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50 Activities with Animals to Engage Your Bilingual Kids in the Minority Language

Adam and his bilingual monkeys

I suppose you’ve noticed: Animals often appear in my posts, and I’m not just talking about my two monkeys. :mrgreen:

In fact, in my last post, Adam’s Fables for Raising Bilingual Kids, I used animals to create little analogies about issues involving bilingualism and children.

I even made an earlier post, called Bilingual Kids and the Animal Kingdom, where I shared my life-long love of animals and offered a list of links to many of the posts where animals make an appearance.

In that post, I also explained why my dream of becoming a veterinarian was derailed by an “F” I got in Biology in 7th grade. (Hint: It has something to do with the fact that I don’t like killing insects…though I do make an exception for mosquitoes.)

Today, then, let me offer 50 ideas for activities featuring animals. By leaning on this theme, a powerful favorite of children everywhere, we can effectively engage our kids in the use of their minority language. Some of these ideas will be familiar, but I hope you’ll find a few new suggestions on this list to try at home. Modify them to suit your needs, and pursue them as playfully as you can.

Adam kisses a giraffe.

1. Go to the zoo and talk about the animals. Talk, too, about the pros and cons of zoos themselves.

2. Make a virtual visit to a zoo, like the San Diego Zoo, with its great collection of videos for kids.

3. Go to an aquarium and talk about the sea creatures.

4. Go to a pet shop and talk about the animal companions and the care they require.

5. Go to an animal shelter and find out about the animals held there.

6. Read aloud, or together, a picture book or other fictional story about animals.

7. Look at a nonfiction book about animals, like an animal encyclopedia.

8. Try a wordless picture book. Study the illustrations and tell the story together. Goodreads has a long list of wordless picture books, a wonderful resource for any target language.

9. Look at images online. Try browsing the “animals” category at and see my post How Images Will Stimulate Your Child’s Bilingual Development for more info and links.

10. Watch a YouTube video (my kids like How Animals Eat Their Food), TV program, or DVD and discuss it.

Adam befriends a lion.

11. Interview your child about animals. Prepare a list of questions, both serious and silly. Videotape it.

12. Have your child interview you. Use the same questions or help her prepare a new list. Videotape it.

13. Make a long list of animals, together or individually, orally or in writing.

14. Draw pictures of animals. Make real animals or imaginary ones, like creatures that are a fanciful blend of various animals.

15. Try drawing animals blindfolded. Each person tells the other which animal to draw.

16. Turn your favorite drawings into a picture book or comic book. Scan it and share it with others.

17. Write a story about animals. Have the child dictate the story to you or create a story together, taking turns as you write each sentence. (In this way, two stories can be written at the same time.)

18. Tell true stories from your past which involve pets or other experiences with animals. Find out more at Strange-But-True Tales: Baby Chicks in the Bathtub.

19. Make up a wild story about your child and an animal. Let your child make up a wild story about you.

20. Play lively music and dance like various types of animals.

Adam is attacked by a hungry kangaroo.

21. Sing songs you know about animals.

22. Make up a new song about animals.

23. Engage in role plays, play-acting scenarios at the pet shop, the veterinarian, the jungle, etc.

24. Play with animal puppets. Have them engage in a conversation. Create and practice a puppet show for other family members or friends.

25. Play with stuffed animals. Engage in imaginary play, as with puppets or role plays, or try simple games like hide-and-seek where one person hides a large animal and the other must find it.

26. Play charades, taking turns acting out animals with actions and sounds. Make it a guessing game, with or without slips of paper written with the names of animals.

27. Name animals based on a certain adjective: big, small, scary, cute, poisonous, etc. Do this orally or in writing.

28. Play a word game where you take turns saying the name of an animal, based on the last letter (or syllable) of the previous word.

29. Play a game like “Hangman” (but give it a more cheerful name!) where one person thinks of an animal, makes the appropriate number of blanks for the word, and the other person guesses letters until the whole word is revealed.

30. Play a game like “20 Questions” where one person thinks of an animal and the other person must ask only “yes or no” questions to determine what it is.

Adam pets a Japanese crab.

31. Make foods in the shapes of animals. See these cute snacks at Buzzfeed or Babble for ideas and inspiration.

32. Craft animals using playdough or modeling clay. Make it a guessing game.

33. Cut out pictures of animals from old magazines. Make a collage or poster.

34. Try making origami animals. You’ll find plenty of help at and

35. Try making balloon animals. Check out for helpful videos.

36. Make animal masks or costumes and play dress up. Here’s a book of cool punch-out animal masks.

37. Draw a zoo or jungle in chalk outside your house.

38. Read poems about animals. For poems in English, see

39. Have your child memorize a poem about an animal. Give a small treat for reciting it.

40. Play with virtual pets. Visit or

Adam feeds friendly rabbits.

41. Make up simple riddles about specific animals (What’s big and gray and has a long trunk?) or create wacky combinations of two animals (What’s big and gray, has a long trunk, can fly and sting, and makes a buzzing sound? An elephant-bee!).

42. Search for funny animal jokes and riddles on the Internet.

43. Research an animal on the Internet after your child chooses one he wants to know more about.

44. Look at a globe of the Earth and talk about where various animals live. Use an animal encyclopedia to guide your exploration.

45. Use a microscope to look at insects and other small creatures.

46. Compare and make animal sounds in your two languages. Explore the sounds that animals make in other languages, too. Here’s a colorful page with audio and a larger multilingual list.

47. Listen to the sounds of real animals and identify them. Explore to hear a variety of sound effects.

48. Go “hunting” for animals by looking for animal tracks near a stream or pond. Maybe cast the tracks in “plaster of Paris.” (I did this exciting activity with my father when I was a boy.)

49. Go into the woods and sit quietly for a few minutes. What animals can you see or hear?

50. Do something to help animals, locally or in another part of the world. Here’s a list of ideas from to get started.

Great Giveaway


The lucky winner of this giveaway is…

Stella in the U.S.

Congratulations to Stella! And a big thank you to everyone who entered. Jeff and I really enjoyed hearing your “animal rescue fantasies”! For those who haven’t seen them, keep scrolling to the comments below. They’re fun to read! :mrgreen:

When my old friend Jeff Campbell, a fellow freelance writer and editor, told me he had written a book about animals, I was eager to read it. (Jeff and I went to Sarah Lawrence College together and also lived nearby one another in San Francisco for several post-college years.) But even if he wasn’t my friend, I would tell you the same thing: This is a marvelous book! No doubt the very best book you’ll find about a remarkable subject: documented real-life cases of animals demonstrating compassion and coming to the aid of human beings.

Daisy to the Rescue: True Stories of Daring Dogs, Paramedic Parrots, and Other Animal Heroes contains dozens of interesting—even incredible—stories, and not only about animals you might expect, like dogs. Jeff has also explored incidents where such animals as pigs, parrots, rabbits, even gorillas and lions, have apparently acted to help people in distress. I can’t say I would be eager to see a lion running toward me if I was wounded on safari (in that photo above, the lion and I are separated by a thick pane of glass!), but reading the book definitely deepened my appreciation for the human-animal bond.

While Daisy to the Rescue is nonfiction geared for teens (or adults), I’ve read several of the stories to my kids and they were quickly hooked. Not only are the stories themselves compelling, the book is beautifully written and illustrated (by Ramsey Beyer).

If you and your children are animal lovers, too, you can win a free copy of Daisy to the Rescue. (And Jeff will even sign it for you and your kids!)

Thank you, Jeff, for writing this special book and offering a copy to our community!

To enter the giveaway and have a chance to win Jeff’s book, just follow these three simple steps…

1. First, share this post with others via social media. Let’s help spread the news of this lovely book to an even wider audience! Use the sharing buttons on this page or simply copy and paste this link…

Friends, I’m using the “honor system” here, but please don’t skip this step! I wouldn’t want you to suffer bad karma in the form of an angry, biting animal!

2. Leave a comment below with the following information. (And please proofread your comment, before submission, to check that the information is complete.)

1. Your first name and where you live (Example: Adam in Japan)

2. Your children’s ages (Example: Girl, 10 and Boy, 8)

3. Your two (or more) languages (Example: Japanese, English, and Spanish)

4. If you were in danger, what type of animal would you like to come to your rescue? Why? (Example: Despite the frightening picture above, I would like an enormous kangaroo to come leaping onto the scene, drop me into its big, cozy pocket, then jump away to the safety of an ice cream shop.)

3. All entries must be submitted by the morning of Saturday, April 4 (Japan time). On that day, the comments will be printed out and cut apart to serve as entry slips for the drawing. The slips will be placed into a big, crazy clown hat and my kids will then fight over which one of them gets to pick the winner. After that conflict is somehow resolved, and the tears have dried, one name will be selected at random. I will then contact the lucky winner and update this post with the results.

I won’t respond to your comments here, but I do look forward to reading them. (I’m sure Jeff will enjoy them, too, especially your animal rescue fantasies!)

Thank you for entering the giveaway, and for sharing Jeff’s book with others!


9 Responses

  1. 1. Mei in Japan
    2. Boy, 1
    3. English, Mandarin and Japanese
    4. I would like a gentle giraffe to come to my rescue. I admire its soft and honest eyes and would love to hang on to its loooooooong neck as it rescues me from danger.

  2. 1. Kseniya in Moscow, Russia
    2. Boy, 4
    3. Russian and English
    4. I’d like an elephant to come to my rescue. It would take me with its strong trunk and sit on its back and we’ll travel together to warm Thailand.

  3. 1) Emilia in London, UK
    2) Girl, 19 months
    3) Polish, Urdu & English
    4) I would like a black panther to come to my rescue. As those African big cats are masters in ambushing.

  4. 1) Dominika in Matlock, UK
    2) Girl, nearly 4
    3) Polish & English
    4) I would like a stork to come to my rescue. These graceful birds travel miles twice a year to and from their winter and summer habitats. It would be a fantastic way to see new places and…what a view! 😉

  5. 1. Annie in Bogota, Colombia
    2. Girl, 12
    3. English and Spanish
    4. A cat. Cats remind me of protection, plus they are warm and fluffy, agile and quite independent. A cat could outsmart an enemy.

  6. 1. Tamar in Israel
    2. 3 kids: boy, 9, twin boy and girl, 6
    3. English and Hebrew
    4. I’d like a tiger to come to my rescue – they seem so majestic, strong, and caring (for their own 🙂 …)

  7. 1. Stella in US
    2. Girl, 7 and Boy, 8
    3. English and Spanish
    4. If I were in danger, I would like a lion to come to my rescue because just the strong look of a lion is intimidating.

  8. 1. Dani in the USA
    2. Boy, 17 months old
    3. English, Spanish
    4. If I were in danger I would like to be rescued by a dog. They are loyal and brave!

  9. 1. Raffaela in Italy
    2. Girl, 11 years old
    3. Italian, English, French
    4. I would like an elephant to come and rescue me. Elephants look so big, strong, majestic and yet so gentle.

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Welcome to Bilingual Monkeys!

I’m Adam Beck, the founder of this blog and The Bilingual Zoo, a lively worldwide forum for parents raising bilingual or multilingual kids. I’m also the author of the popular books Maximize Your Child’s Bilingual Ability and Bilingual Success Stories Around the World. I’ve been an educator and writer in this field for 25 years as well as the parent of two bilingual children, now 19 and 16. I hope my work can help empower the success of your bilingual journey.

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