Ever Wondered How To Play Farm Animals With Toddlers? It's More Fun, Than Educational!

Your Toddler Playing with Farm Animals is More than Fun, it’s Educational. 

We all remember singing “Old MacDonald Had a Farm”, “Baa, Baa Black Sheep”, “Mary Had a Little Lamb”, and countless other farmyard favorites. These nursery rhymes are one of numerous examples of our childhood connection with farms. 

Toddlers and children have a natural affinity for farms and farm animals because they are so relatable and part of our everyday lives. Farm animals are also easily recognizable with sounds and movements that are simple to distinguish. 

Farm toy animals capture a toddler’s attention and imagination, and there are so many opportunities to turn this interest into fun games and learning activities. Interacting with farm animals in real life, or through play, introduces your toddler to the magical and fascinating world of animals and the natural environment. 

You can bring the familiarity, simplicity, and interactive elements of farm animals to life through singing, playing, and doing activities with your toddler. These rich experiences contribute to early learning and help develop key milestones. 

  • Recognizing key milestones through farm animals
  • Why identifying animals is an important developmental milestone
  • Singing about farms and farm animals
  • A few ways to introduce toddlers to the world of animals and outdoor experiences
  • Playing with ERTL toys
  • Continuing to learn through farming

Recognizing key milestones through farm animals

Incorporating farm animals into activities helps toddlers achieve key developmental milestones. Toddlers can develop many of the following developmental skills through learning and interacting with farm animals. 

  • Sorting Animals: To promote cognitive skills, such as classification and organization, use ERTL animal figures to encourage toddlers and children to sort farm animals based on size, color, or type. 
  • Matching Sounds and Names: To help reinforce cognitive connections through sound, produce the animal sound that pairs with the correct ERTL farm animal toy. While doing this, also encourage the toddler to name the animal. 
  • Storytelling and Roleplaying: To develop dialogue, vocabulary, imagination and expression, use farm animals to create stories and roleplays. 
  • Developing Gross Motor Skills: Mimicking an animal’s movements is a fun and interactive way to develop skills such as hopping, skipping, crouching, bending, galloping, and so on. 
  • Developing Fine Motor Skills: Playing with small farm animal toys, as well as sorting, stacking, and engaging with moving parts, helps to develop hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills. 
  • Developing Empathy: Create scenarios where your toddler or child has to look after various farm animals and care for them correctly. 
  • Sensory Play: Encourage toddlers to experience different textures, smells, and sounds through diverse play. 
  • Developing Counting: Introduce your toddler to counting by grouping farm animals. 

Integrating farm animals into play and activities helps target specific milestones. The more fun and interactive you make learning, the more your child will relish in these activities. 

Why identifying animals is an important developmental milestone

The ability to identify animals is more than just a rudimentary skill. Identifying animals is considered a milestone that contributes to cognitive, social, and emotional development. Identifying animals points to important classification skills and the brain’s ability to identify individual and group characteristics. Knowing about animals is also an important tool for developing vocabulary and language, and learning about empathy and compassion. Parents should encourage animal play from a young age by introducing toy animals. 

Individual development varies, but here’s a rough guide for age and milestones: 

  • 0-12 months: Infants are generally very stimulated by animals so parents should introduce them to pictures and age-appropriate toys. 
  • 1-2 years: toddlers show a growing interest in animals and may be able to point to familiar animals and make some animal sounds.
  • 3-5 years: preschoolers can generally identify a broad range of animals and may even know basic facts about them. 
  • 6-8 years: at this age, children grow and develop their knowledge of animals and may show a more specific interest in different categories of animals. They should also have a more complex knowledge of habitats, behaviors, and characteristics. 

Singing about farms and farm animals

For parents and kindergarten teachers, nursery rhymes are the perfect way to introduce children and toddlers to farm animals. Nursery rhymes are a childhood staple, and the farmyard is one of the most popular nursery rhyme settings. 

Nursery rhymes aren’t just cute little rhyming ditties, they also play a crucial role in early development and learning. They help to develop language by extending vocabulary, introducing rhymes and sounds, and highlighting rhythm and pronunciation. The format is also conducive to enhancing memory and sequencing skills because of the rhymes and repetitive patterns they use. Nursery rhymes can also help a lot with mathematical concepts such as counting and arithmetic. 

Nursery rhymes about farms are very popular and familiar, and they also introduce children to basic concepts about animals and rural life. Many of these rhymes are also attached to specific morals and lessons about planting seeds, tending to crops, looking after nature, and so forth. These lessons help to instill values of empathy, patience, hard work, and being connected to nature. 

One of the best things about nursery rhymes is that they foster social interaction and turn-taking, and they’re also really fun to perform. Nursery rhymes are a fun educational and enjoyable activity that toddlers respond very well to. 

A few ways to introduce toddlers to the world of animals and outdoor experiences

Parents and teachers are often trying to find new ways to introduce toddlers to the outdoors. Farm animals are a great starting point because toddlers are so connected to them. Drawing on the senses and movement are excellent ways to engage active toddlers. 

Think about the sounds and smells that you associate with farmyards and introduce these to toddlers. You want to encourage children to explore so try and engage them as much as possible through a range of fun activities. Farm Animal Yoga is a great indoor or outdoor activity that promotes movement and exercise, while also familiarizing toddlers with the types of movements animals make. Another idea to try is to introduce toddlers to planting seeds and watching them grow. 

The point is that you want to make any games and activities as age-appropriate and stimulating as possible. 

Playing with ERTL toys

There are so many wonderful and creative ways to play with toy farm animals and you are only as limited as your imagination. Try to think of games that rely on the senses and engage fine and gross motor skills. Here are a few examples of different ways to play with ERTL farm animals. 

  • Animal Charades: Put your ERTL farmyard animals into a basket or bucket and take turns picking out any of the figures. The idea is to mimic the animal that’s been selected.  
  • Farm Animal Bowling: Arrange your ERTL farmyard animals and use a soft ball to knock specific animals over. This helps to develop gross motor skills and recognition. 
  • Animal Hide and Seek: Hide farm animals around the house and encourage your child to find them. This will promote keen observation, looking, and counting. 
  • Animal Stories: Encourage your child to tell stories about individual farm animals by asking them appropriate questions and teaching them about different animals. 

Remember that playing with any child means that you should consider where they are developmentally. This will allow you to develop fun activities that are stimulating and rewarding. 

Continuing to learn through farming

Whether you’re parenting or teaching a toddler, a preschooler, or a kindergartner, introducing farms and farm animals is vital to their development. 

There are so many benefits to exploring farms and farmyards and familiarizing children with the natural world. Now, more than ever, it’s important to be connected to nature and understand where our food comes from. Fostering this connection as early as possible will help to develop healthy eating practices and habits. 

Learning about farms also teaches us about how animals behave, and how we should treat animals. Another benefit of learning about farms and farming is that it teaches children about the weather, seasons, and how interconnected living things are. 

For teachers and parents, the farm and farmyard are perfect spaces for learning that present opportunities for so many hands-on and sensory activities. 

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