Dogs, cats, fish, rabbits, ferrets, guinea pigs and birds — the list goes on for pets that probably share a home with some of your kindergartners. According to a 2009-2010 survey conducted by the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association, 39 percent of U.S. households share their homes with at least one dog, and 33 percent of U.S. households have at least one cat. When it comes to pets, your kindergartners may have a lot of stories to share.
Invite kindergartners to answer questions about pets in the form of a graph. On a piece of chart paper, write “What Pets Do You Own?” at the top. On the bottom of the chart paper include choices such as dog, cat, fish, rabbit, horse, bird, guinea pig, snake, other and none. Give students sticky notes to graph which pets they own. Allow kindergartners to graph multiple answers if they have more than one pet. Encourage students to share observations such as most popular and least popular pets for your classroom. Pose new questions such as “What Pet Would You Like to Own?” or “Pets I Wouldn’t Like to Own” during your pet unit.
The Perfect Pet
Read “The Perfect Pet” by Margie Palatin. Ask students if they would like to have a cactus for a pet or if they agreed with why Elizabeth couldn’t have other pets such as a horse, dog and cat. Invite students to share their thoughts on owning a pet bug. Provide students with a piece of paper to draw or write about their ideas for a perfect pet. Encourage students to think of realistic pets as well as wacky pets for their perfect pet.
Gather enough rocks for every student in your class. Collect rocks big enough to decorate but small enough to fit in kindergartners’ hands. Invite students to select their own pet rock. Provide googly eyes, pipe cleaners, craft pompoms, ribbon, scraps of felt or construction paper and other fun materials for students to decorate their pet rock. Squeeze craft glue into small bowls and have students use toothpicks to glue decorations on their pet rocks. Encourage students to name their pet rocks.
Being a responsible pet owner means providing many things for pets. Divide a piece of chart paper into three columns. Label the first column “What Pets Need.” Label the second column “What Pets Like to Have.” Label the last column “Just for Fun.” Have kindergartners name things that pet owners give their pets such as food, water, homes, beds, toys, walks in the park, leashes, clothes, birthday presents, treats, hair bows, vet care and anything else that comes to mind. Have kindergartners help you decide the correct column to write each pet care item in.
Who Eats This?
Bring in clear plastic sandwich bags filled with samples of dog food, cat food, bird seed, fish food flakes, lettuce leaves and rabbit pellets. Ask friends, neighbors and parents of your students to help gather sample pet foods if you don’t have these types of pet foods at home. On index cards, glue pictures of pets that match the sample foods you have collected. Allow students to look, touch and smell the different types of food and see if they can correctly match the food to the picture of the animal that eats that food.
Animal Shelter Field Trip
Take a field trip to a local animal shelter or veterinarian’s office. Ask animal care staff to talk with kindergartners about basic pet care such as feeding, exercising and grooming. Ask animal care staff to show students instruments they use when looking after pets such as weight scales, stethoscopes, thermometers and penlights for eyes and ears.