My little gal V has a stuffed animal collection that I’ve worked to limit since she joined our family a little over two years ago. I have put out the word to curtail gift giving of fluffy friends since year one. Still, in addition to the 10 or so that accompany her to bed every night, we have a pet net (remember these from the 80’s…I saved mine) and a large Rubbermaid bin full of the little friends.
So it came to me one day that we had a full-on menagerie living in our house and we might introduce that element into some pretend play. In a bored moment, V and I pulled out all the stuffed friends and decided to make a zoo.
We grouped the animals into area by type (birds, bugs, jungle animals, farm animals, dogs, elephants, etc.). It came to me that this activity actually is a great one for helping kids sort and categorize objects by similarities or differences (kind of like the Sesame Street activity: “One of these things is not like the other; one of these things doesn’t belong. Can you guess which thing is not like the other before I finish this song…”).
Sitting amidst our pretend zoo, we decided to read some zoo related stories which I’ve listed for you below. I know this is a simple activity, but it’s something to take up some time on a rainy fall day when you are at a loss for what might keep your toddler/preschooler occupied.
From Head to Toe by Eric Carle: This book involves physical motion that is sure to get your little one moving and mimicking animal actions.
123 to the Zoo by Eric Carle: This is a wordless counting book; your little ones can practice their animal identification and counting skills as they look at the colorful illustrations.
Zoo Parade by Harriet Ziefert and Simms Taback: This rhythmic story has been a favorite in our house for a while. We used to use animal puppets while reading it aloud. The rhymes and sounds of the story will have you chanting along…”What kind of walking will you do today?” V loves this one and so do I; I think I have much of it committed to memory!
And to bring a little fun sing-a-long into your play, remember you can always sing “Mama’s taking us to the zoo tomorrow” with Raffi!
Enjoy your zoo play and make good use of the mountain of stuffed animals in your home!