Inside: There are so many fun toddler and preschool penguin theme ideas! We not only made penguins, but we also explored them at the light table and the exploration table. We even had fun dancing like penguins! Free printables are included.
After kicking off the winter season with our snow and ice theme, we move to the penguin theme.
This is a fun time to explore not only penguins, but also black and white. For older preschoolers, you could add opposites activities as well.
During our preschool penguin theme, we had an exploration table based on the book Baby Penguins Everywhere, a colorful penguin light table based on the book Penguins Love Color, and black and white painting at the easel. We also danced like penguins, thanks to Jack Hartmann!
As all of our toddler and preschool themes, our penguin theme was filled with simple, hands-on activities.
👉 Scroll down to find free printables that we used this week!
Toddler and Preschool Penguin Theme Ideas
Dramatic Play Penguin Theme Ideas
Last week our toddlers and preschoolers loved the Hot Cocoa Song, so I put together a pretend hot coco stand in the dramatic play area. Someone donated a used coffee maker a few years back, and since the carafe isn’t glass, it’s perfect to use with pretend play. We also had cookie baking going on with our sliced wooden cookie set, cookie sheets, and pot holders!
I created a printable packet that was part of the scene. (Scroll down to find the free printables.) The sign invited the children to set up their shop and sort the marshmallows (white pom poms) and chocolate (laminated pieces of brown construction paper).
The children loved sitting at the little table wearing penguin hats and colorful scarves while pretending to drink their cups of hot cocoa. They loved it even more when a teacher would join them. We were served many cups of “hot cocoa” and wooden cookies!
Science and Exploration
If you are familiar with the game Pengaloo, you have seen its sweet wooden penguins. I just love using them as a display during our penguin theme!
I love color at the light table, so when I found these mini colorful rubber penguins, I easily put together what turned out to be one of the most popular light table activities yet.
As I mentioned earlier, the penguin theme is a perfect time to add some black and white activities to your classroom.
We saved the Kinetic sand that was in our sensory bin the week prior, this time adding an assortment of black and white pieces, scoops, and tongs.
I admit, this one was a bit hard for me. Whenever I do a search for penguin art on Pinterest, I mostly see adult-directed crafts. (Some honestly look like they were completely done by adults.) Those of you who know me get that I am not fond of this method with younger children. When I do crafts, I try to add some sort of process art in one of the steps.
So, when we made these penguins, the first step was using marbles and black paint in a bag to paint the body.
Once they were dry, I worked with the children in small groups to add the details. We referred to our favorite big plush penguin while putting together the details. How many eyes did he have? Was his beak above or below his eyes? How many feet do you have? How many does the penguin have?
It actually created a fun discussion as the pieces were glued to each penguin’s body, following up with a fun penguin dance at circle time.
I think just about every winter during my 20 years of teaching we have made some sort of watercolor snowflake. I’m quite sure I made them myself using coffee filters. However, I think I’m losing my snowflake touch because I can’t seem to cut anything that resembles a snowflake! So, I cheated and purchased pre-made snowflakes. (Yikes!) These were actually leftover from last year, so I didn’t feel quite as bad.
If you teach older children who have good cutting skills, perhaps they could cut their own snowflakes. (I’m sure they’d do a better job than me!)
My real goal with this activity is to boost fine motor skills. Using droppers like the ones shown in the picture below is a great squeezing exercise, and it takes concentration as the liquid is sucked into the dropper, transferred to the snowflake, and released.
Another fun black and white activity was using black paint on white paper. We first used brayers and later in the week switched to paintbrushes.
Our young preschoolers have been fascinated with making balls out of playdough.
It all started when we were making snowmen awhile back. I started pinching small pieces of playdough and rolling them in balls using the palms of my hands.
Once the children realized they, too, could make their own playdough balls, they were on a mission.
So, while creating the signs for our hot cocoa shop, I added some marshmallow counting mats that I laminated and added to our playdough table. This is a fun way to work on counting as well as fine motor skills!
Note: Scroll down to find these counting mats in our free hot cocoa packet.
We recently got a new kitchen table, and inside the box were huge sheets of Styrofoam. Now, I know what some of you are already thinking, and I was right there with you. After all, my last experience with a sheet of Styrofoam ended up looking like this.
So, it’s taken me 2 years to be brave enough to bring it back into the classroom.
But I really wanted to put together a fine motor activity that would involve pressing matchsticks into the styrofoam.
On the train table.
Because I loved how big the space was, and our busier children could walk right up and get to work (no chairs required!).
I even added our new jumbo shape buttons for some extra fun.
The children did start adding some of the penguins from our penguin basket, so I guess it sort of (well, not really) tied in with our theme. 😉
I’m happy to report that we didn’t have a repeat of the scene from 2 years ago. I made sure the big piece of Styrofoam stayed flat on the table, and when I saw they were getting tired of it, the styrofoam went away and the trains returned.
Along with assorted puzzles, I added a snowball transfer activity as shown below. The only hiccup we had was that the children kept wanting to add them to the hot cocoa shoppe, which is fine except then they started picking at the Styrofoam until some of the balls fell apart. (Me and that styrofoam fear, again!)
So I decided they needed to stay on the tray as part of the activity.
(Note: I’m often asked what I do when the materials from tray activities wander off. It’s always a work in progress with younger children. They have this need to pick up anything and move it somewhere else. As the school year progresses, it becomes easier.)
Another table activity was counting penguins. With my toddlers and younger preschoolers, I like to make 2 copies. One stays intact and the other is cut apart. The children then find the matching card and place it on top of the other one.
I like to start with just one page and then, as the children are ready, I add more pages. (There are 3 pages in this set.)
This printable, by the way, is available if you scroll down a bit.
Looking for even more penguin ideas? Check this out:
Toddler and Preschool Winter Lesson Plans
We’ve done the work for you! We now have interactive thematic lesson plans for toddlers (16-35 months) AND preschoolers (3-5 years)!
Get ready for fun and learning with unit lesson plans for winter.
Explore a variety of themed hands-on activities!
Easy to follow lesson plans include activity modifications and adaptations to meet the needs of all learners.
For more information, click on the graphics below: