Kids and animals – a perfect match! Animal tot school and preschool themes have been such a hit in our homeschool. Last summer we actually did some sort of animal theme almost every other week! Not only was it fun to learn about different species (hey, Wild Kratts!), it made it that much easier for me to plan the themes.
In fact, way back in our first weeks of homeschool, a set of fish tot trays was our very first organized theme! E was a little under 2 and a half then. Oh boy has the boy come a long way!
A huge perk of animal tot school and preschool themes is that most likely, you have some tangible items throughout your house that transform into engaging school features. The amazing Toobs are a no-brainer! I was also surprised how often a baby or young toddler toy, like cute a piece of a Playmobil sets, is a perfect supplement as well. The two Playmobil sets we have make several appearances, and stuffed animals can make learning that much more enjoyable.
We have been able to utilize several free items as well, such as library resources, brochures from the feed store to learn more about farm animals, and of course, all the amazing free printables that teachers and bloggers so generously offer to the rest of us!
On the sensory side of things, birdseed, beans, gems, and more are awesome and perfectly thrifty! Not all that long ago in cat school, simply birdseed, rocks, and DIY landforms made from cardboard made a neat multi-dimensional, multi-sensory home for some wild cats.
We will echo this in the winter and spring this year with a whole lot of sports themes. Lacrosse school? It’s coming…
But for now, please take a look around our several sets of animal tot trays and preschool trays! I have them organized by type of animal below, as well as a favorite free resource we utilized that week.
I believe both instances of Animal Tot School were from before we had ever seen an episode of Wild Kratts! In our first round of trays it was quite easy to use several toys from around the house, like our animal peg puzzles.
Cool Free Animal Tot School Printable: These animal tracks flash cards are such a neat way to look at the alphabet and animals at the same time!
Not long after the first round we had yet another animal tot school themed week!
Another Free Animal Tot School Printable: He is drawing up a storm now! But back in early tot school, naturally, this was a new thing for him! Simple tutorials like how to draw a fish are awesome for anyone who wants to learn to draw.
This was a very helpful theme during my busiest time at my job. Lots of fun and color in this set! I especially liked utilizing old magazines that I had no bother keeping in the first place.
Cool Free Animal Preschool Printables: Unfortunately the original link I referenced for coloring pages is no longer available. So many zoo websites have great resources! I really like the zoo coloring pages provided by the Virginia Zoo. My favorite is the binturong!
Fish & Ocean Animals
10 Fish Tot Trays
This theme was a great example of using what I had! Didn’t buy a single thing but still had quite an engaging week. The contact paper fishbowl craft is still up on our wall!
Cool Free Fish Tot School Printable: Practice zig-zag lines by tracing a fish from WorksheetFun!
This was a great theme to revisit in preschool. I really liked the salt and blue rice tray with sand dollars! All of it is so hands on, and so much of it centered on the wonderful Octonauts!
Cool Free Fish Preschool School Printable: I have to split the honor here. The Symmetry Draw & Write Ocean Creatures activity was so cool and I’m glad we went with it, because he blew me away with his ability! (Seems like he has been drawing since…) I also want to acknowledge the adorable Octonauts maze among the many Octonauts printables you’ll find on their official website!
(Special shout-out to our week of Octonauts preschool as well!)
It’s funny that something so creepy can be a fun theme for school This theme was probably where trays became more task-oriented rather than with the intent of repeating them. Naturally we rolled with how he seemed to enjoy learning at that young age! Cool Free Bugs Tot School Printable: The Hungry Caterpillar Magnet Pages from Making Learning Fun were truly fun several times over! E enjoyed filling in the circles with round magnets!
Rather similar to the other bug tot week, we emphasized fine motor skills just a bit more by using stickers! Cool Free Bugs Tot School Printable: We again explored bugs from the Insects TOOB, but this time we also had the awesome bug hunt printable from Mama Miss!
There is such a jump when I look back at the bug tot school theme to its preschool version! So many more worksheets and more advanced concepts, again, looking at E was enjoying with learning. I am glad we were able to reuse as many things as we did as well. Cool Free Bugs Preschool Printable: There is so much color and creative potential among these printable Eric Carle activities!
This was a wonderful week for sensory play! Scooping, pouring, and lacing — play dough, corn and lentils, and farm Duplo blocks — and some pretend play as well! Cool Free Farm Animals Tot School Printable: Rather than a printable, I’d rather highlight one of my favorite bits of inspiration ever. This harvest sensory play dough activity by Sun Hats and Wellie Boots is something we have recreated several times!
What a fun early summer theme! I would say we played a bit more the second time around. Another Cool Free Farm Animals Tot School Printable: Inspired by this farm math game from Fun-a-Day, we printed this happy pink pig and added brown Unifix cubes so we could play, too!
This week is mostly a case of repurposing tot school for preschool! Of course we had the big old bin of corn again. Little People farm animals certainly like to play in there! Cool Free Farm Animals Preschool Printable: All you need is some paper bags and these farm animal animal puppets printed in color to make cute friends for a farm preschool theme!
As I mention in the post I see Dinosaurs as one of the ultimate tot school themes. Honestly, it’s a little more fun before the kids realize these creatures are extinct. Cool Free Dinosaurs Tot School Printable: I am featuring my own free printable this time: free dinosaur Silhouette Cameo templates! There are options for cutting on the Silhouette Cameo and printing as normal to make dinos to sort and dinos to paint!
This was such a solid week of school – to me, really emphasizing so many skills! We chipped away at that little dino head from the dollar store for HOURS, literally! Cool Free Dinosaurs Preschool Printable: Free Dinosaur Worksheets
A big bin of books, a big sensory bin, plus a medium one too — we thought we had a lot to learn about birds (until we met them again in preschool!) Cool Free Birds Tot School Printable: This ABC of Birds poster is cute and colorful!
This was one of those weeks where he just blew through the trays. I would never anticipate putting 21 out for him otherwise! Cool Free Birds Preschool Printable: 3 Dinosaurs is one of my favorite sources for free printables and this bird pack was a hit!
Well this is the first (and for now, only) theme we could do where hwe have the animal in our home! Yet, I took a while cat approach with the sensory bin, including making cardboard landforms for the ferocious felines. Cool Free Cats Preschool Printable: Doing a cats preschool theme was much easier thanks to the Cats Preschool Pack from 1+1+1=1!
This week had good balance — hands on and worksheets! The sensory bin was simply rocks, craft moss, and a collection of lizards. Cool Free Reptile Preschool Printable: These lizard Escher Tesselations are simply amazing!
Maybe one of the greatest sensory bins we have done is right here. We used a big bin and put in sand, rocks, and a Rubbermaid container “pond.” I thought using larger creatures would be fun so we just went with bath tub toys! Cool Free Pond Animals Preschool Printable: This is easy – I probably wouldn’t even have tried this theme if it weren’t for the support of Homeschool Creations’ Pond Preschool Pack!
Aww, such cute animals to look at during this week of school! I really liked the sensory bin we put together in a longer tray with some North American Wildlife creatures.
Cool Free Woodland Animals Preschool Printable: We used a lot of them this week, but I will go ahead and link to the Scaredy Squirrel activities I proudly made for Rainy Day Mum! Please check them out!
Polar Bears & Penguins
Two of the Octonauts were the stars this week — Captain Barnacles, the polar bear, and the medic Peso the Penguin! They also worked on an igloo made of play dough, a “roll and graph” activity I actually created, and several more unbelievably cute stuffed animals!
Cool Free Polar Bears & Penguins Preschool Printable: E is so into drawing and the resources at Krokotak Print! are awesome. I like how there is space on the page itself to work on the steps!
So whether you are heading to the zoo or watching an episode of Wild Kratts, it’s always a great time for an animals theme in tot school and preschool!
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Cool Books for Animal Tot Trays