Young children enjoy learning all the sounds that animals make, don’t they? We make a lot of animal noises in baby storytime, that’s for sure. One thing I like to tell the parents is that when we talk about what animals say, we’re not really teaching children what real animals sound like (Pigs don’t often say “Oink” quite as delicately as we do, for instance, and cows don’t really enunciate that “M” at the beginning of “Moo” very well). Instead, one of the things children are learning is what PEOPLE sound like. (Roosters and pigs say quite different things in different languages, have you noticed?) So playing games with animal sounds is a great way for young children to have fun while soaking up the specific individual sounds and combinations of sounds in their language.
Here’s a game I learned from my colleague Betsy, who brought it to one of our literacy activity brainstorming sessions. I don’t know where she came across it, but when I went online to look for it, I found it here.
We call it “When They Woke Up.” Tell the children you have a magic wand (or magic glitter, or just plain old magic that doesn’t need a prop!) and with your magic you can turn them into different animals. Tell them to curl up and pretend to go to sleep. Then wave your wand or just say the following chant:
All the children were sleeping.
And when they woke up they were…
Wake up, cats! Stretch like a cat! What do you say? Meow!
Do this little activity several times. Each time, give them a new animal, and a few easy prompts for acting each out: shaking your mane to be a horse, stomping your feet to be an elephant, etc. Be sure to have them make good animal noises, too! Then, when you’ve played this game a few times, tell the parents something like this:
Grownups, when you say animal sounds with your children, what your children are really learning are the sounds WE say in our language! This will help them become good readers because they’ll need to hear all those sounds in order to “take apart” words and sound them out when they read. Playing with your children will help them get ready to read!