From Head to Toe by Eric Carle

Mary’s Teaching Toolbox

This is the first post of what I hope to be a weekly feature. Each week I will share different activities that can be used in early education.  One type of post will a compilation of activities to go with a book.   Some books will be new to you and others, like this one, may be familiar.  Either way, you will hopefully get some ideas for how you can make the most out of the books you share with your students. It is not my intention that teachers use every idea given when they share a book, but rather will thoughtfully choose those ideas that make sense for their classroom and students.


From Head to Toe by Eric Carle  is a short book about children who copy the actions of various animals.  The text is repetitive and well supported by the pictures, so children often enjoy reciting the book with the teacher.   Like all Eric Carle books, the pictures are colorful and captivating.

Possible Themes:

  • Zoo Animals
  • All About Me
  • Eric Carle Author Study


This book has so many great vocabulary words, you will want to choose what to focus on based on the theme you are trying to develop and the age of your students.  I would choose no more than 3 for each reading.  I’ve included several ways to revisit the words during other activities so that they can be more fully developed.  (See my post: Teaching New Words)

  • Various animals including buffalo, crocodile, and donkey.
    • Post pictures of the animals around the room.
    • Make several laminated copies of the animals so that there are enough for each child to have one.  Punch a hole and use yarn to make a necklace, or tape the animals to the floor.   Give instructions for the children to follow such as “If you have a crocodile wiggle your hips”.  When you call “mix up” everyone gets a new animal.  (Link below has free picture cards you can use.)
    • Compare one of the animals to a more familiar animal: buffalo/cow, crocodile/lizard, donkey/zebra
    • Include plastic animals in your block center or, since some of the animals in the book can be difficult to find, have your children brainstorm how they could represent one for use during their play
  • Various body parts including hips, shoulders, and chest.
    • Play Simon Says or other games using the body parts
    • Sing “Head and Shoulders, Knees, and Toes” but replace with introduced body parts
  • Actions such as raise, thump, and arch.
    • Act out them out
    • Play Simon Says using the introduced action words
    • Look for arches in the environment including the block corner

Discussion Questions (Bloom’s Taxonomy Level):

  • What animals did the author include in his book? (Knowledge)
  • What action would a snake (or other animal) try? (Application)
  • Which animal would be best at playing Simon Says? Why? (Evaluation)

Read Aloud Tips:

From Head to Toe is a great book to have the children act out.  In fact, most classes will begin to do so spontaneously.  The book is short enough to read through twice in one sitting, so I like to have the children focus on listening to the story the first time, doing small motions where they sit.  Then we spread out and act it out the second time it is read.  This also has the advantage of giving the children who need it a chance to hear the book without distractions.

Additional Follow-Up Activities:

  • Writing: Make a class book with different animals and actions and take pictures of the children acting them out.  Another idea is to take a picture of each child doing something they think no one else in the class can do and caption it with “I can ____.”
  • Phonemic Awareness: Sort the animals according to the number of syllables in their name.  Identify the pictures that begin like “donkey” (or other animal).  The link below has free picture cards you could use.
  • Emergent Reading: Use a pointer to find the word “can” on each page.
  • Math: Make a graph of everyone’s favorite animal from the book.  Use the information in the graph to answer questions like “Which animal is liked by the most people?” or “How many people like the camel best?”
  • Science: Sort animals according to how they move (hop, swim, fly, crawl etc.) then let the children choose a different way to group the animals.  Have the children choose one or more of the animals in the book and research what that animal can really do.  Write a non-fiction book or chart to share what they learned.
  • Art: Paint animals and use a popsicle stick to etch the details of its fur.
  • Movement: Set up a shadow center where children copy each other’s movements.  They can take turns being the leader and the follower or to make it more like the book- the animal and the person.   Its a great way to add some physical activity to your centers.
From Head to Toe Idea Exchange on Eric Carle’s Official Website.

Now It’s Your Turn-Leave a Comment

  • What other activities would you recommend for From Head to Toe?
  • Help make this feature relevant to my readers.
    • What kinds of information about books do you find helpful when planning activities for your class?
    • Is there another book that you would like me to tackle?
    • Is there a theme or unit for which you would like me to identify a book and list possible activities?
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