Understanding the World

Make the most of a zoo visit – with animal silhouettes and matching games

In recent weeks we enjoyed a family visit to Colchester Zoo, which recently reopened with a number of changes in place to manage capacity, social distancing and hygiene. We had a fantastic day out – lions, meerkats, giraffes, penguins and hyenas emerged as particular favourites – and the outing only strengthened Daisy’s interest in wild animals, animal stories, and films and TV shows about them!

Various animals shown at Colchester Zoo –  a Fennec Fox, a basking lioness, a West African slender-snouted crocodile and a giraffe

By coincidence, the following week Daisy’s childminder happened to sustain this trend by using a ‘safari’ theme for that week’s learning activities. The children went on an (imaginary) animal safari in their local park and completed some related counting and craft activities.

In the meantime, Daisy has continued to enjoy playing with her small-world animal models and, having seen some animal silhouettes on our zoo visit, we decided we’d see if Daisy could name the zoo animals from their silhouette shape and to match small world animals to their silhouettes.

A toy giraffe stands next to a wall with its shadow or silhouette shown behind it

There are plenty of free animal silhouette PDFs available through an internet search, and we found both sets of zoo animals and safari animals for this activity.

Completing the activity with Daisy also gives us an opportunity to talk to her about our visit to the zoo and to recall some of the majestic animals we saw on her visit. This activity addresses two key areas of the UK’s Early Years Foundation Stage: understanding the world (because Daisy is making observations of animals and their habitats) and communication and language (because the activity encourages Daisy to develop her own narrative and explanations, by connecting ideas or recent vivid events). 

It even gets Daisy thinking about more abstract concepts by encouraging her to match the outline of a dark two-dimensional object with the colourful three-dimensional reality.

There are lots of ways to develop this idea even further. You can play a listening game to match sounds to the animals that make them, and you can even create a simple lotto game to match silhouettes with toy animals or photos of animals. Yellow Door produces a comprehensive Animal Sounds product if you want to use real sound effects, and play sound lotto-style games.

Granny Smith says:

Finding out about silhouette outlines can lead to activities including creating your own silhouettes together (especially on sunny days!)

Any of these activities provides additional opportunities for you and you child to talk more about where these various animals live, what they eat, and the names we use for their young.

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