Good Night Gorilla – Zoo Activities for Toddlers

(Updated February 2023)

Today we start our new homeschooling journey at home. Although my son is two these weekly activities can be done with toddlers as young as one year old all the way to preschoolers.

We are starting our book activity series with a classic book that is recommended as a must-have book! Good night Gorilla (available on Amazon) is a classic book is full of images and not a lot of words, so you as a parent have to come up a lot with the conversation of the book.

We are focusing this month on learning colors but the book offers so much more! follow along and I’ll show you all the activity ideas, plus a free color activity your can print out for free and try at home.

All of these activities allow for a lot of conversation building, and observation, and for you guys to come up with your own way to read the story.

Book-based activities are a great form of learning, so if this sounds like something you want to try at home, let me share with you how you can use this book to create tons of learning activities.

Note: My son is two years old at the time of us doing these activities

Things we do/say as we read the book:

  • When the zoo keeper wife opens her eyes in the dark we say “oh oh!” and open our eyes really wide!
  • We count the animals as they are in line walking back to the zoo
  • We point out which is the largest and the smallest animal
  • We always look for the balloon
  • We inspect what is inside each of the cages
  • We look for hints about what does each animal eats, like the elephant you see the peanuts on the floor.

Lesson Plan objectives

All of our lesson plans activities are meant to be worked one along side our learning curriculums (My First School or Love 2 Learn) to ensure a complete learning experience to get our little learners ready for Pre-K.

  • Introduction of the classic book “Goodnight Gorilla” through activities
  • Introduce the concept of light & shadows
  • Understand the concept of the opposites: Night & Day
  • Practice color recognition
  • Increase vocabulary of animal names
Good night Gorilla available in Amazon

goodnight gorilla activities

Below you will find 8 activities to try. You can do them all in one day and repeat the ones you like over the week, or you can do a few a day and spread them out throughout the week.

What Are Shadows

Our first activity was to introduce our little learners to what a shadow is. After all, they are just starting to discover the world.

The preschool hat I did my sensory classes used to play a lot making shadows for their one and two year old age group classes. The would turn on their big projector against the wall and let the kids play creating their own shadows while dancing to the music.

At home that idea was hard to replicate so we de grabbed wooden shapes, and shadow printable form the My First School curriculum and glue them to a stick.

Using a flashlight at nighttime, we turned off all the lights and reflected the light onto the shapes. The shapes from our wooden carvings came to life on the wall.

Funny story – the first time we did it we used a shark 🦈 shadow because my son was totally into sharks. The moment he saw that big shark on the wall he got very scared and we had to cancel the activity. Our second attempt was a win and since then he loves this activity.

Read & Discuss

Of course, the first thing you need to do is read the book together. Because this book doesn’t have many words, here are a few book promps you can ask your toddler to spark some conversations.

  • What do you see in the illustrations?
  • What do you think the gorilla is going to do with the keys?
  • What color is the cage?
  • Can you point to the moon?
  • What are the names of the animals?
  • Who is the man with the flashlight? it’s called a zookeper
  • Do you know what a zookeeper does? it takes care of the animals at the zoo

Night & Day

Good night gorilla is a great book to teach the opposite concepts of night and day. I took our our opposite cards from the 2 year old binder and shared how when it is night time the moon comes out, we can use a flashlight and we go to bed.

Later on in the day, I took out the card and went outside for a walk with a flashlight. Showed him moon and we used the flashlight to point out to different houses , trees, cars as we walked and said good night to each.

Color Matching: Keys to Cages

I don’t know if you noticed, but on the book each animal has a different color cage. Then the gorilla uses the matching color key to let each animal out.

We use a good night gorilla activities free printable but I made you an even better one you can download for free. Just click the add to cart and follow the path to download this free resource.

Watch how we played!

as another option, last year I assembled the cage like a stand-up triangle but it was so small it was hard to get the stuff in and out. So I like the flip-open idea as seen in the video.

To assemble the triangle cage, fold on the lines as shown in the template and then take the ends of the paper with a bit of tape.

good night gorilla activities
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Shadow Matching

Depending on the age of your toddler this might be a harder activity to follow but it is a fun exercise that will actually work as pre-math concepts.

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We used these free printed pages of shadow animals inspired by the book and some animal figurines we had, I set up an invitation to play tray, and together we worked on matching which silhouette match each animal.

It was pretty fun and I was very impressed with Manu’s skills in this activity. I honestly thought he was going to have a harder time and would need my help.

Immediately after, we went outside and I showed Manu how the sun was making us have a shadow on the floor of us. We dance and make funny hand motions.

I invited him to paint our shadows. I traced his shadow using chalk and then we grabbed a bucket of water and a large paintbrush and started painting our shadow. .

2D to 3D matching

Another great activity to do with toddlers is to match 2D photos to 3D, so I wanted to see if we can create a game a bit more advanced. 3D animals to 2D shadows.

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I was very impressed how easily this was for Manu. I just wish I had the armadillo or hyena figurines. Those seem to be hard to find – but it was still good to do it with the rest of the animals.

Our small animals are from the zoo sensory kit

Opposites: Big & Small

This book is full-on animals, both familiar ones like the elephant, giraffe, and lion as well as new ones like the hyena and the armadillo. We practice our vocabulary with a vocabulary practice game.

Vocabulary :

  • Animals of the zoo: gorilla, elephant, lion, hyena, giraffe, armadillo
  • good night, moon, nighttime, keys
good night gorilla vocabulary activity
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We used our existing Large Print flashcards and our small flashcards (from our two year old learning binder) and animal figurines to practice letter recognition, animal matching and comparing large and small.

What are your favorite goodnight gorilla activities so far?

Here are two more activities to try!

goodnight gorilla Craft

Before the age of 3 it is hard to do any type of craft with kids, so I Kike to keep our art exploration simple and quick.

One of our favorite pages in the book is when is total darkness and all you see are the speech bubbles of all the animals saying goodnight. I would imagine if they all opened their eyes 👀 it would look something like our craft.

Grab a black construction paper to represent the dark and some googley eyes from the craft store.

Art at this age is about exploring textures so let your little learner squeeze the glue and choose independently where to place the googley eyes.

Try to get those that are a bag of mixed sizes and that have sticky in the back, this will make the activity of sticking the eyeballs into the craft paper a lot easier for little hands.

Banana Snack

Throughout the whole book, the mouse is dragging the banana peel. This is a perfect opportunity to add a fun banana snack to your toddler meal. Create your favorite banana snack or try to make this fun one at home.

Song of the week

I absolutely love this song! ring ring banana phone is a song I use for my zoo theme sensory class but I think it goes perfect with this week because the little mouse in the book is always dragging that banana peel.

Did you know that pretending to talk on the phone and having conversations between you is a great activity for young toddlers and late talkers? so get your toy or invisible phone and get playing!

Final thoughts

I hope this gave you great easy ideas you can do at home around this classic book Good Night, Gorilla. Because learning is always more fun through play don’t forget to add some free-play with your zoo figurines and follow your child’s lead.

For One Year Olds (available in PDF or Printed format)

For 2 Year Olds (available in PDF or Printed format)