Rake n’ Make

Celebrate Michigan’s beautiful fall season while exploring science, math, and art.

Prep It

All you need is a beautiful fall day and a grocery bag.

Play It

Go on an outdoor adventure with the children in your care. In a bag, gather lots and lots of leaves of different colors, shapes, and sizes.

Color Hunt

Actions as simple as gathering leaves can be turned into learning opportunities! Send children on a scavenger hunt for leaves of specific colors, shapes, or sizes.

“Go find as many RED leaves as you can.” “Now, go find as many TINY ones as you can.”

Next, count how many of each type you have together.

  • Preschoolers should practice counting one at a time. Help them count each leaf individually so that none are skipped or double counted.
  • Kindergartners should practice counting up to 100. Help them with the transitions from 29 to 30, 39 to 40, and so on.
  • First graders can practice skip counting by twos, so that they count “2, 4, 6, 8.”

Red Leaves & Green Leaves

Free Sort

Direct children to sort their bag of leaves. Tell them to “make groups,” but don’t tell them how to do it. This is an opportunity for them to stretch their brains! What do they decide to do? Do they sort by color? Shape? Size?

Push their thinking. Ask, “How are you deciding which leaf goes in which group?”

Spikey Leaves & Round Leaves

Pattern Making

Work together to make leaf patterns. If children sorted their leaves by color, you could work together to make patterns by color. If they sorted by size or shape, make patterns by size or shape.

Yellow/ Green Pattern & Spikey/ Round Pattern

Pattern Challenge

Time for a challenge! Make a complex pattern that is long or has many patterns within it.

Ask children to analyze, “What patterns do you notice?”

Can you spot the three different patterns in this image?

Small/ Big
Green/ Yellow/ Red
Round/ Round/ Pointy


Think of a new method of organizing the leaves- you could try by texture (bumpy or smooth), width, length, or by a combination of color and size (big and red or small and yellow). Invite children to match leaves from their bags to the groups you made. For example, if you grouped leaves by width, have the children look through their bags to find thin and wide leaves to add to your groups.

Say, “Explain how you know which group to place that leaf in.”

Ephemeral Art

For a fun challenge, design leaf art like artists Andy Goldsworthy and James Brunt do! Give children lots of time to create their art. As they are making, ask them about their designs.

Say, “tell me about your design.” Ask questions like: “What is the pattern?” “How do you decide which leaf to put next?” “What makes your design special?”

James Brunt
James Brunt
Andy Goldsworthy
Andy Goldsworthy

The PEP team loves seeing the art you make with the children in your care!

Send us photos or tag us on social media!

Alphabet Bags

Learning the sounds that letters make is an important step in learning to read. Play this game with children, using just grocery bags and things around the house!

Prep It

You have everything you need for this activity already lying around the house!

  • Grocery bags or any other kind of bag
  • Scrap paper (optional)
  • Marker
  • Household items that start with the same letter
  • Household items that start with different letters

Play It

On a bag, write one letter. (You could use a permanent marker or tape some scrap paper on the bag).

Find things around the house that begin with that letter, and let the fun begin!

Things around the house that start with the letter S:

spoon, sock, salt, soap, scissors, straw, and string.

Before you start, collect items that start with your chosen letter. (For example, the letter “S”.) Put them all in the bag, and tell the child: “Everything in this bag starts with the same sound and letter. They all start with the letter… (S). (S) makes a (ssss) sound. Let me hear you say (ssss)!”

Go through all the items and name each one together, exaggerating the first sound of the word — for example: “This is a sock! Ssss-sock!”

TIP: continue exaggerating the first letter sound for most or all of the activity.

Next, dump out all the items and ask the child to find ones to put back in the bag. After you’ve gone through all the items, name them together again, and ask the child, “What sound is at the beginning of all these words again? That’s right, (ssss)!”

Then introduce some new items, some that start with the same letter and some that do not. Tell the child: “We will be working together to decide if the new things should go into our (S) bag or not.” For each item, let the child name it, then say something like: “Should a hhhh-hot dog go into our ssss words bag?”
Have many items that start with two different letters available to sort into two different bags. As the child learns more sounds, you can add more items and bags!
Go on a scavenger hunt to fill the alphabet bags. Let children pick a sound they would like to hunt for, or tell them which one to hunt for.

If you have multiple children in your care, this would be a great opportunity for them to hunt for different letter sounds and share what they found with each other!
Instead of just sorting by a beginning letter sounds, children who have experience reading and writing can play this activity in many unique ways:

-End sounds (pen, spoon)
-Digraphs (words that have CH, SH, CK, or TH)
-Rhyming words (sock, rock)
-Vowel sounds (pot, sock)
-Spelling words (teachers often have spelling lists that follow a sound pattern- you can hunt for these patterns in the words of things around the home)

Proud Moments

Well-done spelling tests, math quizzes, and book reports adorn the refrigerators of proud family members and caretakers all over Flint. The kids in your care have many non-school achievements, and you can show pride in those as well!

Prep It

You just need a few materials to proudly celebrate children’s achievements:

  • Paper- the back of envelopes, junk mail, anything you can write on
  • Writing utensil- marker, pen, crayon

Play It

Sit down together and talk about things children have achieved lately that you’re proud of.

For example, “I’m really proud of you for being resilient and learning how to ride a bike even though it took a lot of practice,” or “I’m really proud of you for being responsible and choosing to do your homework before you play video games.”

Write these down on the paper, throw a big A+ or smiley face on them, and hang them up on the fridge!

Invite the kids to tell you what they’re proud of in themselves too. You might learn a lot about who they are when you’re not around.

Wouldn’t you love to hear, “I’m really proud of myself because I was nice to the bully in class, even though they’re not nice to me”? The PEP team sure would!

Enjoy these special moments together!

Sort Anything

Next time you put away laundry, kitchen utensils, or other things around the house, invite the children to learn about making groups while they help you! Children will get lots of practice observing, thinking about similarities and differences, and using descriptive vocabulary.

Prep It

All you need for this activity is a mess 😉 You could use dishes, laundry, toy boxes, Legos, or shoes- no need to buy anything!

Play It

Ask children to make groups of things without telling them how, so they can think about how they want to group them. Once a child creates a group, say “tell me about this group you made” so that they can explain their thinking.

To encourage children to make many different kinds of groups, you could suggest they sort items by color, size, shape, purpose, or person. You may find that these prompts are especially useful for toddlers.

Shape Hunting

Looking for shapes is a fun way to help young minds grow! Develop language skills and ideas about shape, space, and size all while playing this free and easy activity.

Prep It

You don’t need any special toys- everything your kids can get their hands on or point at is great for exploring shapes.

Play It


Talk with kids about the shapes around you anywhere you go. What shape is that jar, that cracker, or that cereal box? Is the back of that chair straight or curved? Is the plate flat? Is the milk container tall or short?

Once kids are comfortable with shape names, add colors and textures: Is that door a white rectangle? Is that cookie a bumpy circle?

Play shapes I-spy

How many circles, squares, rectangles, and triangles can you find?

Make shape jokes

Is that spoon a square? Nooooooo it isn’t! (Trust us, this is funny when you’re 2 years old!)

Prompt deep thinking

Use “what if” questions to help children think about why things are certain shapes. What if that wheel was a triangle? What if that cup was flat?

Jams and Plans for Washing Hands

DIY Soaps

Click the buttons for the recipes!

Make hand washing less of a chore for kids using this Jelly Soap Recipe! This recipe makes jelly soaps with a jello-like consistency. You only really need two ingredients, liquid soap and gelatin, but can add food coloring, scented oils, glitter, and small toys!

Try this Homemade Soap Play Dough recipe which is very easy and fun to make. The only ingredients needed are flour, liquid dish soap, and cream of tartar (optional, but will make the dough softer and last longer). This recipe makes a big bulk in which kids can take a piece from it, and use to wash their hands consistently throughout the day!

Spice up your liquid hand soaps or sanitizers by adding small toys into the containers. This is a super easy and fun way to encourage kids to wash their hands throughout the day. The more they wash their hands using the soap, the closer they are from obtaining the toys!


Hand Washing Hot Potato

Make hand washing a fun group activity by playing this hand washing hot potato game! Get everyone together to play before eating or after returning from outside.

Washing Dolly’s Hands

Playing pretend is a great way for young children to practice adult behaviors like washing their hands. Encourage your children to teach their plastic dolls and action figures how to wash their hands too!


Click the buttons to download!

Print or use this chart as a reference to make your very own hand washing reward chart. Every time your child washes their hands, you can mark it on the chart using stickers or a marker which will indicate points. Set a goal for how many points your child has to obtain each week in order to receive a prize!

Hang up this poster near the sink! For more posters, check out the Genesee County Health Department’s poster list. If you would like one or more of these but don’t have a printer, we can print and mail them to you.

Please call or text us with your address, the poster(s) that you want, and how many copies you would like (up to 5 copies for each poster).


Click the buttons to learn the songs and sing along!

Video (Ages 2-4) 

For fans of Baby Shark, sing this song for 20 seconds while you wash the germs away!

Lyrics to Learn (Ages 2-7) 

Use the tune of classic nursery rhymes with new words to get your hands squeaky clean. Choose your favorites from this page!

Video (Ages 8+) 

Use the melody of some favorite Top 40’s songs to time your 20 seconds. Which one is your favorite?

Watch, listen, and look: How germs spread and how to stop them

Follow these links with the children in your care to explore questions we all have about contagious illnesses like the Coronavirus and how to stay healthy.


Ages 2-4 (1 minute 30 seconds)

When Daniel Tiger is sick, he imagines that he is a germ-fighting superhero that can make all the germs go away!

Ages 4-6 (2 minutes 20 seconds)

Sid and his friends sing a song about how germs spread. Can you make up your own song about the journey of germs? Send us your lyrics or a video of your song to share with other Flint providers!

Ages 5-8 (1 minute)

Learn about Odd Squad’s Healthy Habits with The Big O. In this one-minute Agent Training Video, The Big O shares how Odd Squad agents stay away from germs.

Ages 5-8 (1 minute)

In this one-minute Agent Training Video, The Big O shares a few top tips for social distancing, like talking with friends on the phone or on video, keeping your distance from anyone you see in person and avoiding handshakes, hugs or high-fives. Stay strong and healthy, because the Odd Squad needs you!

Ages 9+ (5 minutes 46 seconds)

Watch this Mythbusters experiment that ponders the questions: How to germs spread? What are the consequences of not washing your hands after you blow your nose? How quickly can a sick person spread germs to people around them?

Ages 9+ (2 minutes 18 seconds)

The Mythbusters are at it again- this time asking: How far do the germs in sneezes go?


Ages 8+ (35 minutes)

Listen along to this half-hour long story that explores the questions: What exactly is the coronavirus? How does it spread? How can I protect myself? Children will learn about the virus and how to stay safe. Plus, they will listen to a conversation between two chatty viruses to learn how these germs spread (and how our bodies fight back).

Ages 8+ (31 minutes)

Listen to this half-hour long story to learn about the virus and why soap is so important in stopping it!


Ages 4+ with adult help reading; Ages 8+ with little or no help reading

This short comic strip is a great visual way to spark conversation about many questions children may have about the virus.

Songs that Teach Hand Washing

Picture Walks

There is a lot more to reading books than just figuring out what the words say. Going on a “picture walk” can help children learn how books work, how fun they can be, and why they’re important.

Prep It:

All you need is a picture book and a comfy place to read together!

For young toddlers and infants, board books and bath books are good options. At Walmart, Meijer, local bookstores, Goodwill, Salvation Army, and on Amazon, you can find board books (books made with thick cardboard pages) and bath books (books with waterproof vinyl pages) that are safe even for babies to use on their own.
1. Start by holding the book yourself and let them point at it. As they become careful pointers, graduate them to the following steps.

2. Teach them how to carefully turn the cover while you hold the book.

3. Teach them how to carefully turn pages while you hold the book.

4. Lay the book on a table and have them turn pages without picking it up.

5. Let them hold the book and turn pages.

Play It:

1. Start with the cover

Show children the front of the book. Tell them: “This is the cover of our book. What do you see on the cover?” If they are ready to, allow the child to hold the book so that they can point at and talk about what they notice.

If they have trouble starting or don’t go into much detail, ask them silly questions. If it’s a book about frogs, you could ask “Did you see this big whale? Nooo, that’s not a whale! What is it?”

2. “Reading” the inside pages

On the first page, point to the picture and ask the child what they see. Ask them to tell you what’s happening.

Ask these types of questions to prompt children to describe what they see:

  • What shapes do you see?
  • What colors?
  • Are there any animals or plants?
  • Are there any people?
  • What are the animals or people doing?
  • Where is the picture — in a house, the beach, forest, city, mountains?

Have them make up a story about the picture. It’s safe to move on when the child starts to lose interest in that page- no need to dig so deep that they become frustrated.

Repeat this on each page until the end of the book.

You may choose to read the actual written text, but “reading” the book using pictures only is a great learning experience for young children.

3. Challenge

Have children describe what they see in one picture, flip the page, describe what’s on the second picture, and then have them tell you a story about what’s happening on both pages. As they get better at this, increase to three pages, four pages, and on, until they are able to do this with a short book. Then, you can start using longer books.

Developing Hand Coordination with Playdough!

Hand coordination skills, sometimes called “fine motor skills” are the skills needed to do things like use spoons, pinch salt, and hold a pencil. Young children need lots of practice, especially between the ages of 3 months and 7 years old. Around 2 years old is when playing with playdough starts to have a big impact on children’s hand coordination skills.

Here are some ways you can encourage children of different ages to use playdough as a tool to develop their fine motor skills:

Encourage 2-3 year olds to try:
– Opening the Ziploc bag or jar where dough is stored on their own
– Snipping dough with safety scissors or plastic playdough scissors
– Generally shaping play dough with their hands, squishing it, smashing it, and pulling it
– Using tools like cookie cutters, spatulas, plastic straws, and pine cones to stamp and cut dough
– Roll dough into snakes
– Poke it using different fingers
Encourage 4-5 year olds to design detailed creations as they:
– Continue practicing their age 2-3 skills
– Practice using utensils like forks, knives, and spoons to poke, cut, and scoop
– Use tongs to squish and carry dough
– Use safety scissors to cut lines and shapes
– Build 3D animals, buildings, and other creations
– Build letters (especially letters to spell their names) by rolling dough into snakes and bending them into letter shapes
– Using a pencil to etch letters into flattened play dough “paper”
– Rolling dough into balls of the same and different sizes

Chain Reactions

Can you get a ball into a cup using a cookbook, Ramen noodles, a tuna can, and some rulers?

Build a wacky chain reaction known as a Rube Goldberg Machine by using things around the house! Fun for everyone aged 3 to 83.

Prep It

Gather random materials to use. Some good starters are:

  • Things that roll (like marbles, bouncy balls, toilet paper tubes, cans of soup, and toy cars)
  • Things that can knock other things over (dominoes, cereal boxes, individual packets of Ramen noodles)
  • String (ribbon, shoelaces, neckties)
  • Building materials (tape, stacks of books, rubber bands, Popsicle sticks, clothespins, toy blocks )

Play It

If you would like, search YouTube for “Rube Goldberg Machine” for some ideas. When you find a video you feel is appropriate to share with the children in your care, watch it together for inspiration! Below are some of our favorites 😃

1. Decide on a simple task your machine should accomplish.

Here are some ideas:

  • Knock a ball into a trash can
  • Pour cereal out of the box, into a bowl
  • Get a ball from one end of the room to another without touching it
  • Pop a balloon

2. Give children freedom to build!

Tell them to make a machine that gets to the goal in as MANY STEPS as possible.

Depending on their age, you should change how much help you give with ideas and construction.

Children will be exploring gravity, engineering, and physics without even knowing they’re learning!