Play and Learn: Put a Bird On It Edition

Okay, welp, apparently blogging about programming during a programming pause is pretty hard. But I’m back now with regularly scheduled posts! Woooohooo!

Last week, for our first full week of the winter session, we planned a bird-themed play and learn extravaganza. Here’s how it broke down.


We started out with Ants in the Pants, which is, as always, a great way to begin. Starting with an interactive game gives everyone a chance to get settled in, and makes sure that late arrivers have time to sit down before we start.

Then I read In My Nest by Sara Gillingham. This is a sweet little board book that includes a built-in finger puppet. It only took me a couple of minutes to read, but it has some really great words in it, and the illustrations have excellent texture and color. Because we usually have a small group, I can pull off reading a board book if I lean waaaaaay down, almost to the floor.

Next, we did a quick action rhyme that I had found online by frantically googling “bird action rhymes” (PROFESSIONAL AT WORK, y’all!). Despite forgetting the words and going off-script halfway through, it was a lot of fun. Here it is:

I saw a little bird go hop, hop, hop (hop up and down)
I told that little bird to stop, stop, stop (make a stop sign with your hand)
I said to the bird hey, hey, hey (wave your hand)
And he shook his little tail and flew away (shake your tail and then flap away!)

This was a good one for our group because the actions are really large and easy to do, even for toddlers who don’t have the fine motor skills for intricate finger plays.

We finished up our storytime portion with Bring on the Birds by Susan Stockade. I really like books that are essentially lists with illustrations, and this book has great spreads of all kinds of birds. I totally messed up and called a non-peacock a peacock, and then got called out by the book when I got to the real peacock, but what can you do?

Sensory Play

We always try to have some form of sensory play, both because it’s so popular for toddler and babies, and because it’s so great for their development. For this play and learn, we had two sensory bins. One was filled with birdseed, and just had some fun measuring scoops and cups in it. The other was filled with black beans, and had some pipe cleaner “worms” in it that the kids could catch with our bird fishing rods (with magnets attached, of course). There was lots of fun color identifying going on, too.

Fine Motor, Gross Motor, and Print Identification

We had some great early literacy stuff happening, mostly via ideas found on Pintrest (I can’t stop pinning!) We borrowed some really cool shaker eggs that had different stuff in each color egg (recognizing different sounds is important for phonological awareness!). I shredded up some colored paper, and kids had lots of fun sorting the eggs in to the matching colored paper nest.

We also had a matching activity we made so that kids could match birds to the cold, hot, night, or daytime environments they lived in. It’s hard  sometimes to make sure there’s a lot of print hanging out, but it is important that toddlers realize there are letters and words everywhere.

We put out a basket of ribbon bracelets, so that kids could pretend to be birds and flap around. Gross motor skills for the win!

Playing, Pretending, and Narrative Play

We made sure to pull out lots of different bird puppets and stuffed animals, and included more shaker eggs in shredded paper nests. The kiddos always do interesting and unexpected stuff with what we put out, so it’s great to give them the opportunity for play. Telling stories is important to early literacy, too!


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