Growing up, I remember seeing lots of cartoons with people counting sheep as they dreamed, and I vaguely remember trying this myself as a means to fall asleep. Did it work? I can't recall. But I do think that sheep hopping over a fence is awfully cute.
This simple activity is designed to do several things, all while looking like those sweet sheep. It's good for teaching fine motor skills, pre-reading, and basic math, and with a bit of guidance from you, your child will soon find lots of ways to play as they learn!
You will need:
White pompoms or cotton balls
Step 1: Prepare the field for the sheep, by laying out a piece of green felt. Mine is set up in a wooden tray to define the space and make it portable. Print the fence onto paper or card stock, cut on the brown outlines and fold on the gray lines, then tape the overlapping bottom sections.
Step 2: Place all of the pompoms (I used two different sizes) on the left side of the fence.
Step 3: Show your child how to move the "sheep" from the left side to the right side. By working from left to right, it's layering in the direction that we follow when reading, something that Montesorri classrooms teach in all of their work. By the way, if your language reads from right to left, flip these instructions!
Encourage counting as the sheep hop over the fence!
Step 4: After your child has used their fingers for moving sheep, have them try using a clothespin. It's great for squeezy strength-building!
Step 5: Finally, for a bigger challenge, give your child a spoon to scoop the sheep and move them over to the other side of the fence. This can take some practice, and sometimes the sheep try to scoot away, but learning to maneuver a spoon is so important!
All of these versions of moving and counting sheep can happen on different days as ways to get your child interested again. As they become more comfortable with counting, you can use the felt mat and fence for basic addition and subtraction.
I love when cuddly sheep help teach little ones!