The range of model animals here at MiniZoo is epic, so we completely understand if you need some help working out where to start, what works best and for what age ranges.
Firstly, please never hesitate to contact us and ask for assistance. We love helping you because we’re super obsessed with our animals and helping you find the perfect ones. But secondly, we’ve written a little go-to guide to help you along the way if you’re browsing and having trouble narrowing down your choices.
Building on the developmental phases of younger children is always beneficial during playtime, so for little ones, we’d recommend starting with some farm animals such as a horse, cow, pig, chicken, sheep, donkey, goat etc. These are easy to recognise, particularly when they see these animals in reality and are often found in books and games targeted are smaller kids. Children usually start learning animal sounds at around twelve months old, so having realistic animals to match can be beneficial for their learning and early visual literacy at this young age.
Our other go-to suggestion for young children are sea animal models. These can be used in sensory water play and at bath time. Any marine creatures such as a whale, fish, turtle, dolphin, octopus or starfish are ideal; the larger figurines are especially great due to their size and don’t typically have holes which can collect mould like most bath toys do.
Build on what they already love. All kids have interests of some kind and just about any story these days has some kind of magical animal component, so run with what already works.
Do they have a favourite book? Bookish play is a fun way to interact with stories and build on their reading experience and visual literacy. Some kids will glean a lot more from a story if they’re playing along with their own animals. They will also play out their own versions of the story in their independent playtime and continue an adventure beyond the pages and expand their imagination. Match your book characters to MiniZoo model animals and you’re on your way. Consider how thrilled your child would be to have his/her very own Curious George, Aslan, or Peter Rabbit right in their hand as they read along. Check out our Reading with MiniZoo blog or Book Week blog if you want some inspiration.
Do they have a favourite film featuring animals? Some days convincing kids to step away from the screen and into imaginative play can be a task in itself, but you can easily bridge the gap between their movie favourites and a more realistic model animal play scene. Think Madagascar, The Jungle Book, Babe, Charlotte’s Web, 101 Dalmatians, Finding Nemo/Dory, Bambi, The Lion King, Ice Age - the list goes on. With a little help from MiniZoo, they could play out their own version of the story and even create the perfect small world for the characters.
Consider Real World Connections
Building on the experiences of family or even school outings is the perfect way to engage real world connections into imaginary animal play. Perhaps you’ve recently visited the zoo or aquarium and maybe your kids learned something new about some of the animals there. Great - Build on that enthusiasm! Shop MiniZoo model animals and build a zoo habitat or simply let them relive their experience over and over again at home with their figurines.
Maybe you’ve taken them horse riding - our range of horse models is extensive, you’re sure to find something that matches the pony they rode.
You can easily do the same with a camping trip, bush walk or holiday, discussing which native animals you saw on your travels and finding them in our store.
Whether guided by interests or experiences, stories or sensory play set up, shopping by theme can be a good place to start. We’d suggest being guided by continents or habitats, choosing animals based on native animals for shared environments, and then perhaps adding a farm or dinosaur theme too. From there you can even venture into the world of fantasy and magic. Here are some suggestions with the top animals in each category to start off your themed environments:
African Savannah: Lion, Elephant, Giraffe, Zebra and a Meerkat
Asian Jungle: Panda, Tiger, Leopard and an Orangutan
Prehistoric World: Brachiosaurus, Triceratops, Tyrannosaurus Rex, Velociraptor, Pteranodon, and a Stegosaurus
Fantastical Realm: Fairy, Pegasus, Unicorn, and a Dragon
South American Wilderness: Sloth, Capybara, Tapir, Toucan, Macaw, and a Lemur
Woodland Forest: Wolf, Bear, Squirrel, Racoon, Deer, Badger, and a Fox
Ocean Adventure: Dolphin, Octopus, Whale, Shark, Starfish, Turtle, Stingray, and Fish
Arctic Exploration: Polar Bear, Penguin, Seal, Narwhal, Walrus, and an Arctic Fox
Farmyard Play: Horse, Cow, Pig, Chicken, Sheep, and a Goat
Australian Outback: Kangaroo, Koala, Echidna, Platypus, Snake, and a Wombat.
These suggestions are a great place to start and you can easily build up your own list. You can also choose animals that might fit into more than one theme or category e.g. a crocodile could play in an Australian environment, or an African habitat, and so you can see how it’s easy to build up your collection using this method.
For each of these suggestions, we always recommend mixing brands: Schleich, CollectA, Papo, Safari and Mojo. Search our website for a specific animal and then choose your favourite model from any of these brands and you’re on your way to starting an epic collection!
The bottom line is, you really can’t go wrong. MiniZoo animal figurines are such a versatile toy and encourage a love of independent, imaginative small world play, as well as a passion for the environment and looking after all the creatures on our planet - big and small.
Jenna @ MiniZoo