Five in a Row · Kindergarten · Preschool

Mike Mulligan & His Steam Shovel – Five in a Row Preschool & Kindergarten

Mike Mulligan Cover.png

Do you ever have moments when you are overwhelmed with gratitude?  I had one earlier as I watched baby Q take a few crawls forward.  I am blessed to be able to stay home and be here for all the little moments but even more than that, I felt so grateful as I watched M and J sit on the floor a few feet in front of Q cheering him on and encouraging him to crawl to them.  They are all developing such a strong bond with each other, which is my greatest wish for them.

It’s so important to pause and soak in these moments of blessing because they help me through the moments of pure chaos.  I’m sure we can all relate but not every moment is quite so enjoyable.  Having these moments though remind us why we do it and how worth it it all is.

Anyways, here’s a look at our latest Five in a Row book – Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel by Virginia Lee Burton.

*This post contains affiliate links, through which I may receive a small commission at no cost to you.  Thank you for your support!*

Read the Book


As with each FIAR book, the most important aspect is to read the actual book.  It is recommended that you read the book every day that week but my kids don’t seem to like reading them more than once. Originally published in 1939, it is amazing how enjoyable it still is today.

“Mike and his trusty steam shovel, Mary Anne, dig deep canals for boats to travel through, cut mountain passes for trains, and hollow out cellars for city skyscrapers — the very symbol of industrial America. But with progress come new machines, and soon the inseparable duo are out of work. Mike believes that Mary Anne can dig as much in a day as one hundred men can dig in a week, and the two have one last chance to prove it and save Mary Anne from the scrap heap. What happens next in the small town of Popperville is a testament to their friendship, and to old-fashioned hard work and ingenuity.”

J and I really liked the story, it was the first book that he seemed really into!  M on the other hand, has been protesting anything she deems “boy-ish” lately so she was not having it.

Lap Book

When I took out the lapbook, M had no interest in working on it.  However, once I left the room she worked through it on her own and proudly showed off the finished work.  The lapbook explored different types of steam-powered machines, had M drawing her own tree, hunting for squares and more.


Maestro CD

Awhile back I had read a review for Maestro CD’s and was intrigued.  When I saw that one of the options was for Mike Mulligan, I ordered it and planned to use it as a supplement this week.  After reading the story, we listed to the narration of it with the orchestra accompaniment.  We have music playing throughout the day most days but rarely is it anything close to classical.  This was a great way to expose M and J to classical music and another medium for listening to the story.

J really loved this and followed along in the book as the narration played.  M was not into it but afterwards said she would really like to try another Maestro CD for a different story.


The CD also included a story about the author and where the inspiration for the story come from.  This was probably my favorite aspect of the CD.  It also included a song about the characters in the book, which we sang along to.  The packet included with the disc contained the music to play the song itself and while neither of my kids can read music, that didn’t stop them from finding instruments and making it up as they went along!



We talked about the concept of personification and how Mike Mulligan treats his steam shovel like a person (example: giving her a name).  To demonstrate this concept, M and J drew pictures of our house and each came up with a name for it.


States of Matter

Since Maryann was powered by steam, we learned about the different states of matter.  We used a booklet I got from Teachers Pay Teachers to go over each state and its characteristics (I can’t find the link otherwise I would share it, sorry!).  Instead of making a book though, M made a lapbook of sorts that described each state.  She then completed a few worksheets that sorted items into their appropriate category – solid, liquid or gas.

We were treated to our first big snow storm of the season this week, which gave us a perfect way to experience states of matter in a hands-on way.  We took snow (solid) and melted it to water (liquid), which we then boiled to make steam (gas).

Community Helpers

Mike Mulligan worked in construction, which gave us a perfect lead into our new theme – Community Helpers.  M and J got to be construction workers themselves this week, building various creations from our big bin of Duplo blocks.  Since they love dressing up, I got them each a construction vest to wear while we played.

*I’ll be posting more about this during a 10-week Community Helpers series coming soon so stay tuned!*


One of the last things we talked about this week was the concept of inventions.  FIAR recommends the book Hooray for Inventors by Marcia Williams as a supplement, which I had requested from the library.  My kids didn’t care for it though, I think it was because of how busy the pages were.  It was hard for them to follow along.  However, if your kids like comic-book type books, this would be a great resource.  It included popular inventors as well as some unknowns (at least to me!).



This book provided some great learning opportunities for us although it was the first FIAR book that M really didn’t like.  Go figure it was also the first FIAR book that J really got into.

If you missed any of our other Five in a Row adventures, check them out here.






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