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An Old Favorite: Mary Had a Little Lamb Preschool Theme

written by: Jodi Sherman • edited by: Wendy Finn • updated: 8/2/2012

See this oldie but goodie nursery rhyme in a new way! This preschool Mary Had a Little Lamb theme will grab any child's attention with its curriculum rich activities. Various learning styles are reached and little lambs will be prancing with excitement during this theme.

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    Start With the Story

    Mary had a little lamb it's fleece was white as snow;embroidery-patterns-freetouse-50396-l 

    And everywhere that Mary went, the lamb was sure to go.

    It followed her to school one day, which was against the rule;

    It made the children laugh and play, to see a lamb at school.

    And so the teacher turned it out, but still it lingered near,

    And waited patiently about till Mary did appear.

    "Why does the lamb love Mary so?" the eager children cry;

    "Why, Mary loves the lamb, you know" the teacher did reply.

    Having an understanding of the words in Mary Had a Little Lamb will help preschoolers connect with the activities.

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    Get To Know Mary!

    Introduction with Language and Character Education

    To begin, write the words to Mary Had a Little Lamb on a large piece of chart paper, and display on an easel for all children to view at circle time. If desired, a rebus form may also be created by replacing specific words in the nursery rhyme with pictures. When the children have joined in circle, ask how many are familiar with the tune and begin to sing together for an opening activity.

    Next, proceed to discuss line by line what the words mean; be sure to record answers on another sheet of chart paper. This is a great opportunity to begin a character education lesson showing the friendship and trust between Mary and her lamb.

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    Language and Literacy

    Interactive Chart

    This activity will help a preschooler recognize and identify rhyming words. It can be set up for circle as a teacher directed activity or as a child directed activity center.

    First, write the nursery rhyme on strong paper such as oaktag or poster board, leaving about an inch between lines. Next, laminate the rhyme or cover it with clear contact paper; when finished, add a piece of hook and loop velcro above each rhyming word. After, write only the rhyming words separately on colored index cards, being sure that each set of words that rhymes is the same color; then, affix a piece of hook and loop velcro to the back. Using the cards, children will identify the matching words on the chart and attach the card to the chart. When complete, the children will recognize the matching colored cards are rhyming words.


    Preschoolers will have fun sequencing events when re-telling Mary Had a Little Lamb with felt pieces. Again, this can be done in small and large group, or can be a child directed center choice. Obtain several felt squares in various colors and proceed to cut out shapes such as a girl, a lamb, a school house, children, and a teacher. A teacher or child can recite the nursery rhyme while another preschool child or children place the felt pieces in order on the flannel board.

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    Social Studies

    Field Trip children-writing-school-2965048-m 

    Taking a field trip to a farm is a terrific way to explore the life of a farmer who may care for a flock of lamb. Before the trip, talk about how living on a farm may be different from how we live; write the children's ideas down. After the trip be sure to compare and contrast the differences seen on the farm. Each child may create a picture with colored pencils, crayons, oil pastels or markers. While they are creating, make rounds to visit each child and take dictation to describe each child's picture. Finally, these pictures can be put together as a book and added to the library center in the classroom to recall the trip.

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    Science and Math

    The Life of a Lamb

    Although Mary had a little lamb as a pet, a lamb is a great resource to people. As a lamb grows into a sheep, it may be used for wool, milk and to graze unwanted vegetation.

    For this activity, hang pictures of wool, plants and flowers, and milk and cheese, in different places around the room. Have a basket in the center for the preschool children, filled with many of the same types of pictures that are hanging around the room, but in the shape of sheep. Have the children pretend they are Mary, and pick a sheep out of the basket to see where in the room they shall go. Will their sheep be sheared for wool, feast on plants or have their milk made into gourmet cheese? The children will enjoy acting out their sheep's important job!

    It Followed Her To School

    Cut out several colored construction paper school houses with matching colored construction paper girls and lambs. Have the appropriate color written on each school house, girl and lamb for literacy exposure. Have preschool children group matching colored pieces to complete the center activity.

    This activity is a file folder game, and uses school houses with numerals on the top and enough dots to represent the numeral if a child is not able to identify the numeral. One may wish to only create five houses, or perhaps ten, depending on the level of preschool children in the classroom. The school houses will have the corresponding amount velcro tabs to the numeral at the top. Create enough velcro backed lamb shapes for the child to affix to each school house. This activity will aid in numeral recognition, counting and one to one correspondence.

    Difference Between Lamb and Sheepbolam-lake-swan-1766148-m 

    This is a concept the children will gain quickly. While singing or reading Mary Had a Little Lamb, explain that Mary's lamb was little because it was a baby sheep. As the baby lamb grows, it is called a sheep. If visiting a farm, be sure to ask if a sheep and its baby lamb are available to observe for your preschool Mary Had a Little Lamb theme.

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    Mary and Lamb Relay

    In a room with a lot of space, or outdoors, divide children in two even lines; a line of lambs and a line of Marys. At the opposite end of each line, place a cone with a picture of a school house. When the teacher says go, one child at a time from each line will run to the school house, run around it and run back to the front of their original line to tag the next child, who will then repeat the sequence. When all players have raced once, see which team finished first!

    For a less competitive version, create one line where children are lined up and named Mary and Lamb alternately. The preschool children will follow the same sequence as above, but work together to race against the clock. See how fast they can go with teamwork!

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    Singing in Pattern

    This activity is best performed when the children can sing Mary Had a Little Lamb fluently. Split the preschool children into two groups. Have one group called A and one group called B. Have group A start singing the first verse, and have group B follow with the second verse. Continue alternating verses until the song is complete. Help the children discover by switching verses, they have created an ABAB pattern; this may be shown using concrete materials such as pattern blocks, colored paper or another material. Experiment with other singing patterns in large or small groups. Instruments can be added for more musical challenge and enjoyment.

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    Open Ended Art

    Sensory Experience

    Purchase some lambswool from a dance school or store for dancers. Have the children touch, feel and describe the lambswool. Tape a ball of lambswool to small dowels to be used at the easel in place of paintbrushes.

    Fleece As White As Snow

    Using tag board, place cut out lamb shapes in the art area. Next to these shapes, place a divider box filled with different white art medium, such as cotton, some lambs wool, feathers, glitter, paper, felt and any other white materials. With this preschool sheep craft, children may choose to create a lamb or a completely different piece of art with the available materials.

    A Work of Artchildren-school-classroom-2965049-m 

    While reciting different versions of Mary Had a Little Lamb to preschool children, give each child a ball of white clay to manipulate while listening to the nursery rhymes. This activity will let children freely express themselves, help them focus and create a calm environment.

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    Let's Have a Snack

    Gather preschool children around the table after everyone has washed hands. Next, discuss what happens if we have to wait a long time before we eat; we get hungry. That is probably what happened to Mary's lamb while it was waiting for her outside of the school house.What do lambs eat? They love to graze on grass, clover and a flowering plant named forbs.

    We eat leafy greens too, but mostly in salads and on sandwiches; preschoolers will make a salad or perhaps build a veggie sandwich. Begin with large chart paper and create a recipe chart with steps and pictures. Give the title Make A Salad in one solid color. Make sure all numerals for the steps are in another matching color and steps written out are all in another matching color. This helps the children break up and understand the parts of a chart, follow with ease and result in success.

    Make A Salad

    1. Wash lettuce (have a picture next to each step)
    2. Tear lettuce into bowl (picture)
    3. Add small carrots (picture)
    4. Add small tomatoes (picture)
    5. Mix salad (picture)
    6. Share with friends (picture)

    Be sure to offer bread if children would like to make a veggie sandwich.

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    Shearing Sheep sheep-shearing-2689748-m 

    Ask the children how many of them have ever had their hair cut. When they raise their hands, ask the children what tools were used. Seek answers such as scissors, razors or buzzers. Have these tools available for supervised observation. When all children have had time to look at and discuss tools, ask preschoolers what is different about the tools and what is alike; make a chart, and be sure to prompt one is powered by hand and the other by electricity. Which one would be easier to use and why?

    Next, begin to discuss that as Mary's lamb grows into a sheep, just as we grow from babies into children, the sheep will need to be sheared; in other words, get a hair cut. When sheep get shorn, it can happen with scissors and hand blades or electric shears and shearing machines. Ask the children which they think will be easier and happen more quickly.

    After, if a manual pencil sharpener and electric pencil sharpener are available, perform an experiment sharpening pencils with each to see the outcome. Record educated guesses before beginning, and outcomes after the children have tried both. They may wish to create an observation journal to record their work with pictures and dictation.

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    Room Changes and Interest Areas


    Class created book from field trip

    The Little Lamb by Judy Dunn

    Time For Bed by Mem Fox

    Lamb: See How They Grow by DK Publishing

    Farmer Brown Shears His Sheep: A Yarn About Wool by Teri Sloat

    Also, add different version books of the nursery rhyme Mary Had a Little Lamb

    Dramatic Play

    Children will be over flowing with excitement to reenact and interpret Mary Had a Little Lamb in the Dramatic Play center. Hang up the nursery rhyme on the wall in the dramatic play area. Add dress up clothes for the roles of Mary and the teacher, and add a white blanket or large cut of white, soft material for the lamb. Encourage a child to be the narrator, some children to be the actors, and others to be the audience. Let the children take the lead as to how far they want to extend play. Preschoolers may come up with ideas like creating background scenes, handing out tickets and making a concession stand. Don't hesitate to bring props outdoors in appropriate weather too!


    Set up farm, animal and people props in the block area, and let children use their imagination for creative play.

    Sensory Table

    Hang a picture of a lamb feeding on grain, and fill the sensory table with grain. Add scoops, measuring cups and plastic sheep for a full sensory experience.