Hippo Sorting

Measurement concepts are often a part of children’s interactions. “My dad is bigger,” “I can jump higher,” and “I have more play dough than you!” are common comparisons that children make. From the child’s perspective, these statements compare quantity; however, they also provide a nice introduction to measurement.

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Unfortunately, it is an often neglected content standard in early childhood classrooms. Throughout the many projects we do throughout the week, we are constantly measuring, comparing, and contrasting items related to the theme.  For this activity, your little one was presented with a problem.

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They were each given seven pictures of hippos that were of varying length. They were then asked to sort them by size. The target words for this activity were long, longer, and longest.

Hippo Sort

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Hippopotamus Puzzles

When children work on puzzles, they are actually “putting the pieces together” in more ways than one. Puzzles help children build the skills they need to read, write, solve problems, and coordinate their thoughts and actions—all of which they will use in elementary school and beyond.

Hippo puzzle 1

A puzzle with a picture that has particular interest for a child may help her begin to recognize colors and letters, and come to realize that the sum of parts make up a whole—a concept that will help her with math later on.

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By inserting pieces into the puzzle, children also develop the muscle group used for writing, or the “pincer” grasp. Children can work on puzzles by themselves, without the help of adults or other children. They can also work together on large puzzles and practice compromising and getting along. Because each child must concentrate on the puzzle individually, he experiences a sense of satisfaction as he picks up a piece, rotates it, and discovers the spot in which it fits.

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Piece by piece, he begins to recognize the picture that the puzzle represents. For this activity, your little ones took pieces of a hippopotamus, and combined them to create their own large hippopotamus!


Hippo Counting

In the preschool classroom, being able to count includes both procedural skills and conceptual understandings. For the young child, this includes a few key components. First of all, is the ability for them to be able to follow the procedure of saying the number words in the correct order; to demonstrate one-to-one correspondence by saying only one of these counting words as they point to each item.

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Secondly, is the capacity for students to understand conceptually that when counting is executed correctly, the final number is the answer to how many and thus represents the manyness or quantity of the set. This is called understanding cardinality.

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In our classroom, we integrate counting into all of our activities.We not only have a number of the week, but a daily activity that reinforces the number. During the week of the hippopotamus, we talked about the number 10. For a circle time activity, students were each given a hippo made out of felt. One by one, they brought their hippos to a giant felt board as they counted from 1 to 10. Following this, we sang a silly song called Ten Little Hippos. Lastly, we practiced adding and subtracting hippos, to see how this changed the quantity.

Hippo Counting 3


Lake Manyara

Lake Manyara is sometimes referred to as the “Little Big Park”. Located in Tanzania, it covers an area of 95 square miles. More than 300 species of birds flock to this body of water, most of them looking for food or places to build their nests.


There are many other animals in Manyara, most importantly, the hippopotamus! When a hippopotamus enters the water, their eyes and ears stick up so they can be alert to all around them. Under their big imposing noses, their wide mouths are ideal for grazing on the grasses growing in the meadows around the lake.


They keep their mouths open, but they’ve got a good reason. It’s all about comparing the sizes of their jaws, since a hippo’s jaws are what establish its position on the social scale. Their large eyeteeth also play an important role in the struggles and rituals within the social group. Using a few natural materials, we created our own version of Lake Manyara.


Though you cannot see it, we used a liner that was placed into a hole in the front yard. Students then filled this hole with water and placed rocks around it to hold the liner in place. Lastly, your little ones submerged their hippos in the water alongside their friends! As a result of this activity, we learned some new vocabulary to help us with our hippo theme! These words included sink, jaws, and herd.