I don't love planning my daughter's homeschool kindergarten, but I love sitting and reading aloud with my kids. The first thing we do after we finish our breakfast is we sit down to read. I love planning curriculum activities around picture books. Great children's books help make teaching homeschool science easy. Here are some of the great kidlit-inspired science and math activities from our recent reading times.
Note: I received complimentary copies of some of the books mentioned in this post and was compensated for my time writing it. Included are my honest opinions. Amazon affiliate links are also included.
Great Resources for Using Kidlit to Create Custom Homeschool Lessons
The first part of creating science or math activities from books is to choose amazing children's books in the first place. One of the great things about Candlewick picture books is that they are delightful read-alouds and they frequently include additional information and guides to help the reader. And although some picture books are fictional stories, they also are packed full of educational facts that children unwittingly pick up.
A delightful read-aloud is one in which the parent or teacher enjoys reading a story. There may be a central character to keep attention, or simply a familiar narrator that resonates with the readers. Rhythm and rhyme engage the one reading aloud, and detailed illustrations allow children and adults alike to linger over the pages.
Use Children's Books for Kindergarten Math Learning
High quality picture books help make teaching easy. First off, math for kindergarten is pretty simple in the first place. but reading a picture book along with the basic match makes it even better.
My daughter simply loves that she can read most of Crash! Boom! herself. It is subtitled "A Math Tale" and not only does the child-like elephant count the blocks as he counts, he also uses them as non-standard measures to build a tower as tall as himself.
Crash! Boom! by Robie Harris is told from the perspective of a young one building a tower, and the crayon-illustrated elephant mixed with the photographed blocks creates a story most young children will simply delight in. Of course, they will want to keep reading!
Since this is my daughter's favorite book, we made a video showing a little bit how she has learned from this book. I also share a few details about teaching from the other books. We only have smaller blocks, so we struggled to measure how tall we were with blocks. They kept Crash! Boom!-ing! Strawberry and I did measure the step stool and various other items around using the blocks. (We'll work on the concept of the blocks needing to actually be the same sizes in order to be a true measurement!)
On the Launch Pad
In On the Launch Pad: A Counting Book About Rockets by Michael Dahl, and illustrated by Derrick Alderman and Denise Shea, we count down to the rocket's blast off, but we also learn bits about what it takes to set off a rocket. We use this an excuse to zoom over make our own mini-rockets with straws and a piece of paper.
A great part of this book is the "secret" numbers hiding on each page. Not only are we practicing counting down and having fun with rockets, but we are also practicing number recognition.
Ten Monkey Jamboree
Ten Monkey Jamboree by Diane Ochiltree, illustrated by Anne-Sophie Lanquentin, is a rhyming tale with monkeys jumping from one activity to the next. Each two-page spread provides the requisite ten monkeys, so if careful readers pay attention, they will notice that 1+9 equals the ten monkeys, just as 3 dancing monkeys, 2 berry-eating monkeys, and 5 leaf-eating monkeys all add up to 10 as well!
Ten Terrible Dinosaurs
Ten Terrible Dinosaurs by Paul Stickland is a great book for kids ready to be rowdy. In this book, ten dinosaurs are having their own party when they are called away one by one, leaving, of course, just one dinosaur remaining. If your kids love to "ROAR" then enjoy playing along with this book. If you are a small group, let ten "model dinosaurs" do the party-ing, but if you are a larger group, start with ten kids and count down. This gives nice "subtraction" practice along with the rowdiness.
Use Children's Books for Kindergarten Learning Science
For nonfiction science learning, I love picture books that have a larger text showing a child, as well as a smaller subtext that provides facts. This lets the book become one that provides shorter story time for a younger child or a more fact-based learning time for older children. A book with multiple reading levels is simply perfect for rereading. Kindergarten is the perfect age for rereading.
The Things That I LOVE about Trees
The Things I Love about Trees by Chris Butterworth, and illustrated by Charolotte Voske, also includes tips of what one can do outside to enjoy trees, as well as an index of the main tree topics addressed in both types of text.
This has become one of my personal favorite books, maybe because we are still hoping spring will someday again come to our edge of the woods and this book reminds me of springtime! That said, since this book focuses on trees throughout all the seasons, it is also destined to be a year-round favorite.
It includes some of these details to explore.
- Trees and other plants put out leaves in spring.
- Bees pollinate blossoms to create fruit. Fruits (such as plums) come from the blossoms. Pollen is necessary for a flower to become a fruit.
- Birds and squirrels live in trees and branches.
- Trees grow in spring and summer, with roots sucking up water from under the earth.
- Leaves use sunshine to make food for the plants.
- Leaves change color and die because the days are shorter and cooler.
- Fruits often have seeds in the middle that can grow into a new plant.
- Deciduous trees are those that lose their leaves; evergreens do not.
- Bark protects trees from insects and animals.
We've decided on lots of activities that we will do with our trees this year. The book has a full page with ideas for playing with trees and my daughter loved the ideas! This list includes some of those as well as ideas we've thought of as we've read the book.
- Make a "hideout" from sticks and branches.
- Find blossoms, fruits, nuts, and seeds.
- Notice which trees are deciduous versus evergreen.
- Match leaves we find with the named leaves on the frontispiece of the book.
- Compare how leaves feel in spring, summer, and fall.
- Watch bees pollinate blossoms.
- Touch the bark of trees to see how hard it is.
- Swing from a tree swing.
- Find a bird's nest in a tree.
- Watch the squirrels in our backyard trees. (Their names are Jack and Jane Fluffy Tail.)
Prickly Hedgehogs by Jane McGuinness tells the story of one particular hedgehog and her babies, who grow up and then hibernate during a subsequent winter. My daughter loves baby-anything, so she loved the small, pink babies with white soft fur. Just as with the previous book, this provides facts as well as the subtle storyline.
Prickly Hedgehogs provides an index with just enough entries to help parents find the pages about hibernation, for example, or the dangers facing hedgehogs. I always love a good index in a nonfiction book. Here are some facts and activities we've enjoyed from this book.
- Prickles are made of the same stuff as fingernails. Poke yourself with fingernails to see what it would feel like. Imagine 5,000 spines poking you!
- Curl up in a little ball like a hedgehog to protect yourself from predators.
- What is nocturnal? What other animals are nocturnal?
- Describe a hedgehog habitat. Would your neighborhood work? Try to find some of the bugs and worms outside that a hedgehog would find delicious. (Strawberry was so sad to learn from the book that there are no native wild hedgehogs in North America!)
- Follow the nocturnal route of the walking hedgehog in the book. Can you walk a mile like the hedgehog does? (It doesn't have to be at night, since you are not nocturnal!)
- In the fall, collect dry leaves, twigs, and moss to make a hedgehog nest. Pretend to hibernate! (If it's not fall or the weather is inclement, make a blanket hibernation nest inside!)
Fabulous Frogs by Martin Jenkins includes two levels of reading: one bouncy text for the youngest readers and another gloss describing the creatures in further detail. Both can also be read at the same time to a delightful effect. Fabulous Frogs shares fact about the frogs shown on each page.
At first glance, Fabulous Frogs contains mostly facts and little story. However, the friendly narrator shares details about his or her favorite frogs, so it still provides a readable format. To my little reader, it sitll felt like reading a story. The contrasting text sizes and the visually hopping text format likewise contribute to making the facts easy-to-approach.
My daughter was delighted to measure 16 feet with me. We needed to find the distance the Australian striped rocket frog can jump in one bound!
We had to measure our own jumps to see just how short we were of that amazing distance. (See another book-inspired idea for a frog jumping activity.)
We made frog noises as the book suggested.
We found the location of the frogs on a map, since they came from around the world.
Then we laughed at the ridiculous nose and parenting of the Darwin frog (he keeps his babies in his mouth for a while, and yet does not swallow them).
We also found the details in the beginning of the book perfect for recreating the frog life-cycle. (See how we recreated the butterfly life cycle for a brief insight into how I'm trying to make life cycles even more fun!)
Of course, we, like the narrator, had to find a frog in our local pond. As we hiked around the familiar pond, we remembered last spring, when my daughter and I found a frog but she refused to believe it was real. "No, it's a statue!" she insisted, since he did not move as we watched him. She has grown up in the past year.
Now that she is kindergarten, she was ready for these further activities. There is something delightful to me, as homeschool mom, about using a creative children's book for reading time as well as for a foundation for our homeschool science curriculum.
In the Past
In the Past by David Elliott, illustrated by Matthew Trueman, tells the histories of various pre-historic creatures in simple poems that beg to re-read and understood, along with gorgeously detailed artwork.
While In the Past does not feature an index for the poems, the extensive descriptions of the animals at the end of the book helps the reader understand the nuances of the poems. Each page also features a square label on a pre-historical timeline.
Finally, I loved the rich watercolor and other mixed media illustrations within In the Past. They are perfect for the dinosaur-loving kid, especially for those who love the wacky or gory side of dinosaurs! Strawberry told me she was "scared" of the dinosaur faces, so she did not warm to this as much as I did. Nevertheless, the pre-historical timeline well illustrates the variety of creatures that preceded us on earth.
The poems are simple and short, although admittedly a little bit above kindergarten level. (If you know anything about me, though, you'll know I love reading quality poetry with my kids no matter the age). My fifth grader loved reading the facts at the end of the book with me to help us all understand the poems about the creatures.
Learning about dinosaurs (or, in this case, prehistoric creatures) is always a nice excuse to bring out our fossil excavation bowl. My kindergartner loved making the connection that "silenced by rocks" meant the fossils were hidden under the ground. She also especially loved finding the one non-extinct creature hidden on one of the pages. (Hint: I show a picture of it in the video I share above!)
More Book-Based Kindergarten Science and Math Fun
I've written extensively in the past about how your little ones can learn from picture books. Here are some more great books to explore math and science by reading together.
More Math and Science Books for Kindergartners
- Goldilocks-inspired Math
- Picture Books Shapes Lessons
- Let's-Read-and-Find-out Science Books
- Women in STEM biographies (some of these may be at kindergarten level)