- Title: Mary Had a Little Lamb
- Author: Sarah Joseph Hale
- Illustrator: Bruce McMillian
- Ages: Toddler+
- Buy on Amazon
Do you have any childhood memories of the rhyme “Mary Had a Little Lamb”? Perhaps you remember a favorite nursery rhyme book or a parent sang you the song. Have you passed it on to the young children in your life?
Traditional songs and rhymes hold a special place in our lives. They bridge the gap between generations, provide family fun and develop literacy skills all at the same time!
When using traditional rhymes at my daycare, I try to find ways to build on them with games, activities, discussions… whatever comes to mind. Finding a good book based on a rhyme is always a bonus. In the case of Mary Had a Little Lamb, photo illustrated by Bruce McMillian, the book itself provides additional learning opportunities.
A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words
The main character, Mary, is played by a young African-American girl who interacts with a real lamb. My daycare kids were immediately drawn to the real life photos, asking questions like “Is that a real lamb?” Moments like those remind me of how often young children see cartoon characters rather than photographs.
Mary wears thick glasses, which is something I very rarely see in children’s books. In the Technical Data at the back of the book, the photographer states that usually glasses are removed to avoid glare. He felt it was important to show a child wearing glasses so he went the extra mile and used a special filter to avoid reflections. Thanks, Bruce!
It took a few readings before the kids mentioned that the girl was wearing glasses. I answered their questions regarding why she was wearing them. We have addressed the topic before since I wear glasses, but the kids couldn’t remember seeing a young child wearing them before.
The color of Mary’s skin also came up. Living in a community that is less diverse than I would like, I find it especially important to include books featuring many ethnicities in my curriculum.
Sometimes instead of reading the book, we sing the song as we look at the pictures. I love how the traditional song and the modern book complement each other and add to the children’s learning. You can hear a midi recording of the melody at Kiddles.com if you need a refresher.
While writing this post, I found Paul McCartney’s version of Mary Had a Little Lamb. I plan to play it for the kids in the near future. Perhaps we will discuss how the melody we have already learned and the Paul McCartney version of the song are similar and how they are different. What a fun discovery.
Learning about Lambs and Sheep
To engage the senses, I found a wool blanket for the kids to feel. We had a discussion about lambs and sheep. We talked about shearing sheep and how the blanket was made.
I realized we needed some more information about the process so I checked out Feeding the Sheep by Leda Schubert from the library. It showed the process of caring for sheep, shearing the sheep, preparing the wool, and making a cozy sweater for a little girl.
The Story Comes to Life
Mary Had a Little Lamb also made it’s way into dramatic play. The little lamb, Mary and the teacher were all popular characters to play. We have a white smock that worked well for a lamb costume. If you’re feeling crafty, here’s a fun idea for a more complex lamb costume using cotton balls and a hooded jacket.
Both of these books sparked some interest in farm animals in general. The plastic farm animals we have out in the yard got baths, feedings and trips to the vet.
Keeping it Interesting
Getting tired of Mary’s lamb? Try replacing “lamb” with another animal. Be creative and silly. My daycare kids love making up alternative versions of the songs we sing. Enjoy the giggles!