Zoo Theme for Preschool


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 Art Activities Block Area Circle Time Activities Cooking Recipes Dramatic Play Ideas Easel Ideas Gross Motor Games Library and Literacy Math And Manipulatives Activities Music and Movement Sand and Water Table Science Activities Writing Activities Miscellaneous Ideas

Art Activities

Zoo Theme Art

Lion Faces

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.

Parrots

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.

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!

More Penguins

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!

Snakes

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!

Zebra Masks

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!



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Block Area

Zoo Theme Block Center Ideas

The Zoo Theme Park

Provide plastic zoo animals, plastic fences, plastic trees and pieces of blue paper (for water).


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Circle Time Activities

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!

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.


Click Here to go to Jean Warren's Website

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Cooking Recipes

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!

Zebra Sandwiches

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:

Parmesean Cheese

Cinamon and Sugar


Monkey Bread (from Pillsbury’s site):

Ingredients:

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

2 cans (16.3 oz each) Pillsbury® Grands!® Homestyle refrigerated buttermilk biscuits

1/2 cup chopped walnuts, if desired

1/2 cup raisins, if desired

1 cup firmly packed brown sugar

3/4 cup butter or margarine, melted

Directions

Heat oven to 350°F. Lightly grease 12-cup fluted tube pan with shortening or cooking spray. In large -storage plastic food bag, mix granulated sugar and cinnamon.

Separate dough into 16 biscuits; cut each into quarters. Shake in bag to coat. Arrange in pan, adding walnuts and raisins among the biscuit pieces.

In small bowl, mix brown sugar and butter; pour over biscuit pieces.

Bake 28 to 32 minutes or until golden brown and no longer doughy in center. Cool in pan 10 minutes. Turn upside down onto serving plate; pull apart to serve. Serve warm.

Animal Cages

Spread some frosting (or cream cheese or peanut butter) onto a graham cracker square. Place an animal cracker on top. Place black licorice strings over top to make it look like the animal is in a cage!


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Dramatic Play Ideas

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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.?!


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Easel Ideas

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.


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Gross Motor Games

Zoo Theme Large Group Games 

that help build their muscles while they have fun together

Zoo Charades

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!

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!


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Library and Literacy

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

(I LOVE Amazon, and if you choose to get yours there, they do send me a few cents--which supports my coffee habit!)

Almost Everything by Joelle Jolivet

Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Bill Martin

A Children's Zoo by Tana Hoban

Cuddly Dudley by Jez Alborough

Curious George Visits The Zoo by Margaret Rey...or any Curious George Books!

Five Little Monkeys... Any version!

Going To the Zoo by Tom Paxton

Goodnight Gorilla by Peggy Rathmann

Goodnight Zoo by Adam Gamble

Gorilla by Anthony Browne

If Anything Ever Goes Wrong at the Zoo by Mary Jean Hendrick

My Visit to the Zoo by Aliki

Never, Ever Shout in a Zoo by Karma Wilson

Nighttime At The Zoo by Dale Smith

On Beyond Zebra! by Dr. Seuss

Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What Do You Hear? by Bill Martin

Saving the Baghdad Zoo: A True Story of Hope and Heroes by Kelly Minlner Halls

Tacky the Penguin by Helen Lester

'Twas the Day Before Zoo Day by Cathering Ipcizade and Ben Hodson

Welcome to the Zoo! by Alison Jay

What if the Zebras Lost Their Stripes? by John Reitano

Z is for Zookeeper: A Zoo Alphabet by Marie and Roland Smith

Zebras by Jenny Markert

Zoo by Gail Gibbons

Zoo Animals by Brian Wildsmith

The Zoo That Grew by James Kruss

Zoo-ology by Emmanuelle Grundmann

Listening Center Ideas

Animal Sounds

Have Zoos CD

The children listen to the tape and have to match the sound with the animal that made that sound. (You could also make your own tape or CD of sounds)


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Math And Manipulatives Activities

Zoo Theme Activities to help your Preschoolers develop those small muscles in their hands!


Animal Counting

You can use either baskets or buckets to have children place a certain number of animals into. I use strawberry baskets (little black wire baskets) because they look like cages. I place a picture on the front of a number and an animal, and the children have to place that many of that animal in the basket. Great for counting and sorting too!

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.).

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.


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Music and Movement

Zoo Theme Music and Movement Activities and Ideas

to get your Preschoolers Movin' and Groovin'!

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.

Animal Antics

This is a fantastic song by Hap Palmer.  

Click here to check it out on Amazon.

Animal Action

This is one of my favorite animal songs!  

It is on a CD by Greg and Steve called Kids in Motion

It is a must have CD for preschool.  You'll use it all year!  


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Sand and Water Table

Zoo Theme Activities for the Senses!

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!


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Science Activities

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!

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. 


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Writing Activities

Writing Activity Ideas for Your Zoo Theme!

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.


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Miscellaneous Ideas

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!

Bring the Zoo To You!

Invite a company that can bring animals to your program.  


Or, show some fun Zoo videos!

There are some great videos you can buy or stream to give the children a chance to see the animals moving and interacting in a zoo setting.  

Check your local library to see what they have or can request from another library (Inter-Library Loan) or click the picture below to read about my favorite!

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!

Florida: Lion Country Safari Park

Maine: York's Wild Kingdom

Nebraska: Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium
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