One Duck Stuck: Muck Sensory Play

One Duck Stuck by Phyllis Root is one of our favorite counting books! A duck gets stuck in the muck by the pond. Other animals attempt to come to his rescue in increasing numbers. Kids love the rhymes in the story, too!

one duck stuck sensory activity
Disclosure: Amazon links included below.

The Muck

After reading One Duck Stuck by Phyllis Root, you can bring this book to life for preschool children by creating your very own “muck” for sensory play. Our kids loved helping to mix up this sensory recipe as much as exploring its properties.

muck sensory play for preschool

You will need:

  • 1 and 1/2 cup cornstarch
  • 1/2 cup cocoa
  • 1 cup water
  • Animal figures

Mix the cornstarch and cocoa together; add water. Stir or whisk until the muck is blended well.

cornstarch chocolate sensory play

We are adapting a traditional recipe for oobleck which is a non-newtonian fluid. It pours and oozes like a liquid but acts as a solid when pressure is added. Cocoa makes the oobleck into the perfect muck-like mud mixture, yet all ingredients are edible if you have children who are still tasting during sensory exploration.

Getting Stuck

We added our duck first. At first the weight of the toy kept the duck on the surface of the muck, but slowly he started to sink in (just like in the book)! Sticking the animals into the muck and pulling them back out to save them are fantastic playful fine motor practice!

mud sensory play for preschool

The children loved saying his line from the book (“Help! Help! Who can help?”) as we added the other animal helpers in order.

If you don’t have all the correct animal figures or enough for the counting that takes place in the story, don’t worry! Use whatever animals you have. Count the animals you have added to the muck.

animals and muck sensory bin

You could present this sensory invitation to play with only one rubber duck, or you could add magnetic numbers to the muck for added math practice. Children won’t be able to resist this activity even if you simply make the chocolate oobleck mud!

Another early childhood education concept taught in this book is rhyme. When I’m reading One Duck Stuck to our kids, I love to stop before I finish the rhyme to see if they can guess the correct word. You can incorporate this same idea into your sensory play experience by asking kids to name rhyming words for each animal as you add them to the muck.

Enjoy the fun as you play with the muck, the duck, and the rhymes!

BIO: Devany LeDrew is a former kindergarten teacher who writes at Still Playing School where she shares play based learning activities. She specializes in fine motor activities and has co-authored the book 99 Fine Motor Ideas! Follow Still Playing School for more engaging educational ideas on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter.

More Numbers and Counting Ideas—
Farm Animal Counting Activity
Ten Black Dots: Counting and Grouping Circles
The Doorbell Rang: Counting Cookies Math Center
Bear Counts: Counting on Paws
Math Picture Books for Preschool

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Follow my Numbers Pinterest Board for more great ideas!

Sort It Out: Color Sorting Game

This math and sorting game is inspired by the book Sort it Out by Barbara Mariconda. This activity encourages kids to practice fine motor skills, sorting skills, classifying skills, and counting skills.

Sort It Out color sort game for preschool
Disclosure: Amazon links included below.

The Book

Sort It Out by Barbara Mariconda is a sweet tale of a little mouse named Packy, who loves to collect lots of items. Among his findings are items such as a turtle, marble, string, tea kettle, pine cone, and more. His mother tells him: “Enough is enough. Empty that stuff you’ve collected today. Then sort it all out and put it away.” He sorts them by color, by things that are living and non-living, by shape, by texture, as well as by their material.

One of my favorite parts of stories is extending them into learning activities for young children. For this story, we made a color sorting game. It was so fun to hide items that Packy collected from the book into a sensory tub and watch as the children discovered them.

Sort It Out color sorting game

The Game

This color sorting game was super easy to put together, and I just used items that we already had around. Here’s how to make your own color sorting game.


  • Sensory tub
  • Snap cubes or unifix cubes
  • Various items from the story which would fit into the sensory tub

First, we broke up hundreds of snap cubes (unifix cubes) in various colors and put them into the sensory tub. This doubled as perfect fine motor practice, too.

While the children were not looking, I buried some items (such as a marble, turtle, and string) into the container.

color sort game with hidden objects

The children began putting together the snap cubes by color and were surprised to find the fun items from the story hidden among the cubes.

Once all the items were found, we finished sorting the rest of the snap cubes by color.

If the children are interested, invite them to count the cubes and the objects.

colored cubes sorting game

The book Sort It Out by Barbara Mariconda offers young children a wonderful and fun way to learn about sorting. This game helps them put these important skills into practice.

BIO: Katie writes at Preschool Inspirations and has been teaching and administrating preschool and early childhood programs for a total of 14 years. She has enjoyed working in centers as well as her own private preschool where her own children attended. Currently, Katie is homeschooling her three children. She is passionate about hands-on activities and learning through play, and she also has a strong background in the infant and toddler years. You can connect with Katie through Facebook or Pinterest.

Here are other math and sorting ideas—
Ten Black Dots: Counting and Grouping Circles
Butterfly Life Cycle Sensory Bin
Zoo Book Activity: Matching Eyes
Math Picture Books for Preschool

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Follow my Numbers Pinterest Board for more great ideas!

Ten Black Dots: Counting and Grouping Circles

Activities based on books are a great way to merge and encourage extended theme learning with preschoolers. Today I have a counting activity based on the book Ten Black Dots.

counting and grouping circles for preschool
Disclosure: Amazon links included below.


Supplies you will need:

  • Book Ten Black Dots by Donald Crews
  • Black cardstock
  • Circle punch
  • White chalk

I used one sheet of black cardstock for every two children. Each child had his own chalk, and we all shared the circle punch.

counting ten black dots

Punch and Count Circles

After reading the book Ten Black Dots by Donald Crews, invite children to punch circles from the black cardstock. Using the circle punch is a great exercise in itself. My younger preschooler (3) is still gaining the strength whereas her older brother (5) can use the punch well. Allow the children punch as many circles as they like.

Next, count out 10 circles. Write the numerals 1-10 on the circles with chalk. If your child can already write let him do it! Or print the numerals for them. Another benefit of having my younger child work with the older one—he can mostly write the numbers; she watches and learns!

Cut the numerals in order on the table. Talk about each number. Point to the a number and ask: What number is before this one? What number is after it?

numbered black dots counting circles

Sort and Group Circles

Now draw random shapes or symbols on the circles. Choose three or four different shapes. Repeat the shapes on several different circles. Either use extra circles that the children punched out or flip the numbered circles over and draw random shapes on the backs.

After the kids drew shapes on the circles, we grouped them into groups of 2, 3, 4, and 5!

Make a group of circles. Invite a child to tell you how many. Repeat with different groups of circles. Encourage older preschoolers or kindergartners to tell how many without counting them (subitizing).

Playing these games will help children develop their understanding of numbers and quantity. A strong number sense will help build skills for future math understanding.

grouping sorting black circles

Match the Circles

Reread the book Ten Black Dots by Donald Crews. Lay the book on a flat surface. Place the circles on the counting pages of the book, covering the dots on the pages. Ask: “How many dots did you put on the book?” Count the dots as the child takes the dots off the page.

I hope you found this idea useful! We had fun with the circle punch and reading all about 10 black dots.

nicciBIO:Do come visit Nicolette on her blog at Powerful Mothering. She loves to share simple and easy crafts, activities, printables, and learning ideas for babies, toddlers, and preschoolers! You will love her related Learn to Count! (1-10 Circle Printable). She is also the author of:Rice Play.

Check out these other ideas for counting
Bear Counts: Counting on Paws
Insect Counting Cards
Ten Red Apples: Counting Trees
Math Picture Books for Preschoolers

numbers pinterest board
Follow my Numbers Pinterest Board for more great ideas!

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