Tag Archives: toddlers

Parachute Play with Children

Parachute from Lakeshore Learning

Parachutes can be a fun accessory for indoor story-times or outdoor play, for groups of children from birth to adolescence.

Benefits of parachute play:

  • Collaborative and non-competitive – children work together, need to spread out around the chute and all participate for it to work
  • Helps to develop rhythm
  • Builds shoulder, arm and hand muscle strength
  • Good for practicing listening to instructions – if they didn’t understand it when you say to lift it up, but then their hand is lifted up into the air along with the parachute, that helps them learn the meaning of the instruction
  • It’s a great way to gain children’s attention when it’s wandering, or to settle down chaotic energy in a group time
  • It’s fun!

Getting Started

If you don’t already own one, buy a parachute. (That’s an Amazon affiliate link to a product that looks good quality and comes in a variety of sizes.) Parachutes are fairly inexpensive, and fold up pretty small so they don’t require a lot of storage space.

The size you need depends on two things – how big is your room and how many people will participate?

Parachutes are described in diameter – so 12′ means 12′ from one side to the other. You need space all around it for the people to move, so really, it’s best to have a 20×20 space at least for that 12′ parachute.

Parachutes typically have one handle per foot of diameter. So, a 12′ parachute could work for 6 people if they all held onto two handles, or for a maximum 12 people.

Ages

In my activity descriptions below, I’ll code what age groups they work best for:

  • B = Babies. The parents hold the parachute and do the actions while the babies observe
  • P/C = Parent/Child. For toddlers and preschool age. Parents all hold the parachute and do the actions. The children may hold on, they may go under the parachute, they may wander off…
  • P = Preschool. A group of 3 – 5 year old children and 1 or 2 adults can do this without needing more adults to help.
  • O = Older Kids. Kids 5 and up can do this.
  • All = OK for any of these contexts

Up and Down

You can simply stand in a circle, say “up” and everyone lifts the parachute up high and “down” while everyone lowers it. Kids can be holding on the edge raising and lowering, or they can be standing under it or lying down under it. So easy, and it manages to feel intriguing yet soothing at the same time. ALL

You can also put on calming music and raise and lower in rhythm with the music for a calming moment in the midst of a story time. B, P/C

Sing this song to the tune If You’re Happy and You Know It. “When the parachute goes up (raising it up), shout hurray. Hurray! (as you lower it down). When the parachute goes up, shout hurray. When the parachute is high and floats up in the sky. When the parachute goes up, shout hurray.” Repeat with “dance a dance” or “stomp your feet” and so on. P/C, P

Toast in the Toaster chant – shake side to side, then “pop” it up at the end
I’m toast in the toaster / I’m getting very hot / Tick tock, Tick tock / Up I pop!

You can also do lap songs with up/down motions like “Grand Old Duke of York” or “Let’s Go Riding in an Elevator” except instead of lifting a child up in your lap, you’re raising the parachute.

Side to Side

You can stand in place and swish the parachute from side to side. Here’s a chant to go with that motion: “I am a washing machine. Washing clothes till they are clean. I am a washing machine. Swish swish swish swish swish.” P

Making Waves / Shaking

You can shake a parachute slow and gentle, or fast and rough.

With slow waves, sing “My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean.” B, P/C, P

With shakes, you can use some songs you use with shakers: “Oh you shake and you shake and you shake and you stop… (3x) Shake it up high, shake it down low, shake it on your tummy, and way down to your toes.” P/C, P

There’s a video here of a nice shaking song: https://nancykopman.com/parachute-songs-and-games-for-young-children/

Walking Songs

Merry Go Round. The children hold onto the parachute with one hand and walk around the circle clockwise. Play any music – as long as music is playing, they walk, If the music stops, they stop. Turn to face the other direction (e.g. counterclockwise) and wait for the music to begin, then walk more. P

Ring around the Rosie. P/C, P
Walk around as you sing: Ring around the rosie, pocket full of posy, ashes, ashes
Kneel Down: All fall down!
Shake gently, close to the ground: cows are in the meadow, eating buttercups.
Then shaking fast: Thunder, Lightning, stand We all Stand Up!

Roly Poly (a chant) P/C, P
Roly Poly, Roly Poly, Up, Up, Up lift the parachute up
Roly Poly, Roly Poly, Down, Down, Down parachute down
Roly Poly, Roly Poly, In, In, In, walk toward the center of the circle
Roly Poly, Roly Poly, out, out, out
…. fast… slow… shake it

Zoom. (tune) P/C, P
Zoom Zoom Zoom. We’re going to the moon. walking around
Zoom Zoom Zoom. We’re going to the moon. stop walking at the end of this line
In 5…. 4…. 3… 2… 1 lower the parachute gradually to the ground
Blast off!!! quickly raise your arms and let go to launch the chute up in the air

Pop Goes the Weasel P/C, P
All around the cobblers bench (walk around a circle),
the monkey chased the weasel (rattle parachute).
The monkey thought it was all in fun (lower the parachute to the ground).
Pop goes the weasel (pop it up)

Wheels on the bus. Go round and round… wipers go swish… babies go up and down…

Children on Top of the Parachute B, P/C, O

For 3 – 6 month old babies, you can lay the babies on the parachute, and the adults hold on to the parachute and walk in circles, and give the babies a ride. You have to be slow and gentle so they don’t roll on top of each other!

For older toddlers, who are able to sit well and stay where you tell them to stay, you can have them sit up on the parachute and take them for a ride.

This activity does NOT work well with the “wobblers” in between those ages – the children who can sit but not very well and would tip over, or the children who will try to crawl away, and knock over the other children.

Many of the songs above and below here combine well with taking the children for a ride, as does “Here we go round the mulberry bush” or “we’re going to the zoo”.

Children Under the Parachute B, P/C

Babies can lay on the ground as the parents hold the parachute above them. Toddlers or preschoolers can sit or walk under the parachute as the parents hold it.

Colors Over You. (tune)
Red and Yellow, Green and Blue, these are the colors over you. Red like the apple, green like the tree, yellow like the sun and blue like the sea. Red and yellow, green and blue, these are the colors over you.

Peekaboo. hold the parachute low, just above the children Someone is hiding, hiding, hiding, someone is hiding, Who could it be? lift it up high Peekaboo!

Come Under My Umbrella (tune of The More We Get Together)
Come under my umbrella, umbrella, umbrella. lift it up high so it “balloons” up a bit
Come under my umbrella, it’s starting to storm. again
There’s thunder and lightning and wind and rain. shake it hard and fast
Come under my umbrella it’s starting to storm. lift it high

Sitting Down with the Parachute P

The children sit on the floor in a circle, holding on to the parachute.

10 Little Bubbles (tune: 10 little indians)
shake the chute as you do the counting part – pat the parachute with your hands for the “pop the bubble’ part
1 little, 2 little, 3 little bubbles. 4 little, 5 little, 6 little bubbles.
7 little, 8 little, 9 little bubbles. 10 little bubbles go pop, pop, pop!
Pop pop pop pop those bubbles. (x3) Popping all the day.

Row Your Boat – divide the children in half – those on the left half and those on the right half. (It helps if there’s a teacher on each side! They “row” the parachute – holding on and leaning back, then forward. So, as left leans back, right leans forward, and so on. Sing row your boat.

Props on Top – P/C, P, O

For parent/child classes, it’s easier for toddlers to see what’s on top of the parachute if the parents are sitting down and the parachute is down low. Preschoolers or older children could do it sitting or standing.

Popcorn – put several balls on the parachute and do this chant:
Popcorn, popcorn in a pan (hands go gently side to side),
shake it up, shake it up, (shake it fast side to side)
bam bam bam! (three quick “pops” of the chute – will send balls flying off the chute.)

Autumn Leaves. Put lots of silk leaves on the parachute. Sing this song to the tune of London Bridge is Falling Down
Autumn Leaves are Falling Down, Falling Down, Falling Down… All Around the Town. up and down gently, so the leaves lift off the chute just a little
The wind will blow them round and round… swish the chute
Then you shout “oh no, it’s a storm” and you all shake like crazy till all the leaves fly off.
Now it’s time to pick them up…. gather up the leaves

Five Little Monkeys Jumping on a Bed. (use monkey puppets)

Games – O. (maybe P)

Ball through the Hole: Only works for parachutes with a hole in the center!
Place a ball on the parachute. Try NOT to let it fall through the hole in the center! For children 4+, divide the kids into teams (e.g. everyone who is holding onto a blue or green section of the parachute is one team and the other team is everyone holding onto red or yellow). Put two balls on the parachute – team 1 is trying to get their ball in the hole before team 2 can get their ball in.

Knock the Ball Off: If your parachute has a mesh circle in the center instead of an opening, you can adapt this game and have them try to keep their ball on the parachute while they knock off their opponents ball.

Swap Places. Everyone is raising and lowering the parachute. Then you say “stop” and everyone freezes with the parachute held way up high. You announce who needs to trade places. They swap quickly, then you continue going up and down. “Up and down, up and down. Up and stop! Bobby and Sally swap!”

Parachute Cave – lift up on 1, 2, 3 – when you get to 3, everyone (still holding on!) steps 3 steps forward under the parachute, then sits down with the parachute under their bottoms. You’re all in a parachute cave together!

Pass the ball – put a beach ball on the chute. Person A lowers the parachute till the ball comes to them – they raise one hand to roll the ball to the person next to them. That person then raises the chute to pass the ball to the next person. Keep going, trying to make it all the way around the circle.

Cat and Mouse – Children sit on the floor holding the parachute. One child is the cat – they sit on top of the chute and close their eyes while everyone counts to 10. The “mouse” child crawls under the parachute. Then the kids all shake the parachute to hide the mouse. The cat opens his eyes and crawls around trying to find the mouse.

Sources: https://childcarelounge.com/pages/benefits-of-parachute-play; https://www.earlyyearscareers.com/eyc/learning-and-development/top-5-parachute-games-children-early-years/; http://brampton.momstown.ca/baby/parachute-songs-kids; https://earlyimpactlearning.com/14-parachute-songs-for-preschoolers-games-lyrics-tips/; https://klmpeace.wordpress.com/2013/03/20/parachute-play-with-babies-and-toddlers/

More Resources

Also check out my posts on

Keys to Brain Development

In the first five years of life, a child’s brain grows from 25% the size of an adult’s brain at birth to 92% the size of an adult’s brain. All that growth comes from making connections – connections built through hands-on, multi-sensory experiences of their world. There are several ways parents can support their children’s growth and development. This video gives a quick summary, and I’ll give more details below.

Novelty – New Experiences

The parent can provide a diverse array of new experiences. These don’t have to be fancy, they don’t have to be expensive, they don’t have to be based on advanced scientific research. These are just the everyday experiences of life. Just simple activities like going for a walk, looking at the clouds, stomping in puddles, touching a slug, coming home and making hot chocolate together, snuggling up on the couch with a good book, playing with blocks, then drawing pictures. Any new experience builds connections in a child’s brain.

And if you don’t have the energy to think of something new to do, try putting together two familiar things in a new way, and see what your child does differently. For example, take the rubber duckies from the bathtub and put them with the Duplos, or take the colander from the kitchen to the bathtub. Your child will be delighted by the new possibilities. Learn more about “invitations to play.”

I have a whole collection of easy free activities with toddlers to get you inspired. (Not all are do-able in the coronavirus era, but most are.) Everything from “nature shopping” to “counting cars”, from “construction theater” to year-round egg hunts.

I want to encourage my child’s growth in all diverse knowledge and skills. I find it helpful to think about categories of development – have we done anything today to build large motor skills? What about fine motor skills? I also find the theory of multiple intelligences to be a helpful guide to inspiring new ideas – have we tried out any music today? And spatial challenges? Here’s an article I wrote on choosing toys and activities for toddlers that build multiple intelligences.

I do encourage you to offer your child lots of learning opportunities, but please don’t feel like you have to be doing a non-stop song and dance, tossing new things into the ring continuously. That would be exhausting for you! But it could also teach your child that the only way to be happy is to be continually entertained with new things. They would also be missing out on the full depth of possible learning if you did this and ignored the next two keys to brain development: repetition and down time.

Repetition – Doing it Again and Again Builds Mastery

Doing something for the first time makes a connection. Doing it again strengthens that connection. Doing it again in a different setting strengthens that connection and also makes connections to this new setting. Combining that activity with another deepens understanding. Think of a child learning to walk – they fall again and again until the a-ha moment happens. But then they still stumble and wobble along for a while. But the more they walk, the better they get at it. Or think of anyone learning an instrument – we don’t become expert by going to a class once a week. To become a skilled musician requires playing those same scales again and again till you reach mastery.

Don’t rush them. If they’re just barely starting to understand something and you push them onward, they’ll have a shaky foundation for future learning. For example, if you have a child who has just barely learned to count to three, don’t feel like you have to rush them on to 4, 5, 6… 10… 100. Let them stay at three for a while – really exploring three, getting to the point where they can tell at a glance if they have three objects or more than that or less than that. If you can do this, your child will have such a solid understanding of the fundamentals of math, everything later on will make more sense.

When my oldest kids were little, I probably over-did the novelty. I felt like I continuously had to provide new experiences. My oldest child resisted transitions so much, and looking back, I think a big part of it was that he was always feeling forced to move on before he was ready. By the time my third child came along, I had learned a lot about the importance of repetition for brain development, so I was willing to let him do things again and again. It’s a good thing, because that little boy has deep passions and wants to immerse himself in the same things for weeks or months on end.

But with him, I saw clear evidence of everything the research says about repetition and also about following a child’s interests. When he was wild about dinosaurs, we could teach everything else he needed to learn in that context – we could teaching counting, and colors, and music and art, all focused on dinosaurs. When he had the chance to do something again and again, he developed so much self-esteem in seeing himself as a competent learner. Whenever he was feeling anxious about anything else, returning to this familiar territory helped get him grounded and feeling capable, then he could take on new challenges.

There is a concept called Schemas of Play, which addresses how children tend to be working on a few key ideas at any given time. They might be exploring: Trajectory – kicking and throwing balls, or Transportation – carrying things everywhere, or Connecting – assembling puzzles. They may repeat the same activity over and over, but know that they are learning important concepts by doing that. Check out some ways to support your child’s schemas of play.

Down Time – to Process it All

Children need rest. It is during sleep that we build myelin sheaths that insulate our nerve pathways, helping us access information more quickly and efficiently apply that knowledge to new situations. (Nutrition is also important. To build myelin, they also need a diet with plenty of healthy fats, like fish oils, nuts, avocados, olive oil, and whole milk. Learn more about nutrition for growing brains.)

They need down time – time to putter around the house “doing nothing.” Time to play aimlessly. Time to “waste time.” When they don’t appear to be doing anything, it may be because they are processing all the new learning they’ve been experiencing, and they need time to take it all in and incorporate it.

Don’t feel like you have to constantly entertain your child. When they are “bored” is when they may come up with some of their most creative ideas. They might make connections between things on their own. I remember once my daughter, who was 5 at the time, was complaining about how bored she was. I told her “I need to finish this work… figure out what to do for 15 minutes, OK?” My work took longer than expected, and when I went to find her 45 minutes later, she had all the toy horses arrayed on the table, and proceeded to tell me all their names, ranks and how they were related: “Princess Snowy is getting married to Duke Blaze – he is from a different kingdom where his sister… ” She’d created this whole complex imaginary play world, which she would never have done if I was hovering over her guiding her play.

I think it can feel tricky to find the right balance between feeling like we should introduce novelty and guide learning and knowing when to step back and let them explore on their own. It could be something as simple as having a bedtime story routine – each night, we read two stories – one for novelty, one for repetition, and then I let my child look at books on her own for a few minutes before turning off the light. (Here’s more about choosing books for your child.)

Read this article on How Much is Enough, How Much is Too Much which looks at questions like how many toys to buy, how many activities to schedule, and how screen time fits in.

Check out my past writing on brain development, which includes more about the science of brain development.

Fun with Toddlers – Beach Theme

My Fun with Toddlers series includes crafts, games, songs, rhymes and books tied into a theme. These can be used as lesson plans for a toddler class, preschool curriculum, or for parents to have fun with little ones at home. A beach or ocean theme offers lots of fun opportunities.

Science Activities

Field Trips. If you live near a beach, go there! If there’s an aquarium nearby, go there. Or go to a pet store, what I call the “small animal zoo” to observe fish and other aquatic creatures. You may even find great tropical fish tanks at restaurants or in hospital lobbies. Or, search for “virtual field trip aquarium” and you’ll find lots of options, including Seattle Aquarium.

Sink and Float Experiments. In the bathtub, or a large tub of water, let your child experiment with a wide variety of objects. What sinks? What floats? Help them notice any patterns (e.g. these metal things sink, these plastic things float, heavy things sink…).

Explore Shells. Offer a collection of shells for your child to explore. Talk about their colors, shapes, textures. Count them. Sort them.

Ice Excavation. Fill a container with water, drop in sand, shells, and plastic fish and freeze. Put it in a tub and give your child water to pour over it to melt the ice. (If your child won’t eat the salt, you can also give them a salt shaker to sprinkle salt on it to hasten the melting process.) Photos from littlebins.

iceice2

Sensory Activities

Ocean Sensory Bag. Get a gallon size ziplock (freezer bags are even sturdier than regular bags). Fill it with water, or with blue shower gel or clear hair gel from the dollar store. Add plastic fishor shells or glass stones, then close the bag, and tape it closed. Set it on a table (or tape it to a window) and a baby or toddler can poke and prod at it, and the fishies “swim away” from their fingers. Photo is from For the Love of Learning.

sensory bag

(HearthSong also makes a really cool AquaPod which is a 4′ diameter pod you fill with water that kids can jump on, roll on, etc.)

aquapod

Discovery Bottle. Fill a water bottle partway with water, add blue food color. Then add in either oil (mineral oil or baby oil are prettier, but any vegetable oil will do – see more pictures at Imagination tree) or blue glitter glue (like littlebins does). Then add seashells and/or plastic fish. Put on the lid and seal with tape or glue. Child shakes and observes.

bottle 6  

Beach Dough. Make play-dough with sand. Let your child play with it with their usual Play-dough Tools and add shells to mix in.

Crafts

Ocean Foil Painting. Cover cardboard with aluminum foil. Squirt on a little green paint and more blue paint (glitter paint is especially fun). Give child q-tips or paint brush to smear the paint around. Let the painting dry overnight, then add ocean life stickers. Find a full tutorial and more pictures at newswithnaylors.

foil

Bubble wrap prints. Place bubble wrap on a tray. Dribble some paint on it. Let your child use their fingers or a paint brush to spread the paint around. Then press paper onto it to print the paper, then cut the paper into fish or starfish shapes. (photo Crafty Toddlers)

Celery print fish. Give your child a fish shape cut from paper, paint, and a celery stalk. Show them how to dip the celery in paint, and press it to the paper to make fish scales. This image is from Crafty Morning. Your child’s art won’t be this pretty. You could also do this on a paper plate to make a fish like a Little Pinch of Perfect‘s project.

celery-stamp-rainbow-fish-craft-for-kids-to-make Paper Plate Fish Craft Inspired by The Rainbow Fish: a perfect read and craft book activity for kids (preschool, kindergarten, ocean, summer, childrens literature)

Ocean Suncatcher. Peel the backing off of contact paper, and place it sticky side up. Give your child blue tissue paper squares and black ocean life shapes to stick on. When they’re done, seal it with another piece of contact paper and tape in the window. Images from Mrs. Plemon’s kindergarten and Buggy and Buddy.

suncatcher Shark Crafts for Kids: Shark Suncatcher~ BuggyandBuddy.com

Coffee Filter Craft. Give your child ocean colored liquid watercolors or diluted food coloring and a q-tip. They dip the q-tip in the color, then touch it to the coffee filter to decorate it. Idea from a little Pinch of Perfection.

Ocean Animal Coffee Filter Suncatcher Kids Craft and Free Template (summer, ocean, whale, shark, dolphin, kids craft)

Paper Bag Jellyfish. Child paints the paper bag, then you cut the tentacles and add a face.

ocean themed crafts

Aquarium – photo at top of page. Spread glue across the bottom of a paper bowl. Sprinkle in aquarium gravel, sequins or gems, or glass stones. Add a sparkly paper fish. (This craft is better suited to preschoolers than young toddlers.)

Outdoor / Pretend Activities

Set up a “beach”. Put out a plastic tub of water – if you have one big enough for your child to walk in or sit it, that’s great. It not even a few bowls full of water to play in with a few scoops to pour back and forth is fun. If you have access to sand, put out a small container of sand for them to play in. (Tip – put the tub on top of a plastic tarp or large trash bag so that when they’re done playing, you can pour all the sand they spilled back into the tub.) Put up a beach umbrella. Bring out towels, and beach reading, and drinks with paper umbrellas. Play some surf music.

Fishing. If your child is no longer mouthing small objects: print or draw pictures of fish, cut them out, add paper clips to each, and throw them in a “pond” (any big container). Give your child a magnet to “go fishing” with.

Songs to Sing

Row Row Row Your Boat

My Bonnie (hold child in lap, lift child up each time you say Bonnie; tune)
My Bonnie lies over the ocean My Bonnie lies over the sea
My Bonnie lies over the ocean Oh bring back my Bonnie to me
Bring back, bring back (rock back and forth) Oh bring back my Bonnie to me, to me
Bring back, bring back (rock back and forth) Oh bring back my Bonnie to me

Little fish (here’s a video of the tune – my words are slightly different)
Little fish, little fish, Swimming in the water,
little fish, little fish, Gulp, gulp, gulp.
Oh no! It’s being eaten by a
Bigger fish, bigger fish, Swimming in the water….
Octopus…wiggling…  great white shark… lurking…
Big blue whale…. Spouting… (for this verse end with “Splash, splash splash” instead of gulp)

Baby Shark (really fun to sing! here’s a video,)
Baby shark, Doot-doo, doot-doo-doo-doo Baby shark, Doot-doo, doot-doo-doo-doo
Baby shark, Doot-doo, doot-doo-doo-doo Baby Shark!
Mommy Shark… Daddy shark… Grandma shark… Going swimming… See a shark… Swimming fast… Safe at last… Bye-bye shark…

All the Fish (tune)
All the fish are swimming in the water, Swimming in the water, Swimming in the water
All the fish are swimming in the water (swimming motions with arms)
Bubble, bubble, bubble, bubble…SPLASH! (spread hands wider & wider, big clap for the SPLASH)
All the ducks are paddling in the water, paddling in the water, paddling in the water
All the ducks are paddling in the water (doggy paddle motion with hands)
Bubble, bubble, bubble, bubble…SPLASH!
All the frogs are jumping in the water…. (jump with both feet)
All the kids are splashing in the water… (splash hands in the air)
Bubble, bubble, bubble, bubble…SPLASH!

Fish in the Ocean (tune: Wheels on the Bus)
The fish in the ocean go swim, swim swim. Swim, swim, swim.  Swim, swim, swim!
The fish in the ocean go swim, swim, swim.  All day long!
The octopus in the ocean goes wiggle…. Sharks chomp…. Crabs pinch… sea horse rocks…

Rhyme to Say

One, two, three, four, five. Once I caught a fish alive.
Six, seven, eight, nine, ten. Then I let him go again.
Why did you let him go? Because he bit my finger so!
Which little finger did he bite? This little finger on the right.

Books to Read

Over in the Ocean: In a Coral Reef by Berkes and Canyon. A counting book-that-sings based on the “Over in the Meadow” tune, featuring gorgeous illustrations.

Fish, Swish! Splash, Dash!: Counting Round and Round by  MacDonald. A terribly clever design. As you read forward in the book, it counts up from one to ten. Then when you reach the end, you flip it over and count down from ten to one.

Ten Little Fish by Wood and Wood. Age 2 – 5. A counting book with cute illustrations, simple text. Counts from ten down to one, then “along comes another fish… soon one is a father, the other is a mother…”

Spot Goes to the Beach by Hill. Duck & Goose Go to the Beach by Hills. Ladybug Girl at the Beach by Soman and Davis. Honestly, just go to your library catalog… do a keyword search for “beach”, then narrow the search down to children’s books, and you’ll discover books from Curious George at the Beach to Paddington to Pete the Cat to Scaredy Squirrel… pretty much every series with more than a few books goes to the beach at some point.

Here is a free printable handout handout you can share with some beach themed activities.

For science themed activities for older kids related to the ocean, the beach, sink and float, check out my other blog, https://inventorsoftomorrow.com/. Or check out my Fun with Toddlers series for other themes, including: Pets, Zoo, Transportation, and the seasons.

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.

Simple Pleasures

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It’s easy to get caught up in commercialism and all the manufactured toys that promise “hours of fun” and “educational benefits” for our kids. But there’s plenty of fun and education to be had in simple home-made activities. My mother-in-law grew up in Argentina in the 30’s and 40’s, and they didn’t have any manufactured toys (she remembers owning one toy in her whole childhood – a doll given to her by a neighbor), so she’s a pro at this!

Last night’s invention was T.P. Roll Bowling. With a piece of cardboard, 13 toilet paper rolls, one paper towel roll, and a little ball, we had a game that engaged the whole family for the evening. It’s great large motor practice in learning to aim and throw the ball at the last remaining pins. It was also great math practice in keeping track of the score. The paper towel roll was worth five points, and that meant scoring the pins knocked over required some basic addition skills, not just counting pins.

Next time you’re tempted to spend time shopping for the “perfect toy”, try creating something yourself!

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