I’m excited to share with you today a fun lesson plan sent to me by Christine from Pony Preschool (check out their website and Facebook page)! She used it to teach preschool aged children on ponies, but it’s totally adaptable to therapeutic riding students and whatever skills they are working on. Make sure to check out her website and story behind Pony Preschool because it’s wonderful and I’m so jealous they get to do it :). I hope you enjoy this lesson and get to use it or tuck it in your pocket for next year! Thank you Christine so much for sharing this!!
Gingerbread Man Lesson Plan
Hi! I’m Christine, and I teach preschool level riding lessons. A lot of the activities I use in my lessons are similar to the ones I saw when I volunteered in therapeutic riding. Games and a quick pace keep the lessons exciting but filled with learning! I hope you enjoy some of my ideas 🙂
Every lesson begins with grooming and tacking. I teach Littles the importance of taking care of animals and building a relationship with them. Grooming horses shows them that we are trustworthy and kind. Plus, who doesn’t love fluffing up some winter ponies?! I teach the different pieces of tack and briefly explain its function.
Once mounted, my Littles ALWAYS introduce themselves. It’s great practice for kids to say their names out loud. They say “I’m ____ and I’m riding ____.” Then everyone else responds by saying “Hi, (Name of child)!” The response portion is another great learning tool that teaches social communication!
After introductions, we stretch! This works on balance, following directions and body awareness. It also shows me a little of where each kiddo is at physically and mentally. A couple of our stretches are “airplane arms,” touching the pony’s ears, touching their own toes and standing in their stirrups. Depending on the riders, I can adjust the difficulty of these stretches!
Once we are stretched, I show the Littles how to walk and whoa their ponies. Then we get moving! We repeat all of our stretches once again but now on MOVING ponies! Yay! What a balance exercise!
After a couple circles and some walk/whoa practice, I read The Gingerbread Man. There is no better place for storytime than on a pony’s back! Storytime captivates the attention of most Littles. And those who aren’t into it are definitely into pony snuggles! MODIFICATION: Listen to the Gingerbread Man song while walking around 🙂
Our first game is making a gingerbread man! I created little recipe cards for each of the riders. We go over the recipe together and look around the arena for the ingredients. (The ingredients can be anything you want. I use the actual items in the photo of the recipe: blocks (of butter), spoons, cups (of milk). Be creative! You can also just do pictures. Or letters! Or numbers.) They collect each ingredient and dump them into a baby pool in the middle of the arena. At the end, they use a spoon to stir the ingredients. They dismount and have a blast mixing up all the items in the pool. This activity practices following directions, steering, whoa-ing, balance when picking up items, dismounting and spatial awareness. MODIFICATIONS: Use pictures on the recipe card, use only words, make the recipe longer or shorter
Next, we practice letter matching with some gingerbread man cutouts. All you need are some paper gingerbread men with letters printed on them. Riders can match identical letters or uppercase and lowercase letters. This activity practices school skills, fine motor skills, following directions, balance, steering and whoa-ing. MODIFICATIONS: shapes, colors, numbers or any other matching game that is appropriate for your audience
Our final game is a gum drop toss. I have made pom pom balls out of yarn that I use in games like this one. Our ponies have been desensitized to these, and this desensitization is very important for this game. Littles collect different colored balls and toss them into matching colored rings or buckets. We have been known to end this game with a “gum drop fight” where they get to toss their pom poms at a friend or at me! Again, our ponies are okay with these actions!! This activity is not only super fun but practices following directions, school skills, balance, gross motor, steering, whoa-ing, spatial awareness and self-control! MODIFICATIONS: Use smaller or larger balls, practice counting balls instead of matching, put large balls in large containers and small balls in small containers
At the end of a lesson, Littles “park” their pony, untack and brush to say “thank you!”
Thank you Christine for this great lesson, and for reaching out to me when I asked for contributors! I wish you all the best with your ponies and kiddos! (If you want to share a fun lesson plan or activity on the blog, please contact me, I’d love to have you!)
Note: This is not professional advice, this is a blog. I am not liable for what you do with or how you use this information. The activities explained in this blog may not be fit for every rider, riding instructor, or riding center depending on their current condition and resources. Use your best personal judgement! If you would like to contribute an activity or article, please contact me here, I would love to hear from you!