Make a rainforest in your living room, do a few rainforest crafts for toddlers, try a little monkey math and learn all along the way! Learning about the rainforest is one of my favorite themes to teach because there are just so many fun things you can do! We incorporate printables, worksheets, and other fun things we find on Pinterest. But we also add lots of fun hands-on rainforest activities to our preschool day. Check out some fun ideas for a rainforest theme for your toddler or preschooler below. Let me know which one you enjoyed most!
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Rainforest Math for Preschoolers
We went a little “bananas” for math during our rainforest theme. To do some Monkey Math, print off the FREE pdf below. Cut out the monkey cards. Cut out the bananas (you can cut them exactly or cut them into box shapes for quicker / easier cutting).
Set out the monkey cards. They each have a number by them that tells how hungry they are. Have your preschooler set that many bananas next to the monkey in order to fill his belly.
A Rainforest in the Living Room (or whatever space you have!)
Having a large rainforest to talk about and add animals to is really handy, interactive, and fun for preschoolers to use.
I used 3 pieces of butcher paper and taped them together to be tall. Then I could add in the layers of the rainforest with plenty of space. Here’s how I made it: (note, it took a little while, but it truly does pay off as my daughter really loved referring to this rainforest all week!)
- Butcher Paper
- Brown and Green construction papers (a few of each)
- Green tissue paper
- Packing tape
- Painter’s tape
- Glue stick
- Crayons or other coloring medium
To make the rainforest in your living room:
Cut 3 pieces of butcher paper. I made mine about 3-1/2 feet long each. Line them up one-on-top of each other and put a few pieces of packing tape at all the seams.
Flip over (tape side down).
Cut out long pieces of brown from the brown construction paper. I made two cuts in each paper, which made 3 pieces.
Cut out “tree tops” from the green papers, using just-about the entire piece for each treetop.
Glue down the brown pieces to make tree trunks across the butcher paper. Make all the trees about the same height. Except…make 1 or 2 trees that are way taller than the rest.
Glue on the tree tops on the top of each trunk.
Using the crayons, fill in the bottom with greenery.
Tear large pieces of tissue paper and give them a slight crumple. Glue them along the bottom of the butcher paper. These are the shrubs and small plants.
Starting at the top, label those couple trees sticking out as the EMERGENT LAYER
Where the treetops all sit about the same height, label as the CANOPY
Under the canopy but above the floor, label UNDERSTORY
Along the ground, label as FOREST FLOOR
Now use some tape (I use painter’s tape so I don’t ruin my walls) and hang it in a large wall space.
What are the Layers of a Rainforest?
Layers of the rainforest is something really simple and fun to talk about. It is a very visual way to learn, especially if you’ve created a small rainforest for the living room as described above. Here are the 4 main layers of a rainforest (though some sources add a 5th “shrub layer”, we stick with the 4 simple ones).
Forest Floor- this is the bottom of the rainforest. It’s the floor, where flowers, mosses, greenery grow and many bugs and animals live and roam.
Understory– The understory is everything above the floor and below the canopy layer. Plants grow into the understory and bugs fly through.
Canopy– we sometimes refer to the canopy as a blanket. If you were to look at the rainforest from a distance, you might see a wave of green on top. This is the canopy, where all the trees grow to and cover the sky in green. Monkeys, snakes, and other animals hang out in the canopy of the rainforest.
Emergent Layer– Anything above the canopy is the emergent layer. Trees that “pop” out of the surrounding blanket are part of the emergent layer. Some birds also fly around up here!
Rainforest Crafts for Preschoolers
Make a Rain Stick- Fun Preschool Rainforest Crafts
Use a wrapping-paper tube (paper towel tube is fine but will obviously not last as long) and carefully stick popsicle sticks all the way through randomly down the tube. I recommend the really thick popsicle sticks, not the skinny ones. The more you put in, the better and longer sound you’ll have. I used 3 but would recommend 5 or more. Make sure it doesn’t leave holes around where you stick them (and if it does, cover it with tape). You might need to do a tiny pre-cut before sticking the sticks through.
Slide a paper cover over one end and tape very well with packing tape. Make sure the tape completely covers the piece of paper to strengthen it. I used 3 long pieces. Then add 1 cup of rice into the tube. Cover the other open end with paper and tape completely.
To add to our Rainforest in the Living room, we did a craft for many of the rainforest animals.
First, we learned about each animal (see the science section below) and then we made that animal into a craft.
We have a few different theme placemats we do our crafts on. It was lucky that we just happened to have this jungle theme one to do our rainforest crafts! Check out this 4-pack of themed placemats we use for crafting.
Poison Dart Frog
- shaving cream
- watercolor paints
- card stock or thick paper (I folded mine and glued it together to make it thicker)
- Craft / popsicle stick
To make a poison dart frog, either free-hand or look up and use a template for a poison dart frog. Draw it onto the cardstock.
Spray a little shaving cream onto the frog. Your child can flatten out the shaving cream and smooth it over the frog. Then, get the watercolors wet and use a dropper to drop 2 different colors onto the frog. Poison Dart Frogs are all different colors, so you don’t have to just choose green 🙂
Use the craft stick to pull the paint drops through the shaving cream. This will create a bright and marbled look on your frog. Allow to dry completely, then cut out.
Note: if the shaving cream isn’t flattened out and smoothed down at the beginning, it will be too think to dry, so make sure you don’t have too much on.
Macaw Craft for Preschoolers
- piece of red paper (or any color works) and small piece of white
- colorful feathers
- glue stick
How to make a Macaw Craft:
Using a template or free-hand, draw the outside shape of a macaw on a red piece of paper. Cut out the shape of it’s beak from a small piece of white paper (shaped like a long letter D). Glue it to the front of the Macaw’s face.
Give your preschooler the glue stick and a bunch of colorful feathers. They can glue on lots of colors or just a couple of their favorite colors. Or they can look at pictures of Macaws and model their colors after that.
Draw on the eye.
Green Emerald Boa Craft for Preschoolers
We chose specifically to make a Green Emerald Boa snake, so we used green. But if you have a specific snake, change the color to whatever you choose! This is a great rainforest activity for toddlers as it really works on their cutting skills.
- green construction paper
- 2 googley eyes
- small red paper
- glue stick
How to make a Emerald Tree Boa Snake:
Using the green piece of paper, draw the head of the snake. Then, draw a spiral around using the majority of the paper, and double back in order to draw the other side. Have your toddler cut out the spiral, and you’ll hold up the shape of the snake.
Draw a small red tongue and have your preschooler cut it out. Glue it to the head of the snake.
Glue on two googley eyes on the head of the snake.
We also made a Squirrel Monkey by drawing out the the monkey and having my daughter cut and color it.
Science For a Rainforest Theme
Usually we do some sort of experiment in our preschool lessons, but not this time. The rainforest is so full of so many animals that we focused more on the biology side of science this time. My daughter looked through some options and picked a few animals she wanted to learn about. Here’s a little info about each animal we chose (and subsequently did a craft on; above)
Fun Facts about Poison Dart Frogs
- Poison Dart Frogs live in the rainforests of South and Central America
- The frogs themselves aren’t poisonous; however, their diet contains poison containing insects that then make the frog one of the most poisonous species on Earth.
- They are bright and colorful to warn predators
- Poison Dart frogs live anywhere from 3 to 15 years
- They catch bugs with their long, sticky tongues
- Poison Dart Frogs are amphibians, which means they need to live somewhere with lots of water to survive.
Source: National Geographic Kids
Fun Facts about Macaws
- Macaws have a LOUD, screechy call
- Macaws are very colorful, a perfect match for the bright and colorful rainforest in which they live
- Their color patterns are each unique and it is believed that no two Macaw color patterns are the exact same
- Two of their toes point backwards, helping them have strong grips on tree branches
- Macaws are family birds! Once they find a partner to have kids with, they stick with them and raise kids together the rest of their life.
- Macaws can live anywhere from 60 years to a whole century
- Listen to the loud call of a Macaw here
Source: Rainforest Cruises
Fun Facts about Emerald Tree Boas
- Emerald Tree Boas aren’t always green. They go thru a color change in their early life until they turn green. Watch a cool time lapse of the color change here.
- These snakes do not lay eggs as many other snakes do. They carry their babies inside and give birth to tiny snakes.
- Emerald Tree Snakes have deep pits all around their head that are used to sense heat.
- They live up to 15 years in the Amazon rainforest
- They can grow up to 6 feet
- They ambush their prey, (small animals/rodents)
- Emerald Tree Snakes “hang out” in the trees their whole life! They don’t spend much time on the ground.
Source: The Living Rainforest
Fun Facts About Squirrel Monkeys
- Squirrel Monkeys are the smallest type of monkey, making it to only about 16 inches.
- They hang out in very large groups
- They are omnivores, meaning they eat both plants and animals like insects and eggs.
- Most monkeys use their tail to hang and swing from; squirrel monkeys do not. They do have very strong hand grips though.
- Here is a short video of Squirrel Monkeys in action eating from National Geographic
source: Reid Park Zoo
Fun Rainforest Activities for Preschool
Jungle Vines Preschool Activity
This is a fun gross motor activity. To do this, just hang some green crepe paper across an area back and forth. Make a few little obstacles to climb through and hang some down. This is a perfect Jungle Vines Rainforest activity for little ones to climb through. Optional: I also put up a few rainforest flower pictures along the floor.
Take your preschooler on a jungle walk! Print out or color some jungle pictures. Print flowers, trees, and animals. Tape them up around the room and give your preschooler a pair of binoculars (or make some with two toilet paper tubes) and a hat. Turn on the sounds of the rainforest and have your child walk around, searching for animals and plants of the rainforest. Follow them and ask what they see!
Look Through a Diorama
Dioramas were always really interesting when I was young, and even today. If you’ve got a small clear storage container, a diorama is a great way to cross section the layers of the rainforest and see them clearly.
How to make a simple rainforest model in a clear container or even in a shoebox:
Place some green tissue paper on the bottom as the forest floor. Add any small green items you may have to create bushes and plants. I put down some green gemstones (which I’ve used in lots of different home activities like our “trip” to Colombia).
Next, you can use toilet paper tubes to create trees. My tubes are white, so instead I rolled up brown paper into trunk shapes. Cut two tiny slits opposite each other at the very top. Cut out a tree top out of green paper and insert it into the slits. (I use this same method to make apple trees in our preschool Apple Theme! So you can use these trees twice!)
Next I draped over some green tissue paper in places to create a sort of blanket or canopy over the top of the forest. I also cut some blue paper to make a waterfall and river.
It’s very simple looking, but it give a great visual to a preschooler about the layers of a rainforest!
Find the Rainforest on the Map
(Sorry the lighting is so bad in the picture above. I only have 1 good wall to put this big map on and the lighting isn’t great for pictures)
Use a large world map and make little rainforest markers. You could make little trees (which is what I did because it’s simple!) Then tape them around the areas of the world that are covered in rainforests. The vast majority of rainforests are located along and near the equator, where the weather is warm year-round.
This map really comes in handy when we are talking about where rainforests are located. It also is fun as we study different rainforest animals and find out where they live; we can then look on the map and point to where they live. This map is a little smaller than mine and would be a great size!
Make Rainforest Cookies – What comes from the Rainforest?
Did you know that the rainforest is the source of SO. MANY. products and materials we use everyday? Over 1/4 of medicines are derived from the rainforest, and over HALF of all plant and animal species live in the rainforest. Along with that, there are myriad foods that grow in the rainforest.
Some foods include bananas, coconut, acai, coffee, cocoa, cashews, lemons, berries, avocados… the list goes on and on!
We found a recipe for rainforest cookies years ago that I’ve made with each of my kids as they go through our home preschool. They were, at one point, my oldest daughters favorite cookies. They are a great example of how many everyday foods are from the rainforest. These particular cookies have rainforest foods like banana, cashews, coconut, vanilla, and cocoa in them. The perfect way to end a preschool day! Check out this recipe from Artful Parent to make your own Rainforest Cookies.
At Home Preschool Rainforest Theme
Did you find some fun Rainforest activities and crafts to do with your preschooler? I hope so! Rainforest is one of our favorite preschool themes, so we always have a lot of fun with it!
Please share our fun Rainforest Preschool Theme!