Animal habitats are a fascinating topic to discuss with kids!
I'm sure you've been peppered with questions about where animals live and why --
"Where do all the animals go in winter?"
"Why can't we have rainforest animals live near us like Diego does?"
My kids are big fans of all the animals they would see in books and some of the favorite tv shows (one of the best kids' TV shows about habitats is the Wild Kratts!). They both love going out to the backyard or park to do animal observations. And once we started traveling to National Parks, there were even more amazing habitats to explore!
Today's project is a fun way to create some of your favorite animal habitats and then compare their similiarites and differences.
And I LOVE the versitility of this project because it will work with ANY habitat!
Animal Habitats Project: Arctic & Forest Animals
Let's say you're going on vacation to a new spot this summer -- maybe the desert? Or the seashore? This animal habitat project would be a fun way to compare how the animals you see near your home will be different or similar to the ones you'll see on vacation.
For our project, we chose to compare a Forest (or Woodland) habitat and the Arctic habitats (both the North and South pole).
The first thing I recommed is reading some great books about the habitats you want to create.
For woodland animals, see the books at 15 Fabulous Books about Forest Animals.
And our Explore the North & South Pole: Books about Arctic Animals will highlight all your cold weather friends.
Build An Animal Habitat
Once you have a good idea about which habitats you'd like to create, choose a container or large cookie sheet to serve as your base. Then seek out some natural materials to incorporate into the habitat scenes.
For today's activity, we used real pine branches supported by play dough to serve as our forest habitat. The brown cookie sheet and brown play dough resemble a forest floor.
If you have kids who love forest animals, then this list of 50 Free Printable Forest Crafts & Activities are sure to please!
For the arctic areas, we scooped up some real snow from outside and put it in a plastic bin. When it's packed down, snow will last quite a while for an indoor play session. If you don't have any snow handy, try making your own snow or using cotton balls.
We also labeled our habitat areas which I highly suggest as it's a great way to infuse literacy activities into play time!
Labeling came in handy as we had both the North and South poles as habitats (since we all know that polar bears and penguins don't live together ;) so it was easy to section off our 'snow' into those two sub-habitats for Arctic regions.
Ok, enter the animals!
This is the most fun really ;)
We use small figures from Safari Ltd for activities like these -- you can find animals for almost any habitat!
If you aren't familiar with these, visit the affiliate links to learn about the TOOBs for:
and the Safari Ltd Rainforest TOOB is perfect if you'd like to explore Rainforst animals!
Group all of your animals together to begin the activity.
Then ask your child to place the animals in their proper habitat. This is where the can refer to the books they've read about various animal habitats.
Here you can clearly see how our labels helped us to place the animals in the correct spot!
Time for some Animal Habitat science!
Once the animals are all located in their habitats, ask your child what they notice about the habitats and the animals that live in each area.
We used a Venn diagram (two overlapping circles) to discuss the similarities and differences.
Younger kids might want to move the animals to the correct circle. Older kids can begin to infer what's different about the two habitats & what's similar.
For example, we talked how all the animals in the Forest habitat were brown or gray while all the Arctic animals had some type of white fur or feathers. This led to a discussion about camouflage. So the individual color of the animals would be listed each circle for their habitat but the word 'camouflage' is something similar to both habitats so it would go in the overlapping area.
Here are a few prompts to get kids talking:
What's the same about some of the animals?
What's different about the two habitats?
Do you think the animals eat the same things or different things?
Could the animals in one habitat survive in the other? Why or why not?
And if you get questions about what a group of animals is called (is it mooses or meeses? :) use our free printable Groups of Animals game for some fun learning!
The kids would also enjoy these fun educational items for exploring habitats! Each of the affiliate links provides more detail but we have used & loved these when exploring animal homes.
Looking for more Animal Activities? Try these!