Whether you’re looking for activities as a full-time teacher, a group of co-opting preschool parents, or a parent with curious kids and an afternoon to fill, you’re in the right place! Find more Thematic Units here!

Pets! There’s something magical about a child’s relationship with a favorite animal!  Whether the children you love and teach have a pet of their own, or just one they fantasize about, they’re sure to love the activities in this unit!

In addition to various developmental objectives, this unit promotes preschool science knowledge in the categories of Life Science (life cycles, attributes of living things, needs of living things, etc.)

(*Links to Amazon for products and books are affiliate links. Regardless, I only link to quality products I believe you’ll enjoy.)

Creative Activities

Find what kids gain from creative activities.

Fish sun catcher from No Time for Flash Cards.

It doesn’t get much more simple (or colorful!) than this fish sun catcher craft from No Time For Flash Cards!

Build playdough pets by setting out dough, googly-eyes, fur (I used batting from a sewing project), pipe cleaners, and other fun accessories.  Then let the kids create real or invented pets as they talk about their attributes!  (This post is an oldie, but the project was loads of fun, I promise!)

Use an old cereal box to create a pet home as a variation on this creative idea from The Imagination Tree!  Kids have to first choose their pet, then create the right home.  Add on paper as Anna did in the example, and you can make anything from a dog house, to a fish tank, to a bird cage, or a snake terrarium!

Make these fantastic pet rocks from Red Ted Art and you’ve got a built-in discussion about the needs of living things vs. nonliving things!  (Animals vs Pets)

With a few minor adjustments, you could make this dog craft from Teach Preschool almost entirely from ovals.  What a great way to get some shape talk in the mix!  Be sure to talk about the ways the children could create a dog from the oval pieces, but let them be creative in putting it all together — it’s more than OK if the dogs all look different!

Dramatic Play

Objectives for dramatic play.

Adorable doctor in training from The Imagination Tree.

Have a Vet Clinic!  With the ideas from these post, you can swap out different props to keep the fun going:

Doctor’s Surgery Dramatic Play {The Imagination Tree}

Vet Clinic {Ikat Bag}

Cedarville Animal Hospital {Preschool Playbook}

Dramatic Play Animal Clinic {Let’s Go Fly a Kite}

Dramatic Play Vet’s Office Printables {PreK Pages}

Pretend Play — Vet’s Office with Free Printable {Mess for Less}

Make a few slight adjustments, and you have a pet store like the one featured here by Simple Kids!  Way to extend the play!

Mirror block play from One Perfect Day!

Block Area

Block play builds math concepts and spatial reasoning along with language and often, social skills.

Add animal figures to your block area for some small world play, which enhances verbal and social skills as well as using their gift for imagination!  Add berry baskets or drawer organizers for cages, and you have yourself a pet shop!

Add some mirrors to the block area for some fantastic spatial reasoning and a fun spin on a classic toy.  One Perfect Day does a fabulous job of explaining mirror play in the block area.  Any blocks and figures would work with the mirrors, literally adding another dimension to the play!

Spread out and use the floor space in your block area for something like The Learning Journey Puzzle Doubles Search and Learn At the Pet Shop Wooden Puzzle!

Sensory Play

Find out why sensory play is so important.

Nifty birdseed sensory bin from TinkerLab!

Birdseed is a perfect media for the sensory bin!  Add some small bird figures and some small sticks for nest building, and your kids will be all hands on deck!

You can also by hamster sawdust rather inexpensively from the pet store to add to your sensory bin (and you’ll reuse it over and over, I promise!)  Add some small pet figures and cardboard tubes for some fun burrowing!

Incorporate all these great ideas for pet-themed fine motor practice from Laly Mom in your sensory bin to let little hands practice all that pouring without the mess on your floor!


Working Tables

This is where I put fine motor materials and cognitive games. (Puzzles, unifix cubes, lacing cards, etc.)

Create your own puzzles with pet photos and craft sticks!  Kiwi crate has all the details for this simple project!

I’ve always been a frog-lover (though I never had one as a pet….unless you count catching tadpoles from the pond and keeping them in the garage until they went through metamorphosis, then racing them down the driveway to freedom……), so I had to get on board with this frog-themed memory game from Preschool Powol Packets!

Add puzzles to match the ability level of your little ones.  From Melissa & Doug Pets Wooden Chunky Puzzle to Melissa & Doug Deluxe Pets in a Box Jigsaw Puzzles, a good puzzle can span many abilities!

Create your own sorting cards for matching pet, home, and food.  You can print photos from the internet, or commission a friend as your sketch artist!  Kids can match the goldfish to the bowl and fish flakes, the cat to the pillow and milk, the dog to the doghouse and dog food or bone, etc.

Get little fingers moving with this Melissa & Doug Lace and Trace Pets set.  Classic fine-motor practice!

Outdoor Play

Outdoor play encompasses a variety of objectives and exposes kids to natural materials and nature itself!

Use plastic toy bones or inexpensive dog toy bones at the sandbox.  Let kids bury and discover their treasures just like their pet dogs do!

Create a variation of this sidewalk stencil activity from Inner Child Fun by creating paw print stencils.  Use different sizes and talk about what the pet that made those paw prints might look like!  (*You can also use stencils with kitchen sifters and flour — on the sidewalk or grass —  for a different type of small motor practice.)

Encourage kids to build pet homes by providing tarps, blankets, big cardboard boxes, PVC pipes and other loose parts.  Their creations will require them to use their imagination and spatial reasoning skills, while also inspiring some awesome dramatic play!

Music and Movement

These activities combine language and literacy objectives like phonological awareness with physical objectives like gross motor skills.

For a fun call and repeat song, you have to check out Sharon, Lois, and Bram’s Candy Man, Salty Dog!

Change up Laurie Berkner’s Classic Pig On Her Head and let the kids add in all kinds of pets to imagine on their heads for this silly song!

Of course, what would this unit be without classic songs like How Much is That Doggie in the Window, Bingo or rhymes like Old Mother Hubbard? Remember the oldies are like Shakespeare for our little ones!

Snack Time!

Snack time not only fills hungry bellies, but is a great opportunity for building social skills and getting kids hands-on experience with snack prep!

Use your favorite gingerbread cookie recipe (or use this one if you don’t have one) and this bone-shaped cookie cutter  to make tasty cookies shaped like doggie treats with the kids.  This is a perfect recipe for kids to help with!  Be sure you let them smell all the fantastically aromatic ingredients!

Kids can also help make the snack that’s popularly called Puppy Chow. (Though I grew up calling them Muddy Buddies!)  Be clear with the kiddos as you make them though, again talking about the difference between people food and pet food.  (The daughter of a friend of mine enjoyed them so much, she decided to try the actual dog food in the house!)  Dogs shouldn’t eat the chocolate in this treat, and people probably shouldn’t make a habit of eating dog food!

You could also eat flies!  Well, you could eat raisins and call them flies!  Then talk about all the pets that need live bugs like crickets and flies for their food!

Visitor/Field Trip

A field trip to the pet store is one of the simplest field trips you can plan, but it’s so much fun for the kids.  Call ahead of your visit.  Some will do a guided tour, others will simply welcome you to come.  I’ll often get there before my group and gather some examples of pet homes, pet food, and pet toys, emphasizing that pets need shelter, food, and exercise.  I’ll show them to the kids and have them identify what kind of pet would use each example.  (It’s always fun to discuss why a dog needs a HUGE bag of food and a goldfish needs just a small canister.)  You could also send kids on a scavenger hunt, looking for samples of homes, food, and toys.  If you have plenty of adult helpers, you could have them take pictures of what they find and then put them together for a class book, “What Pets Need” or “Our trip to the Pet Store”.

If you’d rather stay put, you could invite a parent or friend to bring in a pet to share with your group.  Have the owner talk about her pet, what makes it special, what she likes about having a pet, and what she does to take care of the pet.  Taking pictures here would be great too!  Invite the kids to help you come up with the words to go with the pictures as a great language and comprehension activity!

Book Activities

Combine language and literacy with a learning activity for one powerful and memorable experience! Read here for tips on how to make read-alouds more effective. (Book titles linked to Amazon through an affiliate link.)


Pair Duck at the Door by Jackie Urbanovik along with an animal sort!  Talk about how Duck struggled as a pet.  Talk about how some animals are more suited to being pets than are others.  Then using photos from an internet search sort pets (domesticated animals: cat, dog, bird, goldfish) and non-pets (wild animals: eagle, moose, bear, racoon).

The Perfect Pet by Margie Palatini paired with a Whole Language Question: “What would be the perfect pet for you?” will be sure to get the kids going!

Please, Puppy, Please by Spike and Tanya Lee with a Large Motor activity.  Swap “Simon Says” for “Please Puppy Please” and get your kids hopping, turning, and tip-toeing.  (*Looking for large motor developmental benchmarks?  Add them into this activity!) (Note: This book has a great cadence, but you have to familiarize yourself with it first.  It reads like poetry and the pictures are fantastic, so be sure to take time to talk about them!)


Cookie’s Week by Cindy Ward and Tomie dePaola is a great story about a mischievous cat, while incorporating the days of the week.  Do some sequencing with the days of the week as well as with Cookie’s antics (what happened on what day, or more simply, what happened first, second, etc.), then let the kiddos draw pictures of what they think Cookie will do next!

Don’t forget to add some great non-fiction books to your reading area as well!  Books about specific pets, pamphlets from pet stores, and books about veterinarians would be a great way to start!

Find more Thematic Units here!



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