Teach Kids about Animals

This is my wife Maya’s first post. I hope we see more of her writing here. Read on….

The animal world is fascinating. It is amazing – the variety of animals that walk, swim, fly on earth and how different each one is, from their appearance to habitat, from what they eat to how they move!

My kids tune into Discovery and National Geographic and that gives them more than a cursory peek into the wilderness. Recently, we had an impromptu lesson in animals after watching the Penguins of Madagascar and playing Madagascar games, which featured animals the kids loved learning about. Here’s what we learnt!


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Emperor Penguins” by Christopher Michel is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Penguin – The movie’s stars are the penguins. These birds are found mostly in the Southern Hemisphere. They can’t fly but can swim. They do use the flappers while diving in and leaping out. While the movie shows the penguins in China and Italy, the kids learnt that this was not the penguins’ natural habitat, while Antarctica is. There are many species of penguins and emperor penguins are just one of them.

Seal – In the movie, we see the seals trying to get the penguins as they fall into a shipwreck. Seals are their predators as are sea lions and whales. The seals as we learn are carnivores and live mostly in water. They are hunted by whales and polar bears. They are found in many parts of the world.

A harp seal makes an appearance later as the demolitions expert from North Wind called Short Fuse. They are usually found in the Arctic and Atlantic oceans, and live on smaller fish. Unlike the seals we first see in Penguins of Madagascar, these seals have a snowy white coat.

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Octopus dance” by Morten Brekkevold is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Octopus – The octopus Dave disguises himself as a cunning scientist and the kids were surprised to learn that the octopus is an intelligent creature though Aristotle thought them to be stupid. We also see the octopus blending in the background before launching an attack. They are similar to chameleons. That is, they are masters of disguise and can take on the form of an underwater rock or plant. Of all the animals we learnt about, the octopus was the one with the most surprises!

Gray Wolf – The gray wolf is a secret agent who heads North Wind in the movie. Gray wolves are known for their howl, though Classified does not let out any of those infamous howls. Found mostly in North America, Asia and Europe, these wolves are usually found in packs. Wolves have a reputation for being crafty and dangerous but in reality they are not so. They can be secretive – a preference we see Classified exhibiting in the movie.

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Snowy Owl” by Brad Smith is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Snowy Owl – The only female character in the Penguins of Madagascar is Eva, a snowy owl. It is understandable why an owl can make the cut as a spy because they do have a great sense of hearing and excellent eyesight. They are usually found in the Arctic tundra. A distinguishing trait from other owls is that snowy owls can hunt during day and night. The females are darker than the males.

Polar Bear – Corporal is the polar bear who is super strong but has a weakness for cute things. They are found in the Arctic and there is no doubt about their strength. Known to be the largest carnivores on land, these bears are fast on land and water, and love to feast on beluga whales and seals. Something surprising we learnt was that these bears actually have black skin and the transparent fur appears white because of light!

We had to save Alex, Melman, Marty, Gloria and King Julien for another day as we covered a lot of ground in one day.

Movies also offer the opportunity to bust the very stories they create. For instance, pandas prefer bamboos over noodles. And boy, were my kids astonished!

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