Animal Sculptures

Children will explore animal shapes and create a sculpture.

Lesson Objective

Children will explore the basic shapes that make up an animal.


What You'll Need

  • Reclining Bull from the North Carolina Museum of Art website
  • 2" × 2" and 2" × 4" wood scraps (available free at home improvement stores) – 1 of each size per child
  • Small wood pieces for eyes and ears (packets available inexpensively at craft stores)
  • Non-toxic tacky craft glue – 1 bottle per 2 children
  • Butcher paper – to cover tables

What To Do

  1. Display the artwork, and ask the children what they see (see Guiding Student Inquiry).
  2. Have the children point out shapes they see in the sculpture.
  3. Ask what they think the animal is and what it is doing – standing, sitting, or lying down.
  4. Explain that this wooden sculpture is called Reclining Bull, and it is a bull that is lying down. The word, reclining, means lying down.
  5. Tell the children that they will be creating an animal sculpture using wood shapes and glue. Tell them to think about how their animal will be positioned.
  6. Display the collection of larger wood scraps.
  7. Assist the children with choosing wood shapes to represent the body, head, and legs of an animal.
  8. Demonstrate fitting the shapes together to resemble an animal, and glue them into place.
  9. Assist the children with choosing smaller pieces of wood for eyes, ears, antlers, and so forth.
  10. Assist the children with gluing the smaller pieces in place.
  11. Place sculptures on a table for drying.
  12. Gather the children for a “gallery walk” around the sculptures.
  13. Have each child explain the animal that is represented by their sculpture (see Guiding Student Inquiry) and the body position their animal is in.

Guiding Student Inquiry

  • Describe the shapes you see.
  • Tell me what type of animal is shown in the sculpture.
  • Explain what this animal is doing.
  • Describe the animal you made.
  • Describe what the animal is doing.
  • Tell me the body parts (head, neck, legs, body, and so forth) that you included in your sculpture.

Explore, Extend & Integrate

  • Once the artwork is dry, provide paint, fabric, feathers, and other materials for children to use to decorate their sculptures. You could also have the children paint shapes on their sculptures like in the Reclining Bull sculpture.
  • In your dramatic play area, provide a variety of stuffed animals for the children to play with. The children can pretend to be zookeepers or veterinarians.
  • This activity can be extended to include a lesson about shapes, such as Partner Shapes. View Lesson »
  • Place any leftover materials in the art center for children to use to create additional animal sculptures.

Check for Children’s Understanding

  • Were children able to name some shapes in the Reclining Bull sculpture?
  • Could children create an animal sculpture?
  • Could children describe what they created?
  • Could children tell the animal parts (head, neck, legs, body, and so forth) that they included in their sculptures?


Did You Know?

Animals come in many different shapes. Animal bodies can be simplified by basic shapes that many young children are familiar with such as circles, squares, and triangles. These basic shapes can be easily identified since they are painted on the work of art highlighted in this lesson. In addition, some of the bull’s body parts are basic shapes. The body of the bull and the legs are all rectangles. The head and horns are triangles, and the eyes and ears are circles. Talking about shapes with children and helping them to construct things using shapes helps children learn the common words for shapes.

A sculpture is a three-dimensional piece of artwork; meaning that it takes up space and can be viewed from different sides. Sculptures can be large or small and are made from a variety of different materials such as clay, stone, wood, paper, metal, or a combination of materials. Sculptures are created by artists as a form of expression and can be realistic or abstract.

Vocabulary: Child-Friendly Definitions

  • sculpture – the art of making statues and other objects by carving, chiseling, or molding.
  • wooden – made from the hard material that makes up the trunk and branches of a tree.
  • recline – to lie down in a comfortable position.
  • bull – an adult male cow.
  • scrap – a small bit of something leftover. Sometimes it is thrown away.
  • shape – the form of an outer surface or edge of an object.

Lesson Tips

  • Cover the tables with butcher paper before beginning the activity.
  • Check over the wood pieces, and smooth the edges with sandpaper to prevent splinters.
  • You may find it easier to provide bowls of glue and craft sticks for the children to use. The children can dip the craft sticks into a bowl of glue and wipe the glue onto their wooden blocks.
  • Be sure to write children’s names on their sculptures.
  • Check with your local high school wood shop for wood scraps.
  • Consult children’s parents or guardians to discuss their children’s familiarity with and fears about animals, and then consider asking a local zoo or aquarium to bring their mobile program to your classroom for a visit.


  • Brown Bear, Brown Bear What Do You See? by Eric Carle
  • Shape by Shape by Suse Mac Donald
  • Color Zoo Board Book by Lois Ehlert
  • Mouse Shapes by Ellen Stoll Walsh

Home School Resources

Home educators: use these printable lesson PDFs to teach this lesson to your home schoolers. They're available in English and Spanish.

Home/School Connections

Las Conexiones a la Casa

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Content Provided By

Common Core State Standards Initiative – These lessons are aligned with the Common Core State Standards ("CCSS"). The CCSS provide a consistent, clear understanding of the concepts and skills children are expected to learn and guide teachers to provide their students with opportunities to gain these important skills and foundational knowledge [1]. Visit the CCSS