an early education learning space ~ where play equals learning

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.


September 23, 2013
by countryfun

Learning through Play

As everyone here knows I believe that children learn best by being involved in what naturally occurs throughout their day as part of daily life and through their imaginative play.  It is also important for them to be involved with directed play also. A great way to incorporate that is through games, especially floor games.

As part of my effort to get my preschoolers ready for K next year we have set aside 2 mornings each week for more focused or structured learning time. This week I introduced them to a few of the styles of games they will be seeing through the year as we enrich our natural learning. These games are simple to make at home and year in and year out the kids love to play them.

A domino style:DSC03542

A lotto or bingo style:DSC03544


For complete directions go to: countryfun….homemade games to see how to make these and other types.


September 13, 2013
by countryfun

The Tractor!

We were busy again this week as we continued to settle into our preschool lesson time schedule. The children were all involved and attempted the activities that were presented. The hit lesson was building our shape tractors.

This activity was not about cutting skills, so I precut all the shapes in either red or green, as those are the colors of the tractors that visit the fields around us. It was about shape review and gluing skills.

We built our tractors step by step after making a background with grass and sky.

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Check out our Preschool program blog for complete details on this week’s activities.

September 5, 2013
by countryfun

Country Fun School Starts

The yellow school bus has started it’s pick-up which means mixing in more formal lessons/activities for those preschoolers spending the day at “Country Fun School”. Most of our learning occurs naturally throughout our daily activities, but I do try to have more school-like activities to help prepare the pre-schoolers for regular classroom work. For now these lessons will happen twice a week for an hour before rest-time. We’ll start off slowly to settle into expectations and this new routine.

Wednesday I introduced our first learning theme – “The Farm”

We played a simple game that involved farm animals, their sounds, and following directions.DSC03440

Read and sang “Old MacDonald Had a Farm” and Barnyard Banter.


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