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Rain Forest Layers Theme
for Preschool

The Rain Forest Layers- Forest Floor, The Understory, The Canopy and the Emergent (treetop) Layer- are home to so much fauna and flora! This could be a month long theme and then some!  There are more than enough preschool lesson plans on this page for all of your interest learning centers in your preschool classroom!

Let the Rain Forest Layers
Theme Planning Begin!

This theme page is filled with preschool activities and ideas for all areas of your classroom. It is sorted by the four layers of the Rain Forest. Click on the Layer you wish to go to or scroll down!

Rain Forest Floor

Rain Forest Understory

Rain Forest Canopy

Rain Forest Emergent or Tree Top Layer

Rain Forest Library and Literacy Ideas

Rain Forest Music and Movement Ideas

Rain Forest Floor Activities

Art Activities


Materials needed: a section of 3 cups from an egg carton for each child; paint; pipe cleaners antennae; googly eyes and glue

In advance, poke 2 holes in the top of one of the end cups to place the antennae into.

The children paint their caterpillars and glue on the eyes.

They stick in the pipe cleaners.

When dry, try placing a few in your block area and around your room for some fun!


Materials Needed: white paper plates; black, red and a variety of other colors of paint; googly eyes; small and large brushes.

Show the children pictures of ladybugs and then let them create their own. Don't limit them to red and black ladybugs! You just never know what creations they'll come up with!


Materials Needed: Fingerpaint, fingerpaint paper

The children can make flowers by using the sides of their fists, leaves by using their hand prints and stems by using their fingers!


Materials Needed: Paper with a circular snake drawn on it with a black permanant marker; paint or markers and crayons

The children paint or decorate their snake. They (when dry) cut on the black line and you will have a very long snake to hang from your ceilings!


Materials Needed: paper, scissors, glue, variety of glitter colors, ziplock baggies; paintbrushes

Encourage the children to cut shapes out of paper. Any shape will do--it will make their bugs look as diverse as the rain forest!

When done, they brush glue on their shapes.

Place shapes in a baggie and sprinkle glitter in the baggie.

Seal and shake!

Voila--great bugs!

EXTENSION: Provide different sized googly eyes for them to glue on after they take their bugs out of the baggie!

Block Center

Add egg cartons and plastic bugs to your block area for some creepy, crawly block creations!

Circle Time Activities


Bring a variety of forest floor items to circle time. Some ideas are plastic bugs, snakes, flowers, grass, etc.

Show them to the children and discuss them. Have the children (or one child at a time) close their eyes and you take one item away. They try to guess what is missing. This is a favorite activity in our classroom!


Bring a rain stick to circle time. If you don't have one, you can make one:

Place craft sticks through a paper towel tube in many different areas (push them all the way through to the other side).

Use heavy tape (like electrical tape) to seal one end of the tube.

Add beans and/or rice to the tube.

Seal the other end.

Explain to the children that it rains a lot in the rain forest, which is why it is called the rain forest! The showers are very quick and then the sun comes out again. This happens many times during the day.

Use the rain stick to let them hear the sound. Let them each try using the rain stick.


Rather than using craft sticks, crunch a piece of aluminum foil into the shape of a long snake and add to the paper towel tube. (Thank you to Lisa from Georgia, for this suggestion!

Cooking Ideas


Ingredients needed: Bananas (sliced in half lengthwise); vanilla yogurt; rice krisy cereal

The children spread the yogurt on the banana (or roll it in a bowl of yogurt, more messy but fun!).

They then roll the covered banana into rice crispy type cereal.

Dramatic Play Area


Provide binoculars, clipboards with paper and markers; stuffed animals, hats vests for your children to find some Forest Floor items!

Easel Ideas


Provide small sponge brushes for the children to use to make bug prints!

Gross Motor Activities


There are leaf cutter ants in the rain forest. Cut large pieces of paper into leaves (each a different color), then cut the leaves in half.

Play music. The children dance around holding their leaf half. When the music stops, they should find their partner with the same color leaf.

Math And Manipulatives Activities


Provide rain forest floor pictures in duplicates for the children to match or use as a memory/concentration game.

Provide a wide variety of plastic bugs and several bowls. Let the children explore them and sort them by different attributes (color, size, with wings, without wings, etc.)


Place numbers on bowls or cups and encourage the children to count the specified number of bugs into each cup.

Sand and Water Table


Add lots of plastic bugs, including ants, to dirt or soil in your sensory table. Provide plastic tongs for them to remove the bugs and place them into cups!

Science Activities


In advance, make smelling cans from items from the rain forest. Try making 2 of each for the children to try to match the ones that smell the same (number the bottoms so you know which is which!).

Some Rain Forest Items you can use are:

allspice, cinnamon, pepper, ginger, vanilla, cloves, cocoa, lemon, banana, coconut, coffee


Materials needed: 2 liter soda bottle, gravel, charcoal, potting soil, plastic wrap, small plant (such as prayer plant, baby tears, artillery plant) and duct tape.

In advance: Remove label from the soda bottle. Cut away the top part of the bottle just before is stops flaring out.

With children:

Line the bottle on the bottom with plastic wrap.

Spread an inch of gravel on the bottom.

Spread a tin layer of charcoal over the gravel.

Fill will potting soil to about an inch below the top of the bottle.

Create a hole in center of soil and place plant in.

Pour about a cup of water around the plant.

Place the top part of the bottle onto this. Use duct tape to seal.

Place in a spot with indirect light. It never needs watering!

Writing Activities


Promote tracing and pencil holding skills!

Place paper over leaves and have the children rub with crayons to reveal the leaf.

Provide leaf shaped stencils for the children to draw leaves and then color with crayons, markers or colored pencils.

Use these to decorate and theme your room into the different rain forest layers.

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Rain Forest Understory Activities

This Rain Forest Layer- the Understory- is the next layer up from the forest floor. Here you'll find many red eyed frogs, bromeliad plants, spiders, Emerald Tree boas and Rosy Periwinkles!

Art Activities


Materials Needed: Pictures of Bromelaids, frog stamps, paint

Bromelaids are similar to pineapples. In the rain forest, many types of frogs actually lay there tadpoles in the leaves of these plants.

Provide bright colors and green paint and paper for the children to paint their own bromelaids. When dried, let them stamp little frogs on the leaves!


Make face masks with your children to represent animals from the different Rain Forest Layers. You might have your own templates. If not, check out the PBS website

The video of Manu is also WONDERFUL! We have shown parts of it...CAUTION: If you have this video, watch it yourself first, there is a scene in the beginning that would be disturbing to the is the cycle of life and the way the food chain works in the rain forest layers, but you will want to fast forward past that few seconds for the children

Here is the video at Amazon:

Click here for the PBS Rain Forest Teacher Resources Website

Block Center


Add rain forest layer animals, both plastic and stuffed, along with books about the Rain Forest to your block area.

Circle Time Ideas


It rains every day in the rain forest! Start a graph at circle time. Each of the rain forest layers depend upon this rain to continue its growth.

Color in each day if it is raining in your area each day. Have another graph for the rain forest. Fill in the day for the rain forest graph because it rains every day.

At the end of your unit, compare how much rain you receive and how much rain the rain forest receives.


Act this one out during this theme! Or, have 5 plastic frogs to use as props as you act it out!

5 Little specked frogs, sitting on a speckled log.

Eating the most delicious bugs.....YUMMMM, YUMMMMMM!

One jumped into a pool, where it was nice and cool,

Now there are 5 speckled frogs!

Continue 4,3,2,1 none.

Cooking Ideas


Cut off the top of a fresh pineapple. Save this part for your science table (see Science activity below).

Let the children touch and smell the pineapple.

Cut the sides off the pineapple. Slice some slices across as well as cut some into chunks.

Have a tasting! Do the children like fresh pineapple?

EXTENSION: We have also brought in canned pineapple for them to compare the similarities and differences.

Easel Ideas


Provide liquid watercolor paints for Rain Forest flowers! The children paint their own flowers. I'm not a big fan of "pre-cut" flowers (cookie cutter) type of art. Instead, encourage your children to paint flowers. You'll be surprised at their version of them!

Gross Motor Activities


Set up a rain forest themed course with materials you have in your classroom or playground! Provide binoculars. Have the children go through the course:

Find the monkeys. Climb the tree they are at (the climbing structure).

Find the river (a jump rope).

Hop on the alligator heads to get across the river (circle time mats or paper circles to hop on) etc.

Sand and Water Table


Materials: flower seeds, leaves, wood (or wood chips) small pineapples

Provide rain forest items to you water table. Have the children guess whether each item will sink or float.

Science Activities


Cut open a pineapple for the children to check out...and taste! Cut the top of the pineapple off first. Place it in a dish of water. Measure how tall the greens are and watch for any signs of it getting taller.

EXTENSION: Add water to the leaves as well and place a few small plastic frogs in the leaves. In the Rain Forest, many frogs have their tadpoles in leaves that are much like pineapple leaves. The plant name is Bromelaids.


Rubber comes from Rain Forest items. Make your own rubber.......FLUBBER!

You'll need:

Warm water--1 1/2 cups of warm water and another measure of 1 1/3 cups of warm water

2 cups white school glue

Borax (this is a detergent that can be found in the laundry detergent aisle. YOu'll only need a few teaspons to do this!)

food coloring

Mix 1 1/2 cups of warm water with a few drops of food coloring, then mix with the 2 cups of glue.

In a separate bowl, mix the 1 1/3 cups of warm water with 2 teaspoons of borax.

Combine both mixtures together. They will rubberize almost immediately! Mix with your hands, squeezing the excess water out.

NOTE: This will stick to clothing and carpeting!

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Rain Forest Canopy Activities

This Rain Forest Layer- The Canopy- is the layer above the Understory but not quite up to the tree tops. here you'll find tree branches, vines, ferns and tree trunks. You'll also find animals such as jaguars, howler monkeys and , my favorite, three toed sloths!

UPDATE I have a new rain forest layers favorite! The Olinguito! This cross between a house cat and a teddy bear was discovered in August of 2013 by the Smithsonian Institute!


Olinguito is translated (from Spanish) to "little, adorable Olingo". This has got to be the cutest thing ever!

What is known about them?

They are found in the cloud forests that span from central Columbia through Western Ecuador.

Well, they are under the Carnivore group, however, they do not PRIMARILY eat meat. It eats fruits, figs, plant nectar and insects.

It weighs about two pounds (the size of a guinea pig).

It is the smallest member known to the raccoon family.

I'm sure you can come up with some great activities as more is learned about this adorable little creature!!

Now, back to Preschool Lesson Planning!

Art Activities


Materials Needed: yellow paper, scissors, googly eyes, glue and black stamp pads or paint.

Let the children cut the paper into their own self created jaguar shapes. Use black stamps or paint to make thumbprints spots on them and glue on googly eyes.

VARIATION: Provide jaguar shaped stencils for the children to trace onto their paper and then practice cutting out.


Materials Needed: pages of flowers from magazines, flower catalogs, empty flower seed packets, seeds, green construction paper, scissors and glue

The children cut out the pictures they want to make a collage. They can use green construction paper to make leaves and stems for their flower collages as well!


Materials Needed: White paper ( 8 1/2 X 11 ish-size!), craft feathers, googly eyes, strips of a variety of colors of crepe paper, glue and tape.

The children make a face with the googly eyes and add feathers to make a toucan. We also had pre-cut black toucan beaks for them to glue on. Cover the paper with feathers and glue!

When dry, the children tape crepe paper pieces from the bottoms of the toucan.

You roll the paper into a cylinder shape, hole punch the top and hang in the Canopy level of your Rain Forest Layers in your classroom!


Materials: Dark brown paper rectangle shapes, light brown rectangle shapes (smaller than the dark brown rectangles), googly eyes, glue sticks, scissors.

This is a PROCESS creation, not a product craft, meaning all of these monkeys will look different. I don't do a lot of crafts with specific directions with the children. I want them to explore and become comfortable with using the materials like scissors, glue etc. So the outcome is not nearly as important as the process of using the materials! With that said!:

The children cut the large brown paper into their own shape and it becomes their monkey!

They then cut the smaller light brown piece into a smaller shape to glue on as the monkey's belly.

Add googly eyes and hang from your vines in your classroom!

I actually demonstrate this by showing them how to hold the paper and scissors and then I say "cut, cut, cut, cut, cut" as I cut out my paper and then show them my excitement! "Look, it's my monkey!" Repeat with the small brown paper.

EXTENSION: Have rectangles of paper at your writing table for them to create their own Rain Forest animals with this process throughout your theme.

Block Center


Attach the hood side of velcro to some of your wooden blocks and provide rain forest animals with the loop part of the velcro on the back (cut animals out of magazines or use online clip art and laminate).

The kids love building and then deciding which animals will live in their structure they have built by changing the animals on the blocks.

Circle Time Activities


Of course, this is the best Rain Forest Song and book to re-enact at Circle Time:

Five little monkeys sitting in a tree.

Teasing Mr. Crocodile, "You can't catch me!"

Along came Mr. Crocodile as hungry as could be and... SNAP!

Four little monkeys sitting in a tree.....etc.


Show the children pictures of the animals that live in this layer of the rain forest. The jaguars sleep on branches and the sloths climb branches and vines.

Let's make some with the kids!

Provide large brown paper bags cut open and then into thirds length wise.

Show the children how to twist the paper into vines and hang them in your classroom!


Three talking toucans sitting in a tree.

The first one turned and squawked at me!

Three little toucans sitting in a row

The second one said "I flap my wings and go!"

Three litle toucans sitting side by side

The third one said "My bright beak, I open wide!".

Cooking Ideas


Ingredients needed: 1/3 cup flour; 1 cup quick cooking oats; 1/3 cup sugar; 2 tsp. baking powder; 1 tsp. cinnamon; 1/2 tsp. baking soda; 1/2 cup raising; 1 cup mashed banana; 1/4 cup of milk; 2 egg whites; 1 tsp. vanilla; cooking spray, 9 X 13 inch pan

1. Spray pan with cooking spray. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

2. Stir together flour, oats, sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, baking powder and raisins in a large bowl.

3. Add banana, milk, egg whites and vanilla.

4. Beat until smooth.

5. Spread into pan bake for 30-40 minutes.

Serve warm or cool, cut into squares.

Dramatic Play Area


Materials needed: sleeping bags, flashlights, stuffed animals, small assortment of play food, books, tent and a CD player with Rain Forest sound effects!

Rain Forest Tree  Thanks, Patty, for this idea!

I asked Lowe's for a carpet tube to make a tree.  We used it for a rainforest, palm tree for Hawaii and now are using it as our Chicka Chicka Boom Boom tree.  I purchased a lime gree umbrella at Five Below.   The handle of the umbrella fit perfectly into the tube.  Then I cut and taped tissue paper fonds onto the umbrella.   It is perfect for the kids to sit under and also comes apart easily to store.

Easel Ideas


Materials Needed: Different colors of paint. The children paint away and use their paintings as leaves and vines. Provide leaf shaped paper, thin rectangle vine shaped paper or just plain paper for them to create on!

Math And Manipulatives Activities


There are so many materials and or games available to help develop fine motor skills that compliment this theme.

Some ideas are:


Provide these forest or jungle animals for the children to sort by type, color, size, etc.


Need I say more! TOOO much fun! Provide many'll have monkeys hanging from all the chairs and tables!


There is a large variety of wooden animal puzzles. Don't forget to look for large floor puzzles as well.


In advance, cut out and laminate 10 monkeys with the numerals 1-10 on them. Then make mini bananas and laminate for the children to feed the monkeys the numbers you have written on them!

Sand and Water Table


Provide different shades and sizes of green and brown paper in your sensory table and add scissors for your children to cut out leaves and vines.

EXTENSION: Add some pre-drawn leaves for them to practice cutting on lines.

EXTENSION: Tape a large piece of paper on your wall. Let the children decorate that part of the wall with all of their cut leaves and vines by using glue sticks to add them on!

Science Activities


Provide seeds, potting soil and paper cups. The children should fill the cup 3/4 full and then sprinkle seeds. Then lightly cover the tops. Water and watch for growth.

Provide seeds that will germinate and grow quickly in your area.


Place items at your science table that are made from rubber to show the children how rubber is used.

Some ideas to include are: a sneaker (rubber sole), erasers, bouncy balls, rubber bands)

Writing Activities


Materials Needed: Stamp pads, paper, rubber stamps of animals and bugs from the rain forest.

As the children stamp their papers, write down what they tell you about THEIR rain forest picture!

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Rain Forest Emergent or Treetop Layer

This Rain Forest Layer- The Emergent Layer- is the top portion--the tops of the tallest trees! What lives here? You'll find Harpy Eagles, butterlfies, parrots, pygmy glyders and more!

Art Activities


Materials Needed: Provide large brown construction paper or very tall butcher paper. The children fingerpaint different colored leaves and tree tops on their trees.


Materials Needed: Lots of newspaper, scissors, green and brown paint

Roll newspapers together and tape. Make these as tall as you want.

The children should then paint them.

When dried, cut them about 1/4 of the way down from the top to make them look like trees with tree tops.

These could be painted to represent the different Rain Forest Layers based on the colors of paint you choose for each section of these trees.


Materials Needed: coffee filters (round), markers, spray bottles with water or eye droppers and water, clothespins

The children color as much or little as they want.

They then spray or drop water onto the filters. This will spread the color beautifully.

When dried, clip the middles with clothespins and hang throughout the emergent rain forest layer in your classroom.


Materials: Sturdy cardboard or tagboard, glue, brushes and ground coffee, tea and sugar

The children glue while enjoying the scents of the rain forest. You may need to NOT use sugar as it can attract ants...although this would be cool to see ants, having your classroom become an ant farm may not be desirable!


Materials Needed: Variety of paint, brushes, very large butcher paper or white paper.

As a group, paint this large paper as a Rain Forest mural. Use this time to discuss all the animals and flowers and bugs that live in the rain forest to encourage them during their painting!

Block Center

Add flying stuffed animals for the recreation of tall trees in your block area. Use large and small (such as beanie babies) of different types of birds, butterflies, etc.

Circle Time Activities


Materials Needed: A coconut (if you have no tree nut alleriges), a pineapple, doffe bean, banana, lemon

Place one of the materials in a box or under a blanket. Have a few children feel under blanket to see if they can guess the rain forest product!

EXTENSION: See if your children can guess which rain forest layer they would find the item in!


After reading The Great Kapok Tree with the children, act out scenes from it for them to guess. Some ideas:

chopping a tree

the buzzing bee




Give the children each a caterpillar (plastic one) to place into a large piece of green plastic wrap. Hang this from the ceiling above your circle time area. Read The Very Hungry Caterpilar with the children.

In advance, create another "chrysalis" but place some butterflies that they have made. In a week or so, take down your new chrysalis to show them the butterflies!


Three morpho butterflies, gliding through the trees.

The first one swooped to take a look at me.

Three morpho butterflies, sitting on a leaf.

The second one was trying to eat something sweet.

Three morpho butterflies, flitting all about.

The third one landed on my snout!

EXTENSIONS: Choose 3 children to act each line out. Then choose 3 more children and do fingerplay again, until all children have had a turn.

Cooking Ideas


Ingredients needed: orange juice, lemon-lime juice, pineapple juice. Mix equal amounts of each!

Dramatic Play Area

Add backpacks, flashlights, hats and binoculars as well as small notebooks and pens for the children to explore and take notes of what they find in in all four rain forest layers in your now VERY decorated room!

Easel Ideas


Provide green and white paint for the children to create their own shades of the rain forest.

Math And Manipulatives Activities


Make your own matching sets of butterflies for the children to match. Make each set different.

Extend this activity to allow the children to make patterns with them as well.

Sand and Water Table

Add potting soil, plastic animals, spray bottles, plastic trees, spoons and cups this week!

Science Activities

Place sugar, coffee and tea bags into your science are for the children to explore. These items come from rain forests! Add rain forest animals for some fun dramatic play as well!

Writing Activities


Materials Needed: Provide stencils of all sorts from all four rain forest layers...animals, butterflies, etc. for the children to trace and make up their own Rain Forest stories.

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Rain Forest Layers Library and Literacy Ideas

There are so many amazing books out there!  Below are a few that I love for this theme!  You can hover over the picture for the information, or I have the books listed under this slideshow.  

Many of the books are available at your local library.  You can also purchase them at Amazon by clicking on the links of the titles below.

Amazon Alphabet by Martin Jordan

At Home in the Rain Forest by Diane Willow

Chicka Chicka Boom Boom (Classic Board Books) by Bill Martin Jr.

The Great Kapok Tree: A Tale of the Amazon Rain Forest by Lynne Cherry

Here Is the Tropical Rain Forest (Web of Life) by Madeleine Dunphy

How Monkeys Make Chocolate: Unlocking the Mysteries of the Rainforest by Adrian Forsyth

Jump, Frog, Jump! by Robert Kalan

Nature's Green Umbrella (Mulberry books) by Gail Gibbons

Houghton Mifflin Reading: The Nation's Choice: Theme Paperbacks On Level Theme 4 Grade 3 Rainforest Babies by Houghton Mifflin

A Walk in the Rain Forest (Biomes of North America) by Rebecca L. Johnson

Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak

Rain Forest Layers Music and Movement Ideas

RESOURCE for Rain Forest Layers Theme:

I have the following for my preschoolers and highly recommend them!



Play a Rain Forest sound effects CD. Encourage the children to act out what they hear such as:




Howler Monkeys


This song is actually like a chant! Choose a tune and sing this fun song! We sing this while sitting down, legs stretched out. Place your hands on the body part you name so make the visual that the boa is swallowing you all!

I'm being swallowed by a boa constrictor, a boa constrictor, a boa constrictor.

I'm being swallowed by a boa constrictor and I do not like it very much!

Oh no, oh no! It's got my toes, it's got my toes!

Oh geez, oh geez, it's up to my knees, it's up to my knees!

Oh fiddle, oh fiddle it's up to my middle (waist) it's up to my middle

Oh yeck, oh yeck, it's up to my neck, it's up to my neck!

Oh dread oh dread, it's got my head, it's got my head!


Then be sure to say "Let's shake it off! Shake it off! And wiggle all your body parts to get the boa off!

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