I received complimentary Schleich animals to facilitate this post. All opinions are my own.
When Schleich contacted me and asked if I wanted to work with them on a series of posts highlighting the educational uses for their figures, the first thing I thought of was a diorama. See, when I was in school, I never got to make one. Years later, when Jacob started school, I was excited about all the dioramas we’d be creating together. Sadly, in four years, he’s only ever been assigned one. But then I thought, wait, I don’t need the school to tell me when to make one, I can totally do it myself! I just needed a reason to do it. Enter Schleich, a company that has been creating gorgeous, realistic-looking figurines for ages.
It was a bit of a challenge to decide on a theme for my package of figures, they’re all just so cool. Then I saw the Animals of North America theme and came up with an idea right there. Hello, diorama! Today, I’m sharing with you how I used Schleich figures to teach Jacob about the animals in our area and finally satisfied that diorama-making craving.
Who Lives in Our Backyard: A Schleich Diorama
I wanted to make this project both as easy and as natural as possible. The only thing that doesn’t come from nature in my diorama is the box itself. Here’s what you’ll need:
- Schleich animals from North America (choose those that are from your region)
- A cardboard box- long and shallow worked best for me
- Dirt, leaves, rocks, twigs, acorns and other elements from your own back yard. Literally, your own back yard because it goes with the theme.
How to create your diorama:
Really, a diorama is all about creativity, so your steps may be different. This is how I did it:
- Flip the box on its side, so the open part faces you.
- Spread a layer of dirt or soil over the bottom
- Add the other elements, like rocks and twigs. Break them up a bit so they’re more on scale.
- Use branches and leaves for the background. You could also print out a photo of the mountains, trees, etc, but I really wanted to stick with the nature elements.
- Add your animals to create a woodland scene!
Schleich Animals in My Backyard
I live in Northeastern Pennsylvania, home of white-tailed deer, raccoons, chipmunks and skunks, so for the first part of my diorama, I focused on those.
Isn’t this family of white-tailed deer just adorable? I’ve seen many a family in real life just like them!
While I don’t often get to see raccoons because it’s too dark when they come out, I certainly hear them often enough, especially on garbage night! These little burglars are definitely the cutest troublemakers. It’s almost hard to be mad at them when they tear my trash apart…almost.
Did you know that skunk are actually super friendly animals? They just have a bit of an odor issue if you freak them out! I’m always scared my dogs are going to get skunked one day. I can’t imagine trying to soak Cooper in a tomato sauce bath!
Would you believe that I’ve lived in this general area most of my life and still kept calling this little guy a squirrel? He’s actually a chipmunk! I just love when these sweeties come to visit!
More Animals of North America
After we finished talking about the animals in our own back yard, we used the rest of the set to talk about more animals of North America. Using the same diorama, I simply added some extra elements for the eagle family and the jaguar.
First we talked about the eagle, our national bird. Now, I’ve never seen an eagle in my area, but I know they do live here. We also talked about how Jake’s dad was stationed in Alaska on an island where eagles were everywhere. I used a rock to simulate a cliff for the eagle and her family.
While we don’t have grizzle bears in our backyard, we do have plenty of black bears. First we discussed how grizzly bears live in Alaska (although his dad didn’t see any of those!), then we talked about the types of bears we have. Here’s a great story for you: a couple of weeks ago, we noticed a big black bear sitting in the woods in my neighbor’s back yard. She was just kind of lounging there. My neighbor though she was sick, so we called the game commission. They told us that the bear was probably just feeling lazy, not to worry. Well, when she finally got up, she had three cubs with her! They were hidden behind her the whole time! Oh the cuteness, let me tell you!
Another animal we don’t see too often (ever) is the jaguar. We do, however, have mountain lions (cougars). Fun fact about jaguars: my mom once took me to this safari thing where you could get off the bus and get up close to the animals. I guess they were supposed to be tame? I don’t really understand that part. I was maybe a year old. Anyway, my mom got chased by the jaguar! She ran back on the bus and bumped my head in a mad rush to keep me from being eaten by it. I still question the logic in taking your baby that close to wild animals, but this was the mid-70s and she was only like 19 at the time. So there you go, I came “this” close to being jaguar food!
Oh how I wish these beauties lived in my back yard! Wolves were my grandmother’s favorite animal. This would have been her favorite part of the diorama!
What do you think? It came out pretty cool for a relatively non-crafty person, don’t you think? I still have some beautiful macaws and a black panther. I need to make them a jungle! The main point of this is to show you how easy it is to use Schleich animal figures to help your child learn through play. I strongly believe that kids learn best when they can engage in hands-on learning. We often take out our Schleich animals and just talk about the different types. Not only has my son learned more about what lives in our backyard, but also about geography in general.
I’ll have another cool activity that you can do with Schleich animals and figures soon. I’m thinking of a cool flash card game! In the mean time, head over the the Schleich website and check out all their cool figures. Aside from animals, they also have some great historical, fantasy and even sets with your kids’ favorite characters! I am crazy in love with their Elves collection! Follow Schleich on Facebook and Twitter to keep up with news. I also HIGHLY suggest following their Pinterest boards, they’re incredibly gorgeous and fun!
Which of the animals in my backyard are also in your backyard? Which would you love to see up close?