« Hosting A Backyard Sports Tournament | Main | Pirate Lesson Plan »

Primates Lesson Plan

Courtesy of Tami L. Maldonado-Mancebo
Early Childhood Curriculum Consultant, Omaha Public Schools

This themed unit allows students to develop a variety of academic skills as they explore primates.  Individual student goals will vary according to the ability and ages of the children and can be easily adapted for children with special needs.

Download a printable version of this lesson plan.

Learning Objectives: Learning objectives include communication skills, spatial concepts, problem solving, grouping, sequencing, identification, labeling, fine and gross motor development.

Arts & Crafts Center
Leaf Paintings
Instruct students to use leaves or twigs as paint brushes to make their own cave drawings on canvas or poster board.

Finger Paintings
Have students use their fingers to make pictures of the habitats of different primates.  Display pictures of various habitats for them to observe and copy.

Paper Plate Monkey
Instruct each student to paint a paper plate with brown paint and let it dry. Cut out the ears and face of the monkey from tan colored construction paper. Glue the ears onto the back of the paper plate and glue the face on the front. Use markers to draw in the eyes, nose and mouth.

Dramatic Play Center
Trainers at the Zoo
Encourage students to work in pairs. One child makes funny faces and does silly things while the other imitates the actions of the other.

Monkey See Alone
Have each student look in a large mirror and use a dry-erase marker to draw a self-portrait on the mirror.

Math Center
Matching Monkeys
Create paper monkeys with numbers on them and paper bananas with dots to match the numbers on the monkeys.  Allow students to match the monkey’s number with the banana and the appropriate number of dots.

Display a variety of pictures of different types of primates.  Have students sort them by type, size, color, etc…

Science & Discovery Center
Straw & Mud
Encourage students to build monkey nests. Provide pictures for students to look at and study, along with plastic animals to place in the nests.  You can modify this activity by using “moon sand” or other reusable sculpting material.

Fleas & Ants
Show pictures of fleas (primates usually have plenty of these) and ants (a flea’s favorite snack).  Let students explore them with magnifying glasses. Provide pictures of these creatures with parts labeled so students can make comparisons about themselves and the other creatures. 

Primate Hand Prints
Have students look at the pictures of a variety of different primate hands and feet.  Instruct students to trace their own hands and feet and compare them to the other primates.

Swinging Monkey
Hang a heavy string from the ceiling or door.  Tie on a stuffed monkey by the hand.  Invite the children to swing the monkey.  Can they make it go in a circle?  Side to side? Front to back? How do they change the movement?

Sign Language
Provide students with pictures of commonly used sign language signs (hungry, happy, tired, etc…) or teach them to spell their names with the letters in the sign language alphabet.

Large Group Activities
Monkey Race
Arrange the students at a start line and have each child run like a monkey on hands and feet to the finish line. The first child to the finish line wins.

Monkey and Banana
One child is chosen to be "it" and is given a plastic banana to hold. The other children form a circle, sitting on the floor. They extend one hand and close their eyes. "It" tiptoes around the outside of the circle and puts the banana into one of the outstretched hands. The one who receives it jumps up and chases after the other until he catches "it". He/she then becomes "it" and the game proceeds as before. The children open their eyes as the chase begins.

Swing, Swing
While you recite the following, ask children to stand in a circle, hold hands, and swing their arms up and down.
“Little monkeys swinging in the tree,
All hold hands and swing with me.
Swing up high and swing down low
Swing in the tee, now don't let go.
Swing, swing, like I do
Swing like monkeys in the zoo.”

Monkey See, Monkey Do
Have children stand in a circle. Choose one child to make a funny movement and have the other children try to imitate it.  Or, have all of the children follow your lead while reciting the following:
“Monkey, Monkey, turn around.
Monkey, Monkey, touch the ground.
Monkey, Monkey, reach up high.
Monkey, Monkey, touch the sky.
Monkey, Monkey, bend down low.
Monkey, Monkey, touch your toe.”

What's Inside?
Since monkeys are naturally curious, you will secretly place an object in a box. Have your students guess what the object is from the clues that you give them. For example, if you have hidden a ball in the basket, give clues such as, "It is round. It bounces. You play catch with it."

Rhyme Time
Say the following to your class, “Monkey see, monkey do, I am clever, how about you?”
Ask each student to repeat the rhyme and substitute a different word for clever, a word that describes the student.  Start by providing an example, using a word to describe yourself.  Give examples of other descriptive words students can use, such as happy, smart, silly, tall, hungry…

Mr. Alligator Game
Place four to six pieces of yarn on a parachute. By shaking the chute, try to make them hit the players on the other side. Keep track of which “little monkeys” get bitten by Mr. Alligator (if the yarn touches the student they are bitten).

Monkey Relay Ideas
Walk like a monkey, hand off a banana, pound on your chest, etc…

Food Activities
Bananas on a Stick
Peel bananas, put them on craft sticks and dip them in melted chocolate.  This makes a fun end-of-the-day snack for the classroom.

Ice-cream Sticks
Peel bananas and remove any stringy fibers. Cut the bananas in half, width wise, and push craft stick through the cut end of each half. Cover them in plastic wrap and freeze for about 3 hours.  After the bananas are frozen, place chocolate bars in a microwave-proof bowl and cook on high for about 2 minutes, or until the chocolate melts. Check after one minute. Stir in nuts, cereal, or coconut. Then, using a butter knife, spread the chocolate mixture over the frozen bananas to coat them completely. Kids can roll them in more toppings, although this can get messy!  Rest the pops on a plate covered with waxed paper and freeze until ready to serve.

Home School Connection
Basic facts about monkeys to reinforce learning at home:
• A monkey is a small mammal that is part of the primate family.
• Monkeys have very flexible hands and feet.
• Some kinds of monkeys have tails which they use to hang from tress.
• Different kinds of monkeys live in Central and South America, Africa, and Asia.
• The monkey is one of the twelve animals featured in the Chinese zodiac, therefore, appropriate to present for a Chinese New Year theme.
• We need to take care of monkeys, because many species are endangered (review and define) and could become extinct (review and define).
• View these two monkeys that are endangered, Geoffroy's Spider Monkey (Central America) and the Mantled Howler Monkey (Mexico to South America).
• People around the world are dedicated to protecting endangered animals and their unique habitats.

Now that your students have explored primates, look for more fun lesson plan ideas.