Why are farm animals so popular in children’s books and why do we spend so much time teaching our babies how to make animal noises? I am not sure, but I do know that animal themes are easy to plan and great for engaging young children. I like doing a farm animal theme in the spring; sometime I would like to coordinate a field trip to the local farm park to practice signing our animals as we see them in person.
There are many books that include farm animals, so most families with young children probably know or own a few. Here are a few of the ones I have used with my playgroup:
1. Peek-a-Moo is a simple lift a flap book with several farm animals playing peek-a-boo. To get the children engaged, ask them to sign which animal they think will be under the flap. This is a good book for the very young because there are lots of clues to make it simple to guess the animal.
2. Big Red Barn by Margaret Wise Brown and illustrated by Felicia
Bond was a new book for me last year, even though I was familiar with the author and had read several of her books with my girls. Look for the stuffed animal that reminds me of Ernie from Sesame Street laying out next to the haystack in this one.
3. The Very Busy Spider by Eric Carle is a book that we actually have two copies of at home. One is available as a lift a flap, while another has texture to feel the spider’s web. I had forgotten to get this one out last week. I may grab this one for next week’s playgroup.
4. I Went Walking is another simple book great for signing farm animals. I was introduced to this one by one of our speech therapists.
5. Old Macdonald Had A Farm by Carol Jones is a great book version of the song. It has small peeking circles to look through to guess which animal will be next in the song. This is a book that might involve lots of noise as the kids get excited about guessing. Remind them to sign the animal when they know it instead of yelling.
6. Skip To My Lou is another book version of a song that has plenty of farm animals in it. You could use either the book or the song, or both in a playgroup.
I own a bowling set for toddlers and preschoolers that is mostly farm animals so I bring it along and have the kids bowl. Whichever animals they bowl over (or kick over if they are really young) they need to sign. There is a set at Genius Babies that is all farm animals, but if you are on a budget you could easily make your own using some small sized plastic bottles and pictures of farm animals drawn or printed out from the internet.
For the playgroup that is more preschooler than toddler, try out Farm Bingo at BOGGLESWORLDESL.COM. I suggest using the three by three Bingo boards, otherwise it is too overwhelming and preschoolers will soon lose interest. I sign the animal and then the kids cover up the animal they think I signed. I printed these on card stock and laminated them to make them sturdy and reusable.
To make a matching game, print out the farm animal cards from TeachChildrenESL. I printed one set of the farm animals and then made up a set of cards the same size with drawings of the signs from a book that allowed photocopies for educational use. You could use photos of yourself making the signs or drawings of the signs as well.
1. Old Macdonald is one that most kids know. This makes it easier for them to concentrate on the signs. You could use the song from a kids’ songs compilation like Wee Sing, but I usually just sing it myself and ask the kids to join in. I don’t say the animals, only sign them and expect the kids to sign and sing them.
2. Skip to my Lou is another that could be sung, listened to, or read. Since that one might be a little less well known, you might want to read it, then either sing it or listen to it and try to do the signs for animals mentioned.
3. Leah’s Farm is found on the music for volumes 7-9 of Signing Time!. I like to start out my signing playgroup by playing just the song from the video, then later on play the song and see if the kids can sign the animals along with the song.
4. Hear the Little Doggie is found on the Pick Me Up! cd and book set. This song has great real life animal sounds that really grab kids’ attention.
I have two different crafts I have done for this theme. One is fairly simple, while the other involves some planning and time to complete.
1. Enchanted Learning has a simple Farm Animal Word Book available to print out for each child. I had the kids color the animals, try to write the word (preschoolers), and gave them drawings of the signs to paste into the book.
2. For a more complex idea, I came up with a lift the flap book. I used the eight page book idea found in this pdf file. I used white card stock and premade the eight page books. Then, I used my Cricut to cut out farm animals. You could also find small drawing of farm animals online to use for this purpose. For each inside page, I made a flap in the following manner: I cut out a piece of contrasting card stock approximated 4 by 2 inches. I folded it in half and glued it into the book. I also made copies of drawings of the signs that would fit on the top of the flap.
Once at the playgroup, kids were given the book, the cutouts of the animals, and the drawings of the signs. With a parent’s help, they glued the animals under the flaps and the matching signs on top of the flaps.