I love teaching about the forest because the island I live on is heavily forested. So for my students, it’s all very relatable. Whether you are used to hearing owls at night or not these books about forest animals will be a great addition to your preschool library. These first animal books for preschool are a mix of story and facts, and make good books for circle time as well as your STEM areas!
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Books About Forest animals for preschoolers
Nightsong Ari Berk’s book tells a story of a young bat venturing out into the world on its own for the first time. The bat must rely on its own instincts to navigate the darkness of night. However, before leaving, its mother warns it not to go too far unless it is confident in its abilities. While adults may view this as a display of the bat’s confidence, children who have read this book have expressed concern for its safety. Although I enjoyed reading this book, I believe its figurative language may not appeal to its intended audience. If interested, check it out at the library and form your opinion.
The Mitten by Jan Brett tells the story of a mitten that continues to stretch as more animals crawl inside until the bear sneezes and hilarity ensues. The illustrations are busy yet beautiful, with something new to discover every time you read it. What’s great about this book is that it appeals to a wide range of ages. In fact, my 2 and 3-year-old classroom enjoyed it just as much as my 8-year-old son did. It’s a delightful read and one of my favorite forest animal books for preschool.
Tall Tall Tree by Anthony D. Fredricks is a classroom favorite, especially at circle time. I am so happy I found this book last fall and am reading it again as part of a lesson about forest animals. This book is about the various creatures in a coastal forest. Students will enjoy counting them, while some will require searching. Bonus: it’s a rhyming counting book!
Dinosaur Woods by George McClements is a hilarious read that kept me laughing all the way through. The author’s snide remarks and witty asides were the perfect combination for a great read. However, I made a mistake by hyping it up to my then 5-year-old son when we first read it 12 years ago, who unfortunately didn’t quite understand the humor. Despite that, the story is still fantastic on its own, with a group of forest friends coming up with a plan to save their home from developers by creating a dinosaur. It’s a heartwarming and funny tale that highlights conservation’s importance. I use it in my PreK classes all the time and just like my son, the kids don’t get the humor but still love the book!
Time To Sleep by Denise Fleming. I recently came across a delightful book that explores the topic of hibernation and the animals that participate in this seasonal slumber. What I appreciate about this book is its simplicity, making it perfect for our brief yet captivating circle time. The illustrations are charming, and the uncomplicated text provides ample opportunities for extension activities, particularly those focusing on sequencing.
Owls by Gail Gibbons is a great book all about Owls. I don’t usually read the whole book to my students. It’s a fantastic book, but there is a lot in one sitting to digest. Instead, I read the relevant parts to the lesson I am teaching and pop it on our science table afterward.
Birds by Kevin Henkes. The illustrations in this book are absolutely stunning! I was captivated by the pictures and found myself wanting to study certain pages much like I would examine a painting at a museum. This book is an excellent choice for toddlers and young preschoolers as it is nonfiction, easy to understand, and has a great flow. The colors are so vivid that even infants may find it appealing. Overall, it’s an awesome book that I highly recommend!
A Friend for All Seasons by Julia Hubery is a gem! This book is an excellent resource for young children to learn about the changing of seasons in a fun and easy-to-understand way. The story follows Robbie Raccoon as he notices the changes happening around his home, a big oak tree. A heartwarming part of the book was when Robbie and his woodland friends noticed the tree’s leaves falling and thought he was crying, so they give him a hug. Robbie’s mama raccoon then explained the changes, and before they went to sleep for the long winter, they planted five acorns. This was an exciting part of the book because parents can extend the lesson into science about seeds and the life cycle of an oak tree. When Spring arrived, Robbie found tiny baby oaks waiting for him. This book is highly recommended – I just read it to my students yesterday!
Under and Over the Snow by Kate Messner is a favorite book I use in my preschool classroom. I use it to teach all about hibernation and how different parts of nature handle seasonal changes in their own way. Children love seeing how the secret world of hibernating animals is busy below ground as we all play and ski above them. This is a longer book, and in the past, I’ve chosen to read and skip some pages during group times as I saw fit based on my group.
A Kiss Goodbye by Audrey Penn is a sequel to one of my favorite books, The Kissing Hand. Chester, a small raccoon, is the protagonist of the book. He is forced to leave his home and move to another tree due to the imminent destruction of his current one. The story explores the emotions of fear and uncertainty that come with moving. Even someone as experienced as I am with moving can relate to Chester’s struggles. The book is highly recommended, and readers are encouraged to check out other works by the same author from the library.
A Pocket Full of Kisses by Audrey Penn is another book in her Kissing Hand series. It’s heartening to see that Chester’s jealousy isn’t over material possessions, but rather Mama giving his little brother a kissing hand too. When Chester raccoon starts crying, both kids and adults can relate to his emotions. Mom raccoon handles the situation beautifully, and Chester learns that a mother’s love for one child doesn’t diminish her love for others. This book is a great way to start a conversation about welcoming a new sibling, and I recommend it to other parents dealing with jealousy or new siblings.
Little Owl’s Night by Divya Srinivasan is a sweet story that introduces children to nocturnal animals in a gentle way. The dark may feel scary to young children but as they read this book they will see that the animals that wake up at night aren’t all scary beasts to be fearful of. The cartoon-like illustrations are amazing and bright despite the nighttime setting. Very cute book.
Leaves by David Ezra Stein is such a sweet book about a young bear who doesn’t understand what is happening when he sees leaves falling from the trees. He even tries to put the fallen leaves back on the trees to no avail. Eventually, he lays down for a nap and hibernates until Spring when he happily notices that new tiny leaves are budding on the trees. This is a great book introducing the idea of hibernation and seasonal changes. Ask your students what they notice about the environment at different points in the book. I appreciate that this book is simple enough for my 2.5-year-olds but just as useful and engaging for Prek.
The Busy Little Squirrel by Nancy Tafuri is a great book for babies and toddlers. Young readers can follow a squirrel on her quest to collect nuts, seeds, and berries for the winter. Along the way, she meets different animals who make unique sounds and ask her to play. However, she remains focused on her task. Although the concept may not be groundbreaking, this book is a great tool for teaching animal sounds to toddlers in an engaging way without using flashcards. Even if real animals are unavailable, books like this can be an effective and authentic resource for teaching young children.
Owl Babies by Martin Waddell is perfectly written for toddlers who are eager to “do it myself” but still need a loving parent safely within view. Three baby owls wake to find their mom away. As time passes, the three all get more anxious in their own ways. My daughter loves this book and completely relates to poor little Bill, who repeats, “I want my mommy!” over and over. At night, she is very much like little Bill, but during the day, she is braver like the other two owls, Sarah and Percy. No matter what level of separation anxiety your child may have at times, they will relate to one or all of the little owls. Of course, the story ends with Mama coming back and reassuring her little owl babies that she always will.
Scaredy Squirrel at Night by Melanie Watt. This book about Scaredy Squirrel is quite enjoyable. His amusing anxiety, habit of pretending to be dead, and comical expressions always make me burst out laughing when I read about him. It’s especially relevant to many young children who struggle with nighttime anxiety. I had anticipated a humorous read, but it turned out to be heartfelt and informative on overcoming fears. As a new parent, the parts on sleep deprivation definitely resonated with me.