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Science Activities for Young Children: Farm Animals Unit
When children are young your science lessons do not need to be overly complicated. Remember your children entered the world with no knowledge. All the basics that you now take for granted your child must learn. One of those basic subjects that most all young children seem to love is fury farm animals.
Introduction and Overview of Farm Animals
Start by asking your children, "What animals live on a farm?" With science you want to model questioning as a way to examine and come to understanding of the world. But do not forget that your children might need help coming up with the correct answers. Post the answers on the board to aid beginning readers.
- Cattle and goats
- Horses, ponies and donkeys
- Poultry: chickens, turkeys, ducks, geese
Allow your children to tell what they already know about these animals. Correct any misconceptions. Discuss the different "houses" that in which the different animals live. This can all be accomplished during the art project.
End your science lesson with an art project that emphasizes what you have discussed. You will need either farm pictures or large blank papers with crayons or markers and farm animal stickers for each child. (Farm stickers can be purchased from the Oriental Trading Company or pretty much any store that sells stickers.) Provide each child with a picture of a farm or instruct her to create one on her paper. Then provide her with farm animal stickers with which to fill her farm giving information about each animal as it is added to the picture.
Introducing Animal Sounds to Preschoolers
Prepare for the days lesson by printing pictures of the different animals you discussed the previous day and posting them on the board. (As rabbits don't usually communicate with sound you might want to leave them out.) Start the lesson by asking, "How do farm animals communicate?" Allow the children to point out and name the different sounds that the different animals make.
Then as a fun way to review the sounds and make sure everyone has got them down you can create a barnyard choir. Instruct the children to make the sound of the animal different animals each time you point at them. Then simply have fun with it. Depending on the children and how well things are going you might even give the kids a turn at directing the choir.
Identifying Animal Parent and Baby Names
As you have been discussing animals this is a good time to introduce the names of adult and baby animals. (I would leave bees out of this discussion as it would require explanation of a hive system, which would be better addressed as its own unit.)
- Cattle: bulls and cows have calves
- Goats: billies and nannies have kids
- Horses and ponies: stallions and mares have foals
- Donkeys: jacks and jennies have foals
- Chickens: rosters and hens have chicks
- Turkeys: toms and hens have poults
- Ducks: drakes and ducks have ducklings
- Geese: ganders and geese have goslings
- Pigs: boars and sows have piglets
- Sheep: bucks and ewes have lambs
- Rabbits: bucks and does have kittens
- Cats: tomcats and queens have kittens
- Dogs: dogs and bitches have puppies
Follow the information with a matching game. Match the baby animals with their mothers. Depending on the children's interest you could even make a memory game from your animal pairs. Remember to appropriately identify each animal when a child flips it over. They sell these type of memory games at teacher supply stores or you could easily make your own if you are not worried about its longevity.
Identifying Animal Jobs
Start today's lesson by asking your children, "Why do farmers keep farm animals?" You will likely need to get specific with your questions to keep the conversation on track (i.e. "Why do farmers keep cows?"). Depending on the sensibilities of your child you may wish to leave pigs and rabbits out of this discussion.
- Cow and goats provide milk
- Horses, ponies and donkeys were used to pull farm equipment before motorized vehicles
- Poultry provide eggs
- Pigs provide meat
- Sheep provide wool, which we use for clothes
- Rabbits provide meat and fur for clothing
- Bees provide honey
- Cats keep the mice away, which would otherwise eat the other animals' food
- Dogs can guard and herb the other animals keeping them safe
Today's discussion also lends itself to matching or memory games. Match the cow or goat to the picture of milk. Match the sheep to the picture of a sweater. I've not seen this type of memory game at the teacher supply store so you will likely have to create your own. However, if you created your own cards for the previous days activities you will really only need to create half the cards now as the adult animal cards can be reused.
Preschool Farm Visit
End the unit by actually visiting a farm. Local farms will often provide tours for home school groups. Try the farm that already enjoys your patronage. Or if you do not frequent a local farm look for those that provide corn mazes or other community activities. If that fails you can always try the fair, which should include a variety of prize winning animals as well as a petting zoo.
As you visit each type of animal talk about the information you've covered throughout the week. "What is this animal called? What would its baby be called? Did you hear what sound it made? Why do farmers keep this animal?"
By the end of the unit your child will be brimming with knowledge about farm animals. She may even have discovered a new favorite animal.