PlanningVBS 2016

Bring VBS to Life with Animals

Kids LOVE animals, so why not take your VBS to the next level by featuring live animals? It’s way easier than you think.

You can build excitement during your registration, opening day or closing ceremony with live animals that get both kids and staff buzzing about VBS. They’ll marvel at God’s creation together, and including animals can even bring awareness to local shelters, discovery centers and rescues. We’ve rounded up some ideas for popular VBS themes to help you get started.*

Ocean Themes


Goldfish are inexpensive and easy to care for. You can set up a small aquarium at your registration table, or even in each classroom. Get kids involved in caring for the fish everyday by assigning a child to feed the fish. Make sure you arrange for long-term homes for each fish to go to after VBS is over.

Contact your local aquarium to see what types of mobile displays and educational presentations are available. In Southern California, the Aquarium of the Pacificoffers a mobile tidepool exhibit where kids can touch sea stars, sea cucumbers and even a small shark! Imagine the impact you can have on your community when you partner with local educational organizations. This could be a great way for your church to reach kids who may not usually attend a church event.

Create a memorable photo opp with an exotic bird display. Get kids up close and personal with beautiful parrots, macaws and other birds you might find on a tropical island. You can search for a local company, rescue or educational program to find birds near you. One of our staff members used Omar’s Exotic Birds at her church for SonTreasure Island VBS last year!

Farm Themes


This may be the easiest group of animals to incorporate into your VBS. Think about horses, ponies (and pony rides), miniature horses, cows, chickens, ducks, pigs and goats. Contact a local petting zoo to get started.Filling your parking lot or front lawn with a menagerie of farm animals would be quite a sight!

Depending on where you’re located, there’s likely someone in your church family who owns a horse or other barnyard animal. Consider asking your congregation if anyone has a well-trained animal that they could bring to church for a special VBS celebration. Members will love showing off their animals, building relationships and serving in a unique way.

Holy Land Themes


Make Bible times come to life with camels and donkeys! You can provide a unique, hands on experience for kids, parents and staff with these magnificent animals. If you’re in Ohio or Kentucky, check out Honey  Hill Farm  (they also offer cows, pony rides and more for farm themes!).

Pets Theme


Reach out to your church congregation to find well-behaved pets to have at your VBS. Consider dogs, cats, hamsters, reptiles, birds and more. Pets can welcome kids and parents to VBS each day, and be available for pictures. Or if you’re feeling quite adventurous, host a “Bring Your Pet to VBS Day.” Choose one child to bring their pet each day, or organize a time for every child to share a photo of their pet with their small group.

Reach out to local pet shelters to see if a representative can bring an animal to your VBS. You’ll raise awareness about the importance of pet rescues and adoption while creating a memorable experience for kids.


Contact your local zoo or animal rescue facility to learn more about educational programs and presentations. S ee if a representative can bring an animal or two to your VBS to share with the children. Many zoos and aquariums offer programs like this during the school year, so check with them to see if they are available during the summer as well. The children will love seeing and learning about the various animals, and this provides a perfect way to encourage children to invite their friends to VBS. You can also check with the zoo or aquarium to see if there is a special coupon available, which you can pass out to families at the end of VBS.VIDEOS OF ANIMALSWhile live animals provide a terrific up close and personal encounter for the children, there are other ways to include animals in your VBS as well. For a free, simple way to expose children to new animals show videos of sea animals or farm animals to those who arrive early to VBS or when there is extra classroom/rotation time. If your schedule allows for it, you can also show the videos during your closing time each day. Be sure to preview all videos before showing them and have a variety of options for each day. If you have a volunteer who enjoys looking for fun videos, have them put together a list of links for your media team, perhaps focusing on a specific animal or type of animal each day.

Keep the Memories Alive

If your kids have the opportunity to get up close and personal with an animal at VBS, make sure they remember it! Snap a photo and present each child with a photo frame at the end of VBS. Or use photo frames as a follow-up tool to mail to kids a week after VBS. Include your church’s information and invite them back to Sunday school or a fall event.

*Ideas are intended to be suggestions only. Prior to following any suggestions, consult with professional caretakers to ensure the animals’ safety and well-being is the utmost priority. Always adhere to city/county regulations and permits, and consult your church’s insurance policies. Clearly communicate plans to VBS and church attendees ahead of time and make arrangements for anyone with allergies.