Inside: Creating a forest animals theme encourage our toddlers and preschoolers to become engaged in lots of hands-on activities. There are multiple sets of printables provided, too, that can be used in the classroom or homeschool.
In the fall we like to take time to explore forest animals in our toddler and preschool classroom. We especially enjoyed learning about bats, owls, squirrels, and raccoons. This gave us the opportunity to also learn that some animals sleep during the day instead of at night!
This was also a good time to take a nature walk, noticing the birds and squirrels that shared our play area.
👉 Scroll down towards the end of this post to find free printables you can use during your forest animals theme!
Setting Up the Forest Animals Theme in the Toddler and Preschool Classroom
Take a tour of my classroom set up here:
As soon as I found these adorable forest friends felt masks, I knew they had to be part of our dramatic play area. I pulled out all our wooden bowls to go with our fruits and vegetables, and a cute little fall tray that I got at Target years ago.
I think our children loved the masks even more because we are close to Halloween, so their excitement to wear costumes (including masks) is pretty high!
I took our owl cookie cutter and traced around it on heavy paper to make little owls to stick in our playdough. Seriously, I made these probably 15 years ago and they’ve held up very well, especially considering that other classes have used them, too!
After tracing and cutting the owls out, I glued them to popsicle sticks. Right now our 2 year olds LOVE pushing sticks into playdough!
Literacy on the Felt Board
Many years ago I found black and white clip art of the owls from the book Owl Babies. I had used colored pencils to add highlights and laminated them, hoping they’d be part of our forest animals theme for lots of years. I’m happy to say that they are still holding up quite well, and loved just as much today and all those years ago.
I added velcro to the backs of the owls so they could stick to a felt board.
One of our teachers created a tree out of felt and I just knew everything would be perfect for our felt board.
I read Owl Babies during circle time, using the 3 owls as props. I then invited the children to act out the story on the felt board.
(Note: the felt board was given to me free of charge last spring in exchange for a review. It comes with a complete set of felt upper and lower case letters, too. You can read more about it here.)
Science & Exploration
We explored bats at our science and exploration table, along with the book Amazing Bats and our magnifying stands. I also hung some bats in the window next to this area, and borrowed a fun bat tablecloth that one of the other teachers added to our theme box.
I had leftover clear plastic plates from our ladybug suncatchers, so I found a way for us to turn them into bats.
You can read more about them here: How to Make a Bat Suncatcher
Forest Animals Stick Puppets
I love using props during circle time, and it’s even better when the children help make them! I made copies of my forest animals color pages (available towards the bottom of this post) and added large craft sticks.
You can read how to make them here: Easy Forest Animal Puppets (with Free Printables)
One of our very favorite toys is Magnatiles. Seriously, these magnetic building tiles are loved by every age in our preschool. So I cleared away the trains and used the train table for our collection of Magnatiles, plus also our Goobi Juniors Magnetic Construction Set. This set, by the way, is for toddlers as young as 1, and they are so much fun!
I created some fun printables for our children to use during our forest animal theme.
Click on each photo below to download the free pdf printable:
More toddler and preschool themes:
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