Sunday, December 4, 2011

Animal Tracks

Introducing the Theme
The term 'tracks' may be new to some children so begin by explaining that 'tracks' are like saying "footprints". Tracks are the footprints that are left by animals feet when they walk.

Get the children thinking by asking, "When are some other times that you have made footprints? If you walk on plain grass do you leave footprints? How do we make footprints?" (walking in mud, on the sand at the beach, playing in snow, doing a craft when are feet are painted, or walking after we have mud or dirt on our shoes.)

Read aloud - Footprints in the Snow. This is a simple text and  is a great introduction to animal tracks for preschoolers.

Another excellent read aloud for preschools is Tracks in the Snow by Wong Herbert Yee

After reading, explain to the children that in the winter, snow makes it very easy to see what animals have been walking around. The animals feet leave a 'footprint' or 'track' and that track is often frozen so you can examine even days after it is made.

Outdoor activities:

* Winter Walk: Taking a winter walk looking for animal tracks can be quite the adventure for young children. Explain that in addition to tracks people also look for tree scarring and scat (animal droppings). Look for real animal tracks (even cat tracks are fun to find). Any time that tracks are found look around the area closely without disturbing the tracks. Take a photograph of the tracks so that you can print and make a book of your discoveries. Look for other signs of animal activity - chewed acorn shells, scat, and scratches in bark.

* Give each child their own 'Animal Track Pattern Cards' to wear as necklace. ( used to have one from Curious George but the link is no longer active. Another printable version can be found in the Project Season book from Shelburne Farms. If I find a good free printable I will come back to link to it.)

*Follow the Footprints activity: Make animal footprints that are to scale of the actual size of the animal. (I am using Deer & Moose this year.) Laminate the sheets for durability. Before the students arrive, put the footprints out in the outdoor space. Then have the children track the prints down and follow the animal. {If there is snow on the ground, stomp out human footprints in various sized boots instead.}

Indoor Activities:
Water Table - put a thin layer of real snow in the water table. Add a few plastic toys encourage kids to make tracks in the snow. (If no snow is available use a thin layer of flour in a shallow pan, placed inside the water table to catch most of the spills.)

Play dough - make a batch of homemade play dough and leave plain white. Put a variety to plastic animals at the play dough table and encourage the students to make tracks in their dough.

Kid Tracks - roll out 8 feet of easel paper on the ground. Paint the children's feet have them walk the length of the paper. Have 3-4 kids on one sheet, using different colored paints. Display the easel paper in the classroom.

Blocks - add white cotton batting as pretend snow, pretend woodland animals

Sensory Table - bring a bit of the forest into the classroom by having a wide selection of natural materials  (pine branches, pine cones, small branches, dried plants, etc.) Possibly hide some woodland animals amongst the branches.

Science Center- display an animal track identification poster on the wall, have a tracking manual, small tracking cards, and other animal resource books. Animal Tracks matching cards that are age appropriate can be found at -
Writing Center - have a photocopy sheet of a simple landscape and small rubber stamps of animal tracks. Encourage the kids to make tracks in the 'snow' since the paper is white.

Actual Size Rubber Stamps - trace animal tracks onto black foam that has an adhesive back. Cut out the shape and mount onto a scrap piece of 2x4 or small lumber. (Be sure to sand any rough edges.) Assist the kids in using ink pads to create tracks onto paper. I made moose and deer prints in actual size to show the size difference.

Book Center - have a variety of winter themed books including age appropriate books about tracks:
Big Tracks, Little Tracks: Following Animal Prints by Millicent E. Selsam; Who’s Been Here?: A Tale in Tracks by Fran Hodgkins, Footprints in the Snow by Cynthia Benjamin.  

Additional Resources:
Online Animal Tracks game -
Online Animals in the Forest counting game -

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