More Fun with Nursery Rhymes!

Nora is exploring Nursery Rhymes!  At 18 months she loves to play with some plastic Humpty Dumpty and Old Woman in the Shoe toys.  She has no concern about memorization or rhyming – she just loves to manipulate the toys and yell out “Humpy Dumpy!”  But I know that she is developing essential language skills when she explores the rhythm and patterns of these rhymes.   She is gaining phonemic awareness as she plays with words, she is learning vocabulary when I explain words like broth, fleece, fiddle and curds and whey.   She is starting to sing some of the rhymes and she echoes the inflection of our voices as we emphasize different parts of the rhymes.  Nursery Rhymes are part of our culture and I think it is important for children to experience them.  In Kindergarten these rhymes can be used to enhance early reading skills in lots of ways.

One of my favorite ways to use Nursery Rhymes was to retell them.  Each rhyme is really a miniature story that children can act out, sing or retell from memory.  They gain confidence in retelling when they are repeating something they are so familiar with.  I was very excited to find some wonderful clipart images of Nursery Rhymes on my Kidoodlez Early Years CD.   Most of the pictures I am sharing are from this CD, please visit them at

Here are some pictures of the characters from a variety of rhymes that could be used as necklaces or stapled onto headbands.  When the children act out these short rhymes they are speaking, listening and moving.  Because they are so short it is easy to take turns and let lots of children actively participate.

HumptyThe child playing Humpty Dumpty could sit on a low table or stool, then “fall” off!



MuffetA stool could be used as a tuffet., along with a bowl and spoon for the curds and whey!

JackJill The children could hold onto a bucket and pretend to climb up a hill,


You could draw a large shoe shape on paper for all the children to try to fit into!


For this retelling I would put moveable hands on the clock so the children can turn the hands and point to 1:00.

Hey Diddle

Hey Diddle 2 Of course the cow would need a moon made from something like yellow construction paper to jump over!

Boy Blue

Boy Blue 2

It would be fun if they had a real horn to blow, and you could cut out some corn for the corn field and flowers for the meadow!  The haystack could be taped onto a chair and Little Boy Blue could “sleep” behind it. 

NimbleI had an antique looking metal candle holder that we used with this rhyme.  As each child jumped over we changed the rhyme to include his or her name.  “Owen be nimble, Owen be quick!”

You could also make stick puppets with these characters by taping them onto paint sticks or tongue depressors.

I also created some small stand up figures to go along with each Nursery Rhyme.  You could run these off as they are, or cut them apart and use them as stick puppets too!   Children can manipulate these figures as they retell the rhyme.

Humpty Dumpty


Here is Humpty’s wall along with the haystack from Little Boy Blue.

wall haystack

Little Boy Blue 

Boy blue

Old Mother Hubbard 

Mother hub

cupboard hill 

Jack and Jill

Jack Jill

Jack Be Nimble


Little Miss Muffet

Muffet spider 

Mary Had a Little Lamb

Mary Lamb 

Hey Diddle Diddle


Diddle 2 

The Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe

woman shoe

Tuffet shoe

Here is an example of the stand up figures from Little Boy Blue.


I did a bit of cut and pasting to make pictures that the children could cut out and put together in the right sequence.  Using these pictures would also be helpful for kids learning the rhymes.

Mary Lamb sequence

Little boy blue seq

Humpty Dumpty Sequence 

I also used this great clipart from DJ Inkers to make a couple of  rebus stories for the children to read. 


Humpty rebus 

Mother Hubbard rebus 

Nursery Rhymes provide great practice with concepts about print, one to one word correspondence and early reading.  Because the children sing and memorize these rhymes most of them are successful “reading” them.  I loved putting the words into a pocket chart or posting a large copy of the rhymes on the wall for children to read.  I put together this sheet of characters that could be taped onto tongue depressors or popsicle sticks to make reading pointers.  Great for reading the room! 

Nursery rhyme pointers


I was thinking that I would also like  to keep a set of these sticks in a can at circle time.  It would be fun to have a child pull out a rhyme for the class to remember and recite when you have a few minutes to fill.


Here is a die I made that you could use to reinforce the rhymes or put at a center.  You could run this off on cardstock and tape it together.  When I wanted to make a cube that was more sturdy I got 2 empty milk cartons from the school cafeteria.  I cut them off so they were square cubes, and pushed one inside the other.  Then you could cover it with paper or contact paper, or just glue the pictures onto each side.  These milk carton cubes are almost indestructible!


I also made this little board game as another opportunity to practice the rhymes.  The children could use buttons or coins as markers, and a spinner or die.

Board game 

Here is another activity, the children need to identify which pictures are from the same Nursery Rhyme.  There are 2 pictures that go along with the first picture in each row.  The children cut them out and glue them on so there are 3 in a row from each different rhyme.

Matching game 2

Matching game 1 

I don’t really think that Nursery Rhymes are the best way to introduce or teach the skill of rhyming because there are really not very many rhyming words in these chants, and the rhymes are far apart.  But they can be good for reinforcing rhyming.   For this activity the children cut apart the pictures and find the 2 words that rhyme and then glue them next to each other on the recording sheet.

rhyming game 2

rhyming game 1

I found these small fold up books at Kidzone, please visit their site for more great ideas!






I hope you can use some of these ideas to have fun with Nursery Rhymes with the children in your life too!


Love Letters

I thought I would take advantage of Valentine’s Day as an excuse to share pictures of some of the people I love most:





I try to get a picture of all of them together, but so far I haven’t been successful!  I am so blessed to have 5 grandchildren – age 5 and younger!  I am spending this season of my life taking care of the two youngest, Nora age 18 months and Max who is almost 3 months, while their parents work.  I try to find as much time as I can for the other 3 too, because they are all the delight of my life!

My husband is over the moon about these babies too!   In my free minutes with the little ones I wanted to do something that would make him smile for Valentine’s Day.  I decided to make him a whole bunch of Love Letters, and hide them all over the house where he would find them.

letters 2

letters 1

I saw lots of similar ideas on Pinterest and other blogs, but I started out by going around my house and collecting little things I could use.  Some other sites used all kinds of candy but I just used random things.  Then I printed out little sayings to go along with each item and taped them together.   I hid them in the refrigerator, his sock drawer, the pocket of his coat, the seat of his car, the cereal bowls, the floor of the shower … everywhere I could think of!

Here is the Love Letter template I made using DJ Inkers clipart!

blank (dragged)

Here is a sample of how they looked with the sayings printed on, then I ran them off on pink paper.

love letters done

I was thinking how I might have used this idea with my Kindergartners too.  Recognizing and noticing good behavior or small achievements is so important to children, and their parents.  I often sent home little notes to reinforce these things, and I know it meant a lot to them.  You could use these “Love Letters” with a small inexpensive candy or toy as a way to celebrate something with one child, or the whole class!  If you are looking for some ideas here are some of the items I used and sayings I made up (or borrowed!)



I hope you had a great Valentine’s Day yourself – I miss the school parties, but I celebrated with a very special dinner party at the home of good friends!

Simple Machines

Last week our family experienced another STEM storytime at the Commerce Community Library.  This time we were learning about simple machines, I love how these evenings always tie in literature, hands on exploration, and a take home activity.  At first our librarian discussed what simple machines are, she defined them as “something that makes work easier.”   We learned there are 6 types of simple machines:  pulley, lever, wheel and axle, screw, wedge and inclined plane.  We spent the evening concentrating on 4 of them:  inclined plane, wheel and axle, lever, and pulley.

Here is a sampling of some of the great books available about simple machines:



After reading about inclined planes, levers, wheel and axles and pulleys we were free to experiment and try out these simple machines.

Here are the directions for our experiments with inclined planes.

inclined plane directions

There was a basket with a sturdy handle, filled with books.  First the children tried to lift the basket, then they pulled it up the ramp.  The ramp was simply a board with blocks stacked under one end.


The children agreed it was easier to pull the basket up the ramp than lift it.

Next they made the ramp more steep by adding more blocks under the end.


Then they tried to pull it up the ramp that was more steep.


There was also a sign showing where we might see inclined planes in daily life.

Inclined planes examples 

Next we experimented with wheels and axles.

wheel directions

This was such a simple idea and it worked very well.  The kids tried to push the heavy container, then we lined up dowels and set the container on top of them – it rolled great!




Then we put the container on a big cart and talked about how the wheels on the cart were bigger than the dowels – the kids loved pushing the cart!

Here are examples of wheels and axles:

wheel examples

Our next experiment was with levers.

lever directions 

First the children put a large plastic dinosaur on one end of the board, and stacked bean bags on the opposite side.


Then they tried out a tiny dinosaur


Later we moved the board so the stack of blocks (fulcrum) was close to one end of the board.   We saw how it made it much harder to lift the dinosaurs.



Here are examples of levers:

levers examples

Our final machine was a pulley.

pulley directions 

The pulley we used was a simple wheel attached to a wire coat hanger, hung from the hinge of a door.


The children filled the  pumpkin buckets with different materials and experimented with lifting them using the pulley.  The hangers were taped to the door hinge so it wouldn’t come off with the force of pulling.






My son, the engineer, told me that a pulley system really doesn’t make it easier to lift weight unless there are at least 2 pulleys.  But I noticed that the children could lift the weight much higher using this one pulley than they could have lifted it without the pulley and rope.

Here are examples of pulleys:

pulley examples

Warning!  If you take an engineer with you (like my son), be prepared to hear the intricacies of how these systems are really supposed to work.   These activities did a great job demonstrating how simple machines are used to make work easier!  It was another fun evening at the library!

The children were given this take home activity.   These pictures would be great for sorting, or you could even make a Go Fish type of game by trying to collect a set of pictures of levers, or a set of pulleys, etc.

Inclined Planes

Wheel and Axle



Now it’s fun for me to point out examples of these simple machines to my grandchildren when we are out and about!  If I were still in a classroom I would try to take some photographs of things around school that use show these simple machines in action!




Poems and Fingerplays

There are so many valid, important reasons to use a lot of poems and fingerplays with young children.  First of all, they are interactive and fun, they help get children’s attention and participation and keep them engaged.   Poems and fingerplays are also great ways to expose children to rhyming and new vocabulary.  Some fingerplays encourage counting, or counting backward.

We all know that different children learn through a variety of styles, and you can present poems and fingerplays different ways too.  Sometimes you might just chant off a poem, encouraging listening or echoing back; which is great for auditory learners.  You might add physical movements – whole body movements, or hand and finger movements as you recite the poems; that suits kinesthetic learners.  I also love acting out poems and nursery rhymes – or having 5 children stand up and sit down one at a time with a count down rhyme.

I found the easiest way to keep most children engaged and participating with simple poems and rhymes is to include pictures.  When you allow the children to hold and manipulate the pictures as you recite the poems you are incorporating auditory, visual and kinesthetic styles, and the kids love it!

One of my favorite sources for clipart is DJ Inkers.  If you are not familiar with their great products please check them out at  Most of the clipart I am sharing on this post are copyright by Dianne J. Hook.  I know you will love her pictures too!

photo 2 (7)

Here is a book I made for my grandchildren that holds pictures to go with a bunch of different rhymes.

photo 1 (10)

I printed off a copy of each poem and pictures to go along with them.  I bought a 1 1/2 inch binder and these clear plastic sleeves.  These probably would not hold up if a classroom of kids were taking the pictures in and out, but it works great for a family.  When I used these at school I laminated the pictures and kept each poem along with the pictures in a 9 x 13 inch manilla envelope.  For my grandchildren I put the poem into one plastic sleeve, and the cut out pictures into another.

photo 1 (6)

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I cut small pieces of magnetic tape (from JoAnn’s or Michael’s) on the back of each piece.  If you are more comfortable with a flannelboard instead of a magnet board, you might put a small piece of sandpaper on the back of each piece and that works great too!

photo 3 (5)

You can use a large pan or cookie sheet as a magnet board too.

photo 2 (8)


Here is the cover I put into the clear cover on the outside of the binder.  I have made these books for several families and usually put the child’s name on the cover.

Here are some of the poems I included:

5 Little snomen fat

5 snowmen2

5 snowmen1

You could also laminate these pictures and call on 5 children to hold the snowmen.  I put the sun on a tongue depressor – or made a larger one on a paint stick.  When we recite the part that says “out came the sun and melted one” a child holding the sun touches the snowman, then we removed that snowman from the magnet board, or if kids were holding them – that child sat down.

We often made a project by folding paper to make a pocket and cutting out 5 snowmen and a sun.  The children could keep their snowmen in the “snow pocket” and act out the poem at home.

Five Monkeys



More monkeys



Five Green Frogs

frog pic1

frog pic2

Five Ducks

5 Duck pics


hive pic


Here are a few more poems that I enjoy doing with children, but I didn’t use pictures with these – we just did the motions!

Tommy Thumbs

Ten Fingers

Open shut

Grandma's glasses

Crackers and Crumbs

shapesI had songs about shapes that I shared on another post, and used these simple shapes to go along with those songs.

Coming soon – Nursery Rhymes!

Thank you to Dianne J. Hook and djinkers for allowing me to share their wonderful clipart, please respect their copyright.  They allow me to share these images because I do not charge for any of the things I share with you.  They do offer a license at a reasonable price, please check them out at

2,014 Things

2014 things

I enjoy reading a blog written by Kathi Lipp, check it out at  She has issued an interesting challenge for the new year.  In an effort to find order in her home, create peace in her life, and share over-abundance with people who could use items, she has pledged to get rid of 2,014 things from her house this year.   I think I’m going to try it too.  It sounds like a lot, but it works out to be between 5-6 items every day.  It would be easy to cheat and count all the junk mail, stray puzzle pieces, and broken toys that go into the trash or recycling, but to make it meaningful I plan to only count things that I can donate or give away, or at least things I have held onto for many years and finally decide to give them up – like college text books and old photographs.

Today I went through 2 books of old pictures and scanned the ones I cared about, then threw out the rest.


Ah yes, here is one from our rehearsal dinner, the night before our wedding in 1972!   I have an unhealthy fear of my wedding photos ending up in a random antique shop someday, where people will laugh and point and remark on my outdated dress and hairstyle.  I’d rather scan them and not hold onto the originals.  My kids aren’t going to want to inherit all my old pictures anyway!  I think I will count each book of old photos, or each box as one item.

I am purging books, weeding out craft materials and unpacking closets!  Kathi pledged that her house will have 2,014 fewer items by the end of next December.  Every time she buys something new, or brings something home (other than consumable items) she plans to get rid of something additional, on top of the 2,014 items.  I’m still thinking about whether I can commit to that part – but it makes a lot of sense.

I know I could have applied this challenge to my classroom too.  I had boxes upon boxes of STUFF.  When one of my sons was young he told his own teacher that he had a solution to the world’s garbage problems.  He said we should build more schools, because then we would hire more teachers, and everyone knows that teachers don’t throw anything away!  Well, I’m sorting, sharing and tossing now!  Anyone care to join me?

The most convenient way for me to donate items is Purple Heart.  You can schedule a pick up online and they come to your house and cart away clothes, household items and small pieces of furniture.  I also drop stuff off at our local Salvation Army.  I have a tendency to get attached to things, and feel sentimental about them.  But I also love the idea of someone using and appreciating things that I have been storing in closets or boxes.

So I am hoping for a happy, healthy and less cluttered 2014.

How To Build A Snowman

done kids

I love digital cameras!  Younger people probably take it for granted, but I am so delighted that I can take as many pictures as I want, pick out the best, share them with my friends and family and keep them on my computer – all for free!  I remember the days of deciding whether to buy indoor or outdoor film, paying to develop the pictures, and usually paying for double prints so I could use the pictures different ways – then excitedly opening the envelope of prints just to see that some were out of focus or didn’t capture what I wanted to save!  Yay for technology!

Pictures are a great tool for motivating children to read and write, especially if they are in the pictures.  When our family goes somewhere or does an activity, I often make a book for them to read and remember our fun.  The first thing I do is print out pictures and ask the children to put them in the right order.  Sequencing is such an important skill, they love to retell the events as they put them in the right order.  Sometimes I ask them to tell me what is going on in each picture, and I write down what they say – using their words for the book.  Owen is beginning to write on his own, in Kindergarten I would ask the children to write a sentence for each picture.

Here is a simple book I made showing the steps in making a snowman.

Build Snowman

Build Snowman2

Build Snowman3

Build Snowman4

Build Snowman5

Build Snowman6

Build Snowman7

Build Snowman8

I used this idea to introduce the idea of writing How To books in Kindergarten.  When our class did a special activity I would intentionally take lots of photographs showing the sequence of events.  Then as a whole group – or in small groups – we would sequence the pictures and write a caption for each page.  These made very popular books for our reading center.

Children love to read books about themselves too, so wben I make books for my grandchildren I usually use their names in the text.  For example, I would write “Owen helped Daddy roll a big ball of snow.”  My grandchildren read and re-read these books.   You can make books about anything you do – making cookies, watching a cement mixer, going shopping, planting flowers – just get out your camera and make memories!

Teddy Bear Counters


It’s been three years since I retired, and I know lots of things have changed in Kindergarten.  I recently took a look at the core curriculum for Kindergarten math and I realized that children are now expected to enter Kindergarten with some of the skills we worked on in my class.  While I was teaching I knew that some children came into kindergarten counting, recognizing numerals, one to one correspondence, able to name shapes, and understanding patterns; but not all children had those skills.  While we explored and played games with math manipulatives all children gained confidence and competence in these skills.  The math games we played were great practice for early math skills, and the children loved playing them!  So when I was thinking about Christmas presents for some preschoolers who are very special to me, I decided to put together some games using Teddy Bear Counters and colored tiles.

Bear sorting set

I bought sets of Teddy Bear Counters and matching sorting trays from Learning Resources.  Here is a peek at the games I put together.

photo (14)

The children I plan to give these to range from 3 to 5 years old.  I tried to include a range of things they would think are fun and also help them gain important math skills like sorting, counting, numeral recognition, one to one correspondence, concept of number, simple addition and subtraction, measuring, counting backward, skip counting and concrete graphing.  Some games will be just right to play now, others will be good as they get a little older.

I am happy to share these games and activities, most will probably be familiar to any of you early childhood teachers.

Sorting Bears – basically I suggested that parents encourage their child to play with the teddy bears and practice sorting by color.  In my class I realized that most children could easily do the task, but sometimes they were not familiar with the word “sort.”    I also suggested using comparative language like most, least, and equal or the same.

Counting Bears

Bear Game

I found this game board online and thought it would be great to practice counting the dots, and putting the correct number of bears on each gameboard bear.


I suggested starting out with a simple AB pattern.  I always introduced an AB pattern by naming the colors:  i.e.  red, blue, red, blue.   But I wanted the children to know that you could use any terms to “read” the pattern, including alphabet letters.  After the child shows that he or she understands what a pattern is I suggested moving on to more complicated patterns.

One of the most popular games in my Kindergarten room was BEARS IN CHAIRS.  Over the years I had several parents come in to ask where they could buy this game!  Basically the children make a pattern with the colored tiles and keep it going to form a shape like a game board.  Then they choose one bear, roll a die and move their bear from one chair (tile) to the next as they count to the number they rolled on the die.  This game is great for 2 – 4 players, but one child can even play it alone.  As children gain confidence with patterns they can make their tile game board more complicated.  You could even use 2 dice that they would add together to make the game more challenging.

Jumping on the Bed

Bears in bed

For this game I suggested asking the child to count out 10 bear counters and place them on the bed game board.  Then you sing the song “Ten Bears in a Bed” and remove one bear at a time.

My Turn, Your Turn

photo 1 (3)

This was another favorite game in my classroom.  Two children play using only one game board and sharing one teddy bear counter.  They begin by placing the bear on the star in the middle of the board.  Then they roll a die, one child moves the bear toward the right side of the board, the other child moves the same bear toward the left side of the board.  Play continues until the bear goes off the board in one direction.  I made this strip by gluing together 2 of these pattern strips.  You could make it as long as you like, but be sure to have an uneven number of squares and put a sticker or mark in the middle.

my turn your turn printable

Bears in Caves

Bears in Cave

I loved telling math story problems with my Kindergartners.  It is so much fun when each child has a set of materials to manipulate as they listen to the story.  In my directions I suggested giving each child a small amount of bears and a gameboard.  Then I would tell a story and the children would move their bears in and out of the cave, practicing very simple addition and subtraction problems.  Check out the directions I am including if you need a suggestion of a story to tell.

In my class we often told stories like this using manipulatives we could eat like goldfish crackers, teddy graham cookies, Froot Loops, etc.  At Halloween I could sometimes find Count Chockula cereal with ghosts and goblins that we placed in a simple haunted house.  The kids really love these games!

Measuring Bears

It can be fun for the children to practice measuring by lining up a row of bears to match the length of simple things around the house like a pencil, book or favorite toy.

Bear Counting Game

Using the same bear game board you can play another game.  The children take turns rolling a die.  They place a bear counter on the gameboard bear that matches the number they roll.  If they roll a 6, they place a counter on the bear with 6 dots.  You can allow them to keep putting counters on until all the numbers have been rolled, or you can say they can only put one counter on each bear – so if they roll a number that matches a bear that already has a counter they lose a turn.   Not all young children are ready to play a game where they lose a turn.

Bear and Crocodile

I was looking online for a simple number line that the children could use to pracitce naming numerals, counting forward and backward, and simple skip counting.  I found this cute crocodile number line.

photo 2 (2)

photo 3 (1)

Crocodile number line

I also included the largest hundreds chart I could make, to give the children a chance to move bears along the numbers, and notice patterns in counting.


Graphing Bears

I also suggested scooping out bears and sorting them into a graph configuration.  It is a good way to compare and practice all those important words like most, least, same.

In my Bear Game Gift Kit I also plan to include some tongs – the kids love using them to pick up things like the bears, and it is great fine motor practice.  I got these big ones at a dollar store.  The small ones are from Lakeshore.

photo 4 (1)

I ordered a set of these big foam dice from Oriental Trading – they were good and cheap!

photo 5 (1) 

In school I always had plastic tiles, but I found the foam ones are a lot less expensive and should work great with kids at home.  I ordered mine along with the Teddy Bear Counters from Learning Resources.


Here are the game directions that I made into a booklet to include with these math materials.  I hope the kids love them!   Maybe you are still thinking of a different kind of gift for a special child you know too!

Teddy Bear Game Directions

Teddy Bear Game Directions 7

Teddy Bear Game Directions 6

Teddy Bear Game Directions 5

Teddy Bear Game Directions 4

Teddy Bear Game Directions 3

Teddy Bear Game Directions 2

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