Animal Games are an amazing entry-point into dramatic play for kids. When parents ask me about my favorite games to play at home, I often suggest starting with the animal kingdom. Whether they are fuzzy or fierce, animals are a natural springboard for courage and silliness…they are an awesome gateway into that imaginative magic.

I’ll never forget those early days when Nathaniel was learning to ride his scooter: We’d go a half a block and then he’d stop, so tentative! As soon as I talked to him like a mother bunny and called him Peter (rabbit!), he was zooming off to find the berries from Mr. McGregor’s garden. He’d go even faster when I became Mr. McGregor. Once he got the muscle memory and confidence, it didn’t leave him, even when he stopped being a bunny and was just a 3-year-old kid on a scooter.

Ultimately, harnessing the power of imagination is not just great for our kids, it makes parenting easier!

So, with that in mind, here’s a video on ways to use animal games in your everyday parenting and tips on encyclopedia-style books that can take it to the next level.

Animal Games That Will Inspire Your Kid’s Imagination:

The structure of some of our classic Child’s Play NY games lend themselves so naturally to animal games and play:

Theater Games to Engage Creative Play 

  • Take an ‘Elevator’ to different environments and jump out as the characters that would inhabit an ocean, desert, jungle, etc (we’ve been watching a lot of Netflix’s “Our Planet” in my house lately, and seems like the first-grade curriculum is now about biomes!).   

  • Go to ‘School’ as different animals across the floor and see how the mouse squeaks the ABCs or the Tiger sings Katie Perry’s “Roar”.

  • Play ‘Taxi’ where different animals enter the car with problems to solve and places to be (Executive Function skills at work)!

  • Play ‘Silly Shop’ with an animal shopkeeper hosting various pets coming through to purchase items that they need.

  • ‘Pet Vet’ (but of course!) is a classic where an animal presents their ailment to the doc who helps to magically cure it. Remember to ask how their wound happened so they can develop their storytelling skills. Enlist helpers (siblings!) to be the caring nurse assistants who help with the imaginary treatment!

Gross-Motor Animal Games 

  • Create an Obstacle Course and play as if you were an animal.  

  • Play ‘Going on a Bear Hunt’ in different animal bodies.

  • Set up ‘Red Light Green Light’ with challenges and triumphs for your favorite animals.

If you need a courage booster as you go, use soaring, sneaky, or bouncy soundtracks to help you get in the mood of the animal kingdom and augment any of these animal games!

Props for Animal Games 

The thing to remember with all dramatic play is that you already have on hand what you need to transform. But if you are throwing an animal birthday party or want a little more springboard into the make-believe, here are some things I recommend:

  • Animal masks
  • Animal noses

  • Tails

  • Animal ears

  • A little face-paint to make whiskers or blacken a nose!

Above all, don’t forget to have fun, commit, and take risks yourself!  You are modeling silliness and bravery with your kids as you play.

Hope you have an animal-tastic time!

 

This post originally appeared on Child's Play In Action.