In this activity, you and your child will discover different ways to play with toy farm animals.
Learning Area(s):Language and Communication
These games work best when you and your child are seated on the floor or at a table.
Age 6-12 months
Older infants love to explore objects with their hands and mouths and look at objects with faces. They also enjoy when adults show them how to make interesting sounds, sing songs, and play with toys in new ways. You can encourage your baby’s learning by trying the following activities:
- Show your baby one animal at a time, name it, and make the sound the animal makes. Give him time to reach out and hold the animal or gently place it in his hands to hold. As he examines it, name its body parts (e.g., “Look, here are his ears. He has 1, 2 ears,” “See his nose? Here it is!” or, “See, the pig has a curly tail!”). If your baby begins to chew on the animal, you can name and talk about the body part he is chewing.
- Sing a song about farm animals, such as “Old MacDonald.” Hold up each animal as you sing and make the animal dance to the song. If he reaches out for the animal while you’re singing, let him hold it.
- Use a playful tone of voice to start a tickle game by saying, “Here comes the sheep! Sheep is gonna get your tummy!” Name the animal and each of your baby’s body parts as you tickle him.
Age 12-24 months
Most toddlers are beginning to talk and are rapidly adding new words. They may start to name the animals themselves, though they may not always say the right name. Toddlers are also starting to enjoy pretend play. Try the following activities with young toddlers:
- Encourage your child to copy you in naming each animal and making its sound as you show or hand her the animal.
- Let your child choose an animal to hold. Then see if she can point to different body parts on the animal (eyes, nose, ears, mouth, tail, feet, etc.). You can point out special body parts of each animal, such as the cow’s horns and the horse’s mane.
- Pretend with the animals. For example, you can have the animal “kiss” your child and encourage her to kiss the animal. You can pretend the animals are going to sleep for the night by laying them down and patting them as you say goodnight to each one. Show your child how to put her finger to her lips and say, “Shhh, the pig is sleeping.” Then you can pretend it’s time to wake up, saying, “Wake up, horse!” and standing up the horse. Encourage your child to copy your words and actions in these pretend games.
- Show your child how to match up big and little animals with each other. You might choose to call them mommies or daddies and babies, or just big sheep and little sheep. After showing her the pairs of animals, pick up one animal and see if your child can find the one that goes with it (e.g., “Look, here is the mommy horse. Can you find the baby horse?”).
Age 24-36 months
Two-year-olds are getting better at copying what you do, repeating what you say, and following simple directions. They are starting to be able to sing songs and use props in pretend play. You can continue using games in the 12-24 month section above and also add the following:
- Place five different animals in front of your child. Then use the tune of “The Farmer in the Dell” to sing about each animal. See if the child can find the one you are singing about, like this: “Where is the cow? Where is the cow? Hi ho the derry-o, where is the cow?”
- Teach your child rich vocabulary words that go with each animal. For example, “A baby sheep is called a lamb” (horse-colt, cow-calf, pig-piglet). Explain that sheep, pig, cow, and horse feet are called hooves and that they don’t have toes. A pig’s nose is called a snout. It’s okay if your child still calls these body parts by more common names, such as feet or nose, but you are helping him build a rich vocabulary when you teach these new words and encourage your child to learn them!
- Add pretend play to a matching game. Take one of the big animals and pretend it is looking for its lost baby (e.g., “I am the mommy cow. Where is my baby cow?”). Invite your child to help you find the matching animal.
- Help your child match each animal to its sound. Put out all the animals in front of him. Say, “Let’s see if we can find the animal that makes this sound: Neigh! Neigh! What animal says ‘neigh’?” When he finds the right animal, encourage him to make the animal sound, too. If he chooses a wrong animal, you can say, “That’s a cow. A cow says, ‘mooo.’ Try again!”
- Help your child count the animal’s ears, eyes, and feet (hooves). If he is just learning how to count, show him that we say one number for each thing as we touch it—an important early math skill!
- Take your pretend play even further by adding a few props. You can use a block as a bale of hay for the animals to eat or a bowl as water for them to drink. Show your child how to pretend the animals are eating and drinking. You can also use blocks to build a fence or barn for the animals. If you have toy trucks or other vehicles, or a pull toy such as a wagon, your child may want to give the animals a ride!
- Remember that it’s normal for babies to explore objects by putting them in their mouths. They may also be teething and like the feeling of chewing on the animals. Try not to frustrate your baby by keeping her from this natural way of playing.
- Watch for your child’s signals as you play together. If she shows frustration by fussing, turning away, or scattering the animals, this may be her way of letting you know she is not interested. It’s okay to stop and try again later. She may show she is enjoying the game by watching and copying your actions, smiling or laughing, or handing you an animal to continue the game.
- Some vocabulary words you can use with your child include: animals, big, little, mommy, daddy, baby, fence, barn, specific kinds of animals (e.g., horse, cow, bull, pig, sheep, colt, calf, piglet, lamb), animal sounds (e.g., moo, oink, neigh, baa), body parts (e.g., ears, eyes, nose, mouth, tail, horns, snout, hooves, udder, wool, mane), numbers (1,2,3…), kiss, sleep, wake, goodnight, hungry, thirsty, eat, drink, hay, and water.
- Feel free to make these activities more or less difficult to match your child’s needs. For example, your child may be ready for an activity in the older age range, or she may be more interested in a simpler activity from the younger age range.