Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Homeschool preschool: fairy tale theme

In January, I started doing additional structured activities at home with Ellie. These follow my ideal way of learning for her: it's child-led, theme-based, and play-centered. See more about our first month here.

Each month, she chooses a theme. I find or create activities for her in that theme, around broad educational categories. Many of those overlap, but I try to identify a primary learning objective for each one and hit a number of categories each week. Each day we (usually) do one or two activities, depending on our schedule.


  • Write (brainstorm, write, revise) and illustrate our own fairy tale

  • Mixed up fairy tales: Ellie picked four fairy tales. For each one, we made a small card (2" x 2" or so) with the protagonist, antagonist, setting, conflict, and resolution. Then we turned each set face down and drew one card from each story element. She LOVED this. We revisited it multiple times throughout the month. She really began to understand how to describe story structure, and it helped in writing our own story as well. 
  • Perspective retelling: We used the Melissa and Doug Three Little Pigs set to retell the story. Then, we each picked a character and told it from his or her perspective (she chose pig 3, the girl, and told it as the big sister. HILARIOUS).

  • Write a letter to a Disney princess. Apparently, if you mail any Disney character a letter, they'll send back an autographed photo. We haven't gotten ours yet, but it's only been a couple weeks. Send them to: Walt Disney World Communications P.O. Box 10040 Lake Buena Vista, FL 32830-0040


  • Cinderella bar chart: Using our Cinderella stories from around the world (below), we graphed how many included common Cinderella elements Ellie brainstormed (stepsisters, glass slipper, a prince, a ball...).

  • Jack and the Beanstalk more or less game: We rolled two die, got two different colors of beans, added them together, and determined more and less. 
  • Word problems: I wrote a couple simple, single-digit addition word problems, then had her illustrate and solve (if the princess has three gowns and four necklaces, how many things does she have total?)
  • Making 10: I printed out a sheet with sets of 10 blank princesses. She picked how many she wanted to color blue, and I colored the rest red. Then we wrote our equations to equal 10.


  • Potion brewing: Ellie and Sam did this together for an hour. An hour, ya'll. I gave them about 10 bowls filled with random stuff I found in our pantry and fridge. I think I had baking soda, vinegar (dyed green), apple cider vinegar, lemon juice, milk (dyed red), cornstarch, flour, coconut flakes, sprinkles, salt. They each had three "potion jars" to work with, pipettes, and measuring spoons. This was a hit. Notice Ellie wearing her witch wig...

  • Free Anna: I froze Ellie's little Anna doll in a block of ice, then gave them salt, warm water, regular water, and spoons, and challenged them to free her. They worked together on this while I made dinner. I would have given them the sink if Sam could have reached it -- our floor was SOAKING wet when they were done (and I had two towels down!).

  • Building block castles
  • Three Pigs experiment: We built houses out of paper strips (straw), popsicle sticks (sticks) and blocks (bricks). We hid a pig inside and teamed up to be the Big Bad Wolf! I had her predict which one would last the longest, but it was a great challenge building things that could be considered a "house" with the first two materials.

Art: We did sparkly princess painting. I know, I know. I'm not into crafts though. And she picked "Artists" for the next months, so I knew we'd be doing tons of art...

Music: We listened to "Peter and the Wolf"

Sensory: Fairy foam during bath, with their fairy house and fairy toys

Fine motor: Lego challenge. Ryan and I made Belle's rose, Merida's arrow, and Rapunzel's tiara out of Legos, then gave her the same pieces to figure out how to build a match. She's big into Legos and we were confident she could find the pieces if they were all mixed together, but if you're just starting, I'd keep each set separate. She also had labels to assign to each piece when it was done.


  • Around the world with Cinderella: We read Cinderella stories from around the world. We used the books for a math activity too (see above). After reading about two dozen books, I landed on the following as ones that were age-appropriate for a four-year-old, represented a variety of cultures, and were recognizable fairly easily as a Cinderella story: Princess Furball, Adelita, Cendrillon, The Gift of the Crocodile, Jouanah, and The Golden Sandal.

History: This one annoyed me. I thought I would get out some biographies of historical princesses, but they were all either WAY too text-heavy for my active preschooler, or were so out of touch with the reality of the princess's life (I'm looking at you, Pocahontas) that I gave up. If anyone has read any good biographies for preschoolers, let me know.

Cooking/kitchen: I loved this one! We paired it with a geography and literary activity. We made three special meals, each representing the country where one of the three pillars of western fairy tale literature was from. As we ate, we listened to an audio story from Story Nory.

  1. Sauerbraten from Germany, for the Brothers Grimm (Rapunzel, Snow White, Hansel and Gretel, the Frog Prince, etc.).
  2. Smørrebrød, an open-faced sandwich from Denmark, for Hans Christian Anderson (The Little Mermaid, The Snow Queen, The Princess and the Pea, The Little Match Girl, The Emperor's New Clothes, The Ugly Duckling, etc.)
  3. Cassoulet (holy smokes, this is rich and delicious) from France, for Charles Perrault (Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Beauty and the Beast)

She asks for this sandwich about once a week now. I did NOT predict that.

What's great is that Ellie has started inventing her own activities for themes. She came up with a game that involved vague rules about matching princess letters and names. She made an Olaf out of sticks "for fairy tale theme," and made up a way to make a dragon with an old egg carton, then had Daddy make one too :-)

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