It’s not every day that you can take your kids to another continent to explore the wildlife. Okay, maybe on the “next to never” plan of events. I’m so thankful for our zoos that allow our kids to learn about animals and animal habitats right close to home!
This printable zoo animal pattern block activity for preschool is a great way to start the conversation about some of the animals that they will see on a trip to the zoo. Additional bonuses for this fun preschool activity include fine motor skill development, visual discrimination, and scanning for details.
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Zoo Activities for Preschoolers
Zoo-themed activities for preschoolers are a great way to teach them about the world outside of their little zone. Most preschoolers don’t understand the concept of city, state, country, let alone the fact that there are entire oceans that separate them from other parts of the world.
Fun learning activities for early childhood can include conversations about zoo animals, books, and activities. You can discuss vocabulary associated with individual animals, the natural habitats of the animals in the zoo, characteristics of each animal, what they eat, and so much more!
Visiting the Zoo with Preschoolers
Teaching preschoolers about animals that live in the zoo is also a great way to build empathy and understanding of the importance of taking care of the world around us, as well as protecting endangered animals.
We try to make a visit to our nearest zoo at least once a year. Some of our favorites have been the Smithsonian National Zoo in Washington D.C., and Henry Doorley Zoo in Omaha, Nebraska. My kids have even been to a couple of zoos in Eastern Europe.
As we get ready to make our trip to the zoo, I like to incorporate activities about zoo animals for my youngest daughter. I do have teens and tweens (how did that happen?!) who are animal lovers and enjoy doing their own research on their favorite animals. Even for teens, a trip to the zoo can inspire them to a future career in one of the many aspects of caring for zoo animals.
I also have a special needs 8-year-old, who loves learning about animals. I created this set of free printable zoo animal pattern block mats for her.
Fine Motor Activities for Preschool
The development of fine motor skills is super important for my daughter because she has Rett Syndrome. Most kids with Rett Syndrome are not able to use their hands in any meaningful way.
Shiloh actually has great fine motor skills considering her diagnosis, but it is important to us to continue working on them so that we can hopefully prevent some of the regression that is commonly seen in girls with Rett Syndrome.
I love using activities like these pattern block animal mats for our zoo animal theme because she can work on her fine motor skills and several other skills at the same time.
Free Therapy Activity for Special Needs Kids
These free printable pattern block templates offer more than meets the eye:
Visual discrimination skills:
- Which picture is different? Why?
- Mark the shapes that you use
- Match the pattern block pieces to the image on the mat
Fine motor (small muscle) skills:
- Pick up the pattern block pieces
- Place the pattern block shapes onto the correct place on the pattern block mat
- Pre-writing skills include crossing off the matching shapes and circling the picture that does not match for each preschool zoo printable
Visual Scanning Strength
- Scan the image to find the matching pattern block pieces
- Scan the set of three images to find which picture does not match
- Scan the shape images at the bottom of the page and the zoo animal image to find matching shapes
Make Differentiation Easy
Morning work for us includes intentionally working on fine motor skills. You might already be working on these essential skills with your preschoolers without a lot of extra effort.
Even kids without special needs can benefit from these pattern block pattern mats! They are a great way to continue to build on essential skills that kids will need throughout their lives!
For students who are easily overwhelmed with a whole bucket of pattern blocks, place only the blocks needed for a specific mat on a paper plate.
I also like to use the free pattern block templates for fun gross motor skill development. Children can pick an animal to mimic its movements and sounds.
We have discovered over the last few months that visual scanning strength can be directly related to Shiloh’s ability to stay focused on an activity. It seems to be a big reason why she struggles so much with things like one-to-one correspondence when counting because her eyes need to stay focused on the items.
We’ve been going to vision therapy for six weeks, but Shiloh hates it with a passion because it makes her eyes so tired.
These zoo animal pattern block designs are like a dose of magical medicine for us. It’s ‘occupational therapy’ that doesn’t create a battle of wills because she thinks they are so fun! And I love that she gets to work on so many of her challenging skills through play!
I hope you will enjoy these pattern block pictures as much as we do!
Our Favorite Animal Books:
We can’t live without these!
Once your child’s creativity is sparked with this fun activity, take it a step further with these engaging resources:
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The View at the Zoo1, 2, 3 to the Zoo: A Counting BookI Spy Ocean Animal Book for Kids Ages 2-5: A Fun Guessing Game Picture Puzzle Activity Book for Early Learning Children | Sea Animal Interactive Alphabet Book for Preschoolers and KindergartnersCutest Animals on the Planet (National Geographic)National Geographic Readers: TigersWorld of Eric Carle, Around the Farm 30-Button Animal Sound Book – Great for First Words – PI KidsOcean Animals for Kids: A Junior Scientist’s Guide to Whales, Sharks, and Other Marine LifeZoobooksNational Geographic Little KidsNational Geographic Readers: Cats vs. Dogs1, 2 at the ZooGood Night, GorillaZooLet’s Go to Our Zoo (Smithsonian Kids)If I Lived At The Zoo