There are fewer than 20 species of penguins, but they are diverse and interesting for preschoolers to learn about. Most people think of penguins as cold-weather animals that live on ice and snow, but they can live in diverse climates, including deserts. The Humbolt penguin, for example, lives in areas off the coast of Chile where it can reach 100 degrees Fahrenheit. With games, cooking and art, preschoolers can learn many facts about penguins.
Eat Like a Penguin
Penguins eat a variety of foods, including squid, fish and crustaceans. Have a feast penguin style. You can learn to cook these various foods with your child or go out to a seafood restaurant and eat only food a penguin would eat.
Life-size Penguin Comparison
Emperor penguins are the largest penguins measuring just less than 4 feet tall on average, according to the University of Michigan’s Department of Zoology. The little penguin, also known as the fairy penguin, stands just 16 inches tall. Make a life-size picture of each of these penguins using paper that's cut and colored to look like a penguin. Hang these on a wall next to each other. Then have your preschooler stand next to the cutouts to compare how big they are compared to the smallest and largest penguins.
Egg Walking Game
The male emperor penguins must care for and incubate their eggs for several weeks while the female hunts for food in the ocean several miles away. They do this by keeping the egg on top of their feet and tucked under their feathers. If the egg drops even once to the icy ground, the egg will freeze and kill the embryo. Have the kids walk around and care for an egg on top of their feet like the emperor penguin dads. You can use a rolled ball of paper, a small stuffed animal, plastic Easter egg, or even a real egg as the pretend penguin egg. Of course if using an uncooked egg, play this game outside. Make it a game to see how far they can walk without dropping the egg.
Visit the Zoo or Aquarium
Many zoos and aquariums have penguins. If you are near one with penguins, then spend the day at the zoo or aquarium. Learn how the penguins swim under water with their wings and what they eat. Some will have scheduled feedings so you can watch them eat and be very active.
Habitat Art Project
Read a book about penguins and their habitats to your child. “Penguins: Amazing Pictures & Fun Facts on Animals in Nature” and “Penguins Are Waterbirds” both describe the habitats of penguins. Then have your preschooler pick out a habitat to make that penguins live in with craft items and a shoebox. For a desert, they can use a nontoxic school glue to affix sand and rocks to the bottom of the shoe box as an example of one penguin habitat. You can find small plastic penguins to place into the shoebox habitat at most any craft or toy store.