Fun with Toddlers: Zoo or Jungle Theme

Toddlers enjoy learning about all sorts of animals, including those that can be found at a zoo, or in a jungle. Here are some fun activities about wild animals.

Songs to Sing

We’re Going to the Zoo by Raffi – YouTube

To the tune of Wheels on the Bus: “The lions at the zoo say roar roar roar, roar roar roar, roar roar roar. The lions at the zoo say roar roar roar all day long.” Repeat with any animal sound you want.

Rhymes to Say

Five Little Monkeys jumping on a bed (video of motions)
Five little monkeys jumping on the bed.
One fell off and bumped his head.
Mama called the doctor and the doctor said:
“No more monkeys jumping on the bed”.
Four little… three…

Five little monkeys (in a tree) – video
Five little monkeys sitting in a tree,
Teasing Mr. Crocodile: “You can’t catch me!”
Along comes Mr. Crocodile
As quiet as can be and…SNAP!
Four little monkeys sitting in a tree… three… two…. one
… Along comes Mr. Crocodile
As quiet as can be and SNAP! One little monkey says “Ha Ha! Missed Me!

The Funky Spunky Monkey (tune Itsy Bitsy)
The funky spunky monkey climbed up the coconut tree.
Down came a coconut and bopped him on the knee.
Out came a lion a shaking his mighty mane.
And the funky spunky monkey climbed up the tree again.  OR
The funky spunky monkey climbed up the coconut tree.
Down came a coconut and bopped him on the knee.
Along came his mama who hugged away the pain.
And the funky spunky monkey climbed up the tree again.

Alligator, Alligator
Alligator, alligator, long and green (hold out arm: 4 fingers, thumb below)
Alligator, alligator, teeth so mean (open and close fingers and thumb)
Snapping at a fly, snapping at a bee,(snap with fingers and thumb)
Snapping at a frog, but you can’t catch me! (arms slap together, then shake head)

Building Projects

Build a Zoo: Take out blocks or Duplos and toy animals. Build a zoo with your child.

Outdoor Play: Build a habitat for plastic animals with rocks, sticks, and plants.

Games / Activities

Pretend to be an Animal: Make cards or dice that have pictures of animals, or put plastic animals in a bag. The child rolls (or draws a toy from the bag). Then you both pretend to be that animal – moving like it or making the sound.

Habitat Sorting: Put out plastic animals or pictures of animals, plus pictures of habitats. Talk with them about which animals live on farms, which live in jungles, in the ocean, or in the desert.

Art Activities

Bead Snakes: Thread beads on pipe cleaners. Fold ends over. Optional: Add googly eyes.

Hoof and Paw Prints: If you have toy animals, check out their feet. Find ones who’ll make different shapes of tracks. Set out paint, paper, and animals, and make tracks. (You could also make tracks in play-dough.)

Paper Plate Snake: Decorate a plate, then cut it into a spiral snake. (see photo at top) Add eyes. 

Books to Read

Dear Zoo by Campbell. Fabulous lift the flap. “I wrote to the zoo to send me a pet…” See what they send!

Good Night, Gorillaby Rathmann. A charming wordless book about a gorilla escaping its cage.

Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? or Polar Bear, Polar Bear What Do You Hear? by Carle. Great repeating rhyme and rhythm. Children love to predict what will be on the next page.

Giraffes Can’t Dance by Andreae. A sweet story about everyone finding their special dance.

More ideas (and source citations) at: www.pinterest.com/bcparented

Here’s a handout version of these Jungle / Zoo themed toddler activities. For more theme-based activities, check out the Fun with Toddlers series.

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Great New Resource for Kids Songs

Let’s Play Music is a phenomenal resource!
http://www.letsplaykidsmusic.com/free-kids-songs-directory/

The site is developed by Sara Mullett, who has 15 years of experience teaching kid’s music classes. There are over 150 songs on the site, and for each, she includes lyrics, sheet music, videos of her playing the tune on a xylophone, circle time ideas including puppets, movement games, etc.

You can also follow her page on Facebook at www.facebook.com/personalisedlullaby, where she shares her own posts and also puts links to other helpful resources on the web.

For my other favorite resources for kids songs, look here, and for links to lyrics for, and videos of, my favorite kids songs, look here.

Fun with Toddlers: Duck Theme

duckEach spring in our classroom, we have a spring theme with rain, raindrops and flowers, and on week 3 of the theme, the ducks appear! There are tons of great picture books about ducks, so in this post, I include lots of book recommendations and ideas for activities to accompany those books.

Songs to Sing

Five Little Ducks Went Out One Day
http://tmas.kcls.org/five-little-ducks-went-out-one-day/

Five Little Ducks went out one day, over the hills and far away.
Mother Duck said, “Quack, Quack, Quack,” but only four little ducks came back.
Four little ducks went out one day… …but only three little ducks came back.
(Repeat counting down to “but no little ducks came back.”)
Sad mother duck went out one day, over the hills and far away
Mother Duck said, “Quack, Quack, Quack.” Five little ducks came running back.

Six Little Ducks that I Once Knew http://tmas.kcls.org/six-little-ducks/

Six little ducks that I once knew, Fat ones, skinny ones, fair ones too!
But the one little duck with the feather on her back,
She led the others with a quack quack quack.
Quack quack quack. Quack quack quack. She led the others with a quack quack quack.

Down to the river they would go, A wibble wobble, wibble wobble, to and fro.
But the one little duck with the feather on her back,
She led the others with a quack quack quack.
Quack quack quack. Quack quack quack. She led the others with a quack quack quack.

Duck Picture Books and Activities they Inspire

Five Little Ducks by Raffi. The words from the song (above) in a book with illustrations. And 10 Rubber Duckies by William Winburn. These are both countdown songs/stories, and they have a really great rhyme and rhythm – easy for kids to predict what will happen next and easy to memorize!

  • Sing the song, and act it out with rubber ducks or handmade puppets. These are great for learning to subtract and learning about zero.
  • You may also use foam numbers – put 5 numbers on the table (or on the wall of the tub). As each duck disappears, take away a number to see how many are left.

One Duck Stuck by Phyllis Root. (Be sure to get the full version, not the board book – it’s abridged, and you miss some of the great language.) Fabulous rhyming, rhythmic words. And a counting book. And lots of fun marshland creatures.

  • Dramatic play: make masks or finger puppets of the animals in the book. One child pretends to be the duck and says “Help, Help, who Can Help.” Other kids (or the parent if you’re playing this one-on-one at home) come to the rescue.
  • Sensory play in muddy muck: give child a bag of dirt (or collect dirt from yard). Spend time exploring the dirt, describing it, looking at it through a magnifying glass. Add a little water. Explore some more. Then add more water till you’ve got gooey mud. Get a toy duck stuck.
  • Find photos of real ducks, real marshes, and real marsh-land creatures.

10 Little Rubber Ducks by Eric Carle. Based on a real-life story of a shipping carton of rubber ducks that fell into the ocean. Ten ducks float off in separate directions and encounter a variety of sea life.

  • Art: Make 10 paper ducks. Label 1 – 10. Your child glues them to a blue paper ocean
  • Numbers: Collect 10 rubber ducks, or use paper ducks. Child rolls dice, counts the dots, puts that many ducks in the tub to show “how many fell into the ocean?”
  • Talk about ordinal numbers and directions: the first duck swam north, the second duck swam south, and so on. Play a game where your child goes in the direction you say: “the little duck swam left, the little duck swam right, the little duck went up the stairs.”

Have You Seen My Duckling? by Nancy Tafuri. A mother searches for her baby.

Little Quack by Lauren Thompson. A book about a duckling who overcomes his fear and learns to swim. It would be a great read in the weeks before starting swimming lessons!

Even more great picture books about ducks: https://homeschool.rebeccareid.com/duck-picture-books/ 

More ideas (and source citations) at: www.pinterest.com/bcparented

photo credit: shot_1305563005476 via photopin (license)

Fun with Toddlers: Winter Theme

Bring the snow inside!You may be several days into a winter break from your school and work routine now, with several days left to go, and looking for new ideas for fun activities for your toddler or pre-schooler. Here’s a collection of winter-themed fun.

Sensory Activities to Do:

Snow in the Shower. When it snows, parents will often excitedly bundle up their toddler, and take them out to play. Then the child just sits and shivers and looks sadly up at the parent. It’s not as fun as you expected it might be.

Instead, try bringing the snow inside! Make sure your bathroom is nice and warm, then bring a big bucket of snow and dump it on the floor of your shower or bathtub and put your child next to it with shovels and toys. (He can even be fully clothed to stay warm.) As the snow melts, it disappears down the drain, so no clean-up required! When your child is done playing, run a warm bath or shower to warm him back up.

Ice Play

  • Hockey rink: freeze a cake pan of water. Make mini “hockey sticks” and use a checker as the puck. Hit the puck back and forth to score.
  • Excavation: Use a loaf pan or bowls to make blocks of ice. Freeze items inside (e.g. plastic penguins or Legos) – give your child a toy hammer and other tools to excavate the toys. (Put the ice in a pan on the counter which will catch all the water, or you can have them sit on the shower floor or in an empty bath tub with the ice if you want clean up to be easy.)
  • Melting experiments: Give your child ice, water with pipettes or eye droppers, salt to sprinkle. Let them explore how to get the ice to melt. Add food coloring or liquid watercolors to make it prettier.

Dry Ice Experiments: Check out my post for lots of ideas.

Games to Play:

Indoor Snowball Fight. Make or buy big white pompoms, or soft white balls. Or just wad up a bunch of paper into balls. Fill a basket with them. Then spontaneously start snowball battles anytime you want to! Not only is this tons of fun, I like playing games where I throw (soft) things at my kids. It helps them be a little bolder about ball games later in life – a little more willing to “head” the ball in a soccer game.

Rhymes to Say

Up the Mountain rhyme
Sit child on your lap
Up the mountain (run your fingers up one of their arms)
Down the other side (then run fingers down their other arm)
Brr it’s cold out… (hug them tight)
Let’s climb inside! (tickle their neck as you reach your fingers under their collar)

Chubby Little Snowman rhyme
See gestures at http://wiki.kcls.org/index.php/Chubby_Little_Snowman
A chubby little snowman had a carrot nose.
Along came a bunny, and what do you suppose?
That hungry little bunny, looking for his lunch,
Ate that snowman’s carrot nose,
Nibble, nibble, crunch!

Songs to Sing

for the first two songs, give your child a paper snowflake and have them put it on their head, their knee, etc.

Little Snowflake Swirling Round (tune: London Bridges)
Little snowflake twirling round
Twirling round, twirling round
Little snowflake twirling round
Lands on my head!
Repeat with different body parts.

or Snowflake Fancy Free(tune: Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star)
Snowflake, snowflake, fancy free,
Snowflake, snowflake, dance with me.
First on my head, then on my toes,
Then on my nose, where the cold wind blows,
Snowflake, snowflake, turn around,
Snowflake, snowflake, touch the ground. //
Snowflake, snowflake, fancy free,
Snowflake, snowflake, dance with me.
Touch my ear, then my knees,
Snowflake, snowflake, I’m about to freeze!
Snowflake, snowflake, turn around,
Snowflake, snowflake, touch the ground.

Sing the My Mittens song in those inevitable moments when you’re searching for your child’s missing mittens.

Crafts to Do:

http://www.howwelearnathome.com/2013/01/build-shape-snowman.html

howwelearnathome.cm

Mittens: Cut out 10 paper mittens. Have your child decorate them. (Or for younger kids, have them scribble / finger paint all over a piece of paper, THEN cut out mitten shapes.) Then do the 10 little mittens rhyme together.

Tracks in the Snow. Make white play-dough. Play with toy animals in it, and point out the tracks they make. (Source, with pictures.)

Shape snowmen. Check out original idea here.

Books to Read:
Amy Loves the Snow by Hoban. Sweet simple story for little ones.

The Snowman Storybook or The Snowman by Raymond Briggs. These are the same story, but the Snowman is wordless – you tell the story in your own words. Beautiful illustrations. Story of a snowman who comes to life. Note: This book has a sad ending. (I think that’s OK – helps to build emotional literacy. But some parents prefer to avoid.)

Red Sled or Red Hat by Judge or The Mitten by Jan Brett. All three are stories of woodland creatures getting into mischief with children’s belongings.

The Snowy Day by Ezra Keats. A little boy in the city enjoys a snowy day. This book, published in 1963, was noteworthy for being one of the first picture books to feature an African-American child.

More ideas (and source citations) at: http://www.pinterest.com/bcparented

For my full collection of theme-based “Fun with Toddlers”, click on “Fun with Toddlers series” in the right hand side bar. Or if you would like them in printable handout form to share with students, click here.

Fun with Toddlers: Fall Theme


fall
Here are a collection of fun toddler activities, crafts, and books related to autumn.

Songs to Sing / Rhymes to Say

Apple Tree
[Miming gestures here; video here]
Way up high in the apple tree.
Two little apples smiled  at me.
I shook that tree just as hard as I could.
Down came the apples
and mmm they were good.

5 Little Pumpkins
http://wiki.kcls.org/index.php/Five_Little_Pumpkins
Five little pumpkins sitting on a gate.
The first one says, “Oh, my.  It’s getting late!”
The second one says, “There are witches in the air!”
The third one says, “But I don’t care.”
The fourth one says, “Let’s run & run & run.”
The fifth one says, “We’re ready for some fun!”
Ooooooooooo went the wind, and OUT went the light,
and five little pumpkins rolled out of sight.

Pumpkin, Pumpkin (tune of Twinkle Twinkle)
Pumpkin, Pumpkin on the ground (crouch down)
How’d you get so big and round? (stretch arms to make a circle)
Once you were a seed so small (pretend to hold a seed)
Now you are a great big ball (make a big circle with hands)

Homemade Toys to Make:

Play-dough: There are LOTS of recipes for Play-dough available online. Here’s one I like: Mix 1 1/2 cups water and 1/2 cup salt. Heat to almost boiling. Remove from the heat and add 2 TBS. vegetable oil, 2 TBS alum*, food coloring. Cool & knead in 2 – 3 cups of flour.

* You can find alum in the spices section of the grocery store. Or you can substitute cream of tartar.

Felt Tree: Cut a tree, leaves & apples from felt. Let your child stick them to a felt board.

Activities / Games to Play:

Sticky spider web. Use painter’s tape / masking tape to make a spider’s web across the doorway. Your child can throw things at the tape and see if they stick. Try cotton balls or wadded up newspaper or whatever small lightweight things you have handy. Source

Leaf Hunt. Go for a walk and collect fall leaves. Talk about the different colors and the different shapes, count how many points they have, compare small to large, and notice smooth edges versus serrated edges. Point out which tree each leaf fell from.

Pumpkins and golf tees: Get a pumpkin, golf tees, and a toy hammer. Kids ages 3 and up can hammer the tees into the pumpkin. For toddlers, you can hammer several golf tees in – they can take the tees out and put them back in – great small motor practice!

Crafts to Do:

Leaf Suncatchers. (See photo at top of page.) Take the prettiest leaves from your leaf hunt and sandwich them between two layers of clear Con-Tact paper. Frame (if desired) with a paper plate rim or construction paper, and hang in the window. Source

Sticky Apple Tree. Cut out a tree shape from brown contact paper for the trunk. Cut green paper leaves and red paper apples (or use green and red pompoms). Hang the contact paper on the wall, with the sticky side facing out.  Let your child stick “leaves” and “apples” to the tree, take them off the tree, and stick on again. Inspiration

Apple prints. Put some paint on a tray. Cut an apple in half. Show your child how to make prints by dipping the apple in the paint, then pressing it on to a paper. Source

Pumpkin finger puppets. Make finger puppets to go with the five little pumpkins rhyme. You could make them with playdough or felt or mini post-it-notes stuck to your fingers.

Books to Read:

  • Owl Babies by Martin Waddell. One of our favorites!! A sweet story about three baby owls who worry when mama goes hunting. But of course mama comes back!
  • Five Little Pumpkins by Dan Yaccarino. An illustrated edition of the finger rhyme above.
  • Apples and Pumpkinsby Anne Rockwell. Simple book that features fall themes like apple picking, jack-o-lantern carving, and trick or treat.
  • Apple Farmer Annie by Monica Wellington. For kids 4 and up. Talks about apple picking, counting, sorting, baking, and selling at a farmer’s market.
  • The Very Busy Spider by Eric Carle. Lots of farm animal noises & repetitive lines for kids to join in on.
  • The Itsy Bitsy Spider by Iza Trapani. Builds on the classic and familiar song as the spider goes on further adventures around a house

Printable handout of these fall activities here.

More ideas (and source citations) for this topic at: http://www.pinterest.com/bcparented

For my full collection of theme-based “Fun with Toddlers”, click on “Fun with Toddlers series” in the right hand side bar. Or if you would like them in printable handout form to share with students, click here.

photo at top of page from: http://artfulparent.com/2011/09/fall-nature-suncatchers.html

Fun with Toddlers: Babies & Families Theme

learning-about-emotions-diy-toyAt my toddler classes, we organize the kids’ activities and room decor around a series of themes. Each theme runs for 3 – 5 weeks. This year, I will be writing a series call “Fun with Toddlers” with ideas for activities parents can do at home: songs, games, crafts, and books. Our first theme of the year is Families and Babies, and lots of my activity ideas tie into learning about the parts of the body.

Songs to Sing

One Two (I have two eyes, so do you…)
Find lyrics, sheet music and an mp3 at: http://nancymusic.com/SOM/2008/one-two.htm

Two Little Eyes (tune: Twinkle Twinkle)

Two Little Eyes to Look Around
Two Little Ears to Hear Each Sound
One Little Nose to Smell What’s Sweet
One Little Mouth that Likes to Eat
Eyes and Ears and Nose and Mouth
Eyes and Ears and Nose and Mouth

Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes

Homemade Toys to Make:

Happy/Sad Face: Use cardboard and paper fasteners to make the face shown in the picture at the top of this post. Spin the features to make happy faces, sad faces, and more. Directions at www.mrprintables.com/learning-about-emotions.html

Family Magnets. Take photos of family members. Glue onto magnets. Let your child play with them on the fridge. You could draw a family tree with pictures on it and have your child match magnets up to names and photos on the tree.

Sensory Activities to Do:

Baby Doll Bath Time. Put a doll and washcloth in a sink full of soapy water. As your child bathes the doll, name each body part.

Games to Play:

Body Part Flash Cards. Find photos of eyes, hands, and so on. Glue to index cards, and write labels. Your child could explore these on their own. Or you can call out a body part and ask your child to find the matching card. Or you can put tape on the back of each one and have your child label your body – sticking each card to the right part of you.

Put Your Finger On… Ask your child to “Put your finger on your nose. Put your finger on your toes” and so on.

Books to Read:

Where Is Baby’s Belly Button?(or others by Karen Katz)

Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toesby Mem Fox

I Can (or other books by Helen Oxenbury)

[This section contains Amazon Associate links.]

More ideas (and source citations):

www.pinterest.com/bcparented/family-and-babies-theme/

Great Resources for Songs for Kids

Each week in my class, we have a circle time where we sing lots of great songs that toddlers love. Circle time is a lot of fun for the children in the room and for the parents, but beyond that, singing songs with your children helps your child to learn in many ways, and enhances your connections as a family. Singing builds:

  • Musical skills
  • Mathematical and spatial skills
  • Vocabulary
  • Memory
  • Connections to traditions
  • Emotional Intelligence
  • Attachment

Learn more about music and development.

Here are a few of my favorite resources for kids’ songs:

The King County Library has produced videos of librarians singing LOTS (hundreds!) of classic children’s rhymes: http://kcls.org/content/. If you’re trying to remember the tune of any childhood song, this is a great place to look!

Jbrary is a channel on YouTube featuring two children’s librarians singing songs, lap songs, and finger rhymes from library story times: www.youtube.com/user/Jbrary/videos. I LOVE all their videos.

Nancy Stewart has gathered lyrics and made audio recordings (.mp3) of lots of traditional songs, including her Baker’s Dozen of songs every child should know and a collection of campfire songs: http://singwithourkids.com/song-library.htm. She also has lists of recommended books which include songs, or have rhythmic text that can be sung to children, to reinforce both music and early literacy skills: http://singwithourkids.com/bookshelf.htm.

Let’s Play Music was developed by Sara Mullett, based on 15 years experience teaching kids’ music classes. It includes over 150 songs – each has lyrics, sheet music, a video of the tune being played on a xylophone, and activities / motions to go along with the song. http://www.letsplaykidsmusic.com

YouTube has a huge collection of animated videos featuring traditional and new children’s songs, in a wide range of languages. For example, not only would you find countless versions of the traditional alphabet song, plus many variations in melody (like ABC Rap), plus many elaborate alphabet songs (Animal Alphabet, Alexander Alligator, etc.), you can even find several different songs each dedicated to a single letter of the alphabet. (Even Q has 8 or more songs!)

As with everything on YouTube, the quality ranges tremendously, and there are some that are frankly inappropriate for children; however, it’s worth searching through and finding some of the great ones and setting up your own playlist. I will includes links to some good ones on my “favorite songs” page. Most kids love watching the videos along with the song, but if you’d rather not expose your child to videos, you can easily find a free program online which will allow you to convert videos into .mp3 audio files. (I use YTD Video downloader)

Music Connections offers some great posts on teaching rhythm and a steady beat to kids age birth to five: A Parent’s Guide to Beats and Rhythms, Developmental Progression of Steady Beat, and “Catching” a Steady Beat with Very Young Children.  This includes tips like: help your child experience steady beats by singing with them, dancing with them, or tapping on their knees in rhythm. When they’re doing repetitive movements, like tapping on something, sing or dance along in a steady rhythm that’s similar t o their rhythm. Have them walk or march to a beat.

Click here for my favorite songs to sing with young children.