Usually, preschoolers have heard of snails, but they may not know many facts about them. Themed classroom activities give the preschoolers an up-close look at snails, via a combination of scientific, literacy and artistic activities.
Observing real snails gives the preschoolers a firsthand look at how they act and move. If your preschool includes a garden or a landscaped area, you might be able to see snails in their natural habitat. Your best chance for this is to go outside on a dark, overcast day. Take a few students outside at a time. Ask the kids to share what they observe. Another option is to catch snails and bring them into the classroom. Your best chances of finding snails are at night and after rainfall. If you don't see snails out in the open, look under rocks, boards, flower pots and damp leaf debris. You'll need a clear container that has holes for ventilation. Moist soil along the bottom of the container helps the snails feel at home. You can add sticks so the snails can climb. Mist the habitat with water to keep it moist. Have the kids make observations and draw pictures of what they see in the snail habitat. After a few days observing the snails, release them.
Children's books about snails encourage literacy skills while adding to the classroom topic. The books work well in a reading corner or as to read aloud in class. "The Biggest House in the World" by Leo Lionni follows a small snail, who hopes to one day have the largest shell in the world. "Snail Trail" by Ruth Brown gives preschoolers a look at a typical backyard from a snail's view, emphasizing features such as a huge hill and a slippery slope. "Are You a Snail?" by Judy Allen follows a snail as it grows up, providing lots of facts along the way to enrich the reader’s knowledge as well as to entertain. Write a list of facts about snails from the book. After learning about snails, let the preschoolers create their own books. They can draw pictures of snails based on what they observed in the snails’ habitats or based on the picture books you read to them. Encourage the kids to discuss what they've learned while they make the book. You can write down the facts they share or descriptions of the pictures, to later add to the book.
Snail art projects let the preschoolers create their own versions of the creatures. Draw a snail shape with a spiral shell on a piece of heavy paper. Let the kids paint the snail shells or glue decorations, such as sequins, paper shapes and stickers, onto the paper. Cut large leaves, blades of grass and flowers from paper to hang on the wall as a display background for the paper snails. Another option is to make a three-dimensional snail from egg cartons. Cut apart the individual cups in the carton. Each child needs a cup as the shell. Let the kids decorate the shells. Help the kids make snail bodies from clay. They can glue the shell to the hardened clay body to complete the snails.
You can also use the snail theme with your regular preschool classroom activities. Cut out lots of small snails from different colors of paper or with different decoration on their shells. The kids can sort the snails by color or use the snails to make patterns by laying them out on the table in a specific pattern. You can also make a snail matching game. Make pairs of snail cards. You can match them based on color, pattern or a letter or shape drawn on the snail. The kids place the snail cards upside down. They take turns flipping over the cards to find matching pairs.
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