My first grader is naturally inclined to math and history and if it was up to him I would only ever create games with numbers or facts about past wars. I am happy to have him learn about those things but as his mom I need to stretch him to learn about other things as well. This is an science for kids game that asks players to classify each animal into omnivore, herbivore or carnivore. The hands on aspect of the game is great of young learners and can encourage later imaginative play as well. I like to keep activities like this short since my son attends school full time and my goal is to use these bite sized activities to spark interest and further investigation. For more check out our other Learning After School activities.
Gather your materials. You will need some card stock ( I use the back of sentence strips), marker, and a mix of animal figurines. I like these Safari Ltd North American Wildlife Toob from amazon ( that’s an affiliate link ).
When I invited my son to come do the activity I first had him answer a question on the chalkboard. This isn’t a must do but I will explain why I do it with my son. He loves to know the answer so by starting the activity with a question he can answer it starts him off on a strong confident foot. Then I challenge him with the sorting.
Some were not . After he made his final decision he asked ” Can you Google it to see if we are right?” I loved that he wasn’t looking to get the answer but to check if he was right. This also let me slip in a quick lesson about using reliable online sources. He won’t be searching online without me for a while yet but it’s still a good lesson to start cementing.
For more quick but meaningful learning for after school or any time check out our Learning After School series.
Candy is a great motivator. It’s not the main motivator I want to use but from time to time it’s novelty is useful and a fun break from more everyday things. This is a simple math game for kids that works on sorting, estimation ,and counting. When working with kids and edibles my rule is that if you do not sneak any you get a small pile at the end of the activity. My son is a rule follower by nature and did this as we have in the past. His 3 year old sister did not. Every child is different but that rule has worked for me over the years much more often than not. Have pom poms or buttons on hand if you need to swap out or prefer not to use candy at all.
- Gather your materials. You will need a sheet of paper with three trees on it ( you can print mine here) , cookie sheets to keep the candies from rolling away, candies ( our natural dyed red is sorta wine colored but the kids didn’t bat an eye), a small dish for each player, and a jar with a lid.
- Give each child a sheet with three trees and a small dish. Shake up the jar with all 3 colors of candies in it and pour some into each child’s dish.
- Have them guess which tree will have the most apples on it by estimating which color is the most prevalent in their dish of candies.
- Start sorting the candies and placing them on the matching trees.
- Which has the most? Which has the least? How many do they all have? Count to find out.
- Sneak a few candies… or every single green candy when mom is busy taking pictures of your big brother counting.
- Pour the candies back in the jar, shake, and repeat the game. For my son I had him figure out how many more the tree with the most had than the tree with the least and do some other simple addition and subtraction by allowing him to eat a few and then telling me how many there were after eating them. For my daughter I had her simply count and sort. I loved how easy it was to adapt to both their levels.
Books About Apple Trees
Apple Picking Time by Michele Benoit Slawson was not what I was expecting , it was so much more. I was expecting a basic book about picking apples at an orchard. This book is anything but basic, it’s dreamy and while reading it I almost felt as thought I was back in time when a whole community would come to a stand still for something like apple picking. The protagonist is Anna a little girl who works hard in the orchard along side her parents and grandparents . She isn’t as fast as her parents, but with hard work and the support of her family she reaches her goal and fills a bin! I loved this book, I would suggest it for preschoolers and up.
Apples, Apples, Apples by Nancy Elizabeth Wallace will not be returned to the library on time. We got it out today and my son has had me read it to him 3 times, and his dad read it twice. Clearly it gets the 3 year old seal of approval. It also gets mine. The story is more than just a story about a afmily going apple picking at an orchard. It explains all sorts of apple facts but what I really love is that it also explains that there are different kinds of apples and each are used for different things. Since each member of the family is using their apples for different purposes that fact is driven home . Great book for preschoolers going on a apple picking field trip , making applesauce or apple prints.
One Red Apple by Harriet Ziefert is stunning. I really enjoy this author but most of my praise for this book lands squarely on the illustrator Karla Gudeon’s shoulders. WOW. I just adore the look, and creativity of this book. The story follows the cycle of one apple from orchard, to market back to seed, tree and back into the hands of a child. I enjoy books like this that simply explain the cycles of the natural world to young kids , but you can’t miss this one. As I turned each page I gasped, it’s one of those books you just need to sit and look at because each time you do you find some little detail you missed before.This post contains affiliate links.
Last week we played with our Alphabet Garden and a commenter asked how I could make it for children who loved cars and trucks. This is the letter sorting game that I came up with for cars and trucks. You could do it as a magnet activity like we did or put it all on a sheet of contact paper like our alphabet garden, whatever best fits your child. This activity is part of our Alphabet for Starters series that is focused on making playing with letters fun and dynamic. This can be adapted to any level. For children just beginning to notice letters they can simply put the letters on the road. Don’t worry about sorting into cases. For older children use the letters to spell. Write words with a missing letter and have your older child fill in the blank. Here is what we did for my daughter who is familiar with both upper and lowercase letters and enjoys sorting them.
- Gather your materials. You will need some black construction paper, green construction paper ( scraps would work great), clear contact paper , pictures of cars and trucks ( mine come from wrapping paper) , self adhesive magnetic sheets, a white crayon, scissors, a marker and a cookie sheet from the dollar store.
- Start by making your cars and trucks. Cut the cars out. Add the letters. I didn’t do every letter in both upper and lowercase. I chose letters that my daughter has trouble with mixed in with some sure fire bets so she would be challenged but confident in her ability.
- Lay a large sheet of contact paper down sticky side up and lay the cars face down. Place another sheet on top to sandwich the cars inside. Or laminate if you have access to a laminator. I am very jealous if you do. Nothing gets a teacher ( even a former teacher) more excited than laminating something. Cut into individual cars and trucks.
- Add the magnets. Now if you have a child who is well past the putting things in their mouth stage cut little squares and stick them on the back of the cars. If you want you could also lay the whole laminated car on the sticky back magnet sheet and then cut . This will make it harder for the to peel any small piece off. Please always remember that all our activities are designed for children to do with a parent within arms reach and only if they are ready for the activity. You don’t have to make the pieces magnetic for the kids to have fun, it’s just a bonus.
- Make a simple road and some signs saying UPPERCASE ROAD and lowercase road . These give visual cues even for kids that aren’t reading independently . You can add magnets to these if you want too. Painter’s tape is a great choice if you are skipping the magnets but want these pieces to stay in place temporarily.
- Ready to play! This is what it would look like if I handed it to my 6 year old. For my almost 3 year old it looked like this. She ended up sorting all the letters but I gave them to her in bite size pieces so she wasn’t overwhelmed.
- She loves cars and trucks right now ( well really bulldozers are the best) so she was all into it. After the first few were put on she asked me for more. Remember to label what your child is doing and to sit back. If they ask for help be ready to support but don’t take over.
- The trickiest part for her were letters like w and o. She thought for a long time before placing them down. She just kept piling them on. And was insistent that she show it off at the end. I was impressed with how many magnets piled together still stayed in place.
Alphabeep!: A Zipping, Zooming ABC by Debora Pearson is a great book for older toddlers and preschoolers. The transportation themed book uses rhymes and colorful illustrations to go from A to Z. The text was a bit long for my young toddler but I shortened it and he was able to enjoy the book , children 2 and up will love it just the way it is! This is on my must buy list. Edited for 2013 : My daughter also loved this book and had me read it twice at the library which is a glowing review.
For more Alphabet Books check out our list of 50 Alphabet Books We LoveThis book review includes an affiliate link.
Sorting is a common preschool activity that you may notice your child doing all on their own. Sorting helps make sense of the world but it’s also a great way to talk about attributes and differences in the items you are sorting. In this case sorting pets vs. wild animals gave us a chance to talk about how we care for pets and observe local wildlife. It wasn’t super simple for a 2.5 year old but when we hit road bumps a few questions lead to the final decision. After sorting we played and played and played which is exactly what I’d hoped for.
- Gather your materials. You will need a doll house ( or a picture of a house ) , some animals and if you want a basket and container to represent the wild . We used a square vase and some pine cones it doesn’t have to be perfect just enough to be separate from the house pets. Make sure that you have some animals that are clearly pets and others that are clearly wild animals and if you think it won’t frustrate your child add in a few iffy ones. Our iffy ones were the budgie, lizard and turtle.
- Place the house, animals and “wild” on a table and invite your wee one to start sorting. Let them know that all the animals need to be put in their home either in the house or wild.
- Help them sort if need be. My daughter took great care in placing each pet in the right spot. When she got to the lizard she was not sure. Eventually she decided that it should be in the wild. You and I know that people have lizards as pets but I wasn’t going to go into that if she decided it shouldn’t. Don’t get hung up on these technicality on the less obvious animals if it breaks the flow of the game but if your child will understand explain exotic pets and let them decide if they think they should or should not be pets.
- After all the sorting is done you can count the animals, ask your child to pick which pet they would like to have in their own house and to pick out the wild animals that they have seen around their neighborhood/zoo/aquarium.
- Then play! Can you tell she is potty training right now? We played and played mostly potty training each of the house pets. If only it were that easy!
Books About Pets
Not Norman: A Goldfish Story by Kelly Bennet is a story about a little boy and his disappointing pet fish Norman. All great children’s books slip a lesson between the pages and this one is about how our first impressions aren’t always right. Friendships can take a while to grow but once they do they are solid, even with a pet fish named Norman.
My Penguin Osbert by Elizabeth Cody Kimmel is a perfect book for this activity. In this story a little boy writes to Santa and asks for a very specific gift, a real live penguin! It’s not long before he realizes that a real live penguin is not as much fun as he thought it would be. He is very responsible though and sacrifices a lot for Osbert. He is thankful to Santa for getting his gift exactly right but writes a follow up letter explaining how it would be ok if Santa sent a replacement. Very cute story, it’s not short though but my 3 year old listened to it happily for a bedtime story. Laughing at the funny parts and pointing out that he wrote a letter to Santa too, but he didn’t ask for a penguin… thank goodness!
McDuff Moves In by Rosemary Wells will pull at your heart strings and make your child beg for a dog! McDuff escapes from a dog catcher’s truck and tried to brave the world alone only to be met with unfriendly animals until he meets Fred and Lucy! They take him in initially just for one night … but who can resist this Westie? My son loves this series of books and I do too. They are calm, sweet and I love the illustrations by Susan Jeffers.This post contains affiliate links
Sorting is an important skill for preschool aged children to learn and practice. You may have noticed that your toddler or preschooler has a natural tendency to sort and they do. Sorting is a way to organize and make sense of their environment. Activities like these provide concrete objects for your child to sort and organize. Colors, shapes and sizes are all great attributes to sort by but for older or more advanced learners try sorting my more than one or more subtle attributes. Here are 9 of our favorite sorting activities for kids.