Tag Archives: Eric Carle

Going to the Zoo Through Play and Books

Our play zoo!

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!

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The Ants Go Marching and Other Bug Related Fun for Kids

(photo by PML)

My little gal, V, has shown an utter fascination with the small creatures of the world lately.  From slugs to ants, bugs have been on her curious brain!  She enthuses over them, cautiously and gingerly touches them with exclamations of pride, and points them out everywhere we go.  So I have become a mom that pets ants outside of the strip mall smoothie place and one who carts slugs on mulch pieces to somewhere other than our vegetable garden.  It’s been real…

Not wanting my ant-induced itching inclinations to impact my girl’s passion for the little critters, we went to the library to stock up on all items bug related for some fun theme reading.  Here are some selected choices for your insect explorations:

The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle:  We own two copies of this (board and hard cover) as it has been a favorite of V’s since she was quite small.  She has always enjoys the part where I exhaustedly and speedily read all of the crazy foods that caterpillar eats on Saturday!

Miss Spider’s ABC’s by David Kirk:  The brilliantly colored illustrations make this book so appealing to little ones.  They can learn about all types of bugs that come to the surprise party for Miss Spider while learning their ABC’s!

The Eensy Weensy Spider by Mary Ann Hoberman:  The classic song is told as an extended version with lovely illustrations; you can use this in combination with some music time for your little one.

Chirping Crickets by Melvin Berger:  This non-fiction title for kids is very informative and even includes a craft and other activities on the back page!

Thinking About Ants by Barbara Brenner: What a fabulous book!  It takes the perspective of an ant and has interactive questions that really draw kids into learning about ants.  Using the questions as prompts, V has decided that she is a purple ant, I am a blue ant, and Daddy can be a red ant and that we all have matching antennae, abdomens, and food!  The stories she is coming up with after reading this title are hilarious and hearing a two year old pronounce “antennae” and “abdomens” is darn cute.  There is a reference in the back to help parents talk about the types of ants depicted in the illustrations.

About Insects:  A Guide for Children by Cathryn Sill:  This simple book describes characteristics of insects using illustrations of different bugs.  It is almost like a very elementary field guide and overview of the insect world.  V loved using it as a reference for the bug movie we watched: MicroCosmos.

If you want to go beyond the page and the species found in your own front yard, I recommend checking out MicroCosmos.  It is a quiet (with the exception of some rousing musical accompaniment) documentary about bugs from the perspective of a bug.  Kind of like a real-life “Honey I Shrunk the Kids” experience from the bug side of things.

MicroCosmos is rated G, but be aware there are some real life “ahem” bonding moments that occur between some of the bug friends. They get really natural so you may have some explaining to do with older children. We like to call it “the bugs dancing” in our house.  Overall, though it was a wonderful viewing experience and V kept excitedly pointing out things to us, “Wow!”  “Daddy, LOOK at that guy!”  “What IS that guy?”

I found it helpful to have our bug books on hand so we could look up some of the species as we watched, so it might be useful to have some kind of field guide handy to help answer the questions of curious minded kiddos (for those of us parents who aren’t entomologists)!

Finally, I invite you to do what we do:  go on a nature walk and look at all the bugs you can find.  Talk about them, point out features and share your knowledge.  Most of my bug knowledge was acquired informally, through hearing adults share what they knew about bugs.  Sing “The Ants Go Marching” or “The Eensy Weensy Spider” on your walk.  Check out Pinterest bug activities (we like making bugs out of colored cotton balls, google eyes and pipe cleaners and putting them in glass pickle jars).  There is no end to the fun you can have with bugs.

On a more challenging note; we may have become known as a too friendly to bugs household this week.  We have begun facing off an ant invasion (they were coming in under our front door and running their tiny bodies ALL along the molding from the front to back of our house…).  I’m convinced we’ll win the battle with our liquid ant traps in and outside the house, but for a pesticide-phobic person like me, I really prefer when the bugs keep to their habitat and us to ours!  Keep your fingers crossed that V’s cries of “Get him!  Smash him!” regarding the ants don’t infringe on the awe and respect we are currently forming for our bug friends!  I’m hoping that my explanations of “Bugs are fine outside the house but not inside,” will suffice, but after she’s watched my smash and stomp routine this week, I feel like there’s some mixed messages going on in our home about the presence of wildlife.  She did enjoy watching the ants marching in line from our front door to the ant trap and kept asking me to “Come on Mommy!  Let’s go watch the ants!”  I felt a little guilty knowing that they were in reality marching to their doom…

Anyway, get out there, get itchy and squirmy and check out the species in your front yard!  What are some of the bug friends that your children love?


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