Many preschoolers are fascinated by baby animals and it presents an appropriate setting for discussing the different names we have for baby animal, as opposed to adult animals of the same species. You can also use the focus on baby animals to talk about how to care for young animals, how parents show love and care for their babies and how babies change as they grow.
Babies Need Care
Some animals are born ready to care for themselves, and other babies need lots of care. Show your preschooler a picture of a newborn puppy, kitten, panda or dolphin. Explain that puppies and kittens are born with their eyes sealed shut. They need their mothers to care for them, feed them and keep them clean until they are old enough to care for themselves. You can contrast that helplessness with the videoed birth of a dolphin where the baby dolphin as able to swim with her mom right after birth. (See link in Resources) You might also compare the helplessness of newborn puppies and kittens with newborn humans.
Adults and Babies
Baby animals are often called something different from the adult of their species. For example, dogs have puppies, dolphins have calves and kangaroos have joeys. You can use pictures of mother animals and their babies to teach your preschooler the names for several baby animals. You could also point out that baby cows, dolphins, elephants, whales and seals areal called calves. Pups can refer to baby dogs, rats, fur seals and wolves. Your preschooler can match the different species that share the same baby names. You can change the words to “Old MacDonald’s Farm” to use the name for baby animals and have your child supply the appropriate sound.
How You Have Grown!
Many animals change dramatically as they grow. For example, a baby chicken loses its little yellow down and grows larger feathers with different colors. Baby frogs begin as eggs in water, become tadpoles and gradually grow legs as they lose their tails. Show your preschooler pictures of hairless baby mice, rabbits or rats and pictures of the adult animals to demonstrate how they change. You could say, “You see how baby animals change as they grow. How do baby people change as they grow?” Color pictures of baby and adult animals. Talk about what the baby has to do to be like its parents, such as eat healthy food, move or exercise, stay safe and learn to take care of itself.
Observing Baby Animals
Your preschooler could find watching real baby animals fascinating. If you have a pet that gives birth, you can introduce your preschooler to the babies and caution to child against trying to play with or get near the babies until they are big enough to move around on their own. Also caution your child that mother animals sometimes bite when people try to touch the babies. Consider checking out the baby animals at the zoo, a farm or aquarium.