You mean there are cows that live under water and their babies can swim when they are an hour old? Teaching toddlers and preschoolers about manatees -- often called sea cows -- is a positive way to introduce them to the idea of endangered animals and how people can help save them. If you are unable to take a trip to see the massive creatures in person, working on a manatee craft together can help your tot fall in love with this large, slow-moving vegetarian.
A manatee mask is a simple project that your child will be able to wear for imaginary play again and again. Ask the child to color a paper plate a blue-gray or gray color using crayons or washable markers. While he is coloring, cut out two 3-inch circles for eyes and a 5-inch wide snout. Let the child color in the snout and the eyes in blue, brown or light green, and then glue them to the plate. Punch a hole on opposite sides of the plate with a hole punch. Thread a string or piece of elastic through the holes, forming a band to hold the mask on the child’s face and say, “My little boy has turned into a big, swimming manatee!”
Paper bag puppets are inexpensive and encourage imaginary play for your preschooler. Start with basic manatee cut-outs, including the face, flippers and tail. Draw them yourself, or print them out on savethemanatee.org. Give your child ample time to color the manatee parts using crayons, washable markers or colored pencils in blues, grays or browns for a more realistic-looking animal. Ask, “Do you want to glue the pieces on by yourself, or would you like some help?” Then, sit back while she swims around the house with her new manatee friend.
Create a one-of-a-kind manatee picture with colored paper and crayons. Cut out various shapes that your child can assemble together to form a manatee, such as circles, tear-drop shapes and long ovals. Let your tot apply glue with a glue stick to the back of the shapes and place them onto a blue piece of card stock. Use stickers or markers to create a surrounding seascape that includes colorful fish and plants. Say, “We will have to add this masterpiece to our art gallery” as you hang it in a place of honor on the refrigerator.
How about making a three-dimensional manatee with your child? Gather play dough or softened modeling clay along with a picture of a manatee. Give your child artistic freedom to recreate in his hands what he sees in the picture. When he is finished, place the manatee on a piece of blue card stock. Make some green plants out of extra dough to place next to the manatee sculpture.