Welcome to the Bright Idea Zone!

One toy, many ways to play.

Discover a multitude of bright ideas for each placemat and keep the fun fresh. Designed by educational experts and sorted by age and ability, these activities help keep little minds engaged and growing.

For offline play, click to download the printer-friendly version of this page, as well as your bonus printable tools, and begin your learning adventure today!

And on that farm he had a…oh get ready for oodles of fun to be found on the farm with this mat! Is your child a Beginner Farmer? Budding? Intermediate?? or perhaps an Expert Farmer? Start wherever they are and you’ll see we’ve cleverly divided up the learning experiences into 3 categories including language development, mathematics, and literacy, matching the learning level of your child! Already mastered the Beginner Farmer material? Moo-ve it on up to Intermediate and Expert!

Language Development

Beginner Farmer Activities

(ages 0-2)

Let’s have fun with sounds on the farm! 

  • Point to the sheep on the mat and say “The sheep makes the baaa sound. Let’s say baaa… baaa!” 
  • Start with a few animals and add more as your child begins to learn the sounds and can repeat them!
  • Suggested order of animal sounds to learn: sheep, cow, dog, cat, horse, chicken, rooster, frog.

From sounds to names 

  • Point to an animal and name it, having your child simply listen.
  • Focus on 1 to 2 animals at a time and add more animals as you go!
  • Work on animal names and sounds by singing “Old MacDonald Had a Farm!”
  • Use your D&J printables to practice. Show your child an animal printable and match it to the mat. “Here is a pig. Look, I found another pig!” 

Learning words of common objects around the farm

  • Point to the object and label it, having your child simply listen. 
  • Label common farm words such as: tree, barn, tractor, fence.

What sound does the letter “B” make? 

  • Name an object on the mat and repeat the beginning letter sound, letting your child simply listen. For example, ”Sun…s, s, s…sun…”
  • Start with the easiest sounds of b, p, m, n, h, w, d, and t focusing on 1 to 2 sounds at a time!

Budding Farmer Activities

(ages 2-3)

Time to practice our listening skills! 

  • Keep instructions simple and to only 2 steps by asking, “Look for the horses and point to them,” or “Find the frogs and make a frog sound!” You can also use your D&J printables here. “Can you find another frog and make it hop up to this group?” 
  • Pause to let your child follow the instructions and demonstrate if needed.

So many colors on the farm!

  • Verbally label animals and objects paired with their colors, “Red apple…white sheep…etc.”
  • Point to a picture and ask your child what color it is. For example, “What color is the duck?”
  • Go on a color scavenger hunt and find all the colors of the rainbow on the mat!

What are they doing?

  • Point to an animal and label the animal’s actions using 2-3 words. For example, “The cat jumps!”
  • Actions to focus on: walk, run, hop, jump, sit, swim, stand, go.
  • Encourage your child to repeat the sentence. Have them participate and do the action that matches with the animal!
  • Now it’s their turn! Ask your child what they see an animal doing in the picture by saying, “The duck is…” (pause and let your child respond).

Let’s locate animals and objects on the farm! 

  • Point to and label where an animal or object is using simple statements. For example, “The rooster is on the barn. The cat is in the tree. Where are the sheep?”
  • Using the D&J animal printables, “Can you put a cat under the tree?” 
  • Prepositions/locations to focus on: off, on, in, out, up, down, under, on top.

Let’s sort the farm!

  • Show your child things that are found on the farm by talking about categories. Such categories can include: “things that grow on a farm,” “animals that live on a farm,” and “items that are used on the farm.”
  • Start with one category at a time and point and label them saying, “These are animals that live on a farm…cows…pigs…sheep…”
  • Now let’s introduce “What” questions. For example, “What things grow on the farm? What animals live on a farm?” Provide answers when needed.

What sound does the letter “M” make?

  • First ask your child to make the sound of a farm animal you name! For example, “What does the cow say?”
  • Now ask what sound the animal sound starts with saying, “What sound does “moo” start with...mmmm...yes!” Repeat with other animals.

Intermediate Farmer Activities

(ages 3-5)

Let’s kick those listening skills up a notch!

  • In one statement have your child find 3 things on the mat saying, “Find the ducks, horses, and cats.” To help them follow a 3-part instruction such as this one, have them repeat the instruction back to you before they actually follow the instruction.
  • Using your D&J printables, encourage the child to listen to your instruction. “Three more animals showed up at the farm. A sheep walked down the path, followed by a cow and then a pig.” Ask your child to show this happening using the printable animals.
  • Mix it up! Play “I spy” and your child points to the animals after the clue is given: “I spy a tree, flower, and pond.”

So much is happening on the farm!

  • Select an animal or object from the farm mat and ask, “What is the (pig) doing?”
  • Now it’s your child’s turn! Allow them to come up with their own thoughts or ideas of what is going on in the picture. Adding the D&J printables to the game makes the possibilities endless here! 
  • Add some fun by asking your child to act out the action. Don’t be afraid to join in!

Who? What? Where? When? How? 

  • Talk about different images on the farm mat by asking a “Wh” question:
  • “Who takes care of the animals?”
  • “Where do the ducks live?”
  • “When do you use a tractor?”
  • “How do you pick the apples?”
  • “What do chickens eat?”
  • Pause to allow time for your child to answer the questions and model a response if needed.

Expert Farmer Activities

(ages 5-7)

It’s Storytime!

  • Encourage your child to pick a picture on the farm mat and tell a short story about the picture.
  • Offer story ideas about what an animal does, a friendship between two animals, chores the farm can do.
  • Place the D&J animal printables in a bag. Have the child select 3 or 4 printables and make up a story about the animals/objects they select from the bag.

Sequencing on the farm! 

  • Focus on terms: yesterday, tomorrow, morning, afternoon, night, later, earlier.
  • Talk about things that happen on the farm saying, “Yesterday the hens laid eggs,” “Tomorrow it will be sunny,” “Cows get milked in the morning and later in the day.” If you have a calendar nearby, pull it out! Calendars are great for visually showing the concepts “today,” “yesterday,” and “tomorrow.” 
  • Now it’s time to sequence by using “first,” “next,” “then” routines. Provide an example to your child such as: “First the farmer plants a garden. Next the farmer waters the garden. Then the plants grow.” Have your child take a turn! This type of sequencing is also easy to practice using the D&J printables.
  • Incorporate present tense words for events that happen now, past tense words for events from yesterday, and future tense words for events later or tomorrow. Have fun with this!

Let’s learn “Why/because”! 

  • Ask “why” questions that are simple to understand. For example, “Why do apples fall on the ground?” or “Why do ducks swim?”
  • Model “because” responses if your child needs support and to show cause and effect. “Why are the apples so big and red on the tree? Because the apples are ready to get picked,” or “Why does a cow have to be milked twice a day? Because their udders fill up with milk and the cows would be in pain if they didn’t get milked twice.”
Math

Beginner Farmer Activities

(ages 0-2)

Counting to ten! 

  • Point to pictures on the mat while counting. Focus on counting 1 to 3 and build from there until you reach 10!
  • For example, point as you count and say, “There are 2 horses…1..2…” 
  • Now see if your child can count by pointing together! If your child is okay with you placing your hand over theirs to help, do so. If not, it’s okay if they simply watch and count aloud or if they use their whole hand/palm to touch each animal/item and count. 

Let’s explore shapes! 

  • As you and your child explore shapes describe how the picture is like a shape, saying, “This wheel is like a circle…This barn window is like a square…This part of the barn door looks like a triangle!"
  • Have your child use their finger to trace the shape.
  • Focus on one shape at a time and build from there!

Big and small!

  • First, model and point out small things, then big things you see, saying, “I see these flowers are small…I see the chicks are small.”
  • Now the big things you see, “I see the apple tree is big! I see the barn is big!” At this age, it is not expected for your child to identify big/small sizes, but it is great to start sharing these concepts. 

Duck, Duck, Duck, Repetition!

  • Focus on parts of the farm mat that shows pictures lined up in a row.
  • Using your finger, point or trace your finger across animals, saying, “Look at the ducks lined up!”
  • Add to the fun! Include counting things in a row, labeling colors, shapes, and sizes that are lined up (ducks, birds flying, trees, fence posts)!

Simple compare and contrast!

  • Look at the cows and point out the spotted cows vs. the solid-colored cow. Label it as different, saying, “The spotted cows are different than the solid cow,” “These spotted cows are the same, they all have spots!”
  • Expand the concept of “sameness” to matching! Model matching by pairing up animals that are the same, saying, “This pink pig matches this pink pig! This yellow duck matches this yellow duck!” At this age, it is all about narrating what you see and simple listening from your child. 
  • Show your child how to match the D&J animal printables to the mat. “Look, here is a cow! Let’s find the cow that looks the same. Here it is!”

Budding Farmer Activities

(ages 2-3)

Build number knowledge together! 

  • Introduce the concept of visual numbers using fingers and hands. Start with 1 to 2, then 3 to 5, and work your way up to 10! Be sure to follow your child’s pace as they learn to count.
  • Hold up a finger, or even 2 fingers, saying, “This is two.” Then count each finger.
  • Use your D&J 123 Find & Fit puzzle to show the number you are working on. Alternatively, write out the numeral to match the quantity that was counted on a Post-it.
  • After counting with fingers, look for things on the farm mat that are grouped in 2’s. Examples include: the pink flowers, horses, or goats to continue practice counting!
  • Continue the count! A counting sequence to follow that goes up in quantity follows this order: First…mouse, goats, cats, sheep. Then progress to pigs, cows, chicks, ducks, birds flying, pink flowers, and finally, work your way up to apples, white flowers. 

What’s Big? What’s Small? What’s Short? What’s Tall? 

  • Review the things that are certain sizes, for example look at all the small things and label them: white or pink flowers, chicks, lily pads.
  • Now point to one image and say, “Let’s find the animals that are bigger than the dog!”
  • Mix and match sizes by pointing out the bigger, biggest, or the smaller, smallest objects. For example, “The mama duck looks like the biggest duck!”
  • As your child builds understanding of big and small, you can begin to refine the language by using the words short and tall. For example, "The trees are taller than the fence.

Understanding Basic Group Value! 

  • Point out a group of pictures, like ducks, frogs, and pigs. Show your child how there are more or less in each grouping, saying, here are more pigs than goats.”
  • Now do groups! Start with one group and count the group. Next count another group. 
  • Label each group as more or less than the other. For example, “There are more frogs and fewer dogs.” 
  • Model counting with your child, saying, “I counted 2 dogs like this. [Show 2 fingers.] And 3 frogs. [Show 3 fingers on the other hand.] I needed more fingers for the frogs, so I know there are MORE frogs than apples!”

A Little Farm Math! 

  • Introduce adding and taking away objects with just 1 object, saying, “There are 3 sheep, if I added 1 more (bring one more onto the mat using your D&J printable), I have 4!"
  • Model counting and/or allow the child to point or recount the object after something was added or taken away for practice. 
  • Repeat these steps with horses, cats, dogs, the mouse, goats, birds, and frogs and your D&J animal printables! 

Where are the animals? 

  • Focus on these positional words: on, off, in, out, up, down, under, on top.
  • Look at one spatial word at a time and say, “The frogs are on the lily pads.”
  • Now pick a spatial word and count all the objects, “Let’s count all the animals that are in the water!”

Intermediate Farmer Activities

(ages 3-5)

It’s Counting time! 

  • Select a number range like 1 to 5 or 5 to 10! 
  • Review the counting order with your child by counting aloud the image of choice on the mat “1, 2, 3, 4, 5,” then choose ONE number in that range such as “3.”
  • Now show or ask your child what number comes before or after the number “3.” 
  • It’s helpful to write out the number range and order on a sheet of paper. This way you can visually see and point to the number before and after “3” and your child can as well! 
  • Have your child count out the number order using the mat. For example, count out the ducks. As they count, ask your child to point to the duck that comes before or after the number.
  • Continue the fun and repeat with different animals and farm items!

First, Second, Third, and So Forth! 

  • Select a group of animals that are lined up, like the ducks, or birds. 
  • If needed, match up the number with the ordinal number, 1st, 2nd, 3rd and so on. Don’t shy away from writing these out! 
  • Teach your child by modeling, saying, “This duck is one, so it’s the first!”
  • Now ask your child to count things lined up in a row using the ordinal number: 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th. 
  • Use your D&J animal printables to bring additional animals into the line.

Part – Part – Whole

  • Discuss parts of a whole with your child. “There are 5 total cows and 4 of them have spots…1 does not.” “Let’s look at the sheep. There are two babies and 1 mama. There are 2 and 1 more makes 3 total sheep!” 
  • Other examples of this may include animals that are pets, animals with fur, things that can swim, total birds. “Let’s count the animals in this picture that might be pets. There are 5 pets! There are 3 cats and 2 dogs. Three and two more make five total pets!” 
  • To help your child visually understand this concept, use the printable ten frame paired with your D&J colored bingo chips. Using the cows as an example, you can line up 4 red bingo chips (spotted cows) and 1 purple bingo chip (brown cows) on the ten frame to show the 5 total cows. 

Build That Numerical Knowledge! 

  • Ask your child to count to the highest number they can to know your starting point for new numbers! For example, if your child can count to 20, focus on learning to count from 20 to 30.
  • Now use the mat to work on counting different pictures. For example, “Let’s count 25 animals on the mat!” 
  • Repeat by counting out flowers, plants, or other farm objects!
  • Include showing the new numbers using your D&J 123 Find & Fit puzzles so your child can learn what the new numbers look like visually.

Quantities Galore! 

  • Select 2 groupings on the mat and ask your child if a group is more, less, or equal to the other group.
  • For example, say, “Are there more cows or pigs? Are there fewer cats or dogs? How many more dogs to make them equal to the cats? Which animal has the greatest amount? What animal is the least?” For added variation, use your D&J printable animals. 
  • Count the groupings to see the answer. Don’t be afraid to model this for your child! Go with their pace. 
  • Another way to compare the quantity visually is by using two of the printable farm ten frames. Fill each ten frame with D&J bingo chips or snack pieces when counting and compare which frame has more or less. Have fun and get creative!

The Story of Addition! 

  • Select a group of animals to use in a story with your D&J printable animals. For example, “There were 5 cows on the hill eating. One more cow walked up the hill.” Have your child show a printable cow walking up the hill. “Now, how many cows are on the hill?”
  • You can also use your printable farm ten frame here. “There are 2 frogs on the lily pad.” Place two D&J bingo chips or snack pieces in the ten frame. “1 more wants to join them. Now how many frogs will be on the lily pads?” 
  • See if your child can answer by giving them enough time to think and respond. Help them out as needed! 

Categorization, Here We Go! 

  • Using the mat look for things that are short and tall, in and on, in front and behind! For example, “The pigs are in front of the fence. The cows are behind the fence!”
  • Now compare and sort the objects based on their measurement or positioning.
  • Another example, “The frogs and chicks are short animals. The cows and horses are tall animals!”
  • Sort other farm pictures into other categories like shapes, colors, and size. Ask your child to describe the groupings. For example, they could say, “These things are red…these things are round!”
  • Let’s get even more descriptive! Point out finer details by saying, “These cows are the same because they both have spots. They are different because one has brown spots and the other has black spots.”

2D and 3D Shapes

  • Find 2D shapes on the mat like circles, squares, triangles, and rectangles and count them! Ask your child, "Can you find any triangles on this barn? Let’s count them!"
  • Talk about how 2D shapes are flat and then find 3D shapes on the mat, being sure to say they are NOT flat. For example, things like cylinders, cones, cubes, or spheres are all 3D. Count them saying, “The silo is a cylinder…the barn is a cube!”
  • Use physical objects to describe the differences between 2D and 3D “This paper towel tube is a cylinder like a silo!” Search your house for more objects to compare as 2D or 3D!

Expert Farmer Activities

(ages 5-7)

Concept of Ten

  • The farmer decided he wanted 10 of each animal on his farm. How many pigs does he need to add? Have your child build how many are currently on the farm using the ten frame printable. This allows them to see conceptually and concretely how many more to make ten. 
  • Using the D&J printable animals, have the child add the correct number of animals to bring the totals to ten (this will require printing two sets of the printables!).

 Write It Out! 

  • Using the idea of a farmer taking a head count of their animals, have your child write out the number they count on a separate piece of paper. For example, if you say the farmer counts 5 pigs, have your child write out a number “5!” 
  • Keep practicing and have the farmer count out other animals! Take turns with your child and write out each number.

2, 4, 6, 8! Learning Number Groups is Great! 

  • Start with counting by 2s, 5s, or 10s and show your child the counting pattern by talking about how the number increases by the same number.
  • For example, say, “Counting by 2s sounds like 2, 4, 6, 8, 10. Each number goes up by 2 when you count by 2s!”
  • Model by pointing to picture groupings on the farm mat to show your child what skip counting looks like! 
  • You can count by 2s with the white flowers, 2 wings on the birds, or counting eyes on each animal! 
  • You can count by 3s with the flowers and 5s with the cows and pigs. Mix it up! 

Expanding on Groups and Sets with Addition! 

  • Select a picture group on the farm mat, adding by 3 or 4. For example, say "There are 5 cows grazing in the pasture. 3 more walk up. Now there would be 8 cows.” This concept can be reinforced visually using the printable animals or the ten frame. 
  • Follow your children’s lead! As your child progresses with adding you can quiz them for the answer by asking, “If there are 5 pigs in the pen and 4 more join them, how many pigs would there be in total?”
  • What else can you add? Have your child quiz you! A great thing to add using the printables are apples to the tree! 

Expanding On Groups and Sets with Subtraction!

  • Select a picture group on the farm mat, subtracting by 3 or 4. For example, say, “If there were 6 ducks in the water and 3 got out there would be 1, 2, 3 ducks left!” This concept can be reinforced visually using the printable animals or the ten frame.
  • Follow your child’s lead! As your child progresses with subtracting you can quiz them for the answer by asking, “If there are 8 ducks in the water and 4 get out how many ducks are in the water?”
  • What else can you subtract? Have your child quiz you! A great thing to subtract using the printables are apples from the tree! 

The Smaller Value! 

  • Using the mat have your child count a grouping, saying, “Let’s count the birds flying!”
  • Select a different number than what was counted and ask your child to identify what number is less. Say, “Which number is less, 4 or 6?” Be sure to model if your child gets stuck or doesn’t know the answer. 

Hmm! What Do You Think? 

  • Ask your child to look at a picture grouping, asking, “Do you think there are more than 5 apples in the tree or less than 5 apples in the tree? Why do you think that? How many apples do you think are in the tree?” Now count the apples together! 
  • Repeat with birds flying, white flowers, pink flowers, etc.
  • For a larger challenge and to mix things up a bit, add your farm printables to the mat.
Literacy

Beginner Farmer Activities

(ages 0-2)

Animal Sound Knowledge! 

  • Combine singing the favorite song with the farm mat!
  • Have fun! Select different animals on the mat and point to them while singing “Old McDonald” and making the animal sounds!

It’s Rhyme Time! 

  • Read or recite nursery rhymes such as: Little Bo Peep, Mary Had a Little Lamb, The Cow Jumped Over The Moon, 5 Little Ducks, Little Boy Blue, Baa, Baa, Black Sheep, Farmer In The Dell.
  • Point to the appropriate animals or encourage your child to find the animals on the mat as you say the rhymes! All your child needs to do is listen.

Simple Storytelling–Storytime at The Farm! 

  • Pick a scene from the mat and make up a short story about what is going on in the picture.
  • For example, say, “Once upon a time there was a mama cow and a baby cow. They were hungry so went to the hill to eat some grass. Baby cow heard birds tweeting. Baby cow felt the sun shining. Then the baby cow heard more mooing. Mama cow and baby cow saw the farmer joining them bringing a treat. All cow friends had a picnic with the farmer.”
  • What’s another story you could tell? Get creative!

Budding Farmer Activities

(ages 2-3)

What Do You See – Now It’s Their Turn to Start Storytelling! 

  • Inspired by Eric Carle’s book “Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?” narrate a story to your child! Using the farm mat, select an animal such as the white sheep.
  • Now say, “White sheep, white sheep, what do you see? I see a green frog looking at me…”
  • Go through the mat selecting all the animals with their colors and point to them while saying the colors. Encourage your child to join the storytelling fun by only saying the first part of the repetitive phrase: “Green frog, Green frog, what do you see?” and then your child answers with their own response! The repetition of this story format is super catchy for our budding learners!

Take Storytelling Even Further! 

  • Ask your child to pick a scene or animal on the mat and have them think of a short story about what they are doing in the picture!
  • To help with ideas, ask questions like, “Why are the horses in the barn? What are they doing in the barn?” 
  • If your child is having trouble, after giving them time to respond, be sure to offer help with answering. It’s all about having fun together!

Test That Farm Knowledge! 

  • Ask your child the following questions using the mat:
  • “Where is the ____(animal)?”
  • “Point to the ____ (animal/object).”
  • “What things are ____(color)”
  • “Point to the things that are shaped like a ____(shape).”
  • As always, after giving your child time to respond, be sure to offer help with the instruction. 

Building Farm Vocab Together! 

  • Select an animal on the mat and say, “This is a mama duck, a baby duck is called a duckling!”
  • Review all baby names on the mat such as, “Mama cow is cow, baby cow is called a calf!”
  • Ask your child the names of baby animals as you point to the animal on the mat!

Intermediate Farmer Activities

(ages 3-5)

Rhyme Time Times 2+!

  • Select an image from the mat like “cat.”
  • Write the word “cat” on a piece of paper and ask your child to think of other words that the rhyme with selected word. 
  • Then create a list of additional words that rhyme with “cat” – nonsense or made-up words are great! 
  • Repeat with other animals and farm objects! 

Letter Sounds on The Farm! 

  • Pick a letter inspired from a farm animal or item on the mat and ask your child to make the letter sound. 
  • Now take it further and have your child write the letter!
  • Look for other things on the farm mat that start with that letter. For example, “Letter C. Let’s look for cow...cat…calf!”

Expert Farmer Activities

(ages 5-7)

Letter Knowledge Is Power! 

  • Look at the animals and farm items on the mat. Pick one. For example, say you selected “cow.” Ask, “Which animal starts with the /k/ sound?”
  • Now, have your child pair the letter (either written on a Post-it or using your D&J ABC Find & Fit silicone letters) with the sound and place it on top of the animal you are referring to!
  • Take turns and see how many different letter pairings you and your child can do!

Common Farm Words! 

  • On Post-it notes write out different words related to the farm mat from the following categories:
  • Animals: dog, cat, frog, duck, pig
  • Colors: red, blue, green, yellow
  • Sizes: big, little, tall
  • Positions: in, on, out
  • Now, review words with your child. For example, ask your child to read the word on the note and then place the word next to the matching picture on the mat. Make sure your child is sounding out the words…don’t encourage memorization here!

Become a Storyteller Master! 

  • Either model or instruct your child to tell a story using a picture on the farm mat. 
  • Ask them to tell it in order using “first, next, and then” transitional words.
  • For example, “First the farmer woke up. Next, he started his morning chores. He milked the cows. Then he fed the horses, pigs, goats, sheep, and chickens. Lastly, he was able to have his own breakfast.”
  • See how many stories you and your child can come up with! If your child gets stuck, help them by structuring the story with the sequential words above and a fill-in-the-blank approach: “First the cow (pause here and wait for the child to respond)… Then, he (pause here and wait for the child to respond). Last, the cow (pause here and wait for the child to respond.” 

Writing On the Farm!

  • Review words with your child such as: 
  • Animals: dog, cat, frog, duck, pig
  • Colors: red, blue, green, yellow
  • Sizes: big, little, tall
  • Prepositions/Positions: in, on, out
  • Use Post-it notes and have your child write out each word listed above. After, have them place each Post-it by the picture or description on the mat!