Toddler and Preschool Farm-Themed Social-Studies Activities

by Martha Mendenhall

    Social-studies activities encourage kids to investigate the ways present-day folks, as well as those of days gone by, live in community. Introducing your preschooler or toddler to social studies by exploring the theme of life on a farm together is way more fun than hunkering down with a pile of textbooks. Engage in activities that allow him to role-play, to create arts and crafts projects, to sing and dance, and to take a field trip to a working farm.

    Role-Playing

    Lean into his strength – imaginative play -- and encourage your youngster to explore the relationship between the farmer and his animals in your own living room. Circle up your dining-room chairs to create “pens” for the “animals.” Let your child draw pictures of a pig, horse, cow and chicken on separate pieces of construction paper to hang on each animal's pen. Allow your preschooler or toddler to spend time exploring each animal's movement and sound, while you pretend to feed him what that animal eats. Then trade places with your youngster, allowing him to be the farmer, “feeding” you while he enjoys your grunts, clucks, neighs and moos.

    Arts and Crafts

    Your preschooler can learn about what a farmer grows and how he grows it by creating her own 3-D model farm. Collect an assortment of cereal boxes, small plastic yogurt cups, paper-towel and toilet-paper tubes, buttons, newspapers, foil, ribbons, yarn and toothpicks. Give your youngster a piece of foam board or cardboard to use as her base. Using glue and the assorted items provided, allow her to create her own farm landscape, complete with a barn, silo, tractor and fields of crops. Your toddler can get in on the act and learn about the fruits and vegetables farmers grow by dipping half pieces of potato, apple, pepper, orange and others into paint and stamping their images on paper.

    Music and Movement

    Gather a mixed group of toddlers and preschoolers to join together in singing and enacting "The Farmer in the Dell." Teach them to sing the opening verse, letting them follow your lead in singing the verses that follow. Once they know the song, teach them the game that goes with it. Begin by choosing one child to stand in the center of a circle formed by the others holding hands. This is the farmer. As you lead the children in singing the first verse, the farmer chooses someone from the circle to be his “wife.” In the next verse that “wife” chooses a “child.” Continue through all verses until whoever is left is the “cheese,” standing alone.

    Field Trips

    Set aside all sense of "let's pretend" by exposing your youngster to life on a working farm. Many farms allow visitors to tour their grounds, while some also offer samples of their produce to visitors. Contact a local agricultural organization to find out which farms near you accept visitors. You can also expose your preschooler or toddler to a blast from the past by visiting a historic working farm such as the Claude Moore Colonial Farm near Washington, D.C., or Quiet Valley Living Historical Farm in Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania. Check with your community's historical society or a local history museum for information about a historical farm near you.

    About the Author

    For more than 15 years, Martha Mendenhall has been an educator both in and out of the classroom. She taught high school, worked with children of all ages on the plays of Shakespeare and tutors students in grades one through 12. Maendenhall authored "The Shakespeare Guru's Guide to Getting Shakespeare Alive," a guide for teachers and homeschool educators.

    Photo Credits

    • Seiya Kawamoto/Lifesize/Getty Images