an early education learning space ~ where play equals learning

October 15, 2015
by countryfun

Combining Our Movement Sticks and Books

With young children we know it is of benefit to have activities that will support them in getting their bodies moving and they need to be read to daily. There are a good number of books that have a movement component to them that allow for creative expansion activities.

Here are my go to books that have a movement component to them:


  • Wriggly Pig by Jon Blake
  • Tumble Bumble by felicia Bond
  • Silly Sally by Audrey Wood
  • Clap Your Hands by Lorinda Bryan Cauley
  • Shake My Sillies Out by Raffi


Activities can be as simple as acting out the characters’ movements to using something like our Movement Sticks. These also make a great 5-10 minute movement activity that helps break up more structured activities, works for transition time and just for the fun of doing.

The Movement Sticks are simple and low cost. Take colored jumbo craft sticks and glue movement idea strips to them.

You can pre-make or have the children provide the movement ideas and help to glue up the sticks. You could also write them out, but I’ve found printed out and glued stay clearer longer. Ideas can also be added as favorite actions change with the group.

Following are the movement ideas from our sticks:

  • pretend hula hooping
  • walk backwards
  • jump backwardsDSC03730
  • frog jumps
  • wiggle worm
  • highest leap
  • helicopters
  • jump sideways
  • ants in your pants
  • walk sideways
  • twisting toe touch
  • hop one foot then other
  • silly walk
  • jumping jacks
  • tree in a stormy wind
  • giant steps
  • head, shoulders, knees, toes
  • jump in a circle
  • two foot jumps
  • pretend on balance beam
  • pretend to pedal a bike
  • egg rock and roll
  • side stretches
  • jack in the box
  • run in place
  • tree in a breeze
  • dance
  • pretend climbing stairs
  • leg swing right, then left
  • pretend bowling
  • hop like a rabbit
  • touch your toes

For a printable list click this link.

October 15, 2015
by countryfun

Farm & Barnyard Books

This Fall found my very young group spending lots of play time with our farm/barn small world structure and critters, so I’ve started off our book selection with anything barn/farm animal related. These four books from my personal library offer a chance to work with colors, shapes, counting, alphabet, animal sounds, and animal movements before we even think about expanding the learning.

DSC06990 Let’s start with Barnyard Banter by Denise Fleming.

I love sharing this book with children for many reasons: colorful illustrations, author that I have others books by, written language of the book, the ability to expand the learning in a variety of directions

Children in our area have a strong understanding of what many think of a standard farm animals, but this book opens up the understanding that there are other animals one might find on a farm. This also offers the opportunity to increase our exposure to new animal sounds. I often find that opening up this learning experience send us into all kinds of animals and we begin classifying them as to where their might live (ie. zoo, jungle, forest, farm, house).

I also wait to see if any of the children will notice the reoccurring character on each page and figure out what they are doing. With my very young I often have to introduce this after our initial reading. Once I point our goose the children are searching each page to find it. This often brings the book to the floor and allows for strong engagement with the pages. At this point the reading of the written words seems to stop and we start telling the story from the illustrations.

Any time I have large print in a story we point out “our letter” or a friend’s “letter”- this is the letter that starts our first name. I have found this a great way to get a strong start in learning the letters of the alphabet.

DSC06993 I think it’s important to have books that are more science or factually based as part of our selection. Gail Gibbons is a go to for that type of book for me. I have found her books are usable across the mix of ages I usually have in care, whether reading all the detail or using just the illustrations and adding my own information.

Between having our own good size garden and being surrounded by fields worked by a local dairy farmer the children here have good exposure to tractors, can can relate very easily to some of the information in this book.

I also like that Farming covers the changes to the farm throughout the seasons. As we also experience 4 seasons again the children can relate to the changes and compare with their experiences.

The story also shows the work that people need to done on a working farm. This opens up lessons about other community workers, parents’ jobs, chores, jobs that the children can do at home and while in care.


Night in the Country by Cynthia Rylant might seem like a strange choice if I’m only doing a few books around an area of interest. I have this in my collection because it covers the concept of night with illustrations that are life-like, but in a style different from many children’s book. To me they have a sketched quality in deep, vibrant color. I think it’s important for children to be exposed to a variety of illustration styles.

There is a softness to the written word as we are taken through the country setting exploring what is to be found there at night. This opens up lessons on nocturnal animals, comparing daytime evens to nighttime events. For some groups we expand to the sun and the moon and stars. We have charted what each child hears at their home in the night. We have done daytime listening laying outside here with eyes closed as saying what we here then going inside and doing the same.

DSC06992 I love having story versions of childhood songs and rhymes. I like this version of Old MacDonald Had a Farm illustrated by Carol Jones because it had a cut-out on each page that provides the child with a chance to predict what animal we will be singing about next.

The pen and ink illustrations are life-like while offering another illustration style. In the illustrations we also see the life of the animals we are singing about as well as other animals on the farm.

This is another good book for what I think of as floor exploration. There is so much detail on each page that they can stand alone providing a chance to expand language as we describe what we see happening on each page.

Music is so important in the strong development of children’s language and we often use the book as the starting place adding whatever other animal we can think of following the pattern of the song. We’ve been known to switch it up, expand on classifying again and go to the zoo, or circus, or woods if the animals being called out are more appropriate there.


May 14, 2014
by countryfun

Travels with Charlie: MAINE Footprint Lobster #bookingusa

We so enjoyed being involved with Booking Across the USA (Trip 1) last year. It was fun to connect with others from across the other states. So many new books and fun activities to explore. So when Booking Across the USA Trip 2 was announced we jumped at the chance to participate again.  50 bloggers sharing activities related to their state with all ideas being inspired by a new series of books! What’s not to like about this?

We got our learning started with a new book: Travels with Charlie – Travelin’ the Northest by Miles Backer. Who says you have to start every book on the first page? Not me, so we started the reading with our own state of Maine and continued through the Northeast comparing these other states to ours. (Future Venn Diagram) This series and discussion opens up a way to develop an understanding of the USA in the preschoolers here.

My original idea was to combine reading this book with all the questions that have been raised as we prepare to head off to various schools for K next year. I figured we could start from the big picture – Earth, heading to USA, to Maine and then our homes in our towns. We are still doing that, but will be expanding into making personal books about Maine.

This simple activity takes coffee filters, markers (not sharpies), white art paper and water.


  1. Color, scribble is best, onto the coffee filter with the markers. We viewed the earth as seen from space on our iPads to figure out the colors and what those colors represented. – Our choices were: blue, green and brown. the empty spaces would give us white.
  2. Place filter in middle of the white art paper (we used drawing paper, construction paper and copy paper all worked fine), start spraying with water. Really get the coffee filter wet. You will see the colors start to blend and parts of the filter will lift (do not push down). Leave everything in place until it dries.
  3. Once dry lift up filter, reposition on the paper and spray well again. Let dry. This can be done multiple times, but we only needed these 2 color areas.
  4. Using a clear circle shape place where you like the Earth image, trace around. Cut out saving remaining paper for the USA outline to come.

We have completed the earth and background for the USA outline, but the discussions have shifted our focus just now. The children want to know more about Maine.


In answer to their interest I headed to the library in search of books about Maine. Little did I expect to have such a large and varied collection of titles to explore and chose from. (I’ve listed all the books we’ll be exploring on the Country Fun Program Blog: Book Files.)

Needless to say the idea I had for the initial project has also evolved and will not be completed in time for the link up today (the 14th). I will definitely link up once done or you can check back here or on one of the other social media connections I use.

~~~~~~~~~~~~   ~~~~~~~~~~~   ~~~~~~~~~~~~

Allowing the children to direct what books we explored next, they chose the Moose stories. DSC04510 (Never imagined I’d find a use for the jar of dried moose droppings we have sitting on a book shelf. It was fun to show the children, discussing size, shape and how we could see the fibers from the plants that moose eat.) However, it’s been the books about lobsters (Lobsterman by Dahlov Ipcar, open below) and islands that have engaged the children the most.  DSC04517 islands

I pulled together materials for a simple and fun activity I’ve done in the past – a footprint lobster.

PS- Live lobsters are brown. They turn red once cooked. The children chose to do red, not brown. That is the color used most in advertising here, so they think of lobsters as being red.


  1. copy paper (we’ll be cutting out), thin red paint and wipes
  2. paint bottom of one foot
  3. place carefully on one short edge of paper, pressing down firm. (Watch out that the toes are to the edge.)
  4. wipe foot clean
  5. paint palms of both hands
  6. position hands over heel area, finger together, thumb out, place and press down
  7. wash hands
  8. let dry
  9. cut out lobster


Chose background paper (we used 9″x12″ blues from the textured paper stash). Have book open to the page with clear example of the lobster’s body.

  1. lobstercut out rock shapes (more textured paper)
  2. glue down rocks then place and glue down lobster
  3. color arm section where claw attaches to body
  4. glue on eyes and antennas (cut into 2 pieces, does not stayed glued as well when folded)
  5. add 8 legs (“L” shape)
  6. lines for tail section
  7. label body parts


These will be added as a page to our Maine books.


May 13, 2014
by countryfun

35 Books About Maine #bookingusa

For Booking Across the USA  Trip 2 (2014), I have compiled a list of books about Maine that can be used with preschoolers through elementary. I was surprised how many I could actually pull from my own personal library when I started this search. All these books are currently being explored by the children here.

Many are familiar with these well known Maine stories:  One Day in Maine, Blueberry for Sal and Miss Rumphius, so I have not listed them here.  I was surprised at the fairly large number of books available today on Maine and the variety. It has made for some fun exploration and unexpected learning opportunities.

We started this all off with 1) Travels with Charlie book for our section of the country- Travelin’ the Northeast by Miles Backer. charlie The 4 book series by Blue Apple Books is filled with history, trivia facts and bright landmark illustrations on each state in each region.  An extra fun point was realizing we needed to search for Charlie on each state page. Seeing our state in this way, the open discussions comparing Maine to the other states inspired us to spend more time learning more about this state in which we live.

Books that provide more general factual information about Maine:

DSC04522  DSC04518

2) I Love Maine by Jeff Cox and Nancy Griffin – Simple board book with clear illustrations. 1 or 2 sentences per page about the highlights of Maine geographically, it’s main industries and wildlife.

3) Good Night Maine by Adam Gamble – Very simple board book. Starting with a “good morning” and travels through Maine through the day until settle with “good night”.

4) Maine ABC by Susan Ramsay Hoguet – Distinct Maine icons make up this rhyming verse ABC book.

5) L is for Lobster – A Maine Alphabet by Cynthia Furlong Reynolds – This rhyming ABC book covers a bit more of the history of Maine like the Algonquin Nation of Native Americans or the battle between the Enterprise and Boxer. The page sidebars contain a wealth of factual information to be used as appropriate for the age group and lesson material.

6) Maine – The Pine Tree State by Robin Koontz – From PowerKiDs Press and part of the Amazing States series. Real photos accompany most of the factual pages. These pages go into detail, yet remain readable with children. Well rounded resource with symbols, state map and bolded key words on information pages.

7) Maine – Facts and Symbols by Emily McAuliffe – Right off you have state map and fast facts. This book really focuses on the symbols.

8) Counting Our Way to Maine by Maggie Smith –  Join a family as they travel from the city to Maine for a vacation. Love that we get to count to 20 as we see what the family finds in Maine worth counting.

Maine Wildlife Books:

DSC04510  DSC04513

9) Maine’s Favorite Birds by Jeffrey V. Wells & Allison Childs Wells –  This is formatted like a traditional bird book, but contains only birds commonly found in Maine. The bird images are a nice size and make it easy for children to compare to the birds in their environment.

10) The Wildlife of Maine: A Coloring – Learning Book . This book is part of the “Adventures in Maine” Learning – Coloring books. This book contains ready-to-color images of the wildlife of Maine in their habitat. There are also facts about each animal provided.

11) A Loon Alone by Pamela Love – A day in the life of a baby loon chick. We see the other wildlife common to the habitat. The illustrations are scientifically correct, so you get a good real life look at all the animals presented.

12) Moon Loon by Sandy Ferguson Fuller – This story is written from the personal experience of it’s author from her summer visits to a lake in Maine. It’s about a solitary loon.

13) Moose by Anthony Fredericks – Part of the Our Wild World series – This non-fiction book contains pictures of moose from all locations they reside, not just Maine. It is worth including because of the facts presented and the moose is the state animal. So named in 1979.

14) I Met a Moose in Maine One Day by Ed Shankman – With a title like this you know this is a funny, nonsense story. The moose takes a young boy on a trip around Maine from such places as Belfast, Friendship, Camden and Rome.

15) Moose, of Course! by Lynn Plourde – A young boy wants to see a moose, so he sets off to find one. The best advice he got was to “Do nuthin!”

16) The Adventures of Maynard… a Maine Moose by Marybeth Baker – Maynard is a gentle Maine moose who wants to be smaller and quieter like all the other animals in the forest. Moose are big and a bit loud. With the help of his wildlife friends Maynard learns that being different can be special. Being kind and gentle is more important than big and loud to all his friends.

Maine Islands and Ocean Life:

DSC04516  DSC04517DSC04524   DSC04515

17) Going Lobstering by Jerry Pallotta – Two children get to go out on a lobster boat one day. Big Joe, the lobsterman, explains everything to them about how one fishes for lobster and includes them in that day’s catches. The story is fiction, but the facts are non-fiction.

18) Lobsterman by Dahlov Ipcar – Dahlov Ipcar’s illustrations are worth reading her books for. Lobsterman is a story about a fishing village on the coast of Maine and what daily life is like for a lobsterman and his son.

19) What the Sea Left Behind by Mimi Gregoire Carpenter – Meet Tessa. She’s a young artist that gathers things left behind by the sea to paint. The Atlantic Ocean leaves many interesting things along the rocky coastland and on the sandy beaches. Through the realistic paintings used for the illustrations you to can get a good understanding of just what Tessa has collected.

20) Surrounded by Sea: Life on a New England Fishing Island by Gail Gibbons – Follow the changes on an island fishing village through the seasons. (This could be any island off the New England states, but since Maine has the most of these, we used it as part of our exploration.) As with all Gail Gibbons books they are factually based.

21) Island Alphabet: An ABC of Maine Islands by Kelly Paul Briggs – Imagine an island to match each letter of the alphabet and fun little facts to go along with each simple letter poem. Compass, Lime, Mount Desert, Otter, or York for a few.

22) L.L.Bear’s Island Adventure by Kate Rowinski – L.L. Bear (yes, there is an L.L. Bean connection) takes his sea kayak out around Blueberry Island for a last Autumn picnic before all his friends head on their way for hibernation or migration. A bad storm hits and one of the friends is caught in it. Working together everyone turns up safe.

23) Andre’ The Famous Harbor Seal by Fran Hodgkins – This special seal spent it’s summers in Rockport, Maine where a special relationship developed with harbormaster Harry Goodridge. This relationship from when Andre’ was a seal pup until they both died has become a legend.

24) Seal Pup Grows Up: The Story of a Harbor Seal by Kathleen Weidner Zoehfeld – Just what the title says this book is about what the life of a seal pup is like. Non-fiction told in story form.

25) Fishing for Numbers: A Maine Number Book by Cynthia Furlong Reynolds – Learning about the history of Maine through counting. Each illustration has a simple counting rhyme accompanying it with addition historical information to allow further learning as appropriate. Many sections are connected to the sea which played and continues to play an important part in Maine’s history and economy.

26) Puffin’s Homecoming: The Story of an Atlantic Puffin (Smithsonian Wild Heritage Collection) by Darice Bailer – Each spring Puffins come from the Atlantic Ocean to nest and breed, before returning to the Ocean. Follow this experience in this factual story.

27) Lighthouse Lullaby by Kelly Paul Briggs – Imagine a snowy night on an island in Maine. What would it have been like for the keeper of the lighthouse and his family? This poem and illustrations can help you get there. The illustrations were inspired from a nineteenth-century family photo album from a lighthouse keeper on Boon Island Light.

Poetry about Maine:

DSC04511  28) At One in a place called Maine by Lynn Plourde – This story is written as a poem “I live in a place…..” “I am at one…….” The beauty of the painted illustrations flow along with the expression of the words. For us, Lynn Plourde is know for her sillier stories. The serenity and love in this story was a surprise. She definitely touched on my feelings for this beautiful state I feel lucky to live in.

DSC04523  29) A Kittery Kayaker by Webster Bull – A collection of limericks about Maine its places and the things that make those special.

DSC04527  30) A Garden of Whales by Maggie Steincrohn Davis – A poem about whales. The author’s wish would be to bring back whales to the sea by growing them in gardens. We can not. We need to honor whales. (Whaling itself was not big in Maine, but building ships used for whaling was. The whaling industry here now is all about whale watching.)

Our Backyard Maine:


31) The Henhouse: A true story of life on a Maine farm by Carol Shorey Dean – A young girl begs her father to let her help with the care of the chickens. Once in the henhouse she finds out how scary aggressive roosters  can be. How smelly chicken poop is and how loud 100’s of chicken are. She is rescued by her dad, but being real to life this is not a warm and fuzzy book.

32) Pigs in the Mud in the Middle of the Rud by Lynn Plourde – Silly take on a real side of Maine – mud season. Fun rhyming verse and nuthin’ can beat “rud” for a sense of a true Maine expression.

33) Gobble Gobble by Cathryn Falwell – Follow a young girl through a year as she follows a flock of wild turkeys through her back yard woods. Maine has a large population of wild turkeys. We get to watch them in the field behind our place.

34) Turtle Splash: Countdown at the Pond  by Cathryn Falwell – Frog Song Pond is 2 miles from our place. Through this book you can see the wildlife that visit it through a day as 10 turtles disappear into the pond. It’s the same wildlife we are familiar with around our homes.

35) Scoot! by Cathryn Falwell – Visiting Frog Song Pond again. This time with different wildlife visiting and more focus on sounds and movements. What finally makes 6 silent, still turtles scoot? (We have been lucky enough to have been invited to visit the pond and spend time with author Cathryn Falwell. That really makes that connection between children and a book.)

January 10, 2014
by countryfun

Have You Ever Wondered About Snowmen at Night?

In exposing children to books so that their world expands it is important as part of that to help them understand the parts of a book.  Title pages, author, illustrator, beginning, middle and ending are all easy to develop an understanding of. In many of the picture books used for infants through preschool there are no “dust jackets”, especially with an introduction (found on the inside lap – I always thought of as the fly) or opening question to get you excited about what you will find once you start reading. So when I find one you can be sure I use it.

Our library copy of Snowmen at Night by Caralyn Buehner had a great one and it was nice to be able to start this reading and extension project off from there.

“Have you ever wondered about the secret life of a snowman? Maybe one morning his grin is a little crooked, or his tree-branch arms have drooped, and you’ve thought…. what do snowmen do at night?”

How much more fun to peak the interest in a story, than to just start right in reading? Some interesting answers to this opening.

As a follow up activity we took black paper – a little different for a snowman picture – and some unusual painting tools to make a snowy night time background for our snowman.

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November 18, 2013
by countryfun

Finishing Up with Pumpkins

We have finally finished up our lessons with pumpkins. Over the years I have found that pumpkins are great for learning about a plants life cycle and pant parts. There are so many uses for pumpkin and lessons can go in many directions. It all depends on interest and taking hold of opportunities.

This year there has been a lot of prior discussions on recycling, composting, and rotting. Now I know what a wonderful mess a Jack-O-Lantern turns into, but most children do not see theirs once Halloween is done. Our garden pumpkins were not great this year, but definitely good enough to do a bit of exploring with.

To top our lessons off I found this new book while on my lesson search. It was a perfect fit with it’s wonderful real photos and scientific information. For me this book was a non-fiction find, even though it’s story is told in 15 voices. These voices added to our discussions and knowledge gained.

Here’s the cover of this new book. Can you see why I knew it would catch the children’s attention from the start?


Here’s a quick look at our pumpkin observations over the last few weeks.

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March 1, 2013
by countryfun

A Dr. Seuss Day

It’s that time of year when it seems almost everyone who works with kids is covering the same material – all in celebration of Dr. Seuss’ birthday. Some are doing a week of books and activities. This year we are just spending the last day of class time before his birthday (3/2) reading, playing with and crafting around  a couple of our favorite Dr. Seuss books:

The Cat in the Hat needs to be heard by every child at least once.

Every teacher of young children needs to enjoy a good tongue workout with Fox in Socks.

and in trying to find one that is more uncommon I have settled on What was I Scared of?

Our Cat in the Hat project is adapted from one seen at Just 4 Teachers: Sharing Across Borders. I found a free template online, drew in the 5 sections of the hat then enlarged it to a size that worked for my group to paint using their fingertips. This worked on patterns (hat), basic following directions, and color, but still left room for individualizing.

All you need is 2 colors of paint, the copied cat in the hat and 1 finger tip.

Before reading Fox in Socks we matched and counted sock pairs. (Problem solving, fine motor, language, team work/support, visual discrimination all from playing at matching socks.) Then had a race to see who could get the unmatched socks on quicker – me or the kids.   They won each time. Wonder if it was because they were putting a much too large sock on?

What was I Scared of? was read as part of story time. We did some predicting as read.


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