A Zoo Theme! How fun! There are SO many animals we could cover here! I was not sure how to set up this page....alphabetically by animal or by interest center! I decided to keep the same format as the other themed pages. That means that you'll find activities grouped by Interest Center (Art, Blocks, etc.) and within each interest center animal activities will be in alphabetical order. I hope it is helpful!
Also, at the end of this page, under Miscellaneous Activities, you will find links to pages for Zoos around the US. If you have any other links, please send them my way and I'll add them to that section! Simply use the Contact Me button on the left!
Let the Zoo Theme planning begin!
You can either scroll down through this page to see all of the preschool activities for your zoo theme or click the link below to go to specific preschool activity types you are looking for.
Zoo Theme Art
Materials needed: Precut bear shapes, used coffee grounds, different shades of brown paint, brushes, googly eyes, glue.
Add some coffee grounds to the paint and stir.
The children paint the bear shapes...great smell while painting (well, to me it is...I LOVE coffee!).
Add googly eyes!
Traditional but always fun for the kids!
Materials needed: paper plates, tan and orange paint, tan yarn, black yarn, scissors, glue, googly eyes
The children paint the paper plate. They add googly eyes. Show them how to glue black yarn (or a piece of black pipe cleaner) to make the mouth. They then brush paint around the outer edge of the paper plate and place pieces of tan yarn all the way around the for the mane.
Materials needed: white paper (2 pieces per child), markers, scissors, yellow paint, brown/tan construction paper, glue, googly eyes
First, on one piece of paper, the children will trace their foot and their arm as follows:
Have the children trace one foot (not in-between the toes, just around their shoe will work!). They cut out the shape. This is the giraffe's head.
Next, help them to place their arm on the paper and trace the outside of their forearms (from the wrist to the elbow on both sides). They cut out this shape. This is the giraffe's neck.
They now paint their shapes yellow. Then glue them to the second piece of paper placing the arm up and down on the paper and the foot shape going out to the side for the head.
They cut or tear brown/orange paper and glue on for the giraffe's spots/markings and add googly eyes.
VARIATION: Use yellow paper for the foot and arm tracing and add the brown paper.
Materials needed: bright fingerpaint colors, paper, brushes.
Trace an oval shape on white paper for the parrots body. The children paint this with their hands using a bright color. Cut out when dry.
Then, help the children to paint their hands and fingers with a variety of fingerpaint colors. press on each side of the oval (overlapping on the oval a bit) for feathers.
Add googly eyes.
Materials needed: Teal colored paint mixed with some glue in a shallow tray; a collection of sparkly arts and craft pieces, googly eyes, feathers (optional)
Help the children dip their hand into the paint and make a handprint on white paper.
They can then stick the shiny craft items and feathers onto where there fingers are. Add the googly eyes to the top of the palm and voila, a peacock.
Penguins! (this was taken from my Winter Animals Theme page)
In a zoo theme? Why, yes!
Materials Needed: Pictures of penguins; black and white scraps of paper; wiggly eyes; small orange triangles (for beaks!); school glue; construction paper to glue collage on.
Encourage the children to tear the black and white scraps of paper to make their own penguin! Some of your children may comment "I can't make a penguin." Oh yes they can! Children are very used to being told, step by step, how to "make" something that they don't have the option to just create and creating, after all, is what art is all about!
Show them the pictures of penguins. Discuss what they look like: Black bodies, white stomachs, eyes, beak, etc.). Tearing the paper is great for their fine motor skills.
VARIATION: If you want to encourage scissor cutting skills, give each child a rectangle shape of black paper (about 8" X 4") and a white rectangle of paper (about 5" X 3").
The teacher takes one piece of the black paper and says "I'm going to make a penguin body. (Get your scissors and start cutting with no specific shape in mind and say) "Cut, cut, cut, cut, cut..." Continue until you've cut out a random shape. Say "That's the body. Now I'm going to make the white belly. (Do the same with a white piece of paper saying) Cut, cut, cut, cut....". Continue until you have a white shape cut out. Glue the white to the black and tell the children "There, I made a penguin! I'm going to give it 2 eyes and a beak...there! Now you make your own penguins! I think all of our penguins will look different!"
This was remarkably successful with our preschoolers! We had tiny, baby penguins, large penguins, etc.! They looked great and the children were quite proud of their artwork!
Materials needed: paper towel tubes cut in half (you'll need 1/2 a tube for each child), black and white construction paper, glue and brushes, googly eyes, pre-cut orange triangles.
The children "paint" the tube with watered down glue. They tear black and white paper to make stick on their tube.
They glue on googly eyes and an orange nose.
They could also tear out some feet and wings to glue on!
Polar Bears! Thanks to the Sharfenberg Clan for this idea!
Yes, in a zoo theme!
Provide shaving cream mixed with glue (equal amounts make puffy paint!) for the children to use. They add googly eyes!
Materials needed: white paper plates with a circle drawn (using a permanant black marker, start in the middle and draw a circle that goes round and round to the outside); scissors, markers, googly eyes, glue
The children color their snakes first (before cutting them). You could use markers, water color paint, crayons, etc.
When dry, the children cut on the bold line to make the snake.
They add googly eyes.
Hole punch and hang from the ceiling!
Materials needed: a shallow tray or box cover, watered down orange and brown paint, a white paper plate, marbles, googly eyes, glue, paper and scissors to cut out tiger ears.
Place the paper plate in the box cover or shallow tray.
Help the children spoon some watered down paint on different areas of the plate.
Place a few marbles and let the children shake the box from left to right and up and down to make tiger stripes.
Glue on eyes and ears!
Materials Needed: paper plates with eye holes cut out, black paint and brushes, pre-cut black triangles, glue.
The children paint black stripes on their paper plates. Remember, their stripes do NOT have to be completely up and down or right to left! Let them decide on the direction of the stripes. This is a great eye-hand coordination activity!
When done painting, help the children to glue on a black triangle nose and ears!
It might be best to let the paint dry before gluing on the ears and nose.
VARIATION: Rather than pre-cut triangles, make some triangle templates (from file folders) and have the children trace and cut their own to practice those tracing and cutting skills! They can cut them after painting to give the masks time to dry.
Group Zoo Themed Mural
In a large space, provide very large paper and paint and brushes.
Have the children, in small groups, paint a mural...trees, grass, dirt, ponds, etc.
EXTENSION: Provide animal stencils, paper, markers and scissors at a table. The children who are not painting can work on tracing, cutting and coloring zoo animals.
Later in the week when the mural is dry, the children add the animals to the area of their mural they think it belongs!
Provide paint in shallow trays and either animal shaped cookie-cutters or animal shaped sponges for the children to print with.
Zoo Theme Block Center Ideas
The Zoo Theme Park
Provide plastic zoo animals, plastic fences, plastic trees and pieces of blue paper (for water).
Zoo Theme Circle Time Ideas
Circle Time is such a great time for children to learn the social skills of being together as a large group AND to learn more about your zoo theme!
Zoo Theme Animal Habitats
Materials needed: a stuffed animal (whichever animal you will focus on this day!) and pictures of different habitats.
Talk about where the animal you are holding comes from, describe the habitat, discuss their diet, the temperature where they live etc.
Then show, one at a time, the pictures of the different habitats (have many different pictures to show such as the tundra, serengeti, a pond, river, ocean, etc. in addition to a few of the habitat this animal comes from).
The children stand up, clap or other sign when you are holding a picture that they think the animal would live in.
Example: Zebra The zebra is from the plains of Africa. They eat the tall grass and drink from the rivers and lakes.
Show pictures and they give a sign (clap, stand, etc.). Discuss their choices. If they stand when you show a farm picture with a pond, rather than say "No, this is a farm" ask, "Why do you think they come from this picture?". They may respond that it has a pond for the zebra to drink from. Well, you did say they drink from rivers and lakes and a lake is like a big pond, right? They are listening more than you think! Be open to exploring their answers!!!
Zoo Theme Animal Graph
Materials needed: large paper, zoo stickers, marker
In advance, make a graph and print the name of a zoo animal along with a sticker of the animal at the top of each column.
Print each child's name on the left column.
After talking about zoos and animals, the children place an X or a sticker next to their name, under their favorite animal and tell everyone what they like about that animal.
At The Zoo
Have conversations with the children about the Zoo. Have they every been to one? What is a zoo?(A place where you can see live animals!). What kinds of animals live at the zoo? Have some zoo books with you.
Play an animal sound game. You make a sound of an animal that might be at the zoo and they guess the animal.
Encourage the children to make sounds of animals.......for example, what does a zebra sound like? A hippo? Have fun with all these sounds!
You can use a chant to do this as well such as:
I went to the zoo and I saw a __________. I saw a ___________ and it sounded like ____________.
Good Night Gorilla
This is one of my favorite zoo books! It is by Peggy Ratherman. Rather than a puppet show, consider having the children act out this book! You'll need to read it a few times to see how you would do this!
You will need a zookeeper...provide a hat, keys, a uniform or simply a large button up shirt.
You will need a gorilla. The gorilla will go around unlocking the other animals' cages!
The other children pretend to be other animals.
This book is a great book. Read it with your children (there are not a lot of words) and discuss the pictures on each page...what are the animals doing? The gorilla? Etc.
The second day, act the story out!
Monkeys Jumping On The Bed!
Make some flannel pieces for each of the characters in the book. I have, in the past, color copied pages from the book and then laminated them and attached velcro to the back for a flannel board story.
Give 5 children a monkey and sing the song. Place a bed, the Mama and the Doctor on the flannel board and point to them when you get to that part.
Repeat so all children have a turn placing a monkey on the board as you sing the song together.
Why the Animals Don't Talk! by Jean Warren
This is one of my favorite flannel stories about animals! Jean Warren adapted a Native American Folktale into this wonderful story that goes well with a Zoo Theme!
You can make flannel board pieces for the children to place on the flannel board as you tell this or you can use stuffed animals and the children place them in the middle of circle as you tell the story.
I have placed the link to Jean Warren's website for you at the end of this story.
Tell the following story:
Many years ago, when people came to this great land, the animals of the forest talked. The people learned many things from the friendly animals.
The horse taught them how to run fast.
The bear showed them how to follow a trail.
The raccoon taught them how to climb trees.
The beaver taught them how to catch fish and build houses.
The dog taught them how to be patient.
The people and animals lived happily together for many years. The people practiced all that the animals had taught them and became very skilled at living in the woods. So skilled, in fact, that they began to feel they were better than the animals.
Soon the people started taking more than their share. They robbed the forests of timber for their boats and took animal furs to make their clothes. They even stole honey from the bees.
The animals got worried and called a meeting. They were mad because the people had taken what they had taught them and were now using that knowledge to outwit, outrun and out-think them.
"Well, I for one will not tell them any more secrets," said the beaver.
"Neither will we," said the horse and the dog.
"My mouth will be sealed," said the bear.
"So will ours," said the raccoon and the beaver.
And that is why to this day the animals don't talk.
Snack Recipe Ideas to Cook Up for Your Zoo Theme!
Cooking with children helps develop their math skills and helps them to learn how to follow directions. It also allows for some great zoo themed animal conversation! Ask many questions while cooking with your children to encourage conversation! Be sure to ask specific zoo themed questions while making these fun snacks!
Ingredients: milk, chocolate frozen yogurt, banana, blender
Have the children help scoop some of these ingredients in and have them help slice the bananas.
Blend and enjoy!
One of my Mom's favorite snacks was ANYTHING with cream cheese! Her favorite was cream cheese and green olive sandwiches. For this theme, you could use black, sliced olives!
Have the children help spread cream cheese (soften and whip it ahead of time to make it easier to spread).
Provide black, sliced olives for the children to make stripes with!
Zoo Theme Snack
Back "in the day", it was popular to shell and work with peanuts during this theme. I do NOT recomend this at all. There are far too many peanut allergies and the preschool age is when these allergies present themselves. Let's go with a safer snack alternative!
Let's make popcorn! Bring in an air-popper and make some popcorn. Add a small amount of butter. Separate and make into different flavors. You can sprinkle with:
Cinamon and Sugar
Zoo Theme Ideas to Transform Your Dramatic Play Area
The Nursery- With a zoo theme twist! Thank you to Christina B. for this idea!
Add stuffed animals to the area with baby bottles, blankets, pretend food. Also, ask the parents for donations of diapers so the children can practice diapering their babies! The children are the parents caring for their baby animals. What does each baby need to eat, drink, etc.?!
Welcome to the Zoo
Set up your own zoo with stuffed animals. You can place some animals in boxes, pools, bins, etc. Hang a green sheet or piece of fabric over one area to provide a "tree" for monkeys to climb on and giraffes to eat! Provide a wading pool for animals that need to drink, etc. Provide pretend food (play fruit) and bowls for the animals.
The children can bee zookeepers and take care of the animals.
They can take other children on "tours" of the zoo and tell what they know about each animal.
The can set up a snack bar, sell tickets to get in, etc.!
Zoo Theme Ideas for your Easel--
More Than Just Painting (Although that is always THE favorite in our classroom!)
My Zoo Theme Park!
Provide paint, brushes and foam animal sponges. The children paint the sponges and press onto their paper. They can embellish by adding trees, ponds, rivers, etc.
Zoo Theme Large Group Games
that help build their muscles while they have fun together
Elephant Feeding Time!
Make a box or laundry basket into an elephant head by adding paper ears and a trunk.
Provide small balls to toss and feed the elephant with!
After learning about different animals, encourage the children, one at a time, to act out one animal for the other children to guess. Have them whisper in your ear which animal they will be (they tend to change their mind mid-acting!).
Or, bring pictures of zoo animals to your area. Show each child a picture of one and tell them to act that one out!
Encourage the children to act like different animals!
Stretch and walk like a giraffe!
Spray water like an elephant!
Swim like an alligator!
Pass the Animal
You will need a cd player and some instrumental music (your choice!) or any music and a lot of stuffed animals.
The children sit in a large circle. Start the music. Begin passing the animal from child to child. When the music stops, the child with the animal holds it up in the air and all the children make the sound the animal makes!
Zoo Theme Ideas for Your Library and Literacy Activities for your Preschool Classroom
Zebra Song and Flannel Story
Provide 10 percut zebra flannel board pieces and a flannel board.
Teach the children this song:
1 little, 2 little, 3 little zebras. 4 little, 5 little, 6 little zebras.
7 little, 8 little, 9 little zebras. 10 little zebras galloping across the Plains!
Try doing it backwards!
10 little, 9 little 8 little zebras. Etc.
VARIATION: This could also be placed in the math/manipulatives area.
ANOTHER VARIATION: Change the name of the animal and the habitat it lives in. We use this tune to sing about EVERYTHING!
Zoo Theme Book Suggestions for the Library
Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Bill Martin
A Children's Zoo by Tana Hoban
Cuddly Duddley by Jez Alborough
Curious George Visits The Zoo by Margaret Rey...or any Curious George Books!
Five Little Monkeys... Any version!
Goodnight Gorilla by Peggy Rathmann
Gorilla by Anthony Browne
Nighttime At The Zoo by Dale Smith
On Beyond Zebra! by Dr. Seuss
Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What Do You Hear? by Bill Martin
Tacky the Penguin by Helen Lester
What if the Zebras Lost Their Stripes? by John Reitano
Zebras by Jenny Markert
The Zoo That Grew by James Kruss
Zoo Theme Activities to help your Preschoolers develop those small muscles in their hands!
I See Spots!
In advance, cut out an enlarged leopard with NO spots! Provide sticky dots or precut circles with tape on the backs.
The children add and remove dots while counting.
Encourage specific placement. "Can you add 4 spots to the leopard? Can you take away 3 spots?"
Hungry, Hungry, Hippos
Does anyone remember this board game! It is still available and a great one for this theme!
More Hungry, Hungry, Hippos! Thanks to Paige G. for this activity!
Materials needed: index cards with numerals on them, cups, Hippo shaped chip clips!
The child draws a number and then has to feed their hippo the correct number of items. I found some hippo shaped chip clips at the Dollar Tree that I scooped up! You would be incorporating number recognition, counting, 1-to-1, fine motor development, as well as social/emotional if you make it a partner game.
Zebra Stripe Matching
In advance, make pairs of matching stripes. Some diagonal, up and down, perhaps even circular shapes.
The children match them up. This would make a good file folder activity.
Zoo Animal Puzzles Thank you to Wendy B. for this suggestion!
You will need posters of different zoo animals. Laminate the pictures/posters and then cut into puzzle shapes!
Zoo Memory Thank you to Wendy B. for this suggestion!
Find matching pictures of zoo animals and glue onto index cards. Make into a memory game!
Black and White Shape Sorting
You could actually do this with the main color of any animal (orange and white for giraffes, etc.)
Cut out black shapes of several sizes. Cut out matching white shapes.
The children match them.
Again, this would make a great file folder activty. Glue the white shapes on a file folder. Laminate the folder. Now laminate the black shapes. The children match them on the folder. (I also staple a ziplock baggie on the back of the folder to hold the pieces when not in use.).
Zoo Themed Animals
Materials needed: A variety of colors of playdough.
Okay, now....take a breath...your children WILL mix the colors! Do not discourage this....use this playdough for this purpose and then later they can use it over and over already mixed!
The children make their own zoo animals using the different colors.
EXTENSION: Provide large animal shaped cookie cutters. The children make their animals and then add stripes, spots, eyes, etc.
Animal Cracker Counting
Materials needed: Cups or bowls that are numbered 1-10; animal crackers
Provide a large bowl of animal crackers for the children to sort. Of course, they will eat some, but you should ask them not to eat the math animals!
Have a cup with each child's name on it with some animal crackers in them for them to munch on while doing this activity!
In advance, collect a large variety of pictures of zoo animals.
The children can explore and sort by different attributes such as:
Land animals, air animals, large, small, from warm weather, from cold weather, etc.
Zoo Theme Lacing Cards
In advance, trace and cut out zoo animal shapes from sturdy paper. Laminate. Hole punch around the edges.
Provide colored shoe laces for lacing!
Zoo Path Game
Have you ever made your own path or board game? They really are super easy (or as detailed as you want!).
I use large construction paper. Draw a path on in that squiggles around the pages. Draw boxes in them.
For a zoo theme, print the word "Start" at one end and draw a Zookeeper. Print the word "End" at the other end and draw a picture of zoo gates (like a Welcome to the Zoo sign).
Provide plastic animals (the children each choose 1 animal) and a die.
Let the children figure out how to play....they will figure it out and will make up their own rules as well!
You could color each block and give a colored die instead of a numbered die. In this case, the children move to the next block that is that color.
Count the Leaves (bananas, etc.!) Thank you to Wendy B. for this suggestion!
You could make Hippos and then each hippo has a number from 1-10 the children then have to place the correct number of leaves on each hippo. You could the same for Monkey/banana and Panda/Bamboo. You could also do the same for uppercase and lowercase letters.
Zoo Theme Music and Movement Activities and Ideas
to get your Preschoolers Movin' and Groovin'!
Materials needed: One drum!
Let each child take a turn drumming out a pattern on the drum. The other children gallop around the circle as zebras to the beat. Continue until all children have a turn using the drum.
Zebra Song Sung to I'm a Little Teapot (I believe this is a Jean Warren song).
I'm a little zebra, white and black.
I have a big bushy mane down my back.
I like to gallop and run and play
On the African plains all day.
Zoo Theme Song Sung to the tune of The Wheels on the Bus
Sing about the animals you have talked about and other animals at the zoo!
The lions at the zoo go ROAR, ROAR, ROAR! ROAR, ROAR, ROAR! ROAR, ROAR, ROAR!
The lions at the zoo go ROAR, ROAR, ROAR! as they eat and play!
Insert other animals and sounds such as:
This is a fantastic song by Hap Palmer. Check online for a copy, it's worth it!
This is one of my favorite animal songs! It is on a CD by Greg and Steve called "Kids In Motion"...a MUST have for preschool!
Zoo Theme Activities for the Senses!
Welcome to the Zoo!
Place sand and lots of plastic zoo animals in your sensory table. In separate bowls, provide grass, leaves, twigs and other items.
The children make their own zoo habitat!
The Winter Zoo
Instead of sand, add Insta-snow (it can be found at teacher stores) to your table with zoo animals.
If you don't have access to insta-snow, use shaving cream!
Zoo Theme Science Activities--
for your Preschool Scientists in Training!
Let's Monkey Around! Thanks to Robyn R. for this idea!
You know those barrel of monkey games you have? You probably have several in different colors even!
Put them at your science center with a balance scale for the children to sort and weigh!
And while you're at it, place another barrel of monkeys out for the children to just use and try to connect!
Panda Bear Life Cycle Thank you Mary N. for this idea!
Find pictures of the life cycle of Pandas and laminate. After reading about Panda, the children put the pictures in order.
EXTENSION: This is a great idea to focus on any zoo animal you are talking about: Alligators, monkeys, etc.!
Penguins and Polar Bears- Keeping Warm!
Penguins and Polar Bears need to keep warm! Their skin has blubber under it, much like whales.
Let your children experience how this helps!
Materials Needed: Crisco shortening, 4 plastic baggies for each child, duck tape or packing tape, bucket with cold water and ice.
Have the children scoop Crisco into one baggie. Using a spoon (or a baggie covered hand), you spread the Crisco in the baggie so that all of the sides of the baggie are covered.
Now place a second baggie into the Crisco baggie. Tape the baggies together so the Crisco can not squish out. This is the child's "blubber".
The child places one hand in the blubber bag and places their hand in the cold water.
Now cover the child's other hand with a baggie only (no Crisco in it) and place that hand in the water.
Discuss the difference of how cold one hand is versus the other!
VARIATION: It may be easier to make 4 blubber bags ahead of time and let the children take turns using them!
Provide different animal textures for the children to observe and explore. Ask parents and other teachers what they might have available. You can also find some of these items at Departments of Natural Resources.
Animal hide or faux animal fur
One teacher had a skeleton of an animal that had been purchased.
Feed the Zoo Themed Animals! Thank you to Wendy B. for this suggestion!
Select 5 animals and 5 foods each animal eats. The children need to match the correct food to the correct animal.
You could use pictures of the animals or small, stuffed animals and place a bowl in front of each animal to put the play food (or cut out food from magazines and pictures) in the bowls.
Writing Activity Ideas for Your Zoo Theme!
Black and White Murals
Materials needed: Provide bingo daubbers filled with black paint; white paper
The children use the daubbers to practice making lines. You could pretrace lines on the paper.
VARIATION: I have seen one creative teacher use roll-on deodorant bottles! She removed the balls and cleaned them and added paint! You could make some with black paint and some with colored paint.
Let the children make a zoo picture with colored bottles or a zebra with black filled bottles!
My Favorite Zoo Animal
Provide colored pencils, crayons, markers.
The children draw their favorite animal at the zoo and tell you a story about it.
Print the name of the animal and encourage the child to print the name on their picture.
Write down their "story" about their picture.
You can display these, read their stories while showing the picture at story time or make a class book out of this!
Welcome to the Zoo!
Provide animal magazines, scissors, glue sticks and pencils. Cover the table with a large piece of paper.
In advance, make animal cards by gluing a picture of a zoo animal and printing the name below the picture on an index card. Display them at the Writing Table.
The children cut out and glue animals on the paper. They then try to print the name of the animal under the picture they place on it.
Miscellaneous Activities for Your Zoo Theme!
Visit a Zoo!
If there is no zoo or animal/ zoo theme park near you, ask a pet store owner if they can bring in a few animals!
Visit a Zoo Online!
Below are links to different Zoo Exhibits from a variety of zoos! Perhaps you can bring in your computer and check them out with the kids!
One to google for you is Zoo Atlanta in Atlanta, Georgia.
Another is Cheyenne Mountain Zoo in Colorado (This one even has a giraffe cam!
Here are links to a few more!