Did you know we do letter-themed math for each letter of the alphabet? Since we’re taking the alphabet out of order (starting with the letters easiest to write), letter A brings us just past the middle. I decided to make good use of our large collection of toy animal figures and do a set of math activities with animals for preschoolers.
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So do you have any toy animal figures at home? Here are just a few options for you on Amazon:
We’re big fans of Schleich animals and the Learning Resource sets. We’ve spent several years of birthdays and Christmases accumulating a large set of toy animal figures. If you’d like to go the less expensive route, I’d recommend the Safari Ltd. Toob sets. The animals are much smaller and not as life-like, but you can get certainly get a larger set for less money.
What kinds of preschool math can you do with toy animals? The activities are endless, but in the spirit of keeping things simple we kept it to five.
1 – Ordering – Order toy animals by size
I started with just three animals and had my Three put them in order from tallest to shortest. At first he put the largest animal first (the elephant) before the giraffe (the tallest). But he soon got the hang of it and was able to do larger sets in no time.
2 – Shapes – Put toy animals on shape print-outs
I created a set of simple shape outlines and had my boys put animals on them, naming the shapes as they did so. I didn’t expect my Three to remember the harder shapes, but I included the hexagon, pentagon, and octagon for the sake of my Five. After we had an animal on each shape, I asked questions like, “Which animal is on the triangle?” This activity was a big hit! You can get my shape printables here: Giant shape outlines.
3 – Measuring, Estimating – How many cubes long is each toy animal?
My boys really got into this one! Not too long ago I purchased a set of Unifix cubes. These are really worth the money (if you can keep track of the cubes and not let your kids leave them everywhere…ahem…). One great use for unifix cubes is measuring length. My boys guessed how long each animal was and then checked their estimation using Unifix cubes. They got very good at it!
We used this recording sheet. You can write it all yourself or have your preschooler help you if he’s able and willing. My Three actually wanted to fill his own in — he didn’t get anything on the correct lines, but he loves for me to tell him how to spell things so he can write them. (Don’t ask if you can read it or not!) Get the free recording sheet here: Measuring with cubes recording sheet – the measured mom.
4 – Sorting – Sort the Animals
This is a fun activity that you can make easy or challenging depending on your child. Simply tell your child how to sort the animals according to a certain rule. For example: “Put the animals who live on land here, and the animals who live in water, here.” If you have props, like a toy barn, or a big piece of blue felt to represent the ocean — even better. Here are some ideas for sorting:
a. big and small animals
b. farm animals, wild animals, and pets
c. animals with fur, feathers, or neither
d. sea and land animals
e. animals with stripes, spots, or neither
f. reptiles, mammals, birds, etc.
Here my Five is putting the animals into two groups: ocean animals and zoo animals. Animals that didn’t fit either group were set aside.
5 – Problem Solving- Guess My Sort & How are they the same?
This is going to require some higher level thinking for your child. This time you put together a group of animals who have something in common, and your child determines what that thing is. Start simple by putting the giant animals in one pile and the tiny animals in another. Gradually create more challenging problems… like pets and zoo animals, or dangerous animals and gentle ones.
I decided to make this activity a little more challenging by showing my Five just a single set of animals. He had to determine what they had in common. Of course, sometimes there is more than one correct answer. Your child may surprise you. I grouped together a horse, donkey, and zebra and actually wasn’t sure how to name what they had in common. My Five noted that they all had manes.
In this case, all the animals were pets.
Here are ways you could group the animals:
a. zoo animals
b. wild animals
d. animals who feed babies their own milk
e. reptiles, mammals, insects, birds, fish, or amphibians (depending on your child’s knowledge)
f. animals with feathers (or fur or scales)
g. animals that fly
h. animals that swim
i. animals that have four legs (or two or six)
There’s really no end to the possibilities!
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