A Year of Pretend Play at the Library: Part One

Playing is learning. This probably isn’t news to the people who read this blog, but it bears repeating because it’s easy to forget. Kids play all the time at home, and it can become something that happens in the background that we don’t think about. At the library, we place a priority on play. We make it a point to invite kids and grownups to play together. If asked, I could go on and on about the ways that pretend play, in particular, helps kids develop early literacy skills, but my goal with this post is to show off some of the fun pretend play themes I’ve had at my library over the last year. So here goes! :)


Narrative Skills:

img_4257.jpgWe celebrated Picture Book Month with an Enchanted Forest theme. Kids could dress up as fairy tale characters or use the stuffed animals to tell their own version of familiar stories. The story cubes could spark a creative retelling that mixes up all sorts of fairy tale elements. I made these myself by covering some wooden blocks with construction paper and tape, but you can also buy story cubes or story sticks aimed at preschoolers to encourage storytelling.


Social Skills:

img_4985.jpgIn the grocery store, the ice cream shop, and other community based play spaces, kids can imagine themselves in various roles. They can take turns being proprietor or a customer, seeing the interactions from different roles and developing empathy for experiences outside of their own.



img_4905.jpgIn the Fix It Shop, we named the tools. In the Sense Lab, we encouraged the use of descriptive language as kids explored the world with their senses. Our Space Station offered various science words. Don’t underestimate kids’ willingness to learn complex vocabulary if they are interested in the topic!


Print Awareness:

img_5551.jpgIn the community based play spaces (World Café, Ice Cream Shop, etc), the menus and other signage are examples of the way that we interact with printed words as we life our lives. Understanding just how much we rely on printed language is an important part of learning to read.


Print Motivation:

img_5727.jpgKids and caregivers are always encouraged to learn more about the topics with books. Learning to read is hard work, and if kids are interested in the topics they are reading about, they be much more motivated.


Letter Knowledge:

img_4413.jpgExploring shapes and sorting objects based on likes and differences is a first step to letter knowledge. Our grocery store featured pictures of letters made out of food, and the Sense Lab encouraged sorting objects based on how they feel.


Phonological Awareness:

img_5842.jpgSinging songs and chanting rhymes help kids hear the sounds of words more clearly than in regular speech. We included the words to a rhyme in our Ice Cream Shop and our Space Station to add an opportunity to build phonological awareness while at play.

Stay tuned for an upcoming post about my library’s pretend play space relates to early science skills!

Early Science Skills (Picture Book Preschool)

I grew up with the idea that science was a collection of facts I needed to memorize to get a decent grade.  Since it seemed that science facts were always changing, I always gave myself permission to forget everything after the class was over.

Little did I know that all these years later, I would get super excited for Science Friday every week and eagerly read books like Head Start on Science to share my new interest with my daughter.  I don’t want her to see science as a process of memorizing and forgetting like I did.  I want her to really get the dynamic nature of scientific research at a much younger age than I did.

Of course I think the answer lies in books.  :)

There are many, many great books for kids that introduce science topics, but even before you start looking at specific ideas, you can start with skills.  Head Start on Science outlines these skills for preschoolers and primary graders: Observation, Comparison, Classification, and Communication.

There are about a million picture books that fall under Observation, but Who’s Hiding? stands out an unusual book that asks kids to look closely at the animals in the illustrations to answer the questions about them.  Where’s Walrus? follows a walrus who has escaped from the zoo as he tries to hide from the zookeeper.  Little kids love a good seek and find, and the ability to pick out details will serve them well in science.

Stars by Mary Lyn Ray is a beautiful picture book perfect for encouraging kids to wonder at the natural world, but it’s also an example of Comparison.  Look around, what do you see that might be star-like?  That’s Not a Daffodil is the story of a young boy watching a plant grow.  At first it looks like one thing, then another.  In the end, it is a flower.

Let’s Count to 100 is an interactive picture book that will have kids counting and classifying the 100 objects on each spread. Observation and Classification at their best!

Blue Sky and Green are concept books that explore the great variety that we can observe in just one thing–and the many ways to describe it.   After observation, after all, comes Communication, and we need the vocabulary to be able to do it.  These books are great places to start.

See all the Picture Book Preschool posts here.

Disclosure: Amazon.com links are affiliate links. A portion of purchases made via these links earns a commission for this blog. You can also shop in the Picture Book Preschool Amazon Store. Thanks for your support!

Picture Book Preschool Link Round Up

For this month’s Picture Book Preschool post, I thought I’d highlight some of the cool activities I’ve seen around the web and the picture books I’d pair with them.

Here goes:

What are some of your favorite activities for preschoolers?  Have you found any books that complement the activity?

See more posts for Parents & Educators here or follow my Kids Activities & Education Board on Pinterest for more preschool fun.

Disclosure: Amazon.com links are affiliate links. A portion of purchases made via these links earns a commission for this blog. Thanks for your support!

Playing Games (Ready for Kindergarten)

As promised, this month’s Ready for Kindergarten theme is “Games.”  What’s so great about games?

  • Board games and card games teach social skills like following rules and taking turns.
  • Guessing games and riddles help kids make connections and think creatively.
  • Many games reinforce concepts like color recognition, counting etc.
Playing hopscotch at the MN Children’s Museum’s Our World exhibit

I feel a tiny bit hypocritical writing this post because I… well, I’m probably never going to pull Candy Land (possibly the only kids’ game we own) out unless my daughter really wants to play.  Are there adults who really relish kids’ games the way I love kids’ books?  Perhaps.  But I will admit that my interest in child oriented entertainment does not really extend to board games.

I do, however, play lots of silly games as I ride the bus with my daughter or wait in lines.  I Spy and Rhyme Time are great ways to pass the time, teach skills, and sometimes amuse people sitting near us on the bus. :)

My favorite game to play with my preschooler is “What if?”  I usually start with a random question–say, What if we were tiny like the Littles?–and we speculate together on how our lives would be affected by the situation in the question.  I like the think that this game stimulates her creativity and helps her look at the world with different eyes.  Perhaps when she grows up to be an innovative thinker, she will point to the What if? game as her inspiration for her life’s work of inventing or creating.

And just because I can’t help bringing books into everything, I’ve started a list on my wiki for picture books that are guessing games or interactive in some way.  Feel free to leave any suggestions in the comments of this post.  I’ll be sure to add them to my list!

What kind of games do you play with your kids?  Do you play with skills or school readiness in mind? 

See more posts for Parents & Educators here or follow my Kids Activities & Education Board on Pinterest for more preschool fun.

Disclosure: Amazon.com links are affiliate links. A portion of purchases made via these links earns a commission for this blog. Thanks for your support!

Number Fun (Ready for Kindergarten)

It’s only fair that numbers get their day since last month’s Ready for Kindergarten theme was Language Fun.  We have had numbers and math on the brain lately in our Picture Book Preschool activities:

  • Getting Past 10 – Counting books that go from 1 to 10 are everywhere, but finding books that go to 20 is a bit harder.
  • Simple Addition – Features a few books that introduce addition.
  • Exploring Relative Size – We counted all sorts of things as we compared sizes.

For more number fun for preschoolers, here are some things I found around Pinterest:

What are some of your favorite number related activities to do with preschoolers or kinders?

Next month’s theme is “Games,” so stay tuned!

See more posts for Parents & Educators here or follow my Kids Activities & Education Board on Pinterest for more preschool fun.

Disclosure: Amazon.com links are affiliate links. A portion of purchases made via these links earns a commission for this blog. Thanks for your support!

Exploring Relative Size (Picture Book Preschool)

Whether you are a big kid or a little kid doesn’t really depend on your age or size.  It depends on who you compare yourself to.

With Emily Jenkins’ Small, Medium, Large as a jumping off point, we explored relative sizes in a way that included a vocabulary lesson, math skills, and art.  First a bit about the book: Jenkins and Bogacki’s collaboration brings odd little creatures–Ladybug decided that they were dogs, but they might be mice–of various sizes together as they compare their sizes as they generally illustrate the concept of S, M, L, and XL.  We follow “small” down to “minuscule” and “large” to “colossal” to the delight of my little word girl.The one-upsmanship  makes the book fun for little listeners when it otherwise might be a bit too “educational.”  The gatefold with the little creatures stacked up to equal one very large creature is pretty cool too.

I thought it might be fun for my girl to see how she compares to various things, and what better way to do that than to make a life-size drawing of herself? :)

And measure it:

Then compare:

7 of her own feet, 10 of her hands, a bunch of cars, and 42 paperclips.

My only regret is that we didn’t manage to get to the Walker Art Center’s Lifelike exhibit before it ended.  If you happen to be in New Orleans, San Diego, or Austin, you might be able to make that happen.  It’s great for kids!  You could re-create the scenes to explore scale like little girl in this post on the Walker Education blog.

See my Parents & Educators page for more Picture Book Preschool posts.
Disclosure: Amazon.com links are affiliate links.   A portion of purchases made via these links earns a commission for this blog.  Thanks for your support!  (Book Reviewed from library copy.)

Getting Past 10 (Picture Book Preschool)

Picture books that go from one to ten are everywhere, but we’ve been in search of eleven through twenty.  Here are a few of our favorites:

  • 1 is One by Tasha Tudor is a classic picture book perfect for introducing numbers and rhyme or to talk about spring.
  • So Many Bunnies by Rick Walton counts through the alphabet as the bunnies find a place to sleep.
  • Richard Scarry’s Best Counting Book Ever is easily Ladybug’s favorite, but she is biased to anything Busytown related. :)

But what better way to learn to count than through music?  The kid-friendly Minneapolis band, The Bazillions, has a new music video that tells the story of two friends with some counting along the way.

See more Picture Book Preschool posts here or follow my Kids Activities & Education Board on Pinterest for more preschool fun.

Disclosure: Amazon.com links are affiliate links.