Just harvested carrots and onions behind title: The Preschool Harvest Song

 

Ah, autumn. The time when leaves turn beautiful fall shades, children return to school, and gardens must be harvested before frost hits. It’s also the perfect time to talk about harvest with your preschoolers.

Using harvest as your preschool theme is excellent for discussing concepts such as healthy eating and for learning to categorize fruits and veggies. Not to mention all the discussion about colours and shapes that can be had.

Whether you’re using “harvest” as your fun theme or not, here’s a fantastic new song to sing with your children. I’ve been asked to sing it over and over again, and I suspect that you will be too.

 

Tips for singing the Preschool Harvest Song

  • Take a moment to explain what the word “harvest” means, as most children will be unfamiliar with it. I like to say that harvest is when farmers go to pick all the yummy food they grew so that people can eat it.
  • Invite your children to participate by choosing which food to sing about next. I’ve created a list of optional verses for you to choose from, but feel free to come up with more of your own. Depending on the attention span of your children, I recommend only singing 3 to 5 verses each time you sing the song.
  • Try adding visuals, whether you bring real examples of the food, make pictures of them, or cut pictures of them out of flyers. Visuals help young children understand and follow the song, especially if they are still learning English.

 

As this is an original song, please be sure to include my name as the songwriter any time you share this song.

Preschool Harvest Song

Song by: S. J. Little

Tune: Are You Sleeping

 

We are growing, we are growing,

Long orange carrots, long orange carrots.

Now we’ll harvest them to eat, now we’ll harvest them to eat.

Yummy, yummy, good! Yummy, yummy good!

Actions:

We are growing – pat field around you in several places

Long orange carrots – move fingers along outside of long carrot shape

Now we’ll harvest them to eat – start with arms wide then bring in towards self as though gathering armload

Yummy, yummy, good! – pretend to eat

 

Optional Verses:Hand holding freshly harvested carrots

  • Bright red tomatoes
  • Lots of potatoes
  • Juicy red apples
  • Tall yellow corn
  • Rich green spinach

 

What food items did you sing about with your children?

Looking for more original and engaging preschool songs? Check out the Flamingo Song and the Taxi Song both by S. J. Little.

Many preschool theme pictures

 

Having been asked about preschool themes to teach, I’ve compiled a list of various themes that can be used with a preschool child at home or with a whole class at a preschool or childcare centre.

I’ve attached a free printable pdf of my list of themes at the bottom of this post.

How long should you use a theme?

That depends on your situation and your children. I’ve taught in preschools that use one theme a week, though sometimes a big theme is extended over two weeks or more. Other preschools will choose to combine two themes and keep them for an entire month. The best length for you will be affected by how engrossed you are in the theme and how often you teach or do crafts regarding the theme. Also, pay attention to your children’s interests. If you know your children love animals, you likely could use an animal theme for longer. Other times, however, changing up the theme every week will keep the children more engaged.

What aspects can be affected by the theme?

You can embrace your chosen theme as much or as little as you want. Here are some areas you could choose to incorporate your theme.

  • Circle time:
    • The first place most people think of incorporating a theme is during the teaching time, referred to by preschool teachers as circle time. Themes can be incorporated through songs, stories, activities, and direct teaching. Using visuals is beneficial whenever possible.
  • Crafts:
    • There are endless craft ideas available online to go with nearly any theme. A quick search on Pinterest will show you a few. Keep in mind, theme-focused crafts are often product-oriented (i.e. the child is given a specific example to replicate). There are benefits to product-oriented crafts, but don’t forget to include some open-ended art as well. For “Autumn” you could give your child a blank paper and yellow, orange, and red paints to use however they’d like. For “Transportation” you could allow your child to drive cars through paint and make tracks on their paper. (Cleanup for this one is trickier!) For other open-ended ideas check out Beyond the Paintbrush then put on your thinking cap to tie them into your theme.
  • Books:

    • If you have a local library, books are a great way to incorporate a preschool theme. Is “Under the Sea” your theme? Search for books about fish, sharks, and the ocean. Some themes have countless fantastic books, for other themes it’s harder to find suitable books. Here are some books I’ve enjoyed with my preschoolers, sorted by theme: Books for Preschoolers and Toddlers
  • Decoration:
    • Some preschools will totally transform their classroom with theme-based decorations (bulletin boards, posters, etc.). It’s a lot of work! Others rarely change their decorations. A happy compromise, in some cases, could be having one theme-decorated area or bulletin board that you change based on the theme. If you don’t have posters, consider putting up crafts the children made or printing colour sheets corresponding with the theme. However, don’t feel bad if you don’t decorate by theme. It is not essential.
  • Games/Gym:
    • Get creative during gym time. With preschoolers, a simple game such as this one “4 Sides Preschool Gym Game can be adapted to countless themes. Alternatively, if learning about Space, grab some hula hoops and pretend to fly to the moon together.
  • Field Trips/Outings:

    • Some themes work well to be taken outside the home/classroom. Are you learning about bugs? Go on a bug hunt around the yard or neighbourhood. Are you studying transportation? See how many different types of transportation you can find on a walk around the block.
    • Visit the zoo, aquarium, pet store, science center, or a farm, if your area has them.

Preschool Themes List:

Any season:

  • All About Me
  • Alphabet
  • Numbers
  • Shapes
  • Colours
  • Safety
  • Community Helpers
  • Science
  • Space
  • Music
  • Emotions
  • Five senses
  • Healthy Eating
  • Healthy Habits
  • Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
  • Transportation/Things that go
  • Mighty Machines
  • Wheels
  • Ramps
  • Bible
  • Multicultural
  • Circus
  • Superheroes
  • Princesses and Pirates
  • Fables/Nursery Rhymes

Animal:

Here is a fantastic action song that could go with nearly any of these animal themes: If You Want To Be A…

 

  • Zoo Animals
  • Desert
  • Jungle
  • Safari
  • Birds
  • Pets
  • Bugs
  • Farm
  • Dinosaurs
  • Baby Animals
  • Under the Sea
  • Winter Animals
  • Forest Animals
  • North American Animals
  • Reptiles and Amphibians

Fall:

If your program begins in September, remember to keep these first few weeks simpler as you and the children settle into routine.

  • Welcome to School
  • Leaves
  • Apples
  • Harvest
  • Forest Animals
  • Fruits and Vegetables

Winter:

  • Winter Sports
  • Winter Olympics (when it’s on)
  • Winter Animals
  • Snowflakes
  • Snowmen

Spring:

  • Bugs
  • Flowers
  • Baby animals
  • How Plants Grow

Summer:

  • Beach Party
  • Fun in the Sun
  • Teddy Bear Picnic
  • Summer Olympics (when it’s on)

Special days:

  • There are many holidays that can also be used as themes, but I’ll let you make your own list of those.

 Click here to download your free printable pdf of the Preschool Themes List

 

What other themes would you add to the list?

Girl running with a big smile

This game gets children moving with very little prep required. As an easy preschool gym game, it can be adapted to most spaces and adjusted for nearly any theme.

Set up

  • Designate four areas as the sides the children will be running to. 
    • In a gym with four walls, consider attaching a piece of coloured paper or a poster to each wall. (When playing with a group of children, I prefer using a wall rather than a corner so that the children have room to spread out.)
    • In an open area, such as a field, consider placing four different coloured hula-hoops to designate the four sides. (See other options below.) 

Play

  • To start the game, show the children each of the four sides. 
  • Call out an instruction, such as “Run to yellow!”
  • Run with the children to the “yellow” side.
  • Once everyone has arrived, call out another instruction. For example “Hop to blue!”
  • Alternate between actions that are exciting vs. quiet, fast vs. slow, and tricky vs. easy. (See my list of suggested actions below.)
  • Keep an eye on your children’s engagement level. As soon as they start losing interest, or preferably just before they do, wind up the game. Finish with one exciting action followed by one quieter action.
    • Ending with a quiet action will help prepare your children for the transition into the next activity.

Age

  • 2 Year Olds: At the basic level, this game works wonderfully with most 2 year olds. These youngsters will enjoy playing this game many times, if you change it up a bit each time.
  • 3 Year Olds: This is a great game for 3 year olds! They especially enjoy it if you can give them opportunities to call out the instructions.
  • 4 Year Olds: If you include more challenging actions, or perhaps increase the number of sides to 6 or 8, 4 year olds will enjoy this game. However, I recommend only playing it occasionally with 4 year olds, as they may begin losing interest if they play it too often.

Size of group

  • 1 Child: This game can be played with one child. It will go best if you play it with the child. Take turns calling out the instructions.
  • 2-8 Children: Having a small group of children makes this game more exciting, while enabling you to allow each child to have a turn or two calling the instructions.
  • 9+ Children: This gym game is excellent with a large group of children. However, you may not have the time to allow each child a turn to call the instructions. Therefore, unless you are sure you can give every child a turn, it is likely best to call all the instructions yourself.

Ideas for the four sides

  • If you don’t have walls to attach papers to, try using different coloured hula hoops, cones, or blankets. Alternatively, choose pre-existing objects to run to such as a bench, a flagpole, or a tree, etc.
  • If you have walls to attach papers to, your options are endless! For younger children, stick with simpler options, but for older children, enjoy challenging them with new vocabulary that is trickier.
    • Blank coloured paper: could be basic colours (red, yellow, blue, green),  or more tricky colours (purple, orange, brown, grey). You could even do themed colours (for Valentine’s day: red, pink, white, purple).
    • Shapes cut from paper: For 2 year olds, I have done basic shapes (circle, square, triangle, star). For older children try trickier shapes (rectangle, octagon, trapezoid, oval). You can cut whatever shapes you want! For example, you could do pet themed shapes (cat, dog, fish, bird).
    • Posters: if you are in a preschool or childcare facility, chances are you have various posters around. Why not use some of them? You could use transportation, zoo, or dinosaur posters to match the game with what the children are learning. (If you don’t have posters, colouring sheets could work.)
    • Flat objects: Consider using foam letters or large puzzle pieces for the four sides. So long as the four objects can be clearly distinguished by name, you can use just about anything.

Ideas for actions

  • Changing up the actions will help ensure a full-body workout for your preschool children. Be sure to use a variety of easy and challenging actions!
    • Basic actions:
      • Easy
        • RunGirl walking on footprints
        • Hop
        • Fly (running with arms out as wings)
        • Stomp
        • Crawl
      • Medium
        • Skip
        • Walk sideways
        • Tiptoe quietly
        • Slow
        • Long steps
        • Tiny steps
        • Spin
        • Slither (or army crawl)
        • Bear crawl (on hands and feet with knees straight)
      • Hard
        • Hop on one foot
        • Crab walk (on hands and feet with tummy facing up)
        • Walk backwards (not recommended for larger groups, though it can work if you let them go two or three children at a time)
    • Other actions: Children have incredible imaginations! Engage their creativity with theme-based actions.
      • Zoo
        • Stomp like a hippo
        • Walk like a giraffe (stretch arms up and take long steps)
        • Run fast like a cheetah
        • Waddle like a penguin
        • Hop like a kangaroo
      • Dinosaur
        • Growl like a t-rex (make short arms and run while growling)
        • Stretch like a brachiosaurus
        • Fly like a pterodactyl
        • Stomp like a triceratops
      • Bugs
        • Buzz like a bee (make tiny wings with hands and run while buzzing)
        • Fly like a butterfly (flap arms as large gentle wings while crossing slowly and quietly)
        • Jump like a grasshopper
        • Crawl like a ladybug
      • I think you get the idea so I’ll stop my list here. This game could also work with themes such as: farm, under the sea, transportation, emotions, sports or Olympics.

How to choose which action

  • The basic way to play this easy gym game involves someone calling whichever action they want. (If you let the children make their own calls, you’ll end up with a lot of running!) Consider making the game more engaging and visually appealing for your children, especially if they are still learning English or have language delays by doing one of the following:
    • Dice:
      • Before playing the game, choose 6 actions and write them on a die. (You can make your own dice out of cardboard, or try looking for giant dice at your local dollar store.)
      • Hand the die to the child who is calling the instruction. Whatever they roll, that’s the action you’ll do next.
    • Use picture cards:
      • Use themed cards, such as animal cards, to determine the next action.
      • The child who is calling the instruction pulls a card from a bag (looking or not looking, you choose). Whatever action is on the card, that’s what everyone does.
      • If you don’t have picture cards or action cards to use, you can likely find some online to print. As another option, print a copy of my Free Zoo Animal Skin Matching Game cards to use.
    • Use small toys:
      • Alternatively, look around at what you have. Small plastic animals could be drawn from a bag.

This easy preschool gym game will be a fantastic addition to your preschool gym games tool belt. You may even find that it becomes one of your favourites!

Need more action ideas, or want to share your variation of the game? Comment below.

Looking for more no prep, super easy preschool gym ideas to get your children moving? Here are some ideas:

Interested in a preschool song that can go with just about any animal theme? See “If You Want To Be A…” 

The following are some of my favourite animal picture books that get children interacting at storytime. These guessing books for preschoolers give clues, whether visual or through words, about what animal may be hiding on the next page or under the flap. Especially at the beginning of the school year, I find these books intrigue youngsters who are otherwise unwilling to sit for stories.

1. Are You My Mommy?

(Lift the flap)

Written and Illustrated by Mary MurphyAre You My Mommy? by Mary Murphy - review by S J Little

This is currently one of my absolute favourite preschool books. The storyline – a puppy looking for his mommy – is simple enough for my two year old class to follow and enjoy. As the puppy asks each hidden animal if they are his mommy, the children try to guess the animal based on visible clues. My two year olds enjoyed naming each farm animal after I opened the flap, while my three year olds were typically able to guess the animal before I opened it. Now here’s the part that makes this little board book so fantastic. I found that most of my three year olds were well versed in, and becoming bored of, the typical farm animal names: horse, cow, pig… In fact, many of my two year olds knew them all. Mary Murphy doesn’t stop with just the standard farm animals. Instead, under each flap is a baby to go with the mommy. These baby animal names were brand new for my three year olds. They hadn’t heard of ducklings, piglets, and calves before. This kept my advanced students engaged and learning while still providing review of the standard animal names for my children who were newer to learning English.

Reading tips:

  • By using identical phrasing on each page you can invite your children to say it with you: “Are you my mommy?” “No, I’m a ___(allow children to name the animal)__, and this is my baby calf.”
  • I like to use a different voice for each animal. It helps the children stay attentive.
  • Because this book is, to my knowledge, only available as a small board book, some older preschoolers may scoff at it as being for babies. Therefore, how you introduce this book is important. I like to tell the children I need their help naming the animals. Also, because the baby animal names were new to my class, I decided to read it on two days during our farm week. To prepare the children for this, I told them I was going to read the book today, and then a different day I would read it to them again to see if they remembered it. This way I didn’t get any “we already read that” complaints when I pulled the book out the second day.

2. Peek-a-Boo! Ocean

(Lift the flap)

Written and Illustrated by Jess StockhamPeek a Boo! Ocean and Peek a Boo! Safari by Jess Stockham

This series of books is right up there among my favourites. They are good-sized board books with only 5 page spreads each. The sad thing about these books, however, is that, to my knowledge, they are no longer in print. Also, since children are often rough on lift the flap books, they are quickly disappearing from my local library.

As a preschool teacher, I find that many children have trouble settling into our circle time routine during the first number of classes. Especially with my two year olds, I find it works best to start with songs for the first few weeks, then slowly transition to adding some books in those times of singing. These Peek-a-Boo books are excellent first books for circle time during that transition. With my two year olds, I might wait a month before beginning to introduce these books and then moving to other books, while for the three year olds I’d start with these books in the first week or two.

What’s so great about these books? Let me tell you. My favourite part is the way Jess Stockham has left little clues visible so the children can try to guess which animal is hiding behind the flap. For example, the children might be able to see the animal’s tail or ear. Another thing I appreciate about this book is how bold and simple the pictures are. On top of that, the flaps are large, nearly as large as the book.

Reading tips:

  • When you read the words, such as “Who’s ear is this?” Point to the place where you see the ear peeking out from behind the flap.
  • After opening the flap, your children might enjoy it if you tell them something about the animal, such as the sound it makes or where it lives, for example: “The polar bear lives at the North Pole where it is really cold.”

Other titles in this series include:

  • Peek-a-Boo! Safari
  • Peek-a-Boo! Forest
  • Peek-a-Boo! Jungle

3. Do You Want to Be My Friend?

Written and Illustrated by Eric CarleDo You Want To Be My Friend? by Eric Carle - review by S J Little

This nearly wordless picture book is a lot of fun for 3-4 year olds. Each page shows the tail of the animal you will see when you turn the next page. Children enjoy trying to guess which animal each tail belongs to. The book includes a wide variety of animals some of which my three year olds were not familiar with. The variety of animals would fit well with a zoo theme. When I tried this book with my two year olds, it seemed too long and the animals and their tails too tricky for guessing. Therefore, I’d recommend this one for 3-4 year olds.

Reading tips:

  • Only two of the pages have words on them. I typically end up repeating the same phrase on every page: “Do you want to be my friend?”
  • Wait a moment before turning the page and encourage the children to guess.

4. My First Peek-a-boo Animals

(Lift the flap)

Written and Illustrated by Eric CarleMy First Peek-a-boo Animals by Eric Carle - review by S J Little

This short book is unique. Each page has a four line poem giving clues to what animal might be hiding behind the flaps. The large flaps do not cover the entire animal leaving toes, tails, and maybe a nose sticking out. 2-4 year olds can enjoy this book, however, I would say that my two year olds were not able to guess based on the poems. Also, as a teacher at a preschool that uses typical themes, I find it hard to know which theme to use this book in. It has a random combobulation of animals from a lion, to a horse, to a butterfly, to a turtle, to an elephant and more. Still, regardless of what theme you put it under, this is an engaging book for preschoolers.

Reading tips:

  • Based on the age and development level of your children decide whether or not to read the poems. If you wanted, you could encourage the children to guess simply based on the visual clues sticking out from under the flap and read the poem after you’ve revealed the animal.

5. Dear Zoo

(Lift the flap or pop-up version)

Written and Illustrated by Rod Campbell

Dear Zoo by Rod Campbell

The simple repetitive words and basic storyline of this classic book make it excellent for youngsters. Only a couple of the pages have visual clues as to what animal is hiding making them hard to guess. Each animal has a description word, such as big, fierce, scary, jumpy, etc. These words could be used as clues to encourage guessing. They also enhance the learning side of this book as the children may not be familiar with some of the description words.

Reading Tips:

  • I highly recommend the pop-up version rather than the lift-the-flap as the pop-ups add tremendously to the excitement and engagement factor. However, note that the pop-up version is more likely to rip if left unsupervised in little hands.
  • One small group of 3-4 year olds I read this book to, enjoyed it so much that we read it several times in the first sitting. By the third or fourth time through, the children had memorized most of the animals and description words. They loved being able to fill in the words rather than hearing me read it.

6. Bugs From Head to Tail

Written by Stacey Roderick

Bugs From Head to Tail and other books in the series Written by Stacey Roderick, Illustrated by Kwanchai Moriya

Illustrated by Kwanchai Moriya

I highly recommend the Bugs and Ocean Animals books of this fairly recent series. Both books have a wide variety of animals some of which are familiar to most preschoolers and some of which will be new to them. While these books do not have flaps to lift, the pages have been cleverly designed so that on one page you see a part of an animal as a clue, such as their feet or tail, etc. Then you turn the page to find out what animal it is.

While I really enjoy the Bird book, most of the birds are far too specific for 2-3 year olds, unless the children have a specific interest in knowing unique animal names.

Reading Tips:

  • On the page that reveals which animal it is, the animal name is given as well as a lengthy blurb about that animal. The details in the blurb are targeted for a much older age group, therefore I entirely skip them. (Also, the dinosaur book’s blurbs are primarily based on speculations about the dinosaurs’ behaviours, not known facts, so I don’t read them.)

Other titles in this series include:

  • Dinosaurs From Head to Tail
  • Birds From Head to Tail
  • Ocean Animals From Head to Tail

7. I Spy Under the Sea

Written and Illustrated by Edward GibbsI Spy kid's guessing book series by Edward Gibbs

I was surprised how much my wiggly three year old class enjoyed this book! First, we look through a spy hole to see what’s on the next page. I read the clues, such as “my arms are called tentacles.” Then the children try to guess what animal it might be before I turn the page. My class guessed some of the animals easily while others they’d never heard of which kept the book from being boring for my more advanced children. While the artsy illustration style is not my favourite, my class had no problem with it.

To my knowledge, this series is available as hardback and board book.

Reading Tips:

  • Encourage the children to try guessing even if they’ve never heard of the animal. Be sure your response to their guesses is encouraging. Especially with the quieter children, when they gather the courage to voice a guess, be careful not to turn them off by laughing at their guess.
  • Read the book ahead of time so that you know what’s coming. That way you can provide extra clues. For example, when I read the Under the Sea book to my class, we’d seen clownfish on our field trip the week before which I was able to use as an added clue.

Other titles in this series include: (Each focuses on various preschool topics as listed below.)

  • I Spy With My Little Eye (colours and clues)
  • I Spy Under the Sea (clues and numbers)
  • I Spy Pets (food and clues)
  • I Spy in the Sky (colours, big/small describers, and clues)
  • I Spy on the Farm (colours, first letters, and animal sounds)

Interested in learning other ways to capture your young audience at storytime? Skim through these creative tips and ideas: Ways To Engage Preschoolers With Stories

Boy studying zoo map

What follows is one of my favourite preschool animal songs. I sing it often with my class.

I will share my favourite few verses, as well as a long list of other ideas.

Pick and choose which verses are your favourite, or fit best with your theme.

 

If You Want To Be A…

(tune: If You’re Happy and You Know It)

 

If you want to be a giraffe, stretch up tall,

If you want to be a giraffe, stretch up tall,

If you want to be a giraffe, if you want to be a giraffe,

If you want to be a giraffe, stretch up tall.

 

Actions: Reach for the ceiling everytime you sing “stretch up tall”

Other favourite verses include:

  • If you want to be a lion, roar like me
  • If you want to be a turtle, hide in your shell
  • If you want to be a kangaroo, jump up and down
  • If you want to be a flamingo, stand on one foot
  • If you want to be a butterfly, flap your wings

Strategies:

  • I don’t follow the same order of verses every time I sing this preschool animal song and I vary which animals I use. This keeps the children’s interest longer as it feels new each time. 
  • I switch between loud, medium and quiet verses depending on the children’s energy level. If they have lots of energy I do two or three loud ones, but if they start going crazy I regain their attention by using medium volume verses. Finally, I calm them down at the end, and sometimes in the middle too, by using a quiet verse. Your tone, volume and choice of actions will determine how exciting or calming each verse is.
  • Pay attention to your children’s interest levels. Some days they may be happy to do a large number of verses, while other days they may only stay engaged for three or four. Once you start losing their attention move on to the next song/activity.
    • If I am transitioning into story time next, I sing the song through again but with these words:

                   “If you want to hear a story, sit right down.”

  • As you read the different verses below notice how they use a wide range of motions and sounds. I would encourage you to use a variety so as to give the children developmental benefits in many areas.

 

Possible Verses (by theme)

 

Zoo Animals:

Lion – “roar like me”

Elephant – “swing your trunk”

Giraffe – “stretch up tall”

Flamingo – “Stand on one foot”

Gorilla – “thump your chest”

Kangaroo – “jump up and down”

 

Jungle Animals:

Gorilla – “thump your chest”

Tiger – “roar like this”

Elephant – “swing your trunk”

Snake – “slither like me”

Monkey – “swing your arms”

Sloth – “move real slow”

 

Safari Animals:

Lion – “roar like me”

Elephant – “swing your trunk”

Giraffe – “stretch up tall”

Cheetah – “run real fast”

Hippo – “stomp your feet”

 

Farm Animals:

Horse – “shake your mane”

Bunny – “hop up and down”

Pig – “oink like me”

Mouse – “get real small”

Frog – “jump up and down”

 

Insects:

Grasshopper – “jump up and down”

Bumblebee – “buzz like me”

Butterfly – “flap your wings”

 

North American Animals:

Bear – “roar real loud”

Eagle – “flap your wings”

Jack Rabbit – “hop up and down”

Skunk – “pinch your nose”

Wolf – “look at the moon” (howl)

Squirrel – “eat an acorn”