Nursery rhymes offer a familiar basis for preschool activities. Crafts and language arts activities are a logical choice for the nursery rhyme theme. Science activities extend the learning of the nursery rhyme theme, and hands-on learning activities combine the basis of different nursery rhymes with scientific concepts.
Peter, Peter, Pumpkin Eater
The nursery rhyme "Peter, Peter, Pumpkin Eater" refers to Peter putting his wife inside a pumpkin shell. It lends itself naturally to exploration of the inside of a pumpkin. The preschool students make predictions about the inside of the pumpkin before a hands-on exploration of it. Have each preschool child draw a picture of what they think will be on the inside of the pumpkin. Some will have experience from carving jack-o-lanterns at Halloween while others might not. Discuss the predictions as a class. Cut a pumpkin in half from top to bottom. This gives the kids a good look inside. Discuss what they see and what each part of the pumpkin represents. Cut more pumpkins in half giving each half to a small group of students. Let the students dig inside the pumpkins to further explore the insides. After cleaning up, have the kids draw another picture based on what they actually saw.
"Humpty Dumpty" works well with science activities involving eggs. Crack a raw egg so the kids can see what is inside. Boil an egg in class, or bring a hard-boiled egg from home. Remove the shell and cut the egg in half to show the preschoolers what happened when it cooked. Discuss the changes of other items when they are cooked or placed in boiling water.
Another related science activity is an egg drop. Drop a raw egg on the floor so the kids see what happens to it. Ask the kids what you could do to keep it from cracking. Provide each child or group of kids with a shoebox and soft materials such as foam, material scraps and cotton batting. The kids use the materials to create a soft wrapping for the eggs. If possible, have an adult work with each group so they don't accidentally crack the egg while preparing it. Drop each of the boxes to see how well the kids did with their wrapping.
Use "Pat-a-Cake" for a cooking science experiment. Cooking falls under the science category because the kids mix individual ingredients together and the result is a new concoction that changes again when cooked or baked. Baking the ingredients creates a chemical change. Working in small groups, let the kids mix up the ingredients for a cake. Make observations about the mixture as you go through the recipe. Ask for predictions about what will happen in the oven. Talk about those predictions once the cake is baked and the kids can see what happened.
Jack and Jill
A pail of water such as the children in "Jack and Jill" used in their nursery rhyme creates a container for a sinking and floating exercise. Kids make predictions about various items. They must decide if they think the object will sink or float when placed in water. The predictions are tested by placing the object in the pail of water.
Another related science activity is to roll objects down a hill. Find a hill near the preschool. Bring a variety of objects such as various sized balls, blocks, wheeled toys and apples. The kids predict which item will roll down the hill the fastest. Test the predictions by releasing all of the items at the same time from the top of the hill. Discuss why different objects rolled at different rates or not at all.