Free Animal Footprints Poster to use with identifying animal tracks in homemade snow play dough small-world sensory play to promote the senses and hand-eye coordination in toddlers, preschoolers, and kindergarteners.
Have you ever encountered animal tracks in the snow yet could not be sure what animal made the tracks? A snowy winter landscape is not only beautiful, but it is also an excellent means of identifying animals that have been in a particular area. Snow will preserve the tracks of a cottontail rabbit, fox, wolf, white-tailed deer, mountain lion, raccoon, and many other animals that cohabitate in a particular area. Besides, animal tracks are a window into an otherwise hidden world of wild animals. Animals are all around us, but many are shy or seldom seen. Animal tracks (also called animal footprints, pug marks, traces, spoor, impressions, etc.) are a powerful tool for learning about the wildlife around us. Thus, identifying animal tracks in snow playdough is a fun and educational small-world sensory play to learn about animal footprints.
You’ll need for this animal footprints small world sensory play:
- play dough (click here for homemade no-cook play dough recipe)
- forest accessories like pine trees
- animal figurines (linked below)
- animal track cards
SKILLS your child is learning with Animal Tracks Snow Playdough:
There are so many skills involved in this simple to set up hands-on animal tracks in snow play dough invitation play! Children will love making homemade play dough while strengthening small muscles of the hands during the kneading process. Most of all, they will enjoy bringing animals to life while ‘walking’ them in a snowy play-dough forest.
First, offer to match animals to their pictures. Then, imprint animals in play dough as they make their way through the winter forest. Invite a child to examine the footprints of each animal. Ask questions: how are they different? How many toes does an animal have? Does it look like a hoof? Finally, after examining the footprints and animals’ feet, match the animal track cards to the actual footprint left in the snow.
Homemade Play Dough
Tip: to make play dough look white like snow ❄️ add some white liquid food coloring.
Sensory play allows children to understand sensory attributes while enhancing their vocabulary as they describe the texture. Sensory play also stimulates new synapses and brain nerve connections that promote future learning, reasoning skills, and problem-solving. Moreover, cognitive development is boosted as neural pathways are formed when children explore their world through concrete materials and sensory experiences.
Be it cloud-dough, dyed rice/pasta, or play dough, sensory play strengthens small muscles of the hands ~ aka fine motor control ~ as a child squishes, kneads, transfers, manipulates, and so forth. Using play-dough, in particular, provides a wide array of developmental, learning, and especially sensory benefits.
In fact, play dough builds fine motor skills, encourages creativity, and fosters imagination while boasting many therapeutic benefits as well. It provides an excellent tactile and sensory learning experience while strengthening the small muscles of the hands. Your little one will love imprinting, squeezing, poking, pinching, squashing, and patting the play dough.
Free Animal Tracks Footprints Poster
Use the animals you have and invite a child to imprint the footsteps in the snow play-dough. Then look at the poster and the snow tracks and offer to find and mark the footprint on the poster that resembles one in the snow-dough the closest.
Tracking in Snow
Tracking in the snow can be easy, but it can also be deceptively tricky since tracks are hidden at the bottom of deep leg holes in the deep snow. While trackers usually depend upon the details in each track (like the number and shape of the toes or the presence of claws) to make identifications, in snow it is often necessary to look for other clues. Patterns are one of the best tools to identify tracks in the snow, and some species are easily recognized from a distance simply by the pattern of tracks.
Rabbit tracks are one of the most commonly seen tracks in the snow. Look for the repeating bound patterns. Each group of four tracks tends to form a tall, thin rectangle. A rabbit (buy here) also has small round toes and fur-covered feet, showing five-toed front tracks with side-by-side hind tracks. (Interestingly, other rodents show only four-toed front tracks.)
All rodents, from the smallest mouse to the largest beaver (buy here) leave five-toed tracks with their hind feet. Did you know that beavers have webbed hind feet?
In wolf tracks, claws are evident a general symmetrical oval shape with four toes and a single lobe on the front of the main footpad.
Since bears (buy here) walk on the soles of their soft feet, they often do not leave distinct tracks unless they walk through the snow. Bears have five toes on each foot, with their large toe on the outside of the foot. Front tracks are wider than rear tracks, but the small round heel pad of the front foot seldom registers. Bears tend to toe in, especially with their front feet. They often travel in an over-step walk, with their rear foot falling in front of where the front foot fell, creating double tracks and thus enormous track sizes. In deep snow, however, bears direct-register by placing their rear foot in the same hole created by the front foot. Such a pattern makes it seems as if it is walking on two hind legs.
A fox (buy here) leaves a neat pattern in the snow because of the hind footsteps in the front foot track. This is called registering, and it helps a fox to conserve energy while walking in deep snow. A deer (buy here) also registers, with the hindfoot walking in the front foot track. Also, a deer usually drags its hooves, which are easy to spot in the packed snow. However, in deep snow, the hooves are more spread out, and the dewclaw is visible in the back of the track.
See here how Adrian was observing animal tracks in the real snow!
Since deer’s hind feet tend to step on top of their front tracks, leaving distorted and confusing marks, in the snow, they are tough to identify. But Adrian was pretty certain that those were deer’s tracks.
Please, always supervise your children.
Want more Sensory Play?
Also, see here our Winter Inspired Unit Study for some fun hands-on Winter kids activities.
Lastly, see here our December Holiday Inspired Unit roundup Christmas Inspired Unit Study for some Holiday inspirations.
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