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Monkey in the Middle

October 16, 2008

child playing a game with stuffed animals, which is in the middle

Children learn by playing, so using familiar objects we are going to play a game to help your child learn the terms first, last, middle and between.


– Children need to learn that everything has a beginning and an end, like stories and movies. It will also help them learn the terms first, last, middle and between.

Monkey in the Middle Lesson

At least 3 – 5 assorted stuffed animals, toys or other objects the child is familiar with
  1. Gather a variety of stuffed animals, toys or other objects that your child is familiar with. You can make a game of it and have your child help gather them up. You will want at least 3 items but more is great.
  2. Have your child play with the items for a few minutes before you start the lesson or he will be distracted by the items. Parent Tip - explore first
  3. When he seem ready (usually within 5 minutes), ask him to line up all of the items in a row facing one way.
    • When he is done, ask him, “Pick up the one that is the first one in the row?” If he understood, acknowledge his efforts (Good job, Way to go…). If he doesn’t understand and he pulls out another item, explain that the first one is the one in front, there’s nothing in front of that one.
    • Now ask him to, “Pick up the item that is last.” Again, praise the effort, even if he is wrong. If he is wrong, you can say, “Good try, let’s try again.”
  4. Have him rearrange the items and put them into a row again. This time ask for the last one, then the first one. See if he hesitates or picks it up with confidence. By watching him, you’ll know whether you need to continue working on this skill.
  5. If you think your child isn’t getting frustrated, introduce between.
    • Pick up 3 items and tell a story…This (hold up one item) was going to the playground.
    • He was the first one walking down the street.
    • He saw a friend and asked if he/she wanted to go with him (insert the stuffed animals or object name in the story).
    • So they were on their way to the playground (Role play 2 friends walking down the street with the items).
    • Another friend comes up and walks between them and they all walk to the park together. (Show the 3 friends walking with the 3rd one in the middle).
    • Ask your child to identify which item was first, last and in themiddle. This is a little tricky since the last one is also themiddle one, but see if your child can see that they are both.
  6. Now have your child make up a story using 3 items. Let him make the story any way he would like as long as no one gets hurt. Have him identify the first, last and middle item.
  7. Demonstrate Middle: If everything is going smoothly, have your child tell you the middle item when you use 5 items. One trick is to line them all up and take one away from each end until you only have one left. What happens when it is an even number and there isn’t only one left? The two together would be buddies in the middle.
  8. Demonstrate Between: Take two items and have them close together. Place another item between them while you are saying, “I am putting (item) between the other 2 (items)”. Then have your child manipulate items to show you between.
  9. When you are all through, you can have your child put back the gathered items with directions like, “First put the (item name) away. Please put the (item name) away last.” This would reinforce the skill while making it a game.

Re-enforcement Activities

  1. Make a game of getting dressed in the morning. Have your child put on one article of clothing first, like a sock and have him put on his pants last. Making it silly would increase the fun and insure that he will ask to do this again. parent tip on being silly
  2. You can have your child dictate the story about first, last, middle andbetween to you and he can draw the pictures PDF. This is an excellent way to have him show you his understanding of the terms and you’ll see if there are any misunderstandings. If there is a misunderstanding, make a mental note to do another activity with the terms or do the same kind of activity again for your child to have another opportunity to get the concept. parent tip - repeat information
  3. Worksheets to demonstrate first and last:
    1. Animals on Parade PDF
    2. Animals at the Zoo PDF


When your child can show an understanding of the terms without needing assistance or clues, he is ready for the next concept. If he is struggling with some of the terms, continue to play with different objects and using the terminology but don’t worry, with more experience with the terms, he will have a very concrete understanding of them soon.

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