Playing with model animals is always a go-to in our household, whether it’s inside, outside, water play or small world play. Displaying MiniZoo animals in a shelf or home museum is popular among collectors. But if you’re looking for ideas of what else to do with your model animals, we’ve got plenty of suggestions. Animal figurines are so versatile and can be used in heaps of activities, so try some of these at home and your little ones will be excited, engaged, and might even practise some developmentally appropriate skills in the process.
You and your little ones can simply use model animals as a muse to draw your favourite animals. If you’re learning about environment or want some more detail in your art, then perhaps consider also drawing its habitat, and think about what other animals might share that habitat (why not draw them too!).
Another way to get creative with drawing is to utilise light and shadow. Simply place your animal figurines on a blank page in a lighted area where they cast shadows, trace these shadows, colour them in, jumble them up a bit for a challenge, and then match the figurines to their shadows.
Matching is an easy, fun and layered activity which can be played in many different ways. If you want to keep it easy, you can print off cards with patterns to match to your animals. If you're feeling arty, you could draw them yourself. Think about spots, stripes, feathers and scales, but you could also consider matching by colour, sounds, tails, ears or whatever you can think of. Laminate your cards for future use and you’ll have an easy go-to activity.
If you’ve got a tactile learner, you could use play dough to stomp your model animals in and create footprints to be matched to the correct figurine. You could also consider pressing the sides, tails or heads of the animals to be matched as well.
If you have creative little ones, you could also stomp your animal figurine’s feet in paint and then stamp them onto paper, ready to be matched once its dry. You could make a trail or track and find out which animal went in different ways. Perhaps at the end of it you might even have a beautiful animal themed artwork to hang up.
Animal rescue is a fun, hands-on activity which my kids certainly love. You can cover your animal figurines in rubber bands, ribbon, string, or tape and then your participants have to set them free using their hands, or if they’re careful and under supervision, perhaps they can use scissors. We love this one because it easily encourages conversations around conservation, rubbish and keeping our environment happy and healthy for our animals (especially when ‘rescuing’ ocean animal figurines). It’s also perfect for practicing fine-motor skills.
Letter, Shape and Number Recognition
If your little learner can recognise letters, shapes or numbers, you can use your figurines to create anything. It might be a good idea to draw the shape first, perhaps with tape on a mat, or chalk on the ground outside, or even on a large piece of paper, then have your little ones place the animals over the lines, standing up, so that their bodies become the outline of the shape. For older ones, you can write whole words and even introduce challenges where they can only use certain types of animals e.g. write ‘CAT’ with only feline model animals, or ‘OCEAN’ with only sea creature models.
This one is another super easy one, which requires almost zero preparation - in addition to your model animals, all you need is a fabric bag and a scarf or blindfold. Put your animal figures in a bag then while blindfolded, have your little ones pull one out at a time and guess what animal it is. If you don’t have a bag, you could wrap your animals in tin foil, or even in scarves or silkies. You could also wrap your model animals and use them in pass-the-parcel if you want to add another layer of guessing into the traditional birthday party game.
These are just a selection of activities you could do with your model animals from MiniZoo, but honestly, the opportunities are endless. If you’ve got any out-of-the-box games that you play with your animal figurines, share them with us on Facebook in our VIP group or on Instagram.
Jenna @ MiniZoo