One of my favorite preschool themes to teach is the farm theme. I’m always looking on Pinterest and Google to add yet another farm activity to my preschool arsenal of activities. This simple farm activity is one that my preschoolers cannot get enough of.
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At the beginning of each school year, I set aside a little money to purchase new materials for preschool. This last fall, I invested in these farm animal counters. Oh my heavens, my preschoolers love, love, love to play with these counters!
As I teacher, I love them for their versatility. While this post will focus on the sorting activities we did with them, I can’t help but also share some of the other fun learning that took place with just these counters. That’s it. No extra props, no expensive toys, no printables. Just these super cool farm animal counters that my preschoolers and children are always asking to be rotated back into our centers.
I also love this set of jumbo farm counters. They are perfect for toddlers, especially young toddlers (like my son Kent who still loves to put things in his mouth).
As with any other new material, the first step to getting children to engage in a farm activity is to give them time to simply explore the counters on their own. I love listening to my students as they play.
Straight out of the container students began imaginative play. Each student reached for a small handful of farm animals. In this set there are five different animals: cow, sheep, rabbit, horse, and duck. Each animal set has a matching baby set, too, and each animal is in every color. Lots of possibilities for this farm activity.
So the students begin their play. They play that the animals are eating, or finding their mamas, or playing in the mud.
And that very natural and expected play begins to transition into mathematical play. Corinne begins to pair her animals by color. And with this set of counters you can do that.
And then a student notices that each “big pig” has a “little pig.”
Like “mamas and babies,” another student chimes in. And the next thing that happens is every student is trying to create sets of mothers and baby farm animals.
Seeing an opportunity to challenge the students, I ask if they can arrange the animals in a different way that we hadn’t yet tried. I did not specify what way, but watched at the students tried to sort the animals differently. Sometimes when I ask very broadly like this the students will find a new way to sort the animals. This time they tended to make new groups that were essentially the same as the old. One student, for example, simply moved the animals from one place to another, all the while maintaining his color sorted groups.
Without saying any more, I began to line up the animals by type, making long straight lines without reference to size or color. Soon, my students caught on and helped me continue the new sort.
At this point I began to “think out loud.” In educational terms we call it metacognition. I think out loud with the intent to indirectly point out to my students some things I noticed about the farm counters. I talk about how I see that each kind of animal has a mom and a baby of each color. I pulled out a few rabbits, matching the mom and baby rabbits of each color, and soon my students were taking over my play.
These sorting ideas are only one farm activity that can be done with the farm counters. While I had specific goals in this activity, having guided my students during their play of the materials, there was plenty of other play that took place outside this post, using just this bin of counters. I think they are probably the best $13 I spent last fall.
And to top it off, I am leaving you with some of our favorite farm themed books that may accompany any farm activity we do in preschool. You know how I love to correlate our reading with our thematic activity.
I’m Sarah, an educator turned stay-at-home-mama of five! I’m the owner and creator of Stay At Home Educator, a website about intentional teaching and purposeful learning in the early childhood years. I’ve taught a range of levels, from preschool to college and a little bit of everything in between. Right now my focus is teaching my children and running a preschool from my home. Credentials include: Bachelors in Art, Masters in Curriculum and Instruction.
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