Carpet Squares: Not Just for Sitting on Anymore

Those good old standbys, carpet squares, can be so much more than just a seat!  Check out these cool new ideas for using carpet squares in your programs.

1) Surfboards: Spice up a summertime or ocean-themed program by inviting the kids to climb aboard their carpet squares and surf along with your favorite Beach Boys tune!

2) Color Action Game: If you have carpet squares of different colors, use them to play a color recognition action game.  (If all your carpet squares are the same color, put processing dots of different colors in the corners.)  Then sing the song below and invite the kids to perform the actions (to the tune of “If You’re Happy and You Know It”):         

If your carpet square is red, pat your head.
If your carpet square is red, pat your head.
If your carper square is red, then go ahead and show it.
If your carpet square is red, pat your head.
Blue…touch your shoe…
Yellow…wave to a fellow…
Brown…jump up and down…
White…curl up tight…
Green…do a forward lean…
Black…scratch your friend’s back…
Grey…shout “hooray!”
Any color…give a holler!...

3) Play a life-sized board game: Set up a path of carpet squares around the room, randomly mixing up colors.  (Again, if your carpet squares are all one color, mark the corners with different colored processing dots.)  Designate a starting and ending square.  Create cards of each color by cutting up pieces of construction paper (or put dots on index cards if you are using the dot method.  If desired, mark some squares with pictures relating to your theme and make cards to match.  (For example, a Fall storytime might include a pumpkin, apple, leaf, and tree.)  Have the children line up at the starting square and then take turns drawing a card from the pile.  If a child draws a red card, he or she goes to the first red square.  If a child draws a picture card, he or she must go to that square, even if that means going backwards.  Keep playing (reshuffling cards as needed) until everyone gets to the end.

Literacy variations:

Alphabet matching: Mark the squares with letters of the alphabet and make cards to match.  (Or use a set of magnetic alphabet letters and have each child draw one out of a bag on his or her turn.)  Be sure to ask the child to identify the letter and match it to the correct square.

What’s that sound?: Mark the squares with letters of the alphabet as above, but make cards with simple words that begin with different letters of the alphabet.  On each child’s turn, read a word aloud without showing it to the child, and see if the children can guess the first letter by sound.  If they have trouble, show them the card and help them identify the first letter and its sound before moving to the correct square.  (Make sure that the letters on your cards and squares are consistently uppercase or consistently lowercase to avoid confusion.)  

Big and Little Matching: Mark the squares with uppercase letters of the alphabet, and make cards showing the lowercase letters.  The children must match the letters to find the correct square.

4) Make Your Own Flannelboard: Give each child a carpet square and a set of simple felt shapes, and invite them to tell the story along with you as you use the large flannelboard.  This is a great activity for baby storytimes, as it encourages one-on-one interaction between parent and child, and gives parents a useful model for storytelling with their little ones at home.  A simple flannelboard story such “Dog’s Colorful Day”, based on the book by Emma Dodd, is ideal for this activity. (Download a free flannelboard pattern by artist Melanie Fitz here.)

For older children, consider using this activity with a tangram story.  Tangrams, a traditional Chinese puzzle and storytelling form, are easy to make and can yield thousands of different shapes.  Check out one of the books below for stories and instructions on how to make a tangram set:

Grandfather Tang’s Story: A Tale Told With Tangrams by Ann Tompert.  New York: Crown, 1990.
Grandfather’s Shape Story by Brian Sargent.  New York: Scholastic, 2007.

5) Lilypads: Liven up a froggy storytime with this rhyme, performed on carpet square lilypads.

“Lilypad Rhyme”      
I am a frog, lovely and green
I sit on my lilypad, calm and serene
Until a fly comes whizzing by
Then I LEAP in the air so high!
I stick out my tongue and SLURP.
Down goes the fly and out comes a burp.
I like being a frog, so I don’t think I’ll stop
Because it’s so much fun to hop!
There goes another fly, I really must dash.
I hop into the water with a great big SPLASH!

Follow up by inviting the kids to hop from lilypad to lilypad around the room while you play a frog song such as “Jumping Frog” from Pretend by Hap Palmer (Freeport, NY: Educational Activities, Inc., 1998).

6) Tuffets: Invite the kids to imagine that they are Miss Muffet sitting on her tuffet and act out the silly rhyme below.

“Miss Muffet’s Tuffet”.  
Little Miss Muffet sat on her tuffet
Eating her curds and whey
Along came a spider and sat down beside her
And frightened Miss Muffet away.
But she came back around and sat back down
And continued then to eat.
Her toes got cold, so she was told
To put the tuffet on her feet!
Miss Muffet was done, she’d eaten a ton
But she didn’t care.
The spider came back and jumped on her back
So she waved her tuffet in the air!
It started to rain, she said, “What a pain!
I don’t want my hair to get wet!”
So she lifted her hands like that, and made up a hat
She put the tuffet on her head!
The rain started to slow, and the spider had to go
So she said, “I’ll see you around!”
She put the tuffet on the floor, and then once more
She sat herself back down!

Kathy MacMillan and Christine Kirker are the authors of Storytime Magic: 400 Fingerplays, Flannelboards, and Other Activities
and Kindergarten Magic: Theme-Based Lessons for Building Literacy and Library Skills (forthcoming).  Find more great storytime suggestions from Kathy and Christine Kirker at www.storytimestuff.net.