Category Archives: Fingerplay

Take a Trip: A Song, A Graph, and Safety Talk

If you’re exploring a transportation theme, here’s a fun little ditty about transportation I found years ago.  (I didn’t write down where I found it, so if you know the original author let me know!)  It’s a fun piggy-back song, to the tune of Twinkle Twinkle:

Take a bus or take a train,

Take a boat or take a plane.

Take a bike or take a car,

May be near or may be far.

Take a rocket to the moon,

Just be sure to come back soon.

This is a fun song that the children enjoy and it gets them thinking about the different types of transportation.  I like to write the words up on chart paper and then have a picture to go with a few of the words.  I’ve attached pictures here.   As I’ve said before, I don’t offer these because I think I’m a talented artist, but because they’re done.  (Sometimes done is better than perfect!)

After getting familiar with the song, I’ll often ask the children about the rhyming words in the song.  Then we’ll talk about other words that might rhyme as well.  On another day I may ask about words that start with the same letter and sound (bike, bus, boat).  As the children become more familiar, I may remove the pictures and have them add them above the corresponding words.  Even if the children aren’t “reading” I think it’s valuable for them to make the connections between the written and spoken words and their meanings.

Now if you want to get more bang for your buck (and who doesn’t?), you can also use this song as a springboard for a math activity.  Use a few of the pictures from the song as the base pictures for a graph.  Use the post-it method or unifix cubes to count out one-to-one how many people in your group have used each type of transportation in the song (or just a few if you’re worried about attention).  If you’re working with just one or two children, have them survey people!  Create a sheet with the pictures and have them record hash marks as their respondents answer about the types of transportation they have used.  They could ask people in your own home, or make some phone calls to friends and family!

Graphing with young children not only teaches them that specific skill, but reinforces one-to-one counting (one object to one number), greater than/less than comparisons, and representational thinking.  If you’re currently working on recognizing written numbers, you could cap off your graph with the written numbers of the totals below the pictures.

And last of all, what would a unit on transportation be without a little talk about safety?  This is another activity I picked up years ago.  Place a ball or a marble inside a cup.  Tell the children that this is them inside a car.  “Drive the car around on the floor (making the requisite car noises, of course), and then make a sudden stop (and yes, you have to say, “Errrrrch”).  Thanks to Newton’s law about objects in motion staying in motion, the ball will roll out of the car.  Talk about what that could mean for them.  If they’re in a car and the car stops, they will keep moving and could fall over or even out of the car. 

Now ask who buckles up when they take a trip in the car.  Give the ball some buckles by taping it in.  Drive the car around again and make some sudden stops.  As Newton would explain, that object in motion has now been interrupted by an equal and opposite force.  The ball stays safely in the cup.  Talk with your little ones about the importance of wearing seatbelts so that they can stay safe in their cars.

Singing, literacy, math, science and safety, all in one unit!  Who says preschool is “just cute”?
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Filed under Building Readers, Fingerplay, Learning through Play and Experience, math activity, music and movement activity, science activity

Five Little Monkey Puppets

Here’s a little project you can work on this weekend, though I hope you have some other plans because this one is so easy, it shouldn’t take you long.  Build monkey finger puppets out of inexpensive felt from your local craft or fabric store, or from that overflowing box of felt scraps that parents and teachers of preschoolers often have tucked away.

Print this sheet for pattern outlines, though keep in mind that these don’t have to be precise!  This isn’t a Chemistry assignment.  Tweak and change as much as you like!  It usually works out! 

Cut the bodies and ears from brown, the eyes from white, and the nose/mouth piece from a pink or flesh-tone felt.  You can draw on the eyes, nose, and mouth details with a Sharpie now, or after the puppet has been constructed.

Glue the pieces together with a glue gun or craft glue.  Lay your first body piece down and glue the ears about 1/2 an inch to 1 inch down from the top, so that they stick out from the body.  Glue the second body piece on top with a thin beading of glue around the edges, covering where the ears attach, and leaving the bottom open for your finger.  Next, glue on the white eye piece and then the nose/mouth overlapping the bottom of the eye piece. 

For a full set of Five Little Monkeys, working assembly line style usually moves things along pretty quickly, once you’ve made one to clarify the process.  If you’ve got a good pair of scissors you can cut through a couple thicknesses of felt at one time, speeding up the job.  Don’t worry that the five puppets don’t look exactly the same – they don’t need to.  Variation adds personality!

You can make even simpler stick puppets, with the children!  I use this pattern and depending upon the age and cutting abilities of the children, I may have them cut out all of the pieces or, for younger children, I cut out the ears, eyes, and nose/mouth pieces and then have them practice cutting along a circle outline for the head piece (a typical fine motor skill test around age four).  The children affix the pieces with double stick tape, and then tape the head to a large craft stick.  Voila!  Each child now has a monkey puppet to use for storytelling. 

(Now some may turn up their noses at this project because it is not a free art project.  And they’re right, it’s not.  On the Spectrum of Preschool Arts and Crafts, this  would fall under the label of a craft project, focused on the skill-building objective of cutting along a round line, and following directions for construction.  Because the focus is on cutting, encourage the children to do it themselves, even when it doesn’t look perfect.  Some of those jagged cuts make for some perfect monkey hair!)

Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed Big Book

You could use these any of these puppets as you sing Five Little Monkeys, or as you read any of the fabulous stories in  Eileen Christelow’s Five Little Monkeys book series.  If you’d like, give your puppets (paper or felt) some personality by adding hair bows or hats to look like the monkeys in the stories.

Using puppets increases the child’s engagement with a story, while also encouraging him to reproduce the story on his own.  This builds language skills and comprehension,both of which are vital to reading. 

 So grab some supplies and share this activity with some little monkeys of your own!

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Filed under book activity, Building Readers, Create, fine motor skills, Fingerplay, language activity, Learning through Play and Experience

Introducing the Five Senses!

My Five Senses Big Book

As I mentioned before, the purpose of teaching about the five senses in preschool is not for the children to be able to recite the five senses, but to build sensory awareness.  Whenever I introduce the five senses, I like to start out with the book, My Five Senses by Aliki.  It does a great job of simply introducing each of the senses, and then pointing out how we may use several of them at the same time, and that we use them to be aware of what’s around us.  It’s very brief, very simple, and right to the point.

After reading the book and discussing the senses a bit, I teach the Five Senses Song.  I start out with the Five Senses Song Cards  I have scanned in here.  (You are welcome to use them as long as you have already tried to draw some of your own and are absolutely sure you couldn’t do much, much better!)  I have five representing the five senses, and five representing the things we might experience with those senses (hopefully you can recognize what they are).  Using a pocket chart, I first set out the five senses cards, one at a time, and talk about what each one is.  Then I spread out the five object cards out of order and ask the children to try to match the sense to the object.  Now, of course this can create a bit of a debate as more than one sense could be used for each object, but debates can be good!  Once the senses and the objects are matched up, we sing the song.  (The verses don’t necessarily have to follow in this order.)

The Five Senses Song (Tune: The Farmer in the Dell)

Oh, I use my eyes to see, I use my eyes to see,

When I want to see the blue, blue sky, I use my eyes to see!

Oh, I use my ears to hear, I use my ears to hear,

When I want to hear the robin’s song, I use my ears to hear!

Oh, I use my tongue to taste, I use my tongue to taste,

When I want to taste a lollipop, I use my tongue to taste!

Oh, I use my nose to smell, I use my nose to smell,

When I want to smell the sweetest rose, I use my nose to smell!

Oh, I use my hands to touch, I use my hands to touch,

When I want to touch my dog’s soft fur, I use my hands to touch!

Remember that when you are teaching a new song, start at a natural pitch for the children, for most adults (especially altos like myself) that is probably just above your comfortable starting pitch.  Also, start out very slowly.  You can add speed as the children become more familiar with the song!

More from the “Exploring the Arts through Our Senses” unit here!

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Filed under Fingerplay, Learning through Play and Experience, music and movement activity, sensory activity

Don’t Wake the Bear!

Here’s a combination of hibernation activities for your preschoolers that fit nicely together for a story time or large group activity.

Bear With Me.  Start out by getting the children’s attention.  Bring them to your story area or large group area by telling them they have to be very, very quiet (whispering yourself, of course).  Using a bear puppet or toy bear, tell them that the bear is sleeping and we do not want to wake him up.  Once everyone has settled in, tell them very briefly about hibernation.

The Deep Sleep.  Hibernation can be a very complicated science topic, but preschoolers just need the basic concept.  When I present it to a group of young ones, my explanation would go something like this (still whispering, of course, so you don’t wake up the bear):

When it gets cold outside, we put on our snow clothes, like coats and mittens and hats.  Many animals do something similar by eating more food and having more fat and fur grow to keep their bodies warm.  It’s kind of like wearing a coat!  (This could be a topic of exploration for quite sometime, in and of itself.  If you’ve already explored that, make some quick connections there.)  Some animals, like bears, eat lots and lots of food, and then they go into their caves or “dens”, the places where bears live, and they curl up and they just sleep.  All winter long!  It’s called, “hibernation”.  Can you say “hibernation”?  It’s a big word, isn’t it?  We use the word “hibernation” to describe when an animal sleeps all winter long.  They don’t even wake up in the day time!  They just sleep and sleep until the snow starts to melt and it’s warm outside again.  Their bodies are designed to hibernate as a way to survive the winter when it’s so cold and the food is hard to find.  Isn’t that crazy?  Do you hibernate?  No, people don’t hibernate.  In the winter, we go to sleep at night, and then we wake up every morning.  These animals that hibernate, they don’t wake up until spring time!  That’s a long time to be asleep!  I have a song about a hibernating bear that I want you to learn with me!

Here’s the song.  I usually have the words written on a song chart or sentence strips and point as we sing, so that the children can make the association with the written word to increase langauge and literacy skills.

Mr. Bear (Tune: If You’re Happy and You Know it)

Mr. Bear says all he wants to do is sleep!

Now that winter’s here and snow is cold and deep!

He is curled up in his den,

And we won’t see him again,

‘Till the spring when all he wants to do is…eat!

It’s fun to hesitate as you sing this song, to allow the children to come up with the rhyming words.  Recognizing those rhymes helps build phonological awareness, a critical pre-reading skill.

I’ll often talk about why the bear wants to eat when he wakes up.  I ask the children if they ever wake up in the morning and they’re so hungry for breakfast.  Then, I challenge them to imagine that they’ve been asleep for one hundred days.  How hungry would they be then?

Bear Snores On

Bear Snores On.  After this discussion and song, I love to read the book, Bear Snores On, by Karma Wilson.  It’s written with such great rhythmic and rhyming text, a perfect combination for preschoolers.  It’s about a bear sleeping through a winter storm while several animals seek shelter in his den, turning it into a big party.  The bear sleeps through the raucous gathering until a tiny fleck of pepper lands on his nose and he sneezes.  He’s angry, and then sad, to realize that he wasn’t included in the fun.  The animals comfort him and assure him that the party’s not over, and they have a great deal of fun together.  That is, until morning when the bear is still wide awake, but the other animals fall asleep!

Sleeping Bears.  As you finish these activities, you can use the same concepts you’ve just covered to make a smooth transition to your next activity.  Have the children curl up like sleeping bears.  Really get them into it.  Have them yawn and curl up, and encourage them to snore (some will imitate the bear in the book, and feign a huge sneeze).  Tell them that when you tap them they can stand up and move to….wherever the next activity is.  This is particularly useful if you need to divide into smaller groups, or put on coats to transition outside or home.  By keeping the children busy and sending one at a time, there’s usually less chaos in the transition.  Usually.

Enjoy some or all of these activities as you explore animals in the winter time with your little ones!

For more wintry activities, click here!

Top bear photo by cece.

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Filed under book activity, Building Readers, Fingerplay, language activity, Learning through Play and Experience, music and movement activity, science activity, Transitions

Five Little Pumpkins

Five Little Pumpkins (Harper Growing Tree)This is a well-known fingerplay that in 1998 was illustrated and put in book format by Dan Yaccarino.  It’s a book little ones enjoy reading, especially once they are already familiar with the fingerplay and can essentially “read” the book independently.  Whether you use the book or not, here’s the fingerplay!

Five little pumpkins, sitting on a gate  (Five fingers on top of opposite hand.  I usually explain the word “gate” the first time through.  For the next five lines, show the number of fingers corresponding with the ordinal number and really play up the rest of the intention of the line with your facial expression.)

The first one says, “Oh my it’s getting late!” 

The second one says, “There are witches in the air!”

The third one says, “But we don’t care!” 

The fourth one says, “Let’s run and run and run.”

The fifth one says, “I’m ready for some fun!”

Then, ooooooh went the wind, and out went the light, (Clap on “out”)

And the five little pumpkins rolled out of sight!  (Roll arm over arm.)

This is a classic, and fun, fingerplay for Halloween!  It’s great for language and math skills, particularly reinforcing ordinal numbers (first, second, third, etc.).  Couple this activity with any of the other pumpkin activities from the Fall Favorites page!

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Ten Little Apples Song


Here’s a quick and easy little ditty about apples.  It goes to the tune of Ten Little Indians.

One little, two little, three little apples,

Four little, five little, six little apples,  (You know where I’m going with this don’t you?)

Seven little, eight little, nine little apples,

Ten apples all together!

This is obviously a great counting song and you could reinforce the one to one counting principle (one object-one numeral) by using some type of apple visual (actual apples, flannel apples, pictures, etc.) and pointing as you sing.  Have the children count along by holding up their fingers as well.  With more advanced children you can even count backwards from ten to one.  You can also stretch their language skills  by helping them to brainstorm words to describe apples and then inserting them as in this example:

One little, two little, three little crunchy ones,

Four little, five little, six little sweet ones,

Seven little, eight little, nine little yellow ones,

Ten apples all together!

This song is perfect for singing in the car, at snack time, as a large group, or after a great story!

For more favorite fall activities, click here!

Top photo by lifan.

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I’m a Little Seed

You can never really have too many songs and fingerplays, can you?  So here’s another one that is kid-tested and approved!  Sing to the tune of “I’m a Little Teapot”.



I’m a little seed in the soil so deep.
I sit and I wait and I don’t make a peep.
Give me rain and sunshine, and what do you know,
I sprout from the soil and I start to grow!


Feel free to let the children act it out as they sing, curling up in a quiet ball, and then “sprouting” and stretching up to grow.  Again, songs and fingerplays increase language skills and reading readiness.  This one in particular teaches the vocabulary words “sprout” and “soil”, as well as the novel word “peep”.  The needs of seeds are also introduced.

For more Seeds & Plants activities, click here.

Photo by sveres.

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