We have been very busy with our letter of the week activities lately, so we haven’t done as many activities for our continent studies. We have enjoyed reading many books though.
If you are looking for some hands-on activities to go along with your Australian theme, you might find some inspiration on my Australia Pinterest board.
For this first glimpse at the different continents, we are mainly focusing on identifying the name of the continent, finding the continent on the map, and recognizing a few of the animals that live on each continent. I do try to include age-appropriate nonfiction books when I can find them at the library, but most often we are using picture books. As we have “visited” each continent throughout the year it has been fun to see the kids begin to expand their vocabulary and use many of the animal and continent names in their pretend play.
Over in Australia: Amazing Animals Down Under is the Australian version of Over in the Meadow. I always love to include these books when I can find one that relates to our topic. There are so many concepts covered in the book including counting, rhyming, and naming animals and their babies. The back of this book also includes a map of Australia that shows where each animal lives. Older preschoolers will really enjoy finding the “hidden” animals throughout the book. There are also facts about each of the animals to add a little more information to the discussion. This is a book we read many times throughout our Australia unit.
In Sometimes I Like to Curl Up in a Ball Wombat tells about all the things he likes to do, like scream loud, jump high, get messy, curl up in a ball. At the ends he likes to curl up in a ball and snuggle. My kids enjoyed acting out some of the parts of the story. We also spent time talking about whether we liked to do some of the same things that Wombat enjoys. We finished up our discussion by talking about other things we like to do that weren’t listed in this book.
Wombat Walkabout is a rhyming story about a group of wombats who outsmart the dingo trying to catch them. It is also a counting story that counts backwards from 6. Slowly each wombat ends up in the dingo’s sack until the last two figure out how to set their friends free. To emphasize subtraction, I gave the kids each a paper bag and six blocks. As the dingo caught another wombat we practiced taking one away from our set and adding it to the paper bag. This was a fun way to explore number sense and act out the story.
Wombat Stew is out of print, but it is typically available in most libraries. In this story a dingo catches a wombat and decides to make wombat stew. All of the other animals suggest other ingredients Dingo needs for his stew, and in the end they all help to save wombat. Kids will love to chant along to the repeated phrases of the story. There is a lot of rich vocabulary that is used in the story. It is great exposure for younger kids and could lead to a lot of discussion with older kids. Some of my favorite words for vocabulary study in this book would be clever, ambling, graceful, boasted, and bristled.
Diary of a Wombat is a well-illustrated look at a day in the life of a wombat. My kids got a little of giggles out of this one. It also prompted us to talk about different personalities and how pets are different from animals in the wild.
We also enjoyed Diary of a BABY Wombat. In this story Baby Wombat is here to tell about its adventures and meeting a new friend.
Marsupial Sue is my favorite book about Australian animals. It is a book I used in my kindergarten class, and it is one that is frequently in the car with us on road trips. The book comes with a CD that includes a recording of John Lithgow singing Marsupial Sue and an instrumental version. Poor Marsupial Sue is unhappy being a kangaroo, so she wanders around trying to find the place where she belongs. After some comical attempts at trying to be like her Australian animal friends, she realizes that she is happy being a kangaroo. I always enjoy sharing this message with kids and talking with them about reasons they are happy with who they are. And, yes, this is a song you will have stuck in your head for a long time, but the message is as good for adults as it is for kids!
In Marsupial Sue Presents “The Runaway Pancake” Marsupial Sue and her Australian animal friends are putting on a play of The Runaway Pancake. This is a variation of the traditional stories The Runaway Pancake or The Gingerbread Man. The book is also accompanied by a CD with a musical performance by John Lithgow, and kids love it! This book is a great addition to an Australian unit study or a gingerbread theme.
Heart in the Pocket is a story about the special bond between mother and child. Little Jo-Jo wants to stay in his mommy’s pocket forever. He shares all the reasons he wants to stay, and mom shares all the things he can explore on his own. It’s a sentimental story about growing up and remembering that you’ll always have a special place in mom’s heart.
Koala Lou tries to win her mother’s affection when she realizes she has had it all along. This is a great story that can be helpful to lightly address sibling rivalry and remind children that they are loved all of the time, not just in those moments of praise.
Edward the Emu is a bit like Marsupial Sue. Edward tries to be something he’s not. We thought it was another great book about being happy with who you are and having a positive self-image. The humorous illustrations and rhyming text of this story also make it a wonderful read aloud. In Edwina the Emu, the sequel to this book, Edwina and Edward are expecting ten emu babies.
One of the saddest things for me to discover as I try and share some of our favorite books is that many of them are out of print. Eek! I debate whether to include them in these lists or not. Below is a glimpse at some of the other out of print books not mentioned above that you might have in your personal collections or find at the local library.
What are some of your favorite books about Australian animals? Do you know of any brief nonfiction books that would be great for preschoolers?
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