Activities for toddlers and babies
When you think about it, squirrels and toddlers have a lot of things in common. They are both very active, they like to explore, and they are energetic and playful.
Nuts for the squirrels
During fall, squirrels collect nuts for winter. Print and laminate several pictures of nuts and acorns and hide them throughout your daycare. During the day, babies and toddlers will find the nuts and acorns in books, under chairs, in their shoes, etc. Variation: Print a picture of a squirrel, laminate it, and display it on a wall. If you prefer, use a stuffed animal squirrel. Every time children find a nut or acorn, encourage them to "feed" it to the squirrel.
ROUTINES AND TRANSITIONS
Encourage babies and toddlers to observe squirrels.
- Observing a squirrel in your yard is one possibility. Notice the squirrel's agility and how quickly it moves.
- Print pictures of squirrels and invite children to notice their claws, their fluffy tail, and their tiny teeth.
- Watch a short video involving a squirrel in action, for example eating nuts or seeds. If possible, listen to the sound a squirrel makes.
Eating like a squirrel
After watching a squirrel eat (in your yard or a video), invite children to eat their snack like a squirrel. Serve tiny crackers and let them have fun nibbling on them.
SENSORY ACTIVITIES (touch)
Purchase or collect different types of fake fur. You can ask parents of the children in your group to send in fake (or real) fur samples they may have at home. After observing a squirrel outside and helping children notice how furry squirrels are, let them touch and manipulate the pieces of fake fur.
SENSORY ACTIVITIES (look)
Fill clear plastic bottles with acorns. Seal the caps with hot glue and let babies and toddlers manipulate the bottles so they can observe acorns up close. You may encourage them to shake the bottles like maracas too.
ARTS & CRAFTS
Give each child two empty toilet paper rolls. Let them draw on them and decorate them with nature-themed stickers. Help them glue their two cardboard tubes together to create binoculars. Go outside and invite children to use their binoculars to observe squirrels. Variation: See Physical activity and motor skills section.
Felt and paper
Print squirrel-themed coloring pages. Select pictures of squirrels that have a large tail. Cut a tail that is the same size and shape as each squirrel tail out of felt. Glue each felt tail on the corresponding coloring page. As children color the squirrels, they will explore two different textures. Felt can very easily be colored.
A plate for a feast
Have babies and toddlers draw on paper plates. When they are done, pour peanuts in each plate. Set the plates outside in plain sight, but out of children's reach (the nuts must not be accessible due to allergies). With your group, watch the squirrels as they enjoy this special feast.
MORAL AND SOCIAL ACTIVITIES
Mr. Squirrel and his friends in the tree
This is a simple imitation exercise. It's a well-known fact: squirrels love to climb trees. Before presenting this activity, set several different stuffed animals on the ground, next to a tree. Pick a tree that has low branches, at children's level. A pine tree can work too. Set a stuffed animal squirrel on a branch. Mr. Squirrel invites his friends to play with him in the tree. Encourage older toddlers to pick a stuffed animal and play with it in the tree to accompany Mr. Squirrel.
Print pictures of squirrels. Cut strips of construction paper and have children decorate them with the pictures. Stick both ends of each strip of paper together to form headbands. Children will love wearing their squirrel hats to parade around the neighbourhood.
Fill a large bin with leaves. Hide pictures of squirrels and acorns among the leaves. Let babies and toddlers discover the pictures. Name the items with your group.
How many squirrels
When you are out and about with your group, count the squirrels you cross paths with.
PHYSICAL ACTIVITY AND MOTOR SKILLS
We all know squirrels like to hide nuts for winter. Let babies and toddlers set items they find in small containers to emulate the behaviour of squirrels. They can, for example, collect items in:
- Small fabric bags
- Empty toilet paper rolls
Be sure to use items that can safely be manipulated by young children.
Hunting for squirrels
Print, laminate, and display pictures of squirrels on the walls of your daycare. Invite children to use the binoculars they made in the Arts & crafts section to look at the pictures. Encourage them to talk about what they see.
Acorn picture book
Cut acorn shapes out of brown construction paper. Glue a picture representing squirrels in the centre of each one. Variation: If you prefer, stick a picture of each child in your group on each acorn. Laminate them and explore your acorn picture book with little ones.
A squirrel's cry
If you hear a squirrel outside, invite children to listen closely. You may also find and play squirrel sounds on the Internet. Try to imitate a squirrel's cry with your group.
Early childhood educator
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