The Tiny Seed

In this lesson, children will count the seeds by ones and twos and then put the packets in order from smallest to largest and vice versa.

Lesson for:

(See Step 5: Adapt lesson for toddlers or preschoolers.)

Content Area:


Learning Goals:

This lesson will help toddlers and preschoolers meet the following educational standards:

  • Understand numbers, ways of representing numbers, relationships among numbers and number systems
  • Represent and analyze mathematical situations and structures using algebraic symbols
  • Apply appropriate tools and formulas to determine measurements
  • Understand patterns, relations and functions

Learning Targets:

After this lesson, toddlers and preschoolers should be more proficient at:

  • Developing understanding of the relative position and magnitude of whole numbers and of ordinal and cardinal numbers and their connection
  • Sorting, classifying and ordering objects by size, number and other properties
  • Using concrete, pictorial and verbal representations to develop an understanding of invented and conventional symbolic notations
  • Counting with understanding and recognizing “how many” in sets of objects
  • Developing common referents for measures to make comparisons and estimates

The Tiny Seed

Lesson plan for toddlers/preschoolers

Step 1: Gather materials.

  • The book, The Tiny Seed by Eric Carle
  • 12×18 pieces of construction paper
  • Glue
  • Packets of seeds (Make sure to create seed packets that contain a mixture of small and large seeds of different colors. Make a packet for each child, as well as a packet for demonstration purposes.)

Note: Small parts pose a choking hazard and are not appropriate for children age five or under. Be sure to choose lesson materials that meet safety requirements.

Step 2: Introduce activity.

  1. Show the children a seed packet. Ask the children to guess/estimate how many seeds are in the packet.
  2. Field and record answers. Open the packet and count the seeds. Ask: “Were the estimates more or less than the actual number of seeds?” (Extension: For your older students, ask: “What is the difference between the estimate and the actual number of seeds?)”
  3. Explain that, after we read the book, The Tiny Seed, the children will receive their own seed packets , which they will use to estimate, count and record the number of seeds.

Step 3: Engage children in lesson activities.

  1. Read the book, The Tiny Seed by Eric Carle.
  2. Ask the children to count how many seeds they have by ones. Then have them put the seeds in a row and count them by twos. Ask: “Can you count them by fives?” Make sure that, no matter how they count the seeds, they always come up with the same number.
  3. Now have the students put the seeds in the mathematical order of their choice (such as ordering the seeds from smallest to largest or vice versa).
  4. Once the children decide on a way to organize and display their seeds, have them glue their seeds and seed packets onto construction paper. They should also write their mathematical thinking next to the seeds. For example, if they are grouping their seeds into rows of twos, their mathematical thinking should exhibit skip counting by twos. They should also write down the total number of seeds found in the packet.

Additional Extensions

  • Ask: “How much more?” or “What is the difference?” between the estimate and the actual number of seeds.
  • Create simple addition and subtraction word problems. Use the seeds and what happens to them throughout the book. You can  use some of the animals in your word problems as well.
  • The children can group the seeds in a variety of ways. The children can group the seeds according to any criteria they want to use (color, size, texture, etc.), but they will have to explain the criteria to you.

Step 4: Vocabulary.

  • Group: Equal sets (e.g.,”Group the seeds by twos.”)
  • Estimate: To form an approximate judgment or opinion regarding the amount, worth, size, weight, etc., of; calculate approximately (e.g.,”Estimate how many seeds are in your packets.”)
  • Sort: Separating the items according to a given attribute (e.g.,”Sort the seeds according to color.”)
  • Count: To identify the amount of something by number (e.g.,”Count the number of seeds in your packet.”)

Early Math Glossary

Step 5: Adapt lesson for toddlers or preschoolers.

Adapt Lesson for Toddlers
Toddlers may:
  • Not have mastered one-to-one correspondence
Child care providers may:
  • Help the children count their seeds
  • Have the children count their seeds by ones
  • When the children glue their seeds onto construction paper, help them write the corresponding numbers under each seed
  • Have the children group the seeds into a named attribute, such as color or shape
Adapt Lesson for Preschoolers
Preschoolers may:
  • Have a grasp of one-to-one correspondence and can easily count by and group by twos
  • Understand attributes
  • Be beginning to develop number sense and add and subtract single-digit numbers
Child care providers may:
  • Have the children count and group the seeds by a higher number
  • Allow the children to group the seeds according to any criteria they want to use (color, size, texture, etc.) and then explain the criteria
  • Create simple addition and subtraction word problems using the seeds and what happens to them throughout the book (some of the animals can be used in the word problems as well)

Suggested Books

  • The Tiny Seed by Eric Carle (New York: Little Simon, 2009)

Music and Movement

Outdoor Connections

  • Plant seeds and measure their growth. Group the seeds that you plant (vegetables, flowers, plants, fruits).  A wonderful activity for all small children.
  • Grow the seeds indoors. Take time to observe how the seeds grow. A simple way to plant seeds is to use cotton balls, water, plastic baggies, a bowl of water and seeds. Before introducing the activity to the children, soak the seeds overnight to speed up the process. Have the children dip their cotton balls into water and place them in their baggies. They should use enough cotton balls to fill the bottoms of their baggies. Next, the children will add seeds to their baggies. Remind them that the seeds need space to grow and four or five days to sprout. Once the children have finished adding the cotton balls and seeds to the baggies, close up the baggies and tape them to a window (make sure the baggies are sealed tightly to keep the seeds moist). Wait and see what happens. Talk about the growth of the seeds as they start to shoot out some sprouts.

Web Resources

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