Are you diving into a Nocturnal Animals theme in your preschool classroom or homeschool? Keep reading for the most engaging Nocturnal Animals preschool activities around!
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NOCTURNAL ANIMALS PRESCHOOL ACTIVITIES
One of the best themes to teach in the fall (whether you’re homeschooling or teaching in a preschool or kindergarten classroom) is Nocturnal Animals. Little ones LOVE to learn about these unique animals, and it’s the perfect theme to use in addition to Halloween OR in place of Halloween (in case you don’t celebrate or aren’t allowed to use Halloween activities in your classroom).
Keep reading for over 30 Nocturnal Animals activities for your preschool, pre-k, and kindergarten students. These ideas include printables for math & literacy, fine motor, gross motor, sensory play, art, and more! Oh, and there’s a freebie, too!
If you want a copy of my yearly themes (including an editable version where you can type in your own themes), check out this freebie. (*Please note: You will need to download this file to your computer and then open it with Adobe in order to add your own themes. You cannot add your themes from your web browser.)
NOCTURNAL ANIMALS ACTIVITIES: LITERACY
Before you get started with your Nocturnal Animals theme, make sure you have your books all ready to go! You can check out our favorite books for this theme in this post. There are almost 40 books for you to choose from! Make sure to request these from your local library (or order them from Amazon) a few weeks before you start your theme.
Phonological awareness skills are the key building block to reading success, which is why they should be practiced a little bit every day. In order to keep things fresh & engaging, I like to use phonological awareness games that go along with my current theme. Click here to check out these Nocturnal Animals phonological awareness games that will help your little ones become strong readers in less than 10 minutes a day (and with zero supplies!)
You’re definitely going to want to start your Nocturnal Animals theme with these vocabulary cards! These are the perfect way to introduce your little learners to 15 nocturnal animals they’ll be learning about over the course of the unit. You can use these animal vocabulary cards in your writing center, as a Write the Room activity, or as a picture match.
Comparing and contrasting is a great skill for students to practice in preschool and kindergarten, and one way to do this is through picture sorts. This picture sort asks students to sort animals into one of two categories: “Nocturnal” or “Diurnal.” This is a great way to learn about which animals sleep during the day and which animals sleep at night, and it can be a jumping off point for learning about the adaptations nocturnal animals have for being awake at night.
Did you know that research shows letter-name knowledge is one of the most powerful predictors of learning to read and of later reading achievement? It’s true! In fact, letter-name knowledge at the end of pre-k is highly predictive of later literacy learning, so we can’t skip this step! These alphabet puzzles are great because they help little ones put the letters in order while working on letter-name knowledge, and the end result is a real photograph of a nocturnal animal!
Syllable awareness is an important phonological awareness skill that little ones need to become strong readers. This activity asks little ones to sort pictures based on the number of syllables in the word (1-4 syllables). They’ll put the picture on the correct web and then choose the next one. Increase the engagement by pairing this activity with a nocturnal animals sensory bin (which I’ll share later in this post!)
A fun way to learn and practice sequencing is to talk about life cycles. For my Nocturnal Animals theme, I like to focus on the life cycles of two interesting animals: Spiders and Bats. These activities will help little ones practice sequencing and critical thinking skills.
According to research by Piasta, Petscher, & Justice (2012), the optimal benchmark for students entering kindergarten is knowing 18 uppercase letter names and 15 lowercase letter names. The research also states that little ones have a preference for uppercase letters, so giving them plenty of exposure to lowercase letters is important. This activity asks students to color a picture of a nocturnal animal based on the lowercase letter. Of course, coloring is fun for kids, but it also helps them with their fine motor skills, directing and holding their attention, and cultivating creativity!
Let’s play hide-and-seek…but it’s not the way you’re thinking! In this activity, students will search for the nocturnal animals in some of their usual habitats. While they’re having fun searching for the animals, they’ll also be practicing identifying and understanding key vocabulary words & working on their visual discrimination skills.
Phonemic awareness is the ability to hear and manipulate sounds in spoken language. This is a precursor to reading and must be intentionally developed during the preschool and kindergarten years. This activity gives students the chance to work on phonemic awareness skills by choosing a picture, saying the name, and listening for the beginning sound. Then they’ll match that beginning sound to the correct letter.
Let’s do some alphabet matching practice! You can hide the small spider letters in a nocturnal animals sensory bin and have your little ones search the sensory bin for a letter. Then ask them to match it up to the large spider letters. This activity will help them recognize letters in both uppercase and lowercase font. (These letters can be found in my Halloween pack, which you can read about here.)
If you’re working on teaching letter names and sounds to your preschoolers or kindergarteners, you definitely want this FREE Animal Alphabet! Your little ones will learn the name of each letter, the sound that letter represents, and an animal that begins with that letter sound. (They can also look to see if any of these animals are nocturnal!)
Click HERE to see how I use these Animal Alphabet cards (along with sign language) to teach the alphabet to my students.
This activity (along with all of our freebies!) can be downloaded from the Free Activity Library. If you’re already a member of our email community, you can click HERE to head to the Free Activity Library, enter your password (it’s on your most current email from me), and download your copy!
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An alphabet arc is a great tool for beginning readers. It helps them see the alphabet in a less-overwhelming way. (I love using these letters since the vowels are red and consonants are blue). Once you lay it out like this, you can use it in so many ways! One way is to say a sound, such as /z/, and ask your little one to point to the matching letter. You could also pull three letters from the arc to make a CVC word, then have your little one put them back where they belong.
When my son was in homeschool preschool, we used the arc to play a memory game. I asked him to close his eyes while Batty (our Bat Craft you can read about below) took a letter away & hid it in the cave. When he opened them, he had to figure out which letter Batty took away. We had a blast with this!
NOCTURNAL ANIMALS PRESCHOOL ACTIVITIES: MATH
Here’s another activity that could be easily paired with a sensory bin, or try turning it into a scavenger hunt! Tape the 2D shape bat cards around the room, and have your littles fly them back to the corresponding bat cave. This activity is so engaging and helps students practice identifying and understanding different 2D shapes.
“Whooo! Whooo! Who do you see? How many owls are in the tree?!” Play along with your littles as they practice counting and identifying numbers with this activity. They’ll slide the slider, name the number shown, and add that many owls to the tree.
Using number bonds is a great way to introduce addition in preschool and kindergarten. Some little ones will be ready to work on numbers adding up to 10, while others will be working on numbers that add up to 5. In this activity, studnets will choose a card, count out the number of cheese slices, and determine how many more they need to get to either 10 or 5. We used yellow cubes as our “cheese,” but you could also use pom poms or legos.
Play dough is a great tool to help little ones strengthen their fine motor skills. Have your little ones use play dough to create numbers 1-10 on these play dough mats. Then have them count the nocturnal animals in the ten frame at the top of the mat.
Time to get our little ones up and moving! Through this fun math game, our littles will practice subitizing, counting, and work on their gross motor skills through imaginary play. They’ll roll a die, tell you the number, then identify which animal goes with that number. They’ll make a tally mark on their paper and move like that animal. At the end of the game, count all the tally marks to determine which animal won!
It’s important for preschool and kindergarten students to understand there are different ways to show numbers: we can show the numeral, the number in word form, a pictorial representation of the number, tally marks, or fingers. But they all mean the same thing! This activity asks students to find all the ways to show each number 1-10.
Lots of kids love to play “Simon Says,” but have they ever played “Batty Says?” Combine this position words activity with the Bat Craft (which you can read about below) and create your own version of Batty Says! Through this game, your little ones will learn and practice different positional words such as above, below, underneath, and more.
Here’s another hands-on way to practice counting and introduce addition. Your little ones will choose a raccoon card, count out the correct number of apples and acorns, and then feed the raccoon! We taped the raccoon to a paper bag to make it more engaging, or you can use the cave from the Bat Position Words activity to help the raccoon “store” his food in his cave.
This is an engaging activity that will help little ones with number recognition, one-to-one correspondence, fine motor skills, pencil grasp, and subitizing. Have your little one spin the spinner, identify the number, and count out that many of a small manipulative (such as plastic spiders). Then have them find the corresponding number on their mat and trace it. They can also count the dots in the ten frame below the number. (This activity can be found in my Halloween pack, which you can read about here.)
NOCTURNAL ANIMALS PRESCHOOL ACTIVITIES: SENSORY & ART
Every time I switch to a new theme, I like to switch to a new sensory bin. This simple dyed-rice sensory bin couldn’t be easier! (You can see the steps for dyeing rice in this post). I made three batches of dyed rice to create this: black, purple, and gray. Then I combined them all in a plastic tub and added in any nocturnal animal toys we had. Easy peasy!
In the fall, I love to create an Apple Pie sensory bin for my little ones. But I can easily change it to fit my nocturnal animals theme by transforming them into Spider & Bat pies! This activity is so much fun…I just put out rolled oats, mini pie pans, and spider & bat toys, and I watch my kiddos’ imaginations and creativity take over!
We loved creating Batty and then using him in our games this month (like the Alphabet Arc & Batty Says gameS I mentioned earlier). We created him using a toilet paper roll, black paint, googly eyes, and white paper for the fangs. So easy!
I must admit that Oreos are one of my favorite cookies…and these Spider Oreros are too cute not to make every year! Simply add four small pretzel sticks to Oreos on each side as the spider’s legs. Then stick two yellow M&Ms on top for eyes (we used peanut butter to make them stick, but you could also use frosting). So easy and delicious, and they would make a fun addition to any Nocturnal Animals read aloud.
Did you know you can freeze spiders in ice cubes?! Yep, it’s pretty much the coolest thing to little kids! We just froze our plastic spiders in an ice tray with black-colored water (although it looks more green than black in this picture). Have your little ones free the spiders by using squirt bottles of water to get them out of the ice cubes.
How fast can we get all the spiders out of the web? That’s what this Spider Webs Race is all about! Your little ones will use the mini tongs to grab the spiders out of the spider webs and run to place them in a cup on the other side of the room. Don’t be scared to play…I promise these spiders won’t bite!
NOCTURNAL ANIMALS PRESCHOOL & PRE-K FUN
I hope these ideas helped you fill-in your Nocturnal Animals lesson plans for your preschool classroom or homeschool! All of the printables for this unit can be found in my Nocturnal Animals Preschool Activity Pack.
What types of Nocturnal Animals preschool activities do you plan for fall? Do you have any fun activities that would be great to add to this list? Comment below or find me on Instagram [@littleslovelearningblog] and let me know!