Whether your kiddo is an animal lover, you want to tie in some activities for an animal theme or you’re just looking for an afternoon activity, paw print activities are the way to go. These projects can be messy, silly, educational or adventurous, depending on what you want to get yourself into. Regardless of what path you take, your child will get a kick out of learning about his animal friends.
New Species Prints
Your child can use his own footprints to create a new species of animal. Let him dip his feet into a thin layer of nontoxic acrylic or tempera paint that has been spread out on a paper plate. Then have him carefully press each of his feet on a sheet of craft paper. After he wipes the paint off of his feet with a baby wipe or washcloth, he can use his fingertips or a paintbrush to add embellishments to his paw prints, such as fur and long claws. To add the final touch, have him think up a name for his new animal species and write it on the craft paper. For instance, if your child’s name is Billy, it can be a Billycat or Billdog.
No need to stay indoors for a lesson on animals -- head outside to look for real animal paw prints in their natural habitat. This can be in your yard, local city park, nature trail or forest. If you live in an area that gets snow, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources suggests looking for prints during winter months because animal prints are easier to see in those conditions. After a rain when the ground is moist or slightly muddy also works for this activity. Dress for the weather conditions to keep you both safe and healthy. As you walk around with your child, see who can be the first to spot some paw prints. Once some prints are found, you two can pretend to be an animal tracker and see where the prints lead you.
Pull out the play dough and let your kiddo sink his fingers into the next animal paw print activity. He can use plastic animals to make paw prints into the dough. His hands and fingers also do the trick. You can let him look at some paw print pictures and have him try to replicate the prints. He also can freehand it. If he wants to have a keepsake from this activity, let the dough dry out in the sunlight or by a heat source for a few days.
Guess Who Game
A guess who game lets your child figure out which paw prints match the animal. Find several paw print designs in an animal book or online, and then copy or print them out. You can also freehand some prints, if you're artistically inclined. For example, you could find prints for a fox, raccoon, dog, cat, rabbit, deer, skunk and squirrel. Cut the individual prints out and use a nontoxic school glue stick to attach each to a note card. On the blank side of the note card, write the name of the correct animal or glue a picture of the animal that corresponds to the print. Hold each paw print up and let your kiddo guess which animal has that paw print. After a couple of guesses, let him know what the correct answer is.
- Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources: Follow that Footprint, Paw Print, Hoof Print…
- Town of Hull, Massachusetts: Identifying Paw Prints
- Parenting Science: Animal tracks: Preschool and Kindergarten Science Activities
- The Giant Encyclopedia of Theme Activities for Children 2 to 5; Kathy Charner
- Bear Tracker: Tracking Activities
- Photos.com/Photos.com/Getty Images