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A Chrysanthemum by Any Other Name Would Smell As Sweet

By Allie Magnuson on August 20, 2010
  • Grades: PreK–K

A child's name is their first gift, the first thing that gives them an identity. It's placed on hospital cards. It's made official on a birth certificate. It's lovingly handwritten in baby books. It might even be announced in the newspaper. A name says "I am a specific and unique individual."

Photo © Juliana Coutinho

The beginning of the kindergarten school year is the best time to talk to children about names. This teaches self-awareness and self-esteem, as well as interpersonal and social skills. 

Names in Children's Books


There are many books you can read that will help get you started on the topic; for instance, Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes, in which a little mouse loves her flower name until she starts kindergarten and the other kids make fun of it. Her parents can no longer reassure her as they once did, but when the school's popular music teacher reveals that her name is Delphinium and that she is going to name her baby after Chrysanthemum, it makes everyone realize that names are special. See Chrysanthemum extension activities and the Chrysanthemum discussion guide.


In the book Miss Bindergarten Gets Ready for Kindergarten by Joseph Slate, the reader gets to know all the children in Miss Bindergarten's class by name. You could point out how it is easier to relate to characters whose names you know.

I've also made a list of books about names that you might like.

There Is Only One of You in All Time

You can also share with your students that there are many things besides names that make them who they are, different from everyone else in the world. These include their:

  • Face
  • Hair
  • Fingerprints
  • Handwriting
  • Voice
  • DNA

In addition, their nervous systems (the inside of their bodies) are unique, and because they experience the world through their five bodily senses of seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, and touching  and in addition to those, by thinking  their experiences of the world are also unique. Their entire set of experiences at any time gives them a unique point of view!

You might want to read some books about the five senses so your students understand them better. Here's an extensive list of books about the five senses to choose from.

To wrap it all up, you can combine the topics of names and the five senses in an activity that is fun  and different  for all!


Experiencing Your Name in All Five Senses*



"I love my name, but sometimes I have to shorten it!"

*This activity is best done in small groups and with adult assistance.

Materials You Will Need:

Clear glue (bottles and sticks)
Black felt-tip marker
Pipe cleaners (many colors or just one)
Red and blue crayons
3-D glasses (1 per child, or 1 for the whole class)
Jell-O gelatin mix
Froot Loops
Novelty voice recorders (1 per child)


Get creative with whatever's in your supply closet!

Preliminary Work:

Using a black felt-tip marker, write each child's name on a separate piece of tagboard. Write the first letter in uppercase, and the rest in lowercase.  

Record yourself saying each child's name on a separate voice recorder.  Don't forget to label them somehow so you'll know whose is whose.

Put all the materials together.



Step 1:

Show your students how to straighten, bend, or cut the pipe cleaners into the shapes of the letters in their names and then glue them onto the tagboard. Glue sticks are easier for this than bottled glue. Tell them to press, hold, and count to their age to make the pipe cleaners stick. Instruct them to feel the material with their fingers and to tell you which one of the five senses they are using.  (TOUCHING)

19457_296626983676_55894153676_4767842_2473731_n DSC00596

"Ooh, it feels fuzzy!"

Alternative Materials

sandpaper, puffy paint, embossing powder, glazes, craft buttons, ribbons, pom-poms, seeds, macaroni, beans, rice, beads, felt, velvet, fibers, leather, tinfoil, burlap, cotton balls, leaves, Play-Doh or clay, putty, feathers, fur, mosaic tiles, wax, cork, foam, styrofoam, sand, fuzzy stickers, decorative-edge scissors

Step 2:

Have your students color two thick circles around their names, the first one red and the second one blue. (The blue must be directly to the left of the red to produce the 3-D effects.) When everyone is done, have them put on the 3-D glasses to see the letters pop out at them! Ask them which of the five senses they are using now.  (SEEING)

19457_296624098676_55894153676_4767832_4540246_n DSC00598 

"Oh, look, I see my name popping out at me!"

Alternative Materials

any color crayons, paint, stains, markers, colored pencils, pastels, colored chalk, gel pens, glitter, sparkles, sequins, confetti, rhinestones, stickers and decals, glow-in-the-dark shapes or stickers, light-ups and fiber optics, rubber stamps, image transfers, stencils, rubbing plates, shredded paper, tracing paper, pop-ups and 3-D foam squares, sun catchers and prisms, lenses and magnifying glasses, kaleidoscopes, eyedroppers, battery-operated candles, springs 

Step 3:

Using a glue stick, show the group how to spread a thin layer of glue in the background of the picture, and then how to sprinkle Jell-O mix on top. What sense are they experiencing now? (SMELLING)

19457_296624098676_55894153676_4767832_4540246_n (2) DSC00607 

"Mmm, I could smell this all day!"

Alternative Materials

Kool-Aid, cinnamon, mint, vanilla, nutmeg, ginger, clover, aloe, chamomile, menthol, cocoa, coffee, tea, dried fruit, grass, flowers, potpourri, pine needles, cedar, perfume or cologne, oils, air fresheners, candles, baby powder, soap, bubble bath, laundry detergent, fabric softener, scented markers, scratch-and-sniff stickers

Step 4:

Using a glue bottle, show how to put a small circle of glue directly on the back of each Froot Loop and then press the Froot Loops down in a line to make a border around their pictures. They can be placed in a pattern or just randomly, whatever you prefer. Don't forget to leave a space for the voice recorders. As your students are working, give them handfuls of the cereal to eat. When they are eating, what sense are they using? (TASTING)

19457_296624098676_55894153676_4767832_4540246_n (3) DSC00613 

"Yummy, I love Froot Loops!"

Alternative Materials

any kind of cereal, Life Savers, M&M's, candy buttons, candy canes, peppermint or butterscotch drops, lip balm, bubble gum, sugar, brown sugar, cookies, crackers, popcorn, marshmallows, nuts (make sure there are no nut allergies!), raisins, pretzel sticks, chocolate chips, licorice sticks, Pop Rocks

Step 5:

Finally, have each child glue their buttons on and then press to hear their names. This will delight them! What sense are they using to listen? (HEARING)

19457_296626983676_55894153676_4767842_2473731_n (2)_edit DSC00614 

"When I hear the sound of my name, my ears perk up!"

Alternative Materials

bells, chimes, wind-up musical movements, whistles, castanets, drumsticks, triangles, shakers, noisemakers, party horns, handheld horns, rattles, maracas, squeakers, bubble wrap, clocks, battery-operated radios, switches, timers, coins, zippers, chains

Places to Get Materials

For basic arts and crafts supplies, try Create for LessDick BlickHobby LobbyNational Artcraft, and Michael's. Some of the more specialized items listed here can be found at Flashing Blinky LightsScent It, and ShopWiki (for wholesale sound modules).

Do you have a good project idea that incorporates names and/or book themes? Let me know in the comments.

Have a sensational weekend!


Comments (19)

Renee - Thank you for letting me know what you do with your children. I think I will do that too. Thank you so much for reading. ~Allie

I love how you have the saying about a child's name being their first gift. That is very touching. I'd like to share something else I do with names. I send a note home to parents and ask them to share how or why they named their child. The students love hearing why their parents gave them their name.

Ashley - I am glad you enjoyed this project. I hope you enjoy this weeks post too - it's all about Nursery Rhymes. Thank you for reading.


What a fantastic idea! :) I can't wait to use this in my classroom.

Thanks for sharing

Hi Karen,

Thank you for your nice comment. I am glad you found something you can use with your preschoolers. Come back every week for more ideas!


I love this activity and the different skills that it allows for. Great Job! I am going to adapt it for my preschoolers

Hi Norma,

I love all your suggestions and I will indeed try some of those - especially for centers. I love how this one activity can go all across the curriculum. I am looking forward to learning from you and I welcome all suggestions.

Come back next week!


I like the way you're making the activities hands-on and multi-sensory. Good job! Here are a few suggestions: 1.) It's fun for kids to learn the meaning of their name. (i.e. "Norma" means "model or example".) I purchased a book with 5000 baby names and am able to find most kids' names in it. For names not in the book, I check with the family to find out why they chose a certain name for their child and if they know what the name means. 2.) Make name puzzles. Teacher writes each child's name in big, fat letters on square pieces of tagboard. Kids can color in the letters using lots of polka dots, squiggly lines, stripes, wavy lines, etc. After the name is decorated, the teacher cuts the tagboard into large puzzle pieces. Kids are then encouraged to put their names back together again. Kids can place their name puzzles in large envelopes and work on their puzzles at home too. 3.) Tie in math with the use of the students' names. Count how many letters are in each child's name. Sort and graph the names. Also, organize the children's names by the beginning letter of each name. Graph how many letters start with "A", "B", etc. I keep these graphs up in my classroom for the whole year so kids can reference them as needed.

Hi Nancy,

Thank you for your kind words. I think it's a fabulous idea for you to do this with your class and their Kinder Buddies. I am looking forward to learning from you too.


Allie, Your lesson is amazing! I am going tweak it a bit and do this lesson with my kids and their Kinder Buddies. You are absolutely inspiring.

Nancy Jang

Hi Lynsie,

Thank you for your ideas. I love activities with names. I will be sure to add your suggestions.

Thank you for reading!


Put names in a literacy center on sentence strips or as a matching game-that way the students learn each others names. Also, don't forget Mix n' Match with names and pictures.

Hi Victoria,

Thank you so much for your kind words. I think an activity like this can be geared for any grade level! I hope you keep reading as I will continue to add more activities.


This is one FANTASTIC post. I absolutely LOVE your activity. :)

Hi Mary,

I am impressed with what you do with your students. I am really enjoying learning from you too. I think this year is going to be fantastic!

Thank you for reading.


Allie, Once again you amaze me. Each week, I learn how much we have in common. When I do my Medieval unit, I do names. I also teach senses, using them in descriptive writing. I am going to use this, yes, at middle school level, to teach the them history behind their names, which is huge during the middle ages. Thanks for sharing.

Hi Joy,

I think it's really good for kids to use their senses to learn. I am going to try to find different ways to incorporate the five senses into lessons this year.

Thanks for reading!


I have taught kindergarten for many years and have never thought to combine name activities with the five senses that you have just shown. What a great idea.

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