Although social studies sounds like a subject you would expect much older children to be studying, toddlers and preschoolers learn about many of the essential social studies concepts as well. To your little one, social studies is taught as he explores his community and his place in it. A farm theme can be a great way for him to examine the world around him -- and you can even make it fun.
Arts and Crafts
As you begin your exploration of the farm, encourage your tot to make some artistic representations of the animals you could find there. To make a wooly sheep, trace her hand onto a piece of white paper and cut it out for her. Have her cover the palm part of the handprint with glue and place cotton balls onto it. The four fingers of the handprint will become the sheep's legs, and then draw a face onto the thumb. Make a pig by cutting out the shape of a pig for your child and then invite her to cover it in glue. Ask her to tear pieces of pink tissue paper and place them on the pig. Make a horse by cutting out the shape of a horse without legs. Have your little one clip four clothespins onto the bottom of the cutout for legs, and you will have a horse that can stand up on its own.
Many children probably just take it for granted that a snack will be there when they ask for it, but they may not understand where their food comes from. Use your study of the farm as a way to teach your child about how different foods are grown or made. For example, show him how to make butter by putting whipping cream in a jar and shaking it vigorously until it begins to form butter. A marble in the jar can help speed up the process. When it is done, spread some on a piece of bread for a treat. Discuss how fruits and vegetables are grown on farms and have your tot help you as you wash or peel some and then enjoy a healthful snack together.
What little one doesn't love pretending and role-playing? Move your furniture around to create a "barnyard" in your living room and create several "pens" using couch cushions or empty boxes. Your child can draw animals to place in the pretend farm, or gather stuffed animals you have around your house. Model how to be the "farmer" and feed the animals. Discuss what the animals eat or jobs that the farmer does by saying things like, "Oh look, these chickens are really hungry for their corn" or "I need to milk these cows." Then let your little one have a turn being the farmer and taking care of the animals.
While making crafts and talking about the farm can be a lot of fun, the best way for a young child to connect what she is learning is by seeing and experiencing it for herself. If possible, find a farm in your area that will allow you to visit. A dairy farm can be a great way for your child to see how her milk comes from the cows on the farm and how it gets to the grocery store. Other farms can offer her an opportunity to see fruits and vegetables growing right in the field instead of in the produce section of the grocery store, and she can compare the differences. Even the machinery used on a farm can be a new experience for your little one, so encourage her to ask about what it is and how it is used.