A Birthday Basket for Tia, by Pat Mora

It’s Tia’s birthday, what special gifts will she find in the basket?


  • Large basket to hold a book, a teacup, a mixing bowl, a (red) ball, a flowerpot, and some silk flowers.
  • A circle graph
  • A sheet, or towel, large enough to cover the items in the basket.
  • Pillowcase
  • 10 flannel candles, color these yellow and blue
  • Copy of basket, one per child
  • old wrapping paper or aluminum foil
  • 4-5 pipe cleaners cut into thirds


  • Tia (means Aunt in Spanish)
  • Tea Cup (a special cup to drink tea in)
  • Surprise (to give somebody something unexpectedly)

Introducing the story

Bring the large basket filled with the items listed. Tell the children that you have a surprise for my Tia/aunt whom I love very much. Ask them if they can guess why you are giving them to your Tia. “Yes! It’s her birthday!” If nobody suggests birthday, tell the children because it is her birthday. Pick up each item and have the children name. Ask the children how they celebrate birthdays. Write their responses on a large sheet of paper.

Language Development/Speaking & Communicating; develops increasing abilities to understand and use language to communicate information, experiences, ideas, feelings, opinions, needs, questions; and for other varied purposes.

Reading the Story

Read the story quietly, secretly as though you do not want Tia to hear. As you read, hold up each item in the basket when presented in the story and put down in front of you in a haphazard order.

Language Development/Listening & Understanding; demonstrates increasing ability to attend to and understand conversations, stories, songs, and poems.

After Reading the Story

Ask the children to recall what item was put in the basket first, second, third, last. Put the items back in the basket in the proper order with the help of the children.

Literacy/Book Knowledge & Appreciation; demonstrates progress in abilities to retell and dictate stories from books and experiences; to act out stories in dramatic play; and to predict what will happen next in a story.

Use the circle graph and take the list of the children responses of how they celebrate birthdays and mark those that are like the story and those that are different.

Mathematics/Patterns & Measurement; begins to make comparisons between several objects based on a single attribute. 

 Music and Movement

Sing Happy Birthday with your children. Or, try

Happy Birdle Daydle toodle yooudle.
Happy Birdle Daydle toodle youdle
Happy Birdle Daydle deardle youdle
Happy Birdle Daydle toodle youdle.

Literacy/Phonological Awareness; shows growing awareness of beginning and ending sounds in words.

Or teach them to sing it in Spanish

Feliz cumpleaños a ti
feliz cumpleaños a ti
feliz cumpleaños querido/a (name)
feliz cumpleaños a ti.

Language Development/Speaking & Communicating; uses an increasingly complex and varied spoken vocabulary.


Without the children being able to see, put an object into the pillowcase. It should be something from the classroom that the children are familiar with. Let the children take turns feeling the item through the pillow case. Can they guess what it is without looking? After each child, change the object. Try putting in the objects from the story also. Encourage the children to take turns finding a classroom object and putting it into the pillowcase for a friend to guess.

Approaches to Learning/Initiative & Curiosity; approaches tasks and activities with increased flexibility, imagination, and inventiveness. Chooses to participate in increasing variety of tasks and activities.


Give the children scraps of wrapping paper and tape, or pieces of aluminum foil, and show them how to wrap the blocks up like gifts.

Physical Health & Development/Fine Motor Skills; develops growing strength, dexterity, and control needed to use tools such as scissors, paper punch, stapler, and hammer.


Use the teacup and a variety of cups to print circle shapes on paper. Talk about small, medium, and large circles as they print.

Mathematics/Geometry & Spatial Sense; begins to be able to determine whether or not two shapes are the same size and shape.

Sand and Water

Use dampened sand today to make cakes. Add pieces of pipe cleaners to represent candles. Encourage the children to add 3 candles, 5 candles, etc.

Mathematics/Number & Operations; develops increased abilities to combine, separate, and name “how many” concrete objects.

Library and Writing

Give children a copy of the basket and ask them to draw a picture of a gift that they would give to Tia.

Literacy/Book Knowledge & Appreciation; shows growing interest in reading related activities, such as asking to have a book read; choosing to look at books; drawing pictures based on stories, asking to take books home…

Dramatic Play

Put the basket with the items from the story (minus the tea cup-replace with a plastic one) and encourage the children to play birthday party. You could also add some crepe paper and tape, some boxes to put items in, and birthday hats.

Social & Emotional Development/Cooperation; develops increasing abilities to give and take in interactions; to take turns in games or using materials; and to interact without being overly submissive or directive.

Math and Manipulatives

Teach the children the poem, Ten Little Candles and let them subtract the candles as you recite.

10 Little Candles standing on a cake (Put the 10 candles on the flannel board)
Whhh, Whhh, now there are 8 (Take 2 candles away)
8 little candles in candlesticks
Whhh, Whhh, now there are 6 (Take 2 candles away)
6 little candles and not one more
Whhh, Whhh, now there are 4 (Take away 2 candles)
4 little candles, yellow and blue
Whhh, Whhh, now there are 2 (Take away 2 candles)
2 little candles, 1 plus 1
Whhh, Whhh, now there are none. (Take away 2 candles)

Mathematics/Number & Operations; demonstrates increasing interest and awareness of numbers and counting as a means for solving problems and determining quantity.

For younger children you might try Five Little Candles

5 little candles standing tall
Burning brightly, count them all
Puff, I blow with all my might
And out goes one little candle light.
Then so on for 4, 3, etc.

Mathematics/Number & Operations; demonstrates increasing interest and awareness of numbers and counting as a means for solving problems and determining quantity.

Outdoor Play

Hang a piñata from a tree and practice hitting it with a plastic baseball bat. If you do not have a piñata you can use a pillowcase stuffed with newspaper, sack, anything that the children can practice hitting at. You do not need to fill it with goodies, you can pretend.

Physical Health & Development/Gross Motor Skills; demonstrates increasing abilities to coordinate movements in throwing, catching, kicking, bouncing balls, and using slide and swing.


Have each child pretend to blow out the birthday candles. Remove 1-10 and the child must tell you how many remain before they go to the next activity.

Mathematics/Number & Operations; develops increasing ability to count in sequence to 10 and beyond.

Dear Parents, Today we read a story about a birthday celebration. Talk with your child about when their birthday is. Tell them the date and what happens just before. Example; Kerry your birthday is March 11, when it is your birthday it will begin to get warmer because soon it will be spring. Roger your birthday is December 23, when it is almost Christmas it will be your birthday.


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About Kerry CI am an Early Childhood Educator who has seen daily the value of shared book readings with my preschoolers. I use the book theme in my centers and can daily touch upon a variety of Early Childhood Domains which makes assessing the children easy and individualized.