We used more materials than usual for this lesson, which required much more money, time and prep-work than I was expecting. However, it proved worth the effort as the Rascals seemed to learn a couple new concepts today and it was really cool to observe the seeds of learning planted. We focused on a lot of fine motor skills, math and science concepts with this lesson.
All because of a barrel of monkeys.
I love Caps for Sale for so many reasons. You truly can cover so many subject areas using this story without even seeming to try. And the illustrations are so visually interesting that it easily holds the attention of even the squirmiest child. I tried to plan a lesson that would provide a little bit of everything and provide lots of movement, as the weather has finally turned cold and I knew outdoor exploration wouldn’t be on the schedule.
We started with some prompting practice, wagging fingers and repeating key phrases like “You monkeys, you!” I read through the story, making sure to note the order of the colored caps, and any physical cues within the text (“stood very straight” is a good one). We stood up and stomped, wagged our fists, and made the monkey noises with all our might. It was a great way to get up and move our bodies in conjunction with the story.
After we read through the story, we practiced following directions by folding our own paper hats. This simple introduction to origami was fun- the kids were mostly able to complete the folding themselves, only needing a little help to press the crease to secure the fold. The kids were proud of themselves for making their own blue cap. Pro tip: make sure to have tape nearby to secure the folded hats!
Once we made our own hats, I brought out the sensory box. I had filled the box with the leftover leaves from our alphabet hunt on Leaf Day and the ten monkeys from our Barrel of Monkeys. Our monkeys happen to be orange, which blended well with the fake leaves and provided an extra bit of tricky task-work to find them in the box. We used tweezers to pull out those cheeky monkeys and put them into their barrel. Tweezers are awesome for building hand strength! Once we gathered all the monkeys, we transitioned to a new task.
I had a small wooden jewelry tree set up on a new tray. I distributed the monkeys to each kid and they hung them at their discretion on the branches of the tree. Then, I gave each child their own Peddler Peg Man and checked cap that I had made in preparation for the lesson. They were delighted by the mustaches! I spread some red, blue and gray “caps” (painted wooden buttons) around the tray and the children practiced balancing the caps on their Peddler’s head. The Peddlers have spherical heads and it took a little fiddling to get their hats to be level enough on which to balance buttons. One Rascal balanced seven buttons! This simple activity was lots of prep, but worked on so many important skills: color sorting, ordering, fine motor skills, story sequencing, social interaction, reading comprehension and more. Each Rascal got to take home their Peddler and his checked cap, as well as a handful of assorted caps to practice balancing.
The Rascal tummies were growling at this point, so we took a break for some bananas! Each child peeled and sliced their own banana with a butter knife. They worked hard to hold their knives properly and safely slice their snacks. They then we used fun tiny forks to eat the little pieces.
Once hands were washed and we were all ready to move on, each child got their own Rainbow Name snake to weave their names. I used a mustache ribbon to tie in to our story today, and the kids thought it was hilarious to hold it up to their face and give themselves mustaches. They weaved the ribbon through the letters of their name, in rainbow order as a little hint, working on fine motor skills as they went.
Our last two activities were a challenge, but incredibly rewarding. First, I gathered every hat I could find in our house and our friends brought hats too. We added them all into a bin and then tried to see how many hats we could balance on our own heads like the Peddler. The kids thought it was most fun to balance the hats on my head. I had to issue a couple of reminders about how we respect others’ bodies, but generally this was a fun physical manifestation of today’s story. The cowboy hat makes things tricky! I utilized the Caps For Sale felt story alongside this activity to reinforce ordering and counting skills. Once they were ready to move on, I brought out our balance scale.
The balance scale proved to be an excellent science experiment for these curious kids. I tasked them with gathering small objects from around the school room for us to weigh. I prepared for this lesson by creating a document: Monkey balancing [Click the link for the free PDF]. I clipped the chart to the easel and we got to work. Each child had the opportunity to choose something to balance. We balanced (weighed) one item at a time, each time using our orange monkeys as the measurement unit. We measured how many monkeys a crayon, three buttons, a green paintbrush, an orange paintbrush, and some other small items weighed by placing one item into a scale bucket, and then counting how many monkeys it took in the other bucket for the scale to balance. I used phrases like “weighs as much as” and “balanced with” and we paid close attention the indicator arrows and everyone gave a big holler when they matched up, showing the items in the buckets were equal. This scale is a top five favorite tool in our school room and I highly recommend it for any early education schoolers. The kids loved estimating how many monkeys each item would weigh and then recording the data. They found it fascinating that two paintbrushes of the same size weighed different amounts of monkeys (the paintbrushes were made by different manufacturers). We probably could’ve balanced things all day, however I ended the activity once I could tell the Rascals were impatient to pile lots of things into the bucket. I really want to give them opportunities to explore this concept on their own (indeed, to have the chance to pile things in!) but feel that would best be done individually so each child can work at their own pace. So, I plan to have the balance scale out on the Big Table as a free play item, accompanied by a random assortment of items and measuring standards, when the kids arrive for the next few playschool days.
We wrapped up this playschool lesson with another jam sesh to the ABC song using our instrument box, and then cleaned up and gathered the take home materials. A busy, fun day!