This is a Re-post of my article from ParentEdge magazine http://parentedge.in/teaching-your-children-about-the-natural-world/2/
Note that this article has been edited.
Teaching your children about the natural world
We introduce our kids to some common animals at a very young age. Which child will not know Cat, Dog, Monkey, Lion and birds like Crow, Pigeon, or Parrots? However, our children are not exposed to a wider range of the natural living world. How many children know Seagull, Vulture, Yak, Mongoose, Hyrax, or Wildebeest at an age of 3, 4, or even 9?
The activities I list below will open up a new world to your children and increase their knowledge of the animal kingdom. You can add other learning to these with Phonics and Alphabets as well.
These activities are designed for any child who can independently cut, glue, converse, and has a basic understanding of the living world around us. Alternatively, parents can conduct this activity for their toddlers or preschoolers.
- A large flat surface to work on: like the table or the floor.
- Print outs of several insects – uncut sheet: check image below for some of the insect names.
- Print outs of several animals – each animal cut into a square card. Make sure you have a variety of animal types like ones that live in the cold, in tropical or warm areas, mammals, non-mammals, etc. You may choose to keep the sheet uncut if you wish for the kids to do it.
- A pair of scissors per child.
- Glue stick per child.
- Markers and crayons for decoration.
ACTIVITY ONE – INSECT GARDEN
- Introduce children to all the insects you have on the sheet/s. You may share some fun facts about each insect at this point.
- Inform the kids that they are going to make an insect garden of their own, the way they like it. Show them an example from the image below and mention that different children make it in different ways and they are all ‘okay’. There is no one way to make it.
- Have children cut out all the insects. If you notice in the picture, I did not have insects printed in an aligned manner. This means it wasn’t as simple as cutting them into squares. Children had to work hard to cut around rounded areas without cutting into the next image. This helps increase attention, motor movements, eye-brain-hand co-ordination, and overall practice!
Allow them to stick their insects on a blank, white page to create their unique ‘Insect Farm’ or ‘Insect Garden’. They may use markers and colors to decorate the space and even draw.
5. Bring to their attention that they may categorize the insects as per their wish. In the image above, my daughter (age 5) categorized them as the ones she Loves and ones she Doesn’t Love. Some other kids categorized them by ones that can fly and ones that crawl OR they may not categorize them at all
6. They may create and share a story out of their garden if they wish to.
ACTIVITY TWO – ANIMAL and BIRD PLAY CARDS
- Have the animal and bird play cards either cut out beforehand or have the kids do it.
- DO NOT go over each animal or bird. We are going to leave it for the kids to discover that on their own.
- Challenge the kids to be able to separate the birds and animals in two sections in the shortest time possible. You may time the kids if you wish.
Go over the answers and see who did it right. Note that some of them could be a challenge. g. Bats are animals that can fly (mammals) and ostriches are birds even though they cannot fly
5. You may now play other games using the same cards and may even make groups to challenge the kids. Eg.You can see in my animal section, I have categorized animals that live in the cold, ones that are found in the African Safaris, and the rest kept separate.
Make up your own games with these cards. Below are some examples I have stated.
- Phonics: Kids must pick out all the cards that belong to the alphabet sound you make.
g. if you say the sound ‘Au’, they must pull out Ostrich and Ox. Focus on the sound here, not the alphabet.
- Alphabet: Kids must categorize all animals and birds mixed together as per their starting or ending letters.
E.g. Seagull, Seal go in one section.
- Letters: Kids must arrange cards as per the letters you mention.
E.g. if you say all the cards that have an ‘H’ in them go in the same category. So Ostrich, Cheetah, Hummingbird go in one section.
- Patterns: Kids must arrange all cards in altering patterns like one animal, one bird. You may time them for the same.
- Quiz: Take up to 6 cards at a time to help kids memorize names with 3-4 repetitions and then quiz them. Doing all the cards at once may be too overwhelming.
- G.K.: Share more information about each animal / bird.
E.g. The reason why bats are not birds and ostriches are not animals. How different animals adapt to their environment; offspring names, and so on.
Parents, share your responses on these activities. Do you find this activity easy, fun, and educational? How soon are you committed to perform this activity with your kid/s? Did your kid/s enjoy these? What are your questions and queries? Do write back.