I’m always happy to find a way to use our plethora of stuffed friends. We’ve made a stuffed animal zoo, and now we are using them to learn letters. This game helps with phonics and letter recognition. All you need are animals and letters. We used a foam alphabet mat, but you could easily write letters on index cards or use letter flashcards instead.
For each stuffed animal ask:
What animal is this?
What letter does it start with? (If they need some help offer other words that start with the same letter)
Can you find the letter and place the animal on top of it? (Again, depending on ability level you might need to give some clues about what the letter looks like or its place in the alphabet)
Then read an animal ABC book and see if you had the same animals!
My girls love finding Easter eggs, so I had the idea of hiding puzzle pieces in them instead of candy. This might be a fun way to give kids a new puzzle on Easter. Or it can just be a fun non-treat egg hunt you can have around your house any day.
Confession: my original idea was to hide regular puzzle pieces in the eggs, but they didn’t fit. 😦 Never fear! This Melissa & Doug alphabet puzzle worked perfectly. Plus it had the added learning component of identifying the letter found in the egg and then finding its spot in the alphabet.
Place puzzle pieces in eggs and hide around the room (or outside).
Bring in the kids and let them look for eggs!
After finding an egg, the kiddo needs to run over to the puzzle and put in her piece before she hunts for another egg.
To make it fair for younger players, you might want to have kids take turns finding eggs and adding pieces to the puzzle. One kid can’t go find a second egg until everyone has found their first egg and so on.
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.
I am a little messophobic. That’s a word, right? I love to give my kids new experiences and it is fun to watch them get messy…but the clean-up. The clean up. Sometimes I don’t know if it is worth it. Sigh. Despite my messophobia, I got out the shaving cream one day. I remember playing with shaving cream on the table when I was little and I loved it. And of course, so did my girls. Although Little Sis did not like to get it on her hands, so she used stick. Maybe messophobia is genetic?
Shaving cream might be the “fun factor” your kid needs to practice writing letters, numbers, or words. Even toddlers can practice straight and curved lines that they will need to make letters. Little Sis made lots of lines, while Big Sis did some writing. She might need a little more practice on her numbers….
And the clean up was not as bad as I expected. Luckily no one started throwing shaving cream, so it was just the table to clean up. I could wipe most of it off the table with my hands and then wash it off in the sink. Then a wet towel did the rest. Shaving cream is officially approved for messophobes everywhere.