Habitats – Staying at Home

Each year at our Family Inventors Lab class, we study Animal Habitats. At Discovery Science Lab, we focus on Northwest Habitats. This year, for our virtual classes, during the Stay-at-Home order, we decided to take a fresh look at Habitats. What do we all (animal and human) need in our homes?

Teaching the Concept

Explain that habitat means home. Ask them about the things humans need for a comfortable home. They may come up with them spontaneously, or you might give hints: “if it was raining, what would we want our house to do? If it was cold, what would we want?” You’ll probably come to agreements like that it’s important to have food in your home, and a comfy place to sleep. It’s also a handy place to stash your stuff that you don’t need right now, but will need in the future. You can show them pictures of homes from several habitats around the world.

Ask them what different animals need in their home. Guide them to notice these requirements: water, food, a place to sleep, a way to protect themselves from the weather and a way to hide (from their predators or from their prey.) Ask them: what does a polar bear need? What does a camel need? What does a whale need? Point out that certain animals can only live in certain places. Polar bears do great in the arctic, but not in the desert. A camel couldn’t live in the Arctic. Whales have skin and blubber that protect them from cold ocean water, and many animals have camouflage that protects them.

Teach this poem: “Food, water, shelter, space, a habitat is a wonderful place.” Then teach them how to clap out the rhythm, because clapping the rhythm helps them to remember.

Or teach this song, to the tune of Twinkle Twinkle: “Food, water, shelter, space, makes a happy living space. I live in my habitat, eating bits of this and that. Food, water….” There are several verses about specific animals in this great habitat lesson plan from Haleakala National Park.

Build a Habitat

From recyclables

Choose a toy animal – plastic or stuffed, and use craft supplies and materials from your recycling bin to build a habitat for it. Encourage them to think about shelter, bedding, and food in their habitats. You might build a bird nest, or a bear cave, or a bee hive.

Make a fish habitat

Use paper bowls for “fish bowls.” We used aquarium rocks, blue paper squares and foil for water, some plants, and fish from shiny origami paper, but you can improvise with whatever you have.

Make a habitat diorama

Choose a small plastic animal or stuffed animal to make a home for. Take a shoe box. Cut a piece of paper to fit on the bottom of the box. Decorate that to create the background for your diorama. Ask your child what would be surrounding this animal – are they living in the ocean, in a forest, in a desert? Then think about the floor of the diorama – what would be on the ground where the animal lives? Add in other items to be “trees” or rocks to increase the three dimensional aspect of the diorama.

Need more ideas for dioramas? Check out my post on habitat dioramas.

Free Printable Science Activities

Habitat sort. I’d created a rough draft of this activity for this year, that you can test out for me. There are pictures of habitats, then homes you might find there, traditional clothing of that region, and animals you might find there. Children can sort things into their matching habitats and talk about why they belong there. (Note: you could also use these materials for a diorama if your child would rather cut out pictures than draw them.)

Hot/Cold sorting. Shows adaptations that animals have developed to help them cope with hot weather or cold weather.

I Spy Camouflage Game. This is best suited to 5 – 6 year olds. Youngers may have a hard time spotting the animals.


Camouflage Hunt. Have a stuffed animal hunt/plastic animal hunt where you hide many animals in the house or outside, taking advantage of camouflage where they can blend in, and have kids search for them.

Imaginary play: Make an animal costume for your child to wear (something as simple as cutting out a paper tail and a couple paper ears on a headband!) Build a blanket fort habitat for that animal.

Camping Indoors: Set up a tent and camping equipment inside your house – it’s a human habitat that can be taken out into the woods.


Art Projects

Make a “critter”: You can use clothespins, pipe cleaners, cardstock, googly eyes and pompoms or honestly anything out of your craft drawer or kitchen junk drawer to make lots of little animals – I have a whole post on making critters. The photo has some samples made from clothespins. (You can find sources on my Pinterest page at www.pinterest.com/bcparented/clothespin-creatures/)

Sensory Play

Fill a bin with water, or a sensory material – dried beans, rice, sand, popcorn kernels – whatever you have. Or  just use blocks. Add plastic animals and encourage children to play with animals in their habitat, and create pretend items to meet all the animals needs.


Habitat Song

Sing to the tune of Mulberry Bush / This is the Way we Wash Our Hands. I found this at http://perpetualpreschool.com/animal-habitat-songs/#more-1922 but I adjusted the wording a bit… Hold up a toy animal, ask where it lives, then sing a version of this song:

  • Forests are where the deer live, the deer live, the deer live… the forest is where the deer live, It’s their habitat.
  • Deserts are where camels live…
  • Oceans are where octopi live…

Books (available on Kindle)

I See a Kookaburra!: Discovering Animal Habitats Around the World by Jenkins and Page. For 5 – 7 year olds (or 4 year olds with patience to look for details.) One page spread shows a detailed collage of a habitat with lots of animals hidden in and amongst the plants and other features. The next page spread “lifts off” all the cover, showing the full bodies of all the animals, in the same location / position as on the previous page, so it’s easy to line them up with each other. It also offers information about each animal. So, for example, on the jungle page, we see a toucan’s beak poking out from behind leaves, a jaguar on a branch, covered up by leaves, an iguana shaded by a fern, etc. Click on the link for the Amazon listing, where I included photos with my review of the book.

What Am I? Where Am I? by Lewin. Introduces 5 animals. It shows a circle with an isolated picture of some part of the animal (the otter’s nose, the tiger’s whiskers) on one page and asks “what am I?” On the next two pages, we see a picture of more of the animal, and it says “I am a _____. Where am I?” On the fourth page, we see that animal in its habitat – “I am in a forest.” It’s a fine book to get from the library to have as one of the books on the shelf – it’s interesting, but a little limited in content. You could take this idea and easily assemble your own book featuring other animals using images from google image search – it could be a fun project to do with a child. Age 4 – 5.

Castles, Caves, and Honeycombs by Ashman & Stringer. “Many places make a home: a heap of twigs, a honeycomb, an aerie with a bird’s eye view… a warren in a grassy glen… a home’s a house, a nest, a den. A place to play, a place to rest, a place to hug. A home is someplace safe and snug.” A nice read-aloud with lovely illustrations, that shows several animal homes and ties them in nicely to the child’s own experience of home. Good for class, but the sweetness of it would also make for a good bedtime story. Age 3 – 6.

What Can Live in a Desert? by Anderson. Age 4 – 7. (The series also includes books on Ocean, Grassland, Mountain, Lake, and Forest habitats.) A nice overview of habitats and the adaptations seen in animals that live there. Each page contains a photograph and one sentence, such as: “Desert geckos have webbed feet. They can walk on top of the sand without sinking.” The word webbed is bold face, and is defined in the glossary. At the end of the book, there’s a couple pages of “fun facts”. A simple non-fiction overview. It would be nice to have the full set so kids could compare side by side what the differences are between the animals in each habitat.


Crash Course Kids has a great overview of habitats in less than 5 minutes: Habitat Sweet Habitat. Common Sense Media has a list of Best Animal Documentaries for kids age 5 – 7.

Resources to Learn More

Complete lesson plan on animals and habitats. Includes science standards for 1st grade: www.engageny.org/sites/default/files/downloadable-resources/ckla_g1_d8_anth.pdf

  • Explain what a habitat is
  • Explain why living things live in habitats to which they are particularly suited
  • Identify the characteristics of the Arctic tundra habitat
  • Identify the characteristics of the Arctic Ocean habitat
  • Explain how Arctic animals have adapted to the Arctic tundra and Arctic Ocean habitats
  • Identify the characteristics of the desert habitat
  • Explain how desert animals have adapted to the desert habitat
  • Classify animals on the basis of the types of food that they eat (herbivore, carnivore, omnivore)
  • Identify the characteristics of the grassland habitat
  • Explain how grassland animals have adapted to the grassland habitat
  • Match specific plants and animals to their habitats
  • Identify the characteristics of the temperate deciduous forest habitat
  • Explain how temperate deciduous forest animals have adapted to the temperate deciduous forest habitat
  • Identify the characteristics of the tropical rainforest habitat
  • Explain how tropical rainforest animals have adapted to the tropical rainforest habitat
  • Classify water habitats as either freshwater or saltwater habitats

A video on Habitats – good for ages 6 – 9 or so: Home Sweet Habitat.


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