Leaving aside the issue of the wolf as being the bad guy when it is natural for him to be the predator, I’m going to give you some ideas of how the story of the Three Little Pigs can be used as a teaching and learning tool for all kinds of kindergarten readiness skills.
In this story, sequence is very important. Once your child has heard the story a few times, s/he understands how the first house is only a little hard to blow down, the second one is harder and the third, hardest of all. Numbers are used for 1, 2, and 3, but this time the numbers refer to position rather than quantity.
Another lesson is patterning. Each time the wolf says the same thing. Each time the pig answers the same way. Kids can practice their predicting skills for what comes next. Later on, these kinds of patterns make learning to figure out the squiggles and strokes for reading much easier.
After reading, it’s fun to make houses using lego, wooden blocks, scrap lumber, twigs, cereal boxes, shoe boxes, popsicle sticks, styrofoam, etc. That has lots of planning, organizing and constructing skills. Pretend the story using kitchen chairs and blankets, too.
There is an underlying message about working smarter in this story. The pigs have to keep on working to finally outwit the wolf, the first couple of ideas do get better until there is a solution. Sometimes little kids–and big grownups- have to keep trying, just like the pigs. What other hidden lessons are there?
Yes, fairy tales are not politically correct. Yes, they reflect some old-fashioned values. Yes, there is an element of violence. YES, there is still a place for them when it comes to sharing these stories with kids.
In Hansel and Gretel, the mother is portrayed in a terrible light. Unfortunately, moms are often the ‘bad guys’ in a child’s world. After all, we make them eat their veggies, put them to bed when they want to stay up, refuse to let them eat cookies before supper, insist that toys get put away, say no in stores when they really, really, really want to have something, limit the bowls of ice cream and and sometimes banish then to their rooms for a time-out. How could we do these terrible things if we truly do love them? Kids reasoning and logic is pretty black and white and it’s not easy for kids to balance the wonderful and not so wonderful aspects of moms. Figuring this out takes time and experience and understanding on the part of adults. Sharing this story with kids helps them juggle these ideas as they think about them. We can certainly acknowledge that sometimes it seems that mommies, daddies, caregivers (and kindergarten teachers) are mean and it is not an easy job but we have to make sure kids are safe and learn about growing up. Sigh, that can be hard to do.
Hansel and Gretel also can be used for other kindergarten readiness activities. Their house was made out of gingerbread. Are there any gingerbread stories in your neighborhood? Go for a walk just to see the different kinds of houses around you. This helps children practice observing skills, as well as learning to compare. Have your child draw a house and look for the basic parts–door, windows, walls, and roof. Are they all there or are some missing?
My favorite part of the story is how the sister and brother work together to outsmart the witch and find their way, emphasis on the together. What part of the story is your favorite?
Since it’s March…the ants go marching 1 by 1. They’re not the only ones that march. The Emperor marched in a parade to show off his new clothes.
Years ago, one older prof at college suggested using fairy tales as a teaching tool. At first, being ‘modern and enlightened’ I dismissed that idea and trashed fairy tales on the basis that they were not politically correct and were gender biased. After all, the differences between boys and girls was because of the way society treated children. When I had my own kids I soon realized that a son and a daughter arrive with significant differences. But, back to fairy tales….Yes, they do have a place in the 21st century and can be used for learning with little ones. They are a super resource for all kinds of kindergarten readiness.
The Emperor’s New Clothes is a great story to use to talk about why we wear clothes, for naming various things we wear, for sorting clothes into what we wear for each season, how some people wear different clothing, and more. Find a couple of minutes to notice patterns and colors. When doing the laundry, match some colors and sizes.
Kids enjoy that the Emperor was tricked and that he marched in his underwear. Children often feel ‘exposed’ and inferior to adults and love that, for once, the child got it right and all the adults were wrong. Share the story, dig out some clothes and have your own dress-up fun. Any other ways to share this story for learning?