"The Princess and the Pea" is a fairy tale about a princess who shows up at a castle asking for shelter from the rain. To test her identity, the prince and his mother place a pea under a huge pile of mattresses and feather beds. They think that if she is truly a princess, she will feel the pea. The princess wakes up with bruising from the pea, and her identity is confirmed. Though this is a simple story, it offers up many teaching opportunities for preschoolers.
The lasting image from illustrated versions of "The Princess and the Pea" is that of the princess sitting atop her mountain of mattresses. Preschoolers can re-create this image with their own art. They can cut strips of construction paper or fabric and glue them to a piece of paper, one on top of the other. They can then draw a small pea at the bottom or glue an actual dried pea to the bottom. When the pictures are displayed, talk through concepts like the colors used in the pictures, any shapes that are present in the fabric patterns, or even how tall the bed they created likely is.
Whether you are reading an illustrated version of the story as a class or looking at the art your preschoolers have created, you can count the mattresses together to reinforce numbers. Count how many mattresses are in the picture. Then try to make it a little more challenging. Start from the middle of the pile and ask preschoolers to count from there. Or ask them about what number comes before or after 10, or another number you choose. These questions will test children's understanding of numbers beyond linear counting.
Many preschoolers will likely have eaten peas before, and they may be curious as to how such a soft and squishy thing could cause a princess so much trouble. They may be surprised to learn that peas are hard and dry when you buy them. Place a dry pea under a small, flat cushion and ask children if they can feel it. Explore other textures by placing other items under the cushion, such as rocks, pebbles, marbles, jacks, rubber balls and erasers. Talk together about how to describe these items, using words like smooth, flat, round, pointy, rough and hard.
Many children identify princes or princesses by the crowns they wear. Make your own princess or prince crowns with construction paper, glue, markers and glitter. These can be simple bands, or they can include more ornate designs. When children are finished creating them, talk about the shapes and colors used in the crowns. For example, a circle and several triangles might be used to create the shape of the crown. Point out the colors used and any textures from glue, stickers or other embellishments.
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