ZOOLOGY (animal groups) & GEOGRAPHY LESSON (for 5 to 6 year olds)

I shared a short Facebook post a few weeks ago about some lesson ideas for teaching children about the 🌎 world (continents, the globe, atlases), and the specific 🦒 animals found in certain continents . . . Following on from that, and having played some more games surrounding the world and animal groups, I thought I would elaborate and write a longer article, with more ideas and links to good websites! Personally, I love studying animals and the world, so this doesn’t feel like hard work for me!

You will need: 🌎 a globe 🗺 or map of the world, an atlas, and some 🦒 Schleich animals (or similar) or print off pictures of animals from the internet . . .

African animals lesson © montblancfamilyfun.com

We love the Usborne Children’s Picture Atlas, illustrated by Linda Edwards (2013) and the Usborne Sticker Picture Album of the World:

Usborne children’s atlas and sticker book © montblancfamilyfun.com

Animal groups

I personally had to revise 🐢 animal categories before embarking on our game this morning! I found this page in National Geographic Animal Encyclopedia (by Dr Lucy Spelman, 2012, National Geographic Society) very useful! I also asked my 9 year old for consolidation!

© National Geographic Society
© Pinterest (unknown source)

After polishing up my own knowledge, 🐢 we put the animals into their groups . . .

Our 🐱 beautiful rescue cat decided to join in the game, and even settled correctly with his fellow mammals . . . (I promise, it was his own volition; he loves our games! Besides, when can you ever get a cat to do what you want, rather than what he or she wants? 😉);

Animal groups – mammals © montblancfamilyfun.com
Animal groups – mammals © montblancfamilyfun.com
Animal groups – mammals © montblancfamilyfun.com

. . . though he was much more interested in the reptile group, especially the lizard’s long and rubbery tail!

Animal groups – reptiles © montblancfamilyfun.com
Animal groups – reptiles © montblancfamilyfun.com
Animal groups – reptiles © montblancfamilyfun.com

. . . and just when we were going to put all the animals away (a very important part of this lesson!), our very own black panther got in the box . . .

A black panther on the loose © montblancfamilyfun.com

Animals in their habitat

Last week, we took 🗺 a children’s atlas and read about continents, and specifically about Africa (desert, forests, mountains, rivers) . . . we then looked through our collection of 🦒 Schleich animals, and put all the ones living in 🌎 Africa under Africa on the globe.

Globe and animals © montblancfamilyfun.com

Today, after having put all the animals into their groups, we found 🌎 a big map of the world and put all the animals on that, according to continent :

Le Planisphères des Enfants © aedis-edition.fr / illustration Christine Ponchon

. . . the big cuddly lemur somehow found Madagascar in amongst the muddle!

Map of the world and animals © montblancfamilyfun.com

I would like to stress that I was never: 1) a geography teacher (though my mother was!) 2) nor a zoology teacher . . . however, I have picked up lots of FACTS from reading children’s animal books and encyclopedias and our subscription to the fabulous National Geographic Kids, so here are some interesting facts, which you might or might not already know!

  1. 🐘 elephants – you’ll find them in the wild in parts of Africa and parts of Asia (Asian elephants have smaller, rounder ears);
  2. 🐯 tigers – DO NOT live in Africa (in the wild, at least!) . . . some children’s story books get this wrong! They live in parts of Asia (India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Malaysia and Indonesia). The Siberian tiger lives in northern, colder areas, such as eastern Russia and northeastern China;
  3. polar bears – live in the northern hemisphere (I have noticed that some children’s books have them living with 🐧penguins; this is not possible in the wild as penguins live in the southern hemisphere!);
  4. 🐧 penguins – are called manchots in France and live in the southern hemisphere (the French word pingouin is a false friend, as it is NOT an English penguin; it actually refers to auks an other small flying birds of the northern hemisphere (penguins cannot fly);
  5. 🐬🐳 dolphins and whales – are mammals BUT 🦈 sharks are fish;
  6. 🐊 crocodiles – live on lots of different continents (the tropical habitats of Africa, Asia, Australia and the Americas; they normally live near lakes, rivers, wetlands and some saltwater regions) . . . and what is the difference between a crocodile, an alligator and a cayman? / see here for more information!
© Pinterest (unknown source)

     7. turtles v tortoise – here is a great visual to clear it up! Thank you Little Pine Learners!

© Just Keep Learning

🐻 some more ideas for animal topics to discuss with your children:

  • have they seen any of these animals in the wild or in a zoo? (my kids were very lucky and went on a family trip to South Africa, so they had the opportunity to see some impressive animals: penguins, lions, elephants, zebras, rhinos, springbok, etc . . .);
  • have you seen any of these animals in the wild? Where? Share your tales! (for example, I once threw meat to a crocodile in Costa Rica and a rhino passed by our sleeping camp in Namibia!);
  • which is your child’s favourite animal and why?

Animal books and magazines

We have so many fabulous 📚 animal books and magazines at home, many of them gifts from family and friends . . . I’m sure you do too! When I realised that we would be confined for a while, I went through ALL of my boys’ books and put them into relevant piles of: language, maths, geography, history, animals, art and drawing, etc . . . that way, I could locate them quickly when I decided to tackle a specific subject (the older boy reads himself, and the younger one I am much more hands-on with!).

National Geographic Kids © montblancfamilyfun.com

I do have some 📚 world and animal book recommendations for you, for when confinement ends and you can get to your local bookshop or put in a wishlist for a birthday or Christmas:

  • 📚 Maps by Aleksandra Mizieliñska and Daniel Mizieliñski (Big Picture Press, 2012, first published in Warsaw) – this big annotated book of maps is sumptuous, we love it;
  • 📚 Atlas of Animal Adventures by Rachel Williams and Emily Hawkins and illustrated by Lucy Letherland (Wide Eyed Editions, 2016, London) – another beautifully illustrated big book, this time focusing on specific animals and their habitat;
  • 📚 Atlas of Oddities by Clive Gifford and Tracy Worrall (Red Shed, 2016, London) – lots of incredible facts, very few of them known to me before reading this book!
Three of my favourite world and animals books © montblancfamilyfun.com

Michael Morpurgo has written some 📚 wonderful books about animals for children, some fiction, some based on reality! We love him? Have you read any of his books?


Animal films

There are so many 🎬 wonderful documentaries to learn about the world and animals (Planet Earth, Blue Planet, Frozen Planet, to name a few) . . . where would we be without our beloved David Attenborough? Though many of these are aimed at adults, I find that we can now watch en famille with our two boys (9 and 6 years old). There are other documentaries aimed specifically at younger viewers, and these you can find on streaming channels . . . for some more ideas, look at this list from Google, which includes:

  • March of the Penguins (originally titled La Marche de l’empereur, France, 2005) – not specifically for children, but fabulous;
  • Walking with Dinosaurs (USA, 2013);
  • DisneyNature films like Born in China (USA, 2016);

And, of course, there are so many 🎬 animated films and non-animated films for children (about wild animals, rather than pets), many loved for years:

  • Disney’s (USA): 🦌 Bambi (1942), 🐒 The Jungle Book (1967), 🦁 The Lion King (1994), Tarzan (1999), 🐟 Nemo (2003) and others;
  • 🐒 The Jungle Book (USA, 2016) and 🦁 The Lion King (USA, 2019) – the photorealistic computer-animated remakse;
  • Ice Age (USA, 2002) series of films;
  • 🦁 Madagascar (Dreamworks, USA, 2005) series of films – my boys absolutely love these films and are in hysterics when they watch them (we have regular renditions of “I like to move it move it“; they also love the spin-off series All Hail King Julien!;
  • 🐧 Happy Feet (USA, 2006) – the sweet film about the dancing penguin;
  • 🦁 The Wild (Canada-USA, 2006) – a zoo-kept lion ends up in the African wild;
  • 🐺 Balto (USA, 1995) – based on the true story of a husky-wolf mix, who was one of the pack to bring vital medicine back to children in remote Alaska (we love this film!);
  • 🐻 Open Season and Open Season 2 (USA, 2006);
  • 🦝 Over the Hedge (USA, 2006) – scheming suburban animals!
  • 🐢 A Turtle’s Tale: Sammy’s Adventures (Belgium and USA, 2010) – the 50-year life and adventures of a brave sea turtle, as he navigates the dangers of the world and global warming (I love this film!);
  • 🕊 Fly Away Home (1996) – a little girl finds some goose eggs and learns to raise goslings!
  • 🐬 Flipper (1963) – the classic film about the boy who befriends a dolphin injured by a harpoon;
  • 🐬 Dolphin Tale (USA, 2011) – Winter is a bottlenose dolphin at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium in Florida, known for having a prosthetic tail, and this is the dramatisation of her tale (and tail!);


Further animal activities

I am currently preparing a separate article about 🎨 creative activities involving animals (drawing, colouring, painting and more) . . . and here are a couple of games to play with your children:

🦁 animal sounds – I have an app on my iPad that plays animal sounds. This is great fun with kids; we once played the African animal sounds at my son’s savannah-themed birthday party, and the children had to guess the animal! / you can download the following app for FREE! ‘4+ years);

🦒 guess the animal – one child moves and behaves like a chosen animal and the rest of the family have to guess which animal they are . . . if you can’t guess, then they can introduce sounds;

My boys love the 🦁 Défis Nature cards . . . have you come across them? There are lots of different ones (world animals, animals of France, wonders of the world, etc . . .), and the aim of the game is to win the most cards! We find that it is the perfect game to take to a restaurant and play whilst waiting for food (though we don’t have that option right now, do we?). They are made by bioViva, who specialise in other wildlife and world games.

Défis Nature cards © montblancfamilyfun.com

Animal, Map and Dice Game

My younger son’s teacher recently sent through an idea for 🎲 dice-rolling and collecting items (Kapla, Lego) . . . so I tweaked this slightly, and used animals and a map instead: roll a 3 – find me three animals that live in the Arctic; roll 1 – find me one animal that lives in the Antarctic; roll 2 – find me two reptiles, etc . . .

[ we had to give up playing when M kept putting the chimpanzee and the giraffe in Antarctica! ]


Animal Phonics

If you would like to see how to use animals within an alphabet grid, and to help with phonics, see separate MBFF article here.

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