Animal Care Unit

Our unit this week is all about taking care of animals and how some animals have a special job and take care of us. We will also learn about the people who take care for animals both in our community and in captivity. This unit will also focus on new skills—talking on the phone and telling time. Plus, we’ve included a lot of recommended field trip ideas to help bring this unit to life. For the small business recommendations, contact your local offices in advance and ask if they would accommodate your family’s visit. Often, these businesses are eager to have children visit and learn from them. For larger facilities such as farms and zoos, reach out to them in advance as well, and consider turning it into a group trip with other homeschool families you know. Sometimes these locations will offer discounts for homeschoolers! And don’t forget to download and print our tracker for your lesson records.

Note: Occasionally we include project upgrades (for kids ready for more) and modifications (which can be useful for including younger siblings). We’ll mark those with the plus (+) or minus (-) symbols.

What you need:

Books (find at your local library or order below on Amazon):

Supplies (use what you have, but here are links to shop if you need anything):

What to do:

We recommend doing the below lessons in this order to build on each skill your child will develop, but don’t feel that you *need* to do them in this order. Do what works for you and your child. If they love an activity, feel free to repeat! Not a winner? Skip and try the next thing. Have fun!

Lesson 1:

One of the most important people when it comes to animal care is a veterinarian. But what is a veterinarian? Veterinarians are animal doctors. They help prevent, diagnose, and treat animal diseases, and they can perform surgery and prescribe medicine. Veterinarians can help take care of your pets, but they also are very important to zoos and farms. They can also help animals breed and give birth. (source) After discussing what a veterinarian is, read the book Caring for Your Pets: A Book About Veterinarians. Review the different types of animals they care for and the different places a vet might work, such as a zoo, a farm, or an office. Today would be a great day to visit a vet office if you have one local to you!

Activity 1: Get out your clock and play a game where you practice making an appointment with a veterinarian. Tell your child to “call” the vet’s office to make an appointment for an animal check up. Ask (and probably answer) these questions to set up your pretend appointment: What time does your office open? What time do you go to lunch? What time do you close? Do you treat XYZ animals? How much is a visit? 

Next, make an appointment time. You can ask your child, “What day and time would you like to come in?” Set up your pretend clock to indicate the time and practice telling the time to the hour. Use this play setting to teach that the short hand tells the hour and the long hand tells the minutes. Set up the clock to reflect the time the child indicates. Then, try switching roles to let your child take your appointment. Give them a small notepad to practice taking down your details. (If you have multiple children, you could even have them play both roles!)

Note: It’s not important if they actually write down anything real when they are recording appointments. Before children do anything for real, they often pretend to do it, and this action helps reinforce and strengthen the fine motor skills needed for real writing. For more about the value of pretend writing, click here.

Activity 2: Read the story Doctor Nice. In this story, a little boy pretends to be an animal doctor who cares for his pets. Make a homemade stethoscope to prepare your vet kit for customers. 

Activity 3: Let’s continue our play-based activity from before by having your child pretend to be the veterinarian at the appointment you set. We will modify this idea to work for animal care instead of human care. Print out the sheets in advance, including the name tags for doctors and nurses. Print and laminate the doctor’s kit for the pretend play that will follow (or use a toy doctor’s kit if you have one). Print out the rest of the pages to add to your pretend play. Next, collect stuffed animals and set up your vet’s office. Need more inspiration for pretend play? Read this post.
(+) Have your child write their name on the name tags and attach the name tag using a paper clip or a safety pin.

Lesson 2:

Today, we’re going to take a closer look at the animals many people have in their homes. Start by reading the book Pet This Book. Talk about the different animals that are pets. If possible, try to visit a shelter today to see some different kinds of pets up close.

Activity 1: What pet should I get? craft. Add a letter sound, spelling, or writing component by sounding out the name of the animal, identifying the letter it starts with, and spelling out the word and writing it. Meet your child at their level with this activity. Use your movable letters or, if your child is ready, write it on lined paper and attach it to the back of the plate.
(-) Sing this song and add animal sounds to this activity.

Activity 2: An x-ray is a special machine a veterinarian would use to see inside of your pet without needing to do surgery. An x-ray shows bones and any other solid matter that might be causing the animal problems. For this activity, let your child play this X-ray matching game.

Activity 3: Not every animal that lives with a family is a pet. Read the story true story of Rescue and Jessica: A Life-Changing Friendship to learn about the special relationship of this dog with his owner. Use this story as a springboard for conversations about disabilities and children. For more on how to have these conversations with your children, check out this helpful article.

Activity 4: Do you have a pet at home? Try this pet chore chart to help your child get more involved in their care.

Lesson 3:

Let’s take a closer look at some bigger (and wilder!) animals today! So much goes into caring for animals in a zoo. Start by watching this video to learn about zoo habitats. If you are able, try to visit a local zoo this week or weekend. Can’t make the trip? See if it’s something you can do over the summer so you can make connections back to this lesson.

Activity 1: Create an animal enclosure. Count the popsicle sticks you are using as you build the enclosure to make this a counting and numbers activity, too. Once your enclosure is built, dress it up to make it a nicer habitat for your animal! Optional ways to do this are with straw (strips of brown construction paper), dried beans or peas, grass clippings, water, and animal toys. Use your zoo animals in your enclosures if you purchased them.
(+) Want an upgarde? Build a few different zoo enclosures that meet the requirements of these STEM-based challenges.

Activity 2: What animals will you find in a zoo? Using this scavenger hunt bingo game, let’s play this game a little differently. Print out the bingo pages. Cut up the squares with word clues and place them in a bowl or jar. Pick out one card at a time and reading it off and have your child use the pictured bingo sheet and identify the animal that matches the clue. Practice critical thinking skills and identify the animals that fit the description. If you have a stuffed animal or a figurine that matches the description, make this activity more challenging by searching your play space for these animals. 

If you are planning a trip to the zoo, print out the scavenger hunt pages and take them with you to play on your field trip. Laminate them and bring a clipboard to make it easier to play.

Activity 3: Read the book Don’t Let them Disappear to learn about protecting endangered species. Print out a few of these coloring pages (pick whatever animals your child will enjoy most!) and learn more about these endangered animals.

Lesson 4:

Let’s take our learning to the farm! There are lots of lessons we can learn from observing and caring for animals on a farm. Start by reading the story of one girl who really understood how certain farm animals felt, The Girl Who Thought in Pictures The Story of Dr. Temple Grandin. Dr. Grandin was very smart and made important discoveries that changed how animals are treated today. If you have a farm nearby, plan a visit after you complete today’s activities.

Activity 1: Farm weight activity.

Activity 2: Create an animal washing station with your farm animal figurines.

Activity 3: The Farmer in the Dell song and activity bin. The blogger doesn’t include a printout of the words you need, so we made one here. There are a few different versions of the Farmer in the Dell song, but you can play this one if your child isn’t familiar with it. This will likely turn to free-play after the activity is complete, so we’ve planned this as your last activity for today!

Lesson 5:

It’s Art + Music day!

Activity 1: Many people are inspired animals. Henri Rousseau was one of those people. He was a French artist who started painting late in life and was self-taught. (That means he never went to school to study art.) He is quoted as saying that he had “no teacher other than nature.” He loved to paint animals and safaris even though he never left France! He was also inspired by children’s books and botanical gardens. He described his experience like this: “When I go into the glass houses and I see the strange plants of exotic lands, it seems to me that I enter into a dream.” Do you ever feel like visiting a garden or a zoo brings you into a dream world? Are you inspired to draw, paint, sing, dance, or play an instrument? If so, you feel the same way Henri Rousseau did! (source) Let’s look at some of his famous art and make some observations. Click here for the piece called “English: Tiger in a Tropical Storm (Surprised!).” As you look at it, ask your child these questions:

  • How does this picture compare to other pictures of forests you may have seen?
  • What do you think the weather in this picture is rainy? windy? cloudy?
  • Does it look real or like a cartoon?
  • Can you describe the look of the tiger’s face?
  • Why do you think he looks that way? What could have surprised him?

Once you’ve talked about this painting, jump into it with this video.

Activity 2: Let’s use our imagination with this art project using paper, shaving cream and food coloring. Create pieces and tell a story that goes along with them.

Activity 3: Let’s listen to some dog-inspired music! Compare the original version of “Hound Dog” by Big Mama Thornton to this version by Elvis Presley. Compare and contrast music genres. Which does your child like more? Click on the link about Willie Mae “Big Mama” Thornton to learn a bit about her and her important contribution to soul and rock and roll music.

Optional family movie night: The Secret Life of Pets

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