Young children learn the most through play-based learning. Thematic play provides children the chance to learn and explore a specific topic through toys and manipulatives. Through play, children learn to explore and interact with the world around them. I love using play-based learning in my preschool classroom and at home with my own children.
Last week in VPK (4-5 year old class), we studied farm animals. It’s a common preschool theme and there are so many ways to teach it. The best way to teach anything is through real-life experiences. That’s not always an option, especially right now when most schools aren’t doing field trips because of COVID-19. So, the next best thing is to create a play-based learning experience.
Here’s how I made a milking center for our play-based learning centers.
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- Large Heavy Duty Cardboard Box
- Packing Tape
- Cardboard Cutter or Razor Blade
- White Spray Paint
- Black Sharpie
- Acrylic Paint – White, Pink, Black
- Latex Glove
- Bucket or Pan
- Paint Brushes
- Hot Glue Gun
- Draw an arch opening with chalk or a marker
- Assemble box with packing tape, leaving one end open
- Use white spray paint or acrylic paint to cover the box
- Let the paint dry – head inside to work on the face
- Use the arch piece you cut out to create the cows head. Cut it out and paint the face before attaching it to the base. Trust me, it will be easier! Let it dry completely before step 6.
- Cut a slit in the box the same size as the neck and hot glue it in place.
- Cut a small circular hole in the top, middle of the box to attach the “udder”.
- Fill a latex glove with water and 1-2 drops of white paint – shake well to mix. Tie the glove and slide the knot through the hole. Tape well on top and underneath to secure the glove in place.
- Use a pushpin to poke a small hole in the middle finger of the glove. Put a small pan or bucket below the udder to catch the milk. A clear bucket is the best so the students can see the “milk”.
- Show the children how to gently pull/squeeze the finger to squirt the milk out.
Creating hands-on experiences is a great way to enhance learning for preschoolers. This cow milking center was a hit in our class! We used the milking cow during centers, as an independent center. The students were able to milk the cow and describe what it looked like as it came out. It is a great way to teach about farm animals, where our food comes from, or for pretend play – farmer/farm life. For more play-based learning activities, check out the TODDLERS & PRESCHOOL category on the blog.
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As a mother and preschool teacher, I am passionate about play-based learning and sharing ideas that can work in the classroom and at home. I’m also passionate about building a strong family unit, exploring with our children, and creating lasting memories. If you’re passionate about those things too, subscribe to our blog and follow us on social media!
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