Piano Safari Stuffed Animal Shopping Guide

Piano Safari has been a method on my radar since the first version of the books came out. I've known about it since (I'm guessing) 2008. Julie Knerr, one of the authors, went to grad school with a girl I did my undergrad studies with (they may have even been roommates-I can't remember for sure). My friend told me about the method, and I haven't looked back.

I was drawn to Piano Safari due to my disappointment with the technique books on the market. I hated them to be quite frank. I didn't feel they were effective and they were...well, what they were - exercises - and boring to boot. Even though most technique books do correlate with what the students are learning in the lesson book, I never felt the transfer of learning happened.

It wasn't until 2013 that I started using the method heavily. With the increased use came the desire to maximize the "fun" of the safari theme more with stuffed animals.

Building up my safari-themed animal collection was a bit of a chore! I remember asking the authors where they got theirs but mostly I was on my own finding them. Today, I hope to help YOUR search a little easier than mine.

I'll be sharing not only where I purchased the animals but why they're a good investment, how I use and even store them.



Why The Prop?

Using the stuffed animals adds not only to the fun (kids can't resist squeezing the heck out of them!), but they're a hands-on/visual way to reinforce technique.

I use the animals in several ways.

  1. Directly demonstrate the technique motion. For example, have the monkey take a swing on their arm or use Tree Frog's feet to play legato on their arms.
  2. Animal "plays along" with the student. As they're playing the exercises, I make the kangaroo bounce lightly on the keys next to them so they have a visual of having a gentle, bouncy arm.
  3. Animal "talks" to the student. A.k.a. me making silly voices about how happy Zechariah is with their firm fingernail joints or how sad tree frog is they didn't make their fingers sticky that time. The kids love this.
  4. Lesson visitor. Animals are often silent observers of the student during their lesson. Sometimes the student will suddenly stop and say "I think Mr. Kangaroo is tired and is ready to go back home" and they'll put him away.


Goals In My Quest for the Best Helpers

When I began the search, I had a few goals in mind:

(1) I didn't want to go out and spend $100 purchasing a bunch of animals. I did end up spending that or maybe a little more in the long run but it was over the course of the last 2-3 years.

(2) At first, I searched local stores and ended up with some larger stuffed animals. I found them too bulky to work with, though, so I went online to find smaller sizes. I should have done this upfront as randomly chasing down specific stuffed animals of specific sizes in stores was not fun!

(3) I really wanted to keep the cost under $10 apiece although $5-$8 made me happiest. In some cases, I ended up going $10-$15.

(4) I wanted the animals to look as authentic as possible. Some of the stuffed animals out there look nothing like the actual animal. I didn't want a cutesy-looking animal. Let's keep it real. For example, I would have preferred a smaller giraffe, but most of the small giraffes out there had no neck, and since the point of the tall giraffe technique was to think of their long neck, I had to go with a 12" giraffe.

(5) My goal was to find an animal for each technique exercise in book 1. (Lion, Zebra, Giraffe, Tree Frog, Kangaroo, Bird, Monkey) However because the Charlie Chipmunk and Herbie Hippo rote pieces are so popular, the kids were always asking for Charlie and Herbie, so I decided to get them too.


My Winning Fuzzy Friends

Charlie Chipmunk

Herbie Hippo

Larry the Lion


Zechariah Zebra

Tall Giraffe

Soring Bird

Tree Frog

Monkey Swinging in a Tree

If all else fails, let the student bring their own prop! In book 2 there's the Flamingo Dancers rote piece. While this isn't a technique exercise, the animal theme lends itself beautifully to a fun prop. This couldn't be displayed better than the day one of my sweet students walked into lessons with her flamingo headband. Too fun.




Storing the Stuffed Animals

In my studio, all these furry friends sleep in a cube storage bin right next to the piano. The students love to go digging for them when it's time.



On ONE occasion, I let one of my students play with the animals during her music lab time. She loves them so much, I couldn't resist.

What's one 30 minutes lab in the long haul anyway? It brought her joy and she had a blast while her sister had her lesson that day.


*Note: this photo was from when I had mostly large stuffed animals, but I've since found I prefer to work with smaller ones. It was just too cute of a picture not to include!



  • I love Piano Safari! I started using it with a few students about a year ago, and I loved it so much that I have transferred most of my students to it since then. It’s fun for the kids and fun for me, and the kids are learning so much!

  • I have been wanting to give the Piano Safari method technical exercises and rote pieces a try as a supplement with my students. This would be a great way to get started…thank you!

  • I’d love to try these exercises! I’ve tried the giraffe one and Zechariah Zebra with a few students, but couldn’t make it stick. But I don’t have any of the materials, so I’m sure that would help!

  • I have been looking at Piano Safari this past year and really want to see it in person. I’ve heard nothing but wonderful things about the series! I’m hoping they will be at NCKP this summer.

  • I have found PS great for beginners, but difficult to transfer students into, mostly because of its unique approach.

  • Great post! I have just started some students in PS. I am gradually purchasing some of the stuffed animals as well. I purchased some of the same ones that you showed in your post. 🙂 I purchased the Chipmunk first. The kids just love playing for Charlie.

  • I held two camps last summer with piano safari materials and one of camps turned into a year-round group class. It is my favorite class to teach all week! I have a zebra but am looking forward to getting the rest of the animals too!

    • Laurie,
      I’m interested in more info about your classes. How many students per class and how many pianos? Ages? etc.

  • How fun! I have been hearing a lot about Piano Safari and am really interested in learning more about it. Thanks for the great ideas.

  • I’m dying to try this method out but haven’t been able to pull the trigger yet because I really want to look it over.

  • I am just itching to give this method a try! And having the stuffies would be the icing on the cake, I’m sure.

  • I have purchased some PS books and am reviewing the series. I recently visited the Ark Encounter in Kentucky and purchased several stuffed animals there. I loved that there animals were small and authentic looking. I still need a frog & bird. I will check out your links.

  • Been using Piano Safari for a couple years now, with my youngest students. They seem to enjoy it a lot. First heard about it at NCKP.

  • I have one student using Piano Safari so far and moving one more on it starting this week! I think it’s great! Thanks for your ideas with the animals!

  • I’m a Piano Safari baby, but I’ve been clear that this is where I’m headed. Thanks for sharing all these animal ideas–I appreciate it!

  • Love Love Love Piano Safari. Thanks so much for the links. Looking forward to future posts and being inspired. Thanks

  • I’m using the Technique & Rote Pieces Book with my beginning students, and they LOVE it! Exploring the possibility of transferring over to the entire Piano Safari method. Love the animals. I’ll be getting some of my own soon!

  • I have just started one new student with Piano Safari, and we are both loving it so far. Julie is going to be at our MTA state conference next summer, and I am looking forward to having a bit more time than just the single session she presented at MTNA this past year. I love the idea of using stuffed animals! I am going to start my search right away — thank you SO much for these links! And hey — I would love to win the raffle. Also I am glad to find your blog, Amy!

  • I first came across Piano Safari at the MTNA Convention in Texas, and am looking forward to further incorporating it into my studio !

  • I love Piano Safari. I’ve been using it since last Fall, and it’s been my go-to method. Piano Safari technique books are the best. Thanks for the links, I need to get some stuffed animals.

  • My daughter loves Piano Safari. I started her last year, and will definitely be starting new students in the method! Thanks for posting the handy links for all the animals!!

  • This has been my first semester w/Piano Safari – I love it. The kids do too! I’ve been using a combination of Beanie Baby-style animals, but these are great ideas. Thanks!

  • I started using Piano Safari with many of my students starting last school year and they LOVE it. I’ve been on the hunt (ha!) for stuffed animals (not too big, not too tiny) to add to my studio and to increase the fun-factor as students are learning new techniques and gaining new skills. Thanks for doing to the Safari shopping for us!

  • I’m new to Piano Safari having used various other methods, but so far having great reception with the students I’ve started on!

  • Just started using piano safari with my own son this fall. He loves it and I know many of my students will in the future!

  • I have been exploring Piano Safari since fall. It has been very useful for a couple of 7 and 8 year old beginners. One had problems using all five fingers right away-Piano Safari’s approach solves that. Another had some problems recognizing how to read notes on the staff. Piano Safari solved that problem, too! I look forward to learning more about Piano Safari during winter break!

  • I have very much enjoyed using the Celebrate Piano! series, which is akin to Piano Safari in many ways. However, Piano Safari is a better choice, I think, for very young beginners. I plan to start using it — experimenting, as usual, on my grandkids. 🙂 The stuffed animals are remarkably engaging and truly a practical assist in the learning process. Thank you for this giveaway offer!

  • Hi Amy – I haven’t tried Piano Safari yet, but after listening in on one of their webinars I purchased the level 1 and 2 books to look at. Do you create videos for helping them practice the rote pieces at home?

    • Hey, Catherine! The Piano Safari ladies have already done all that work for us! Visit their website here that links to all the videos on their YouTube channel. Personally, I’ve found, no matter what I do, I can’t seem to get them to actually watch the videos at home or even listen to the CD. I’ve given up on pushing that. I do make them aware and there are some (whose parents are more engaged) who will use them quite a bit.

  • A few years ago I had four beginners, and three of them quit sometime during their first year, for various reasons. One of the reasons, I believe, was boredom with their method book. Then I discovered Piano Safari! Since then I have had nine beginners using Piano Safari, and all of them are still taking lessons. It is so much fun, both for me and my students. I highly recommend it, both for its high fun value, as well as its strength in teaching technical skills and note reading. Oh yes – I now use the sight reading cards for all my students, even the ones that are still in other books. It’s been a great way to incorporate sight reading into my teaching.

    • Same here, Sara – every single one of my students is working their way through the sightreading cards. Even those who are not in the Piano Safari method and some of my Intermediate students as well.

  • I’ve had the first Piano Safari book sitting on my shelf for months. I haven’t used it yet, but you’ve given me several ideas and I’ll be bringing it into the fold soon. Thanks Amy!

  • Hi Amy. Thank you so much for you post and the exciting info on how to purchase the stuffed animals. I am a piano teacher from Melbourne, Australia and have recently fallen for the Piano Safari series. I am finding that the students really do relate to the technique through the animals. All my new students will using it in 2017!!!! Leanne

    • G’day, Leanne! I’m actually an ex-Aussie as my husband and I lived in Melbourne for three years from 2006-2009! I’m glad you and your students are benefitting from the method! When they came out with book 3 – I ordered 10 copies as all my students were ready to move on!

  • I love the small realistic animal props! Dollar Tree has a monkey with Velcro arms for just $1 that is great for demoing monkey swinging from a tree by putting it on the students arm to swing. I’ve considered using it as an incentive to give to younger students when they finish learning all of the piano safari technique motions.

  • This is my second year using piano safari. Loving it. I purchased most of the animals at the gift shop at the zoo. (Columbus OH). Reasonably priced and realist.

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