If you are unfamiliar with our Play to Learn program, it is a station-based early literacy program where children and parents can interact together. It is not librarian-driven. While I create the stations and set everything up, I am not in front of the room reading the story or telling people what to do. They can spend as long or as little as they want at a particular station. Each station has a sign that explains the activity and why that activity is important to early literacy. By running this type of program, we hope to give parents the tools to take home and use with their children.
We register 25 kids, ages 2-4, for each session of Play to Learn and we open the room up for one hour. If it is a really popular program, we will register additional kids and start them 30 minutes into the program. We want each parent and child to be able to spend time at each station and you can't do that in a crowded room.
Station 1: Make a Nametag
We used an AccuCut die to cut sheep in various colors to use as nametags. The kids then can choose their sheep and write their name on it. To help those kids who are not quite ready to write their name, I type out all of the first names in list form so they can see the letters. We also have brown craft paper down on the table so parents can practice writing with their child. At this station, as you may have guessed, we are working on the writing skill.
Station 2: Read the Book
Since we are a library, I feel that the book is the most important part of the program. I pull just about every copy from all of our locations that I can get and we put them out for parents to read to their child. At this station children are practicing reading, which encourages them to learn how to read on their own. By sharing reading with their child, parents are helping them to develop vocabulary and comprehension, nurturing a love of reading, and motivating their child to want to learn to read.
As an added bonus, I had the green sheep from MerryMakers out for the kids to play with. The younger children especially liked this. Its wool is really soft so this added a sensory aspect to our play.
Station 3: Mary Has a Little Lamb Flannelboard
I always put stations 2 and 3 together because they have a lot in common. Many of our attendees are used to seeing books and flannelboards at story time when they are sitting on our story time carpet. Normally I will do flannel parts to the story, but there were 29 separate parts for Where is the Green Sheep? That is too many for me to keep track of and for little people to be able to tell the story. Instead, I found this great flannelboard that I made for Flannel Friday a couple of weeks ago. I made four sets so multiple kids could do it at once as the flannelboard tends to be one of the most popular stations.
This station works on the singing skill as we are encouraging the parents and children to sing our rhyme as they put the sheep on the board. Singing slows down language so kids can hear the parts of words and encourages listening skills. This helps them to learn new words and information.
Station 4: Pom Pom Sorting
This station was the winner of the day. I bought 4 mini tongs from a party supply store, along with plastic dessert plates. Then I found a package of 1 inch multicolored pom poms at Michaels. I colored and laminated some sheep to match the pom poms and glued them onto the plates. The goal of this station is for the kids to pick up pom poms with the tongs and move them to the correct colored sheep plate.
This is the full station set up for 4 kids.
This is what one of the plates looks like.
There are a lot of positive benefits associated with this type of activity. First, by using the tongs and moving the pom poms, kids are working on their fine motor skills. This helps to make their hands strong enough to hold pencils and write letters, which is an important component of early literacy. By coloring the sheep and writing the color name out in that color, kids are learning that words have meaning (or comprehension). Green written as green shows what that word means. I like using colors for this type of activity as the kids will get hints from the color to see what the word actually means. We are reinforcing this idea with the colored sheep and pom poms.
Station 5: Which Sheep Go Together?
I used the sheep pieces from the Kidzclub flannelboard and glued each onto a card telling what it is. For example, next to the picture of the brave sheep, I wrote out "brave sheep". I used 12 of the most obvious pairs so we didn't have too many for the kids to match. If you are familiar with Where is the Green Sheep? you will know that some of the sheep go together (moon and star), while some are opposites (near and far). Our goal at this station is to work on the talking skill as they decide which cards go together. Children learn about language as they talk and listen to others. Because we have a lot of metal doors, we attached magnet tape to the back of each card for them to pair them on the wall.
These are opposites.
These are both vehicles.
Station 6: Make a Book
I used clip art sheep to make a concept book for kids to color and assemble. With this type of activity, we are working on fine motor skills again. This works to strengthen hands so kids will be able to write. Comprehension is also being practiced as the pictures match the words. Here are some of the pages from our book:
The title page is important. It helps the parents/child to remember what we were practicing at this program when they sit down to read their book at home. It also allows us space to practice writing our names.
One sheep and many sheep are opposites.
Big sheep and little sheep are opposites too.
The green sheep and the blue sheep are both colored sheep. To give a hint as to how to color, I typed out the color word in that color.
This page adds in some of the writing skill as we write out our colors.
Station 7: Sheep Color Craft
The pattern and idea for this craft came from The Mailbox Preschool (February 2009 edition).
I precut "wool" in various colors. The kids glued their wool onto the paper, then added a head and legs with crayon. We wrote what color each of our sheep were in the top blank and what the sheep was doing in the bottom blank. I had a list of color words written out for the kids to follow. If you do an activity such as this where you write out words for young children, write at least one set in all capital letters. Young children tend to learn their capital letters first and their lowercase letters as they go to school. This activity practices multiple skills, including writing, reading, and comprehension.
You know you have a success when kids are still working and playing 75 minutes after the program started. The pom pom sorting game was the most popular and often had kids waiting to play. They were all pretty good at taking turns at this station. The coloring book took the longest to work on. Luckily, I set up 16 spaces for the kids to work so this was our largest station.