Whether you are thinking about adopting a classroom pet or just looking for a fun way to teach your students about animals and their needs, a hamster preschool theme is a great choice. These lesson ideas would also be a good addition to unit about pets.
There are lots of ways to work a little science into your hamster unit.
What Do Hamsters Eat?
Teach your students a little about a hamster’s diet. Hamsters usually eat a food mix that contains a variety of dried nuts and seeds like corn, sunflower seeds, peanuts, millet and dried peas, but they will eat almost anything. As a treat hamsters may enjoy small pieces of fruits and vegetables like apples, carrots, broccoli and parsley. Bring in sunflower seeds, peanuts, apples slices, baby carrots or other hamster favorites and let the children have a special “hamster snack.” Be sure to check for food allergies, especially if you decide to serve peanuts.
Observe a Hamster
Arrange to have a pet hamster visit your classroom for a few days. When it arrives, talk to the class about what things the hamster needs. Point out the exercise wheel, water bottle, food and other items in the cage. Discuss why each one is important for the hamster.
Place the hamster in an area where the children can observe him. Provide them with paper and crayons so that they draw pictures of what they see. This is a fun activity for a science center.
Hamsters are rodents. Rodents have long, front teeth, soft fur whiskers and round eyes. Other animals in the rodent family are guinea pigs, rats, mice, gerbils and chinchillas. Show the children pictures of different types of animals and decide whether or not they are rodents. You can place the pictures in a math or science center for center for sorting practice.
Big and Small
Look at pictures of different types of rodents. Compare their sizes. "A chinchilla is larger than a hamster. A gerbil is smaller than a squirrel." Then put the animals in order from smallest to largest.
Counting to Ten
Here's an easy counting lesson using the book One Guinea Pig Is Not Enough by Kate Duke. Begin by reading and discussing the book. Before reading it a second time, give each child a piece of paper and 10 small stickers (hamsters or something similar if you can find them). As you reread the story have the children stick one sticker to their paper each time a new guinea pig joins the group. Stop and count the stickers each time until you have 10 stickers on the paper.
Provide students with paper, glue, dried corn, peas, sunflower seeds and other hamster food. Let them make hamster collages with the items. You can also buy some of the wood shavings for hamster cages and use them in the collages too. This is a great sensory activity.
Dramatic Play Area
Add some tunnels to your dramatic play area and let the children practice crawling through them, pretending that they are hamsters. You can use the pop out, fabric tunnels or make your own square tunnels, using large boxes with both ends open. Provide several and they can take turns arranging them for each other.
Use your hamster unit to teach or review the letter ‘H’ with your preschoolers. Talk about the ‘H’ sound. Brainstorm other words that begin with the same sound as hamster. Give the children a picture of a hamster and a letter ‘H’ for them to trace. Have them draw a large ‘H’ on a piece of construction paper, trace over it with glue and then cover the glue with dried hamster food.
My Pet Hamster
Read My Pet Hamster by Anne Rockwell to the children. This informative book is about raising a hamster and what is needed to take of one. After reading and discussing the book, let the children draw a picture of a hamster and one or two things that hamsters need.
More Books about Hamsters
Face-to-Face with The Hamster by Paul Starosa
10 Minutes till Bedtime by Peggy Rathman
Hello Sweetie Pie by Carl Norac
Let’s Take Care of Our New Hamster by Berta Garcia Sabates and Merce Segarra
These activities along with other pet lessons will make your hamster theme a success!
"Face to Face With The Hamster;" Paul Starosa; 2004