10 things every child should know about farm animals before they’re 5

Focusing on fun facts about farm animals and playing games is a fantastic way to for kids to start learning before they get to big school

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1. Dogs stick their tongues out when they’re hot

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If you see a dog sitting with its mouth wide open and its tongue sticking way, way out, it’s not being rude, it’s just trying to cool down. Talking about this is a great way to introduce the other meaning of ‘pants’ (breathing hard and fast, rather than your favourite Spiderman undies) and to explain that dogs can’t sweat like we do when it’s hot (they have all that fur on top of most of their skin, as this great YouTube video explains), so panting is their way of releasing body heat.

2. Sheep need serious haircuts

Of course we know that blankets, jumpers and hats are made of wool and wool comes straight off a sheep’s back – but your little one may not.

And even if she does, she may not have thought about how that wool’s gathered in – and what a sheep looks like after it’s sheared.

3. Horses can sleep standing up

Horses do lie down to sleep every now and then but they can also get a really good solid sleep by simply locking their knees (just standing straight legged, knees not bent) and shutting their eyes.

This ‘knee lock’ means they don’t fall over while they’re snoozing. Why not see how long you and your child can ‘sleep’ standing up? Shut your eyes, straighten your legs and try to keep standing stock still. It’s not as easy as horses make it look, that’s for sure – but it is loads of fun!


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4. Pigs love muddy puddles

Yep, pigs like a good mucky splash (although they don’t usually wear wellies), But they don’t just puddle-jump for fun, you know. They’re doing it to keep cool. Like with dogs, pigs can’t do the human sweating thing when they’re hot, so they wallow in some nice cool mud instead.

Once that lesson’s learned, you can get your wellies on, go outside and jump in muddy puddles, making ‘oink’ sounds to celebrate. And your child can come too, of course…

5. Milk comes from cows

It’s such an obvious fact to us grown-ups that it’s easy to forget that it’s not actually obvious to an under-5, especially if your child’s grown up in a town. And even if your little one does know milk’s made in a cow, not the fridge.

He may not know how the milk comes out of the cow. You can watch a cow being milked here and you can create your own cow’s udder with an old rubber glove. Fill it up with water from the kitchen tap, tie up the end and voila!

6. Dogs wag their tails when they’re happy

We can tell how a dog’s feeling by what it’s doing with its tail – and if that tail is swinging from side to side so rapidly the dog can barely walk, then you’re looking at one happy puppy who probably wants to lick your face off (in a good way).

If your child love this tale of tails, make her leader of the dog-fact pack by also explaining that when a dog’s tail is pointing straight out and still, the dog’s working out whether it’s come across friend or enemy, and when its tail goes between its legs, it’s feeling scared or nervous.

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7. But cats’ tails sway from side to side when they’re cross

Cats aren’t quite as keen to play with humans as dogs are, so if a cat stares your child down while its tail is slowly swaying from side to side, your child needs to know it’s not feeling in the least bit sociable.

At times like this, it’s better to ditch the cat-cuddling plans and learn how to draw a cat instead. Much more fun and much less likely to end in hisses and tears.

8. Hens lay eggs

Just like the cows and milk thing, it’s quite a leap in preschooler thinking to imagine a big oval egg coming out of a chicken’s nether regions (Lord knows some of us adults still struggle with it!)

But if you watch this clip of a hen laying an egg with your child, it’ll really help. Accompanying parental clucking noises, optional.

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9. Animal babies have special names

And sometimes they’re kinda obvious: pigs with piglets and chickens with chicks. But sometimes they’re not: cows have calves, sheep have lambs, geese have goslings, horses have foals, goats have kids, dogs have puppies and cats have kittens.

And, if your child masters all those in no time, you can always up her future pub-quiz-team status by moving on to mummy and daddy animal names (billy goat, nanny goat; stallion, mare; find more here or extending her animal baby knowledge beyond the farm (hares have leverets, don’t you know?)

10. Horses wear shoes

Sounds weird when you read it like that, doesn’t it? And lots of children can’t get to grips with the idea at all – until they see a horseshoe on a horse hoof.

Even better, a video of a horse getting its shoes fitted. Make sure you reassure your child that the horse is in no pain whatsoever, despite all the big hammers and nails and whatnot. And then finish off with a good parent-and-child clip-clop round the room – in your shoes, of course!

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