Build Your Own Zoo – Pretend Play

draw build and play zooThe battle against screen time is a constant struggle with my kindergartener so when I find an activity that he loves and keeps him engaged for a long time I feel like I’ve won the lottery. This build your own zoo pretend play  hit all the right notes for him. I intended it to be for both kids but my daughter was not so excited about his vision for the zoo so we read zoo animal books while he crafted his very own zoo. I loved how involved he was from start to finish and that I could work in some writing practice ( every little bit helps) that didn’t feel like practice at all.

  1. Gather your materials. You will need some craft paper ( get it at the dollar store and save!) , blocks, animal toys/ puzzle pieces , crayons, some painters tape and scissors.zoo blocks
  2. Start by cutting a large piece of craft paper block zoo cuttingand taping it ( using the painter’s tape ) to the floor. Only do this on hard surfaces or the paper will rip and tear when you try to write and draw on it.block zoo activity for kids
  3. Talk about the design for a zoo. My son and I have made up worlds we tell stories about all the time ( Mine is called Mommyland … original eh?) and we decided to base the layout on the zoo from his imagination. I drew the outline as he explained it to me but the rest was up to him.
  4. Next sort the animals and build their enclosures.zoo block play writing He started with snakes. These stretchy snakes are adored in our house for some odd reason . He wrote the sign, the built the house and arranged the snakes. It took a lot of patience to arrange them just so.zoo block play
  5. Arctic animals were next. Starting with the sign zoo block play for kidsthen building the structure and adding the animals. zoo block play for kids 2
  6. Africa and the petting zoo were next followed by the whales.block zoo play No he didn’t write those words , after a few he asked if I could do it and I did to keep the momentum of the play going. The goal wasn’t to force him to write it was to play so I was happy to help.zoo block pretend play
  7. I think the most interesting observation for me watching my son do this was how he really wanted a specific design. I loved seeing him sit back like this to take it all in.zoo blocks pretend play

Books

Books-About-The-Zoo

Check out our favorite books about the zoo here! I like to include books with activities to deepen the learning and extend the interest in the topic.

Block Tower Patterns

by Allison McDonald Block towers patterns for preschoolKids love to sort and sorting is a stepping stone to recognizing and making patterns. Using toys and playful activities to work on math skills is the only way I do it with preschoolers.  My son loved doing more structured work so I offered it to him but my daughter is much more into using manipulatives and toys for learning . These block tower patterns let your kids explore patterns and even if they don’t complete the pattern they are still building a tower . Depending on your child and your goals for them you can choose to correct them or simply have fun building towers knowing that they might not be ready for this challenge yet .

  1. Gather your materials. All you will need are some blocks that stay together . Duplo or Little People Builders are my favorite for this age group but if you are doing this with older children regular Lego is awesome. I like blocks that inter-lock because the goal is to pattern and/or build and if your child is spending all their time rebuilding towers that fall apart they could get frustrated and in our house frustration often leads to the end of an activity. block tower patterns
  2. Make some simple pattern towers with the blocks. Set the blocks needed to complete the patterns to the side. Depending on your child’s ability you can put only the blocks needed here to work as prompts or have lots of options to make it more of a challenge.
  3. Invite your little tower builder over to check it out. patterns for preschool All I told her was that I built some towers and needed help to figure out which blocks go next. If she was older I would have said something more like ” Do you notice anything about these towers? ” If they don’t notice the pattern I would say ” I see a pattern. Do you think we could keep the pattern going ?”
  4. She was on these towers like a house on fire. tpwer patterns for preschoolOnce I saw that she was getting it I would question her if she put a block that wasn’t in the pattern on . Saying something like ” Let’s sing this pattern. Blue red white blue red … what ‘s next? ” of ” Do you see that color in the tower?”  It’s a fine line of keeping it playful but giving your child a challenge they can do. I don’t always say the right things.
  5. After she completed each tower she built a huge one and knocked it over in celebration. using blocks for patterningThen we did it all again! block tower patterning for preschoolThat’s the best part of this you can do it over and over again. Each time we celebrated!pattern block towers 2

Keeping learning playful is a huge goal of mine and even though you see the more structured side of this on the blog these activities make up only a very tiny part of our day and some days not even that much. Noticing patterns during every day play is a great way to introduce them to your child. Observations don’t have to spin into drawn out lessons just observe, talk and keep playing. For more fun math ideas for your preschooler check out our Math is Fun board on Pinterest.

 

Monster Blocks & Memory Game For Halloween

halloween craft What could be better than a fun and educational game that your kids like and you can also use as Halloween decor? One that you can make really easily and also sparkles! Lucky for you that is exactly what we made and will show you how to make. Thanks to Mod Podge for sending me just what I needed to make these monster blocks. They were a cinch to make and will do double duty working as a fun toy by day and as funky Halloween decorations after my little monsters go to bed.

  1. Gather your materials. You will need some wood blocks (ours were cut to 2 1/2″ x 2 1/2″ x 1 1/2″), pictures you want to use (download ours here), Mod Podge Washout For Kids, Mod Podge brush applicator, scissors, a wood file or sand paper, some paper plates, and my favorite material: sparkle Mod Podge.
  2. Start by cutting your wood blocks. My husband makes a rare appearance and somehow made exactly what I envisioned even though my description was far from exact.
  3. File down the sharp edges and sand so they are smooth enough for kids to handle.
  4. Cut your monster pictures out, apply a thin layer of Mod Podge on the wood, and apply the picture.
  5. Apply another thin layer on top. Let dry overnight.
  6. My son couldn’t wait for the final sparkle layer. We played, and he pummeled me at memory before I added the layer of sparkle Mod Podge.
  7. Add the sparkle – this dries fast! As soon as I saw how much it sparkled, I started thinking of all the other crafts we can make with this. Expect great things! Let it dry for at least a day before playing. If it gets tacky (ours was not tacky at all) Mod Podge suggests applying a clear acrylic sealer after the Mod Podge cures.
  8. Time to play. As soon as I showed my daughter the finished monster blocks, she couldn’t wait to play. I showed her where all the pieces were, flipped them over, and she surprised me with how many she matched up. Her excitement with each match was adorable to watch.  Also, the big blocks were perfect for her hands. Many other match or memory games are on cards, and while she can flip the cards over, sometimes they get tricky and frustration ruins the fun. That didn’t happen with these monster blocks.mod podge
I wrote this post as part of a paid campaign with Mod Podge and Blueprint Social. The opinions in this post are my own.