They are the world’s largest reptiles and last living relatives to the dinosaurs. Crocodilians have bodies that are made for living on the land and in the water. They are cold-blooded, like all reptiles, meaning their body temperature varies with the environmental temperature. These creatures have scaly skin, lay eggs, and breathe with lungs.
This may be a lot of information for preschoolers. Most youngsters want to know how to tell the difference between alligators and crocodiles. First, the crocodile is slightly smaller, with a triangular-shaped head. You can see both the top and bottom teeth in his mouth, even when he closes his mouth. Now, the alligator has a wide, flat head and nose. The alligator’s lower teeth fit inside his upper ones. But would you believe neither species can chew their food? Their teeth are just for ripping and tearing. They swallow food whole.
Teachers and homeschooling parents can find plenty of information about crocodilians on the Internet and in non-fiction books. Show your students pictures of each species, as photographs help preschoolers to understand the facts you are presenting. Read the following fiction books during circle time for plenty of laughs and giggles:
There’s an Alligator under My Bed by Mercer Mayer
Lyle, Lyle Crocodile by Bernard Waber
The Enormous Crocodile by Roald Dahl
Alligator Shoes by Arthur Dorros
This theme unit will present fun activities to circle the curriculum and create teachable moments about reptiles. Here are a few ideas to try.
Do Some Hand Jive
Add hand motions to the following chants to stimulate the movement of the crocodile’s jaws. Form a crocodile mouth with the palms and wrist together. Open the palms slightly each time you and your students say the word crocodile.
You’re the largest reptile,
You live along the River Nile,
Mouth as big as a mile,
Show your toothy wicked smile! (Open your hands wide like a mouth)
Old Mr. Alligator looking all around,
Floating in the water without making a sound.
But don’t go swimming,
If you hear this sound … SNAP!
See ya later Alligator,
I prefer the ground.
(Have the children clap their hands when they hear the word SNAP)
Gator Visor Craft
You will need:
- Poster board (white or green)
- Green paint (optional)
- Safety scissors
- Orange construction paper
- Crayons and/or markers
- Draw and cut out a gator head pattern and paint it green. You can also use green board if you want to avoid the painting.
- Cut a headband about 1 ½ inches wide. Staple the band to the gator head to fit the child’s head circumference.
- Fold the eyeballs up and draw in the eyeballs or make some from construction paper and glue on the eye area.
- Cut and glue on orange teeth.
- Mark two nostrils.
- Make a light crease down the center of the head (for depth) and then staple the headband on. Cover the staples with clear tape to protect fingers and hair from pinches.
The Crocodile Rock
Put on some rock ‘n’ roll music and have the children dance like crocodiles. How does a crocodile dance? Well, on all fours, of course. Stop and start the music at intervals. Challenge the kids to do all kinds of movements while the music plays. Don’t forget to sway those arms together as reptiles have powerful tails.
Do you remember the Crocodile Rock song by Elton John? The kids will love dancing to this one. It’s about childhood memories of dancing, hanging out with friends (Suzi in particular) and enjoying life.
Serve Reptile Snacks
Make some green Jell-O in a pan prior to the day of snacking. Cut large triangles and place one on a bed of shredded grass (represents swamp grass). Use halved green grapes for the eyes and cut small triangles of American cheese slices for the teeth. Why not serve this salad with a glass of Gatorade? It’s a fitting drink for this theme!