t have that many (lucky you), use puppets, plastic animals, or even animals on the covers of books. We used baskets and boxes for cages. We also used a green blanket for the “grass” and a blue towel for the “water.”
- Sort out the ones that don’t belong in your zoo. You can ask questions like “What animal is this? Where does it live? Have we seen it in the zoo?” Big Sis had fun asking these questions to Little Sis. She decided stuffed animals like Care Bears, Thomas the Train, and dolls didn’t belong in the zoo. However, you can do whatever you want. It’s your zoo! You can make this a learning opportunity to discuss real zoo animals, or you can make it pure fantasy and have a unicorn section. Whatever is most interesting to your kiddos.
- Match up like animals. This is a great activity for toddlers and preschoolers. You can talk about what characteristics the stuffed animals share. What makes it an elephant and not a hippo? How did you know that it was a bear even though it was pink? If you are like us, you will end up with four elephants….and maybe you’ll realize you need to get rid of some stuffed animals. 🙂
- Decide how to organize your zoo. This is where it gets fun! Talk about how you could arrange the animals and plan out the space. Should all the African animals be together? What about animals that fly? Preschoolers and early elementary kids will enjoy thinking about different ways to categorize the animals. If they are stuck, suggest some of these…
- Put the animals in cages…or not. It’s easier to see them if they are just loosely grouped. However, Big Sis is a stickler for “keeping it real.” Although I need to have a talk with her about animal rights and forcing four elephants into such small cage.
- Visit the zoo. This was my daughters’ favorite part. One pretended to be a visitor and pushed a baby doll in a stroller. The other was a zookeeper who took tickets and guided the visitor around the zoo. Then they switched. If your kids are too young, YOU be the zookeeper and give facts about the animals as you travel through the zoo.
Extension activities you might want to try-
- Reorganize the zoo a different way using the same animals.
- Read a book about zoo animals.
- Watch a live zoo cam feed online.
- Write the animals’ names on papers and place them outside the cages.