Aaron's Preschool: Snowmen at Work

Feb 12, 2013

The first time I heard Snowmen at Work, I knew it would be the perfect lead-in to a preschool lesson all about various occupations and careers. So even though it is not a Five in a Row book (which is the curriculum we're using for Aaron's little preschool), when it was my turn to teach last week, I pulled together a group of activities that went together with this fun and educational book.

The book features a vast array of occupations, all demonstrated by snowmen: snow removal crews, dentist, mechanic, grocer, pet store owner, baker, teacher, magician, firefighter, librarian, pizza delivery guy, factory worker, big rig driver, and president of the United States.You can tell this list runs the gamut of possibilities. I chose to focus on five: artist, pet store owner (and veterinarian), baker, grocer, and teacher.

After saying the pledge of allegiance, singing a song about the days of the week, and reading the story, we talked about being an artist. Although artist is not specifically mentioned in the book, it seemed like a fairly natural occupation to talk about since the illustrations in this book are amazing, the result of the artist's talent and hard work.

So to learn more about artists, we all became artists.  A couple months ago, I saw this darling snowman art project, and ever since, I have been wanting to do it with my kids. This was the perfect time.

Ahead of time, I lightly outlined snowmen on blue circles of paper. The idea was that the kids would fill in the outline with little painted dots using a Q-tip as a paint brush.

Of course several of them didn't do that. Creative expression, right? Aaron didn't like the dots, so he used the Q-tip as an actual brush to fill in everything. Another little boy chose to focus on one small area in the middle of the snowman and mix all the colors together. Some of them did try the dot method, but in the end, I was surprised by how different each one turned out.

Next came the career of pet store owner.

I love it when imaginative play can intersect with learning, so I decided to set up a pretend pet store. I can't even tell you how fun this was to put together. I felt like I was seven again.

I made a sign to go on the door. The "closed" part could flip around to say "open," and you'd be surprised with how much the kids loved closing up shop for the day and then reopening it.

I had various animals in cages waiting to be "purchased": puppy, frog, fish, parrot, and a gigantic duck. (Missy, if you are reading this, I hope you appreciate Mr. Duck's preschool debut!)

Before I took them downstairs to the pet store, we had a little lesson about money. We learned what pennies, nickels, dimes, and quarters look like and how much each one is worth. Then I gave each of them a few of each coin so they could "buy" themselves a pet.

We talked about what responsibilities a pet store owner might have (cleaning the animals, feeding them, running the cash register--we obviously didn't dive into the business aspect of owning a store). We also talked about why a veterinarian is important and what his/her responsibilities might be. Then the children decided who wanted to be the pet store owner and who wanted to be the veterinarian and who were going to be the customers.

At first, I guided their play just a little bit, but after most of them had had a turn purchasing something, I went upstairs to set out the snack while they continued to trade roles and play. This was probably the highlight of the morning. When Aaron was going to bed that night, he asked me not to take down the pet store. And I said, "Don't worry. I'll keep it up until you get tired of it" to which he responded, "I don't think that will ever happen."

Then I called them up for a snack where we learned about being a baker.

We didn't actually bake anything, but I had them assemble these snowmen from bread, cheese, pretzels, raisins, carrots, strips of lunch meat, and cottage cheese. I found the idea for this at Kitchen Fun With My Three Sons.

We talked about how part of being a baker (or cook) (or chef) is doing fun and imaginative things with food.

Again, I was delighted (and amused) to see the kids' personalities come through. This one was done by one of the little girls, and it matched the original pretty closely:

And this one was done by a little boy:

I'm pretty sure he was not trying to create a snowman. Maybe a fortress with guns?

At any rate, after their creations were made, they loved devouring them.

Next, we talked about the occupation of grocer.

I wanted to teach the kids a little bit about heavy and light objects. A grocery store is full of all different kinds of food, each with its own weight. Sometimes customers will weigh their produce; any packaged items are labeled with their weight; and when you check out, the cashier weighs the fruits and vegetables. So see? A lot of weighing goes on in the grocery store.

I had Mike construct a little scale for me out of a couple of dowels, string and plastic cups. 

The idea was that you'd put the object that needed weighing in one of the cups and then fill up the other side with pony beads until the two cups were once again even. The beads were our unit of measure, so the pink fish pictured above weighed 8 beads.

I chose six small items to be weighed: a foam fish, a penny, a marble, a monster, a bouncy ball, and a train. Mike used his artistic talent and drew up a chart which I then made copies of. (If you can't already tell, Mike is a good one to have around. He gets roped into many of my planning sessions.)

I handed out a chart to each child, and we looked at the first item. The kids all made a guess as to how much that item weighed. Then we started dropping in the pony beads and counting. 

Then they wrote in the actual number and compared their guess with the correct answer.

This was a fun activity, but if I did it again, I'd probably do it differently. First of all, I didn't realize it at the time, but it was kind of an advanced concept, especially for the children in the group who haven't turned four. So I would have given them fewer items to weigh, and I also would have made sure that whatever I used to balance the item didn't exceed twenty. For example, you can see that the bouncy ball actually weighed 72 pony beads. That was just too high of a number for the kids to really think of by themselves. When we got up to weighing the train, I did switch over to using pennies, but I think I should have done that sooner.

The last occupation we focused on was that of a teacher. We talked about how when you're in school, you get to learn,among other things, how to read and write. 

At the beginning of the morning when I was reading the story to the children, one of the girls noticed that the text in the story rhymed. So before I introduced this activity, I reminded them about the rhyming words they heard in the story and told them that knowing how to rhyme helps us learn how to read.

Before getting into the game, I went around the room and said, "Who's name rhymes with Lemmy?" And the kids shouted, "Emmy!" I did this with each child, most of the time using completely made up words to rhyme with their names, and I think it really helped them hear what it sounds like when a word rhymes.

For the game, I laminated simple words: hat, mat, cat, etc. (I was more than a little excited to use my brand new laminator that I got for Christmas. It was so awesome to be able to do this at 10:00 at night and not have to make a special trip to the copy shop).

Anyway, since most of the children can't read, I also laminated a corresponding picture to go with each word. Then I (I mean, Mike, who was helping me) glued both the word and the picture to a craft stick.

I took four jars and attached one of the words from each word family to the front of each jar.

To play, I handed each child one stick. Then they came up one at the time, and I would say something like, "Your word is 'ran.'" Some of them would know right away where their word went. Others needed a little clue, so I would say, "Do you think 'ran' sounds more like 'tan'  or 'took'?" After they'd all had a chance to place their sticks, I passed out a new one to each person and we played again. I got the idea for this game at No Time For Flashcards (one of my very favorite preschool websites).

This was such a fun lesson to put together. I love finding and thinking of ways to make learning fun.

P.S. And a special shout-out to my sister-in-law, Kirsten, who came to my house for the morning and helped with crowd control and also watched Bradley.

I shared this post at The Children's Bookshelf, the Kid Lit Blog Hop, and the Kid's Co-op. 


  1. OMG what fun! I love the pet shop idea.

  2. I'm salivating over your laminator! lol You are such a fount of creativity - oh how fun - ALL of the activities!! Ok, so the book looks really great and I like how it includes such a diversity of occupations. The illustrations are so adorable. I liked the "fortress with guns"! lol I guess he was thinking outside the box?!

    Thanks for linking into the Kid Lit Blog Hop. This was such a fun post to read Amy! Can't wait to share it! :D

  3. Wow! That pet shop is outstanding... if I set something like that up I think my kids would flip out! What fun! well done... and how long is your preschool? You guys got so much done in one morning! Impressive.

  4. Those snowmen are so cute. I love the way you used the book as an inspiration for so many other activities. Thanks for sharing at The Children's Bookshelf.


Proudly designed by Mlekoshi playground