Any activity based on a zoo theme is a favorite of small children.

Zoo-Themed Activities for Perceptual & Gross Motor Skills

by Mary Davis

"Look at me!" Your little daughter calls out. You're just as proud of her as she is of herself for doing something new. Each new movement -- whether she runs, skips, hops or twirls -- helps develop her large motor skills. And, when she mimics a monkey's silliness or flies like a bird, she's showing her perceptual knowledge. Whether you're organizing a playdate, a birthday party or just having fun with your own kids, turn together time into a fun zoo time. Activities like these help develop motor and perceptual skills, while she's enjoying time with other kids or just fun time with mommy.

1. Feed the Animals

Make some quick zoo-animal tossing targets. Glue magazine pictures of zoo animals onto the front of empty cereal boxes. Or use zoo-print paper plates available in party stores. Cut a mouth hole in each of the animal pictures, with some holes being larger and some smaller. Provide real foods, like in-the-shell peanuts, apples or cereal pieces for her to toss into the animals' mouths. Encourage her to think about which size of mouth she would toss the larger the foods into. Keep the game pieces around for playing at any time, and tell her she can toss beanbags, blocks or soft toys into the animals' mouths.

2. Animal Races

"On your mark, Get ready, Get set..." Buy some zoo animal cards, or use the game pieces to make a racing game. Get silly and show your little boy how each animal moves, encouraging him to make the same motions. Use words like fast, slow, walk, crawl, swim, fly and slither. Pair your child up with a sibling or a friend, or play the race game with him yourself. Have him pick a card. On the word, "go", everyone should move like the animal on the card to a finish line.

3. Let's Limbo

Toddlers and preschoolers love active games, especially those that are a little different from the "same old, same old'' type. Use a swimming pool noodle as a limbo bar. Set it low enough so that your youngest child will need to bend to pass under the limbo bar. Say the names of some interesting animals that she can mimic trying to get under the limbo pole. Your child will have to figure out the best way for that creature to get under the pole. For example, he can drop to the floor and crawl slowly like a turtle, or bend backward to get his giraffe neck under the pole. It is also quite all right to crawl through on all-fours like a zebra. An elephant would have to make sure his trunk didn't get in the way, and kangaroo can possibly hop right over the pole. Use plenty of language, and play some zoo music for a livelier game.

4. Welcome to the Zoo

Let your preschool daughter's imagination soar as she creates one or more zoo animals to display on the porch or inside the front door. Supply cardboard boxes, wrapping paper tubes, paper bags, construction paper and some child-safe art tools. She can make everything from turtles and alligators, giraffes to hippos, exotic fish to birds and monkeys to apes to delight those who enter your "zoo."

Photo Credits

  • Thinkstock/Comstock/Getty Images