Science Ideas for Preschoolers About Zoo Animals

Get your child thinking about the differences between animals and you'll have lots to talk about during your trip to the zoo.
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Do you have a budding zoologist or veterinarian on your hands? It's time to turn that love of animals into fun science projects that may even help your preschooler learn a thing or two. Follow these projects up with a trip to the zoo, where your child can talk like an expert about traits, habitats and other exciting facts.

1 Characteristics

This game gets preschoolers thinking about similarities between different types of animals. Cut out pictures of different animals or use picture cards if you have them. Have your child group the animals together in piles based on physical characteristics; for example, different piles for fur, feathers and scales. Ask your child why he thinks a polar bear has fur, why a seal has flippers and why a bird has feathers. His answers are sure to be creative, and possibly right, and it gives you a chance to discuss habitats.

2 Are You as Tall as a...

If there's one thing preschoolers want, it's to be big and tall. Do a little research and find out the average height of various animals. Get out a measuring tape and a picture book about animals, and ask your preschooler if she thinks she's as tall as a penguin. Measure and find out. Keep turning pages for more animals. Your child can then measure you, a chair, the family cat, and other creatures and objects as you try to find things equal in height to various zoo animals. You can continue this game when you're out on a walk or at the park. Just ask "do you a monkey is as tall as this slide?" It's sure to elicit giggles and get your child thinking about height. Then head to the zoo for visual confirmation on the animals as tall as your child. She'll be excited to find the matches.

3 Monkeying Around

Who says you have to sit still while conducting scientific research? Have fun and get your child moving after a trip to the zoo by building a monkey obstacle course together. While at the zoo, point out different features of the monkey enclosure to your child and suggest building a monkey house together the next day. This will get him thinking about it. Try incorporating monkey bars, branches or picnic tables to climb over and under and even a rope or swing to use as a vine. Then have your little monkey run the course, making monkey sounds all the way. For science, of course.

4 Build a Zoo

This fun activity gets your preschooler thinking about habitats. Find three wide bowls or plastic containers and fill one with water, one with sand and one with grass. Find plastic animal figures like wild animals, farm animals, sharks and other marine creatures. Now ask your child to match the animals to the correct habitat. Try including a few animals that your child may not recognize and see if he can correctly guess where they go.

5 Hungry, Hungry Animals

Have your child gather many types of food, like fruit, leaves or a hot dog. Spread your haul out on the table and ask her what she likes to eat. Now use plastic animals or pictures to match animals with their preferred food sources. Make some silly suggestions of your own to make the game a little more fun. When you visit the zoo together, ask her what each animal eats. It'll test her memory and make her proud of her newfound knowledge. Some zoos offer certain times when zookeepers feed the animals. Try to time your visit so your child can see that feeding in action.

Darlene Peer has been writing, editing and proofreading for more than 10 years. Peer has written for magazines and contributed to a number of books. She has worked in various fields, from marketing to business analysis. Peer received her Bachelor of Arts in English from York University.