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Zoo-Themed Activities for Perceptual & Gross Motor Skills

by Rosenya Faith

You can turn your one-on-one time with your little munchkin into an exciting afternoon of zoo-themed fun and at the same time incorporate plenty of skill development. Crafts, games and other activities will keep your child well entertained and give her new skills to show off to you, too.

Beanbag Animal Feeding

While you can't take your child to the zoo every day, you can create your own interactive feeding exhibit at home for a game he can enjoy every day. Make some animals for this fun beanbag toss game and then take turns feeding the animals their “food.” Start by cutting out the animal shapes from large sheets of cardboard and then cut out large mouths to make the beanbag toss easier for your child's age. Color the cardboard animals together and then prop them up with chairs or stools. Have your child stand back a few feet and try to toss the beanbags into the animals' mouths. Move farther back as his motor and perceptual skills develop. If you are in the mood for some more crafting, skip the ordinary beanbags and make your own so you can give your kiddo food-shaped beanbags to toss such as carrots, apples or bananas.

Animal Obstacle Course

Turn the backyard or the park into a wild jungle, full of obstacles for your animal-loving preschooler to navigate on her own or with her friends. The catch to this obstacle course is the only way to navigate it is to move like an animal. You can have each child move like a particular animal or call out a different type of animal at irregular intervals throughout the course. As the race begins, have your child crawl, hop or slither her way through the obstacle. If your child has become familiar with the movements made by animals, call out the animal's name and watch her give her best impression. If she is still learning how animals move, call out the animal's name and demonstrate the movement to help her make the association between animal and movement type.

Handmade Zoo

Turn the playroom into a zoo full of handmade animals and then help your child make believe he’s at the zoo and wandering through the exhibits. Start by providing your child with some printout pictures of different types of animals. Next, pull out craft supplies such as cardboard boxes, construction paper, large googly eyes, feathers, paper tubes, paint or crayons and other items from the craft box. Have him transform the ordinary supplies into extraordinary animals for his zoo. You can spread the activity out over several days and add to the zoo each time he completes an animal. When he is finished, make a picnic lunch and spread out a blanket in the middle of the “zoo” floor. Tour the zoo and see whether your child can act out the movement of each animal he’s created. When you are done touring the zoo, the two of you can enjoy a picnic lunch in the middle of all the animals.

The Zookeeper Says

Transform an ordinary game of Simon Says into an exciting animal-themed game of the Zookeeper Says. The game is played in nearly the same way as the original game, but instead the command must be said by the zookeeper and the commands must be animal actions. For example, "The zookeeper says to hop like a kangaroo" or "The zookeeper says to walk like a crab.” Just remember, if the instruction doesn't start with "the zookeeper says," the kids aren't supposed to follow the instruction. You can use the game as a one-on-one activity for you and your child or turn it into a group game at an animal-themed birthday party.

References

  • Perceptual-Motor Activities for Children with Web Resource: An Evidence-Based Guide to Building Physical and Cognitive Skills; Jill Johnstone, et al.

About the Author

Rosenya Faith has been working with children since the age of 16 as a swimming instructor and dance instructor. For more than 14 years she has worked as a recreation and skill development leader, an early childhood educator and a teaching assistant, working in elementary schools and with special needs children between 4 and 11 years of age.

Photo Credits

  • Jupiterimages/liquidlibrary/Getty Images