A friend asked me where we get Connor and Deirdre's animals and since I went on for 4 paragraphs I figured it warranted it's own post.
Schleich animals are hand-painted plastic animals distributed from a German company and made in various locations. When I say realistic, I mean these are not only carved and painted to look identical to the real thing, they are anatomically correct. That male pig is REALLY proud of the family jewels, my friends. There's no mistaking the genders.
They also look REAL. These aren't cute little cartoon animals like the ones put out by Fisher Price.
We fell into the Schleich world when one of my sisters sent us a Target gift card for Christmas a few years ago. We couldn't decide how to spend it and Bryan and Connor discovered these amazing animals.
They cost anywhere from $1.75 to $15.00, depending on the size. We have over 200 of them now, so you can imagaine the investment. They have been and continue to be worth every penny.
Very early on, Connor learned their names, including the more obscure animals such as the Okapi and Ibex. He sorts them into family groups, similar colors or species, and story collections - for example, when he watches Tarzan, he brings out all the animals found in Tarzan. When he reads his zoo book, he brings out all the animals found in the zoo.
They've been great for counting, sorting, story-telling and other imaginative play, and just learning new vocabulary. Deirdre is starting to bring us animals so we can tell her what they are, and she already recognizes her favorites, such as the kitty and the panda (usually the animals she recognizes are from her favorite books).
You can usually find the horses, domestic animals, safari animals, and the occasional shark or whale at Target and Toys R Us. If you live in my area, you can also find them at Hobby Town. The Thanksgiving Point petting zoo used to sell the farm animals but we haven't seen any the last two times we went.
The best place to get them is actually online, because then you can find the more interesting ones, like the dinosaurs, prehistoric mammals, different varieties of sharks and whales, and animals such as the Okapi and Hyena.
We buy ours from H&H Winners Circle, if we can't find what we want locally.