Teaching baby animal names, sounds, and habits builds important skills

What’s downy soft and incredibly cute? The baby animals of springtime! Little humans adore their critter counterparts. What toddler has not delighted in a “cluck, cluck here and a cluck, cluck, there”? What small hand does not reach out for fuzzy lamb and silky kitten? The season of fluffy chicks and spotted fawns is here, and channeling kids’ enthusiasm for them into teachable moments is a natural next step.

It’s hardly a surprise that Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey, published in 1941 and winner of the 1942 Caldecott Prize, has remained continuously in print ever since. With a duckling’s-eye-view of urban obstacles, the story remains a perennial favorite of kids and kids-at-heart. Search “policeman escorts ducklings” on the Internet and countless real-life happy tales of safe crossings surface. Have little ones count the number of ducklings mama is trying to help across the road. That’s a lot of brothers and sisters!

Animal names are an important part of early vocabulary. A few years ago, Linda Acredelo, Ph.D., co-founder of the Baby Signs® Program and Professor Emeritus, University of California – Davis, posted to the Baby Signs Inc. blog that “more than a third of the average baby’s earliest words are names for animals with ‘cat,’ ‘dog,’ ‘duck,’ and ‘bunny’ leading the pack.” Nurture that natural affinity with Fuzzy Animal Friends and Fuzzy Farmyard Friends Clever Baby Cards 2-Pack  Use the interactive cards to help baby understand the world. See, say, and touch. These cards crinkle, are soft, rough, shiny, fuzzy, or smooth; they can be stroked, tugged, and turned. The characters on the cards have friendly faces—some with moving eyes—to fascinate and engage baby.

The Baby Signs blog also noted that babies, “are fascinated by things that make interesting noises, are capable of interacting with them and are unpredictable in what they do and how they behave.”  In that respect, little humans and little animals are a bit similar! Spring is a wonderful time to burn off some energy and watch animals in action by visiting a traditional zoo, a petting zoo, or a working farm. “Many of the animals children see at close range,” Acredelo remarked, “have the added advantage of providing what researchers call ‘contact comfort’—or what most people call being soft and cuddly! In other words, babies find animals about as far from boring as things can be without being human.”

Weather not cooperating with outdoor plans? Use My First Book of Animals to take a walk through the zoo without leaving home! Kids will love spotting and naming more than six dozen critters from all sorts of environments. Categories in this board book include Sea Animals, In the Jungle, Farm Animals, Flesh Eaters, Grass Eaters, In the Cold, Big Animals, In the Desert, Birds, Pets, Animal Babies, Multicolored, and Creepy Crawlies. Introduce and name an armadillo, a gazelle, a rhino, a rooster, a scorpion and so many more. A picture of each, along with the word name, help lock in the association, develop reading readiness skills, and expand vocabulary.

Or watch little ones laugh and learn with Animal Alphabet Pop-Up Flash Cards as they connect the letters with 26 animals of the alphabet. E, for example, is for Elephant. Kids 4+ will delight in the names, pictures, and information on  Animals of All Kinds Flash Cards, as you help them with reading. For example, did you know that there are probably more chickens than any other single kind of bird? How about that koalas aren't really bears? Kids learn about the size, habitat, class, and characteristics of each animal. Flip the cards over, and they can look at each animal’s picture, reinforcing the association among pictures, information and words.

Capitalize on kids’ fascination with animals, and open the gate to a wild kingdom of joyful learning.