Traditional nursery rhymes like "Baa Baa Black Sheep" are not only familiar and fun, they are also a useful way to create a theme for different types of activities with children. Even older children who know the rhyme often respond well to a mixture of new material and revisiting old favourites. Using nursery rhymes this way works particularly well if you centre several different kinds of activities on the theme and return to the nursery rhyme for more than one day.
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Use black puffballs and glue to create pictures of black sheep. For toddlers, you may want to supply an outline drawing of a sheep. Preschool age children can either draw their own outlines or create the animals completely from the puffballs. Vary this activity by supplying scraps of fabric in different colours and textures for clothing, bags and other picture elements. This particular nursery rhyme is also a good framework for activities about colour: what if sheep came in pastel shades of blue and purple?
Use the story to give toddlers and preschool age children a framework for pretend play. Supply some basic props, like bags, for acting out the story of "Baa Baa Black Sheep." Explore the props with the children to help them imagine the possibilities. Older preschoolers may enjoy making a play out of the basic rhyme by extending the story with their own embellishments. For a different kind of experience, supply puppets or provide materials for stick puppets.
Have a race where each runner must distribute bags of wool to three teammates. Soft bags stuffed with cotton and sewn shut work well for a "bag of wool" toss, either at targets or to teammates. Use stuffed animals and bags to make an obstacle course for anything from crawling to running. Challenge children to move like sheep on all fours or ask them to brainstorm and try out different ways a sheep could handle a bag of wool to deliver it.
Reciting the rhyme and clapping on each stressed syllable in short and simple verses like these helps children begin to understand poetry. "Mistress," "master" and "lane" are natural vocabulary building words. Memorising a poem such as "Baa Baa Black Sheep" is possible for even toddlers, while older preschool and kindergarten children can use it to practice reciting as individuals in front of a group. Use the words "baa baa" to introduce the different ways our language represents the sounds animals make and let children suggest and demonstrate other such words.
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