Animal Habitat Lessons for Kindergarten

By Dr. Mary Dowd
Visit a nature center to study woodland habitats.

Kindergarten students are eager to engage in hands-on science activities that making learning fun. Introduce the concept of habitats by explaining that animals have homes, just as people have homes. Children delight in hearing about diverse habitats that support plant and animal life, such as bat caves, swamps, polar caps and African jungles. Also point out more familiar habitats such as ponds, lakes, forests and their own backyard. By the end of your lesson, children should be able define habitats and match animals to their respective environments.

"Who am I?" Game

Explain that habitats provide air, water, food and shelter that sustain living creatures. Define living versus nonliving. Organize a game to help students understand habitats and the difference between living and nonliving things. Bring a brown bag to class with pictures of familiar objects in the environment. Examples include pictures of a baby animal, rabbit, tree, wind, sun and rocks. Give each student a picture they must keep secret until it’s their turn to act it out in front of the class, pretending to be the object in the picture. Students will ask questions to guess their peer’s identity. For instance, children might ask, “Do you grow? Eat? Need air? Drink water? Have babies?”

Habitats of the World

Show pictures of a desert, jungle, Arctic Circle, savanna and the ocean. Ask the children to guess how the habitats might differ. For example, children may suggest differences in the soil, number of trees, average temperature and amount of water. Identify a few of the common types of birds and animals that are found in those habitats. Then ask each child to choose their favorite habit and draw a picture of it. Instruct students to include the type of animals and birds they would expect to find residing there. For example, a child might draw penguins and polar bears fishing on an ice cap.

Animal Cracker Habitats

Combine snack time with a learning activity by giving each child a box of animal crackers. Most brands of animal crackers contain a variety of animals, such as lions, tigers, bears, monkeys, sheep and cats. Tape pictures of different habitats on the wall. Before the animal crackers are devoured as a tasty snack, instruct the children to divide the animals in their box into groups according to natural habitat. For instance, all the monkeys and lions should be placed in the jungle habitat. After the children finish the task, ask them to share how they chose to group their animals.

Backyard Adventure

Define habitat as a place where a particular type of animal lives. Explain that animals have differing needs for food, water, shelter and space that make them better adapted to certain habitats over others. Lead the children outside to a grassy area and have them describe the living and nonliving things they observe. For instance, children might mention grass, weeds, leaves, dirt, pine needles, moss, rocks, twigs, insects, birds and squirrels. Encourage them to try and build a bird’s nest out of the materials they see. Explain that animals also use what’s available for their homes, which is why a bird’s nest in the desert would look different than a bird’s nest in the forest.

About the Author

Mary Dowd holds a doctorate in educational leadership and a master's degree in counseling and student personnel from Minnesota State University, Mankato. In her 20 years of higher education experience, she has taught classes, served as interim dean of students, and worked in many areas of student affairs, including student discipline, career advising, orientation and violence prevention.