Our 4 (almost 5) year old son is so excited to learn about everything and he really soaks it all in, making it really fun to teach him about the world right now. He’s thrilled to participate in any hands-on activity and we usually learn best by DOING, right? I try to combine different things when teaching (from realizing how I learn best and from previously being a teacher and observing my own students). We read, we draw, we listen, we watch, we do.
Today’s fun and educational lesson is on the food chain! Ryan is crazy about dinosaurs right now so he was already familiar with the terms “carnivore” and “herbivore” and what they meant (he says “eating meat or eating grass”). So I figured the food chain fit right in—I could tie it in to his dinosaurs, something he’s passionate about, and expand to new words and meanings.
The idea came from Animal Jam Academy—an online resource I use frequently for fun and educational activities.
First, I gathered some of our toys and figures. I tried to find all types of animals and some plants. Ryan and I named each one and then we decided what they ate—meat or plants (or both)—and we lined them up. Producers make their own food, herbivores eat the producers, and carnivores eat the herbivores. Collectively, herbivores and carnivores are the consumers because they eat other food sources (rather than making their own).
Then together we completed the food chain vocabulary worksheet (a fill-in-the-blank you can download and print from Animal Jam). Some of the words were new to Ryan (producers and consumers) and he caught on quickly—realizing they eat for energy, just like him!
We took a break so he could role play with his animal figures for a bit—of course! The carnivores hunted, the herbivores hid, and they all chowed down in the end. Then we created a food web (download the worksheet here).
Ryan used his figures as a guide, chose the ones he wanted to use, and then he drew one in each spot. I labeled them for him when he was done: grass, a tree, lion, tiger, deer, and giraffe. Then together we talked about who ate what and drew in arrows to complete the web.
More fun and educational ideas for learning about The Food Chain:
- Make a plate of vegetables and meats and have your child become the herbivore or carnivore. Talk through the process—where did that lettuce come from? What else eats it?
- Download and print this food chain word find.
- Head outside and look for things to fill in the food chain. What producers do you see? What herbivores do you see? Any carnivores or omnivores? Look for insects, birds, and the neighbor’s dog.
- Make a model of a food chain. Use string to connect the pieces of the web, print images of consumers and producers to use like a mobile.
- Play Animal Jam! After a lesson (like above), let them have some game time… while still learning! Identify the animals and label them with their place on the food chain (see screen examples below).
As I am sitting in my office typing this right now, I can hear my son in the other room (still role-playing with his animals at the table). He says, “I could teach you what they eat, Dad! Do you know what an herbivore eats? Grass. Then there are also carnivores. They eat meat. So, dad, look at this dinosaur and tell me… what do you think he eats?” Ha, I LOVE IT!!!
I found these printables for free on Animal Jam’s Pinterest page (the Science Downloads board) and you can find lots of other activities there, too! HAVE FUN!