Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Play to Learn-The Very Hungry Caterpillar

This month's program followed The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle.  This was one of my favorite programs created so far as there were a lot of props.  The kids LOVE the props and will often spend more time playing than creating at various craft stations.

Station 1:  Read the Story
We put this station in the same area as Station 2 as a lot of the activities go together.  This station encourages parents to read the story to their child or if they already know this story, for their child to read it to them.  The Very Hungry Caterpillar is a great story for children to read to their parents because the pictures match the text.  For example, the caterpillar eats 1 red apple, 2 green pears, etc.  By reading with their children, parents are nurturing a love of reading and motivating their child to want to learn to read.

This story also encourages a lot of talking, another of the 5 skills in Every Child is Ready to Read (ECRR).  Ask your child which food is their favorite.  Tell them your favorite too.  Count the pieces of food.

Station 2: Retell the Story with Props
This was our most popular station by far.  We created 4 different ways to play with or retell the story.  The first was our Very Hungry Caterpillar flannelboard.  We asked kids to put the pieces on the board to retell the story.  While most did, there were a few that sorted the pieces so all of the red food was together, all of the purple food was in a different place, and so on.  It is fun to see what they come up with.  Most of our pieces are made with Accucut dies and have painted details.

We also created caterpillars out of pipe cleaners that could eat food made out of fun foam.

The foam pieces were also cut with Accucut dies.  We then cut circles in the middle of each piece for the pipe cleaner to thread through.  In addition to our ECRR skills, this prop works on fine motor skills as children need to thread the pipe cleaner through the holes.

Our third prop was one that I had a lot of time putting together.  We made the parmesan cheese container caterpillar that can be found on Making Learning Fun ( 

Our fourth set of props were caterpillar and butterfly finger puppets.

Kids at this station are working on the talking and playing skills.  They are retelling the story in their own way, but are having fun doing it with the props.

Station 3:  Make a Book
Once again, we used a product from Making Learning Fun.  They created a caterpillar book where each page has a part of the caterpillar.  The pattern can be found at  With our age group, we blew the pattern up to a ledger piece of paper so the children (2 year olds especially) would have space to write their name.  Once again, the pattern is copyrighted, but here is a picture of how ours turned out.

As they complete the book, the children are practicing the writing skill.  Even though they are coloring, they are still making shapes, such as lines or circles.  Coloring is also an exercise that strengthens children's fingers so they are prepared to write.

Station 4: Caterpillar Letters
Before the program we used a 1-inch circle punch to punch a lot of circles out of green paper.  Then, we wrote each child's first name out on the circles, with one letter per circle (we preregistered for this program).  Each child was given their own baggie of letters for them to put in order on a leaf mat that we had out.

Some of the children were still too young to spell out their whole name.  Then was asked what letter began their name.  Could they find that letter?  Did they recognize any other letters?  With the older kids who could spell out their names easily, then we began to play with the letters.  Could they find any other words in their name?  What sounds do the letters make?

At this station children were learning that letters have meaning when they make up words.  For example, the letters in Chloe's name look different than the letters in Sophia's name.  They also sound different when you put them together.

Station 5: Making Nametags
At this station we had large Avery labels (size 5163) that children wrote their first names out on with a pencil.  Since we have little hands, we used golf pencils.  The children, then wore their nametag while in the program room.
When making nametags, children are learning that reading and writing go together.  The children are learning to recognize letters and how they are formed.  Plus, they are strengthening their hand muscles so they can eventually write smaller letters and longer sentences.
Station 6: Coffee Filter Butterflies
This station requires coffee filters, pipe cleaners, and crayons.  Start with a flat coffee filter and color it, making sure you go to the edge.

Gather the middle of the coffee filter together and wrap a pipe cleaner around it for the butterfly's body.  Twist the pipe cleaner together and curl the ends to make 2 antennae.

When the butterfly is finished, act out the following rhyme:
Butterfly, Butterfly
Butterfly, butterfly, flutter around.
Butterfly, butterfly, touch the ground.
Butterfly, butterfly, fly so free.
Butterfly, butterfly, land on me!
Butterfly, butterfly, reach the sky,
Butterfly, butterfly, say good-bye.
As the children are making their butterflies, they are working on their fine motor skills, which will make their hands strong enough to write (it's like exercise).  By saying or singing the rhyme,  the children are working on listening skills.  Songs also slow down language so children can hear the different sounds in words and help children learn new words.

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