Snortle Hunting

As it’s Sunday, we decided to take full advantage of Daddy being home and get him involved in a bit of Book Squirms fun. Well, with Daddy involved what better choice of book could there be than The Great Snortle Hunt, a wonderfully written tale about a quest to find a big, hairy beast?

In The Great Snortle Hunt, written by Claire Freedman and illustrated by Kate Hindley, we see Cat, Mouse, Dog and Rabbit gather the three Snortle-hunting essentials, a torch, rope and cake. Together they head off to seek out the mysterious and menacing Snortle in his ‘scary-creepy’ house. As the tension rises, they encounter self-closing doors, a faulty torch, ‘strange gurgly moans’ and an enormous, sleeping monster before fleeing out of his window and down the rickety drainpipe. Luckily for the four adventurers, the Snortle is far nicer than they had led one another to believe and volunteers his ‘fat, hairy tummy’ as a trampoline to help them down before befriending them and inviting them for tea.

What did we do?

First of all, A and I made a Snortle mask while V napped. I didn’t tell A why we did this; she didn’t need any more motivation than a passing mention of Snortles, glue and ‘making’ to be sold. All we needed was scissors, glue, card, tissue paper, and a pen and we had a pretty convincing Snortle mask. I left the book next to her as she was putting her Snortle together so she could link the activity clearly to the book and take a good level of ownership over making her mask.

Later in the afternoon, once V was awake and the mask had dried, Daddy snuck off upstairs, put on the mask and got into A’s bed. We had a sleeping, snoring Snortle just waiting to be found!

Downstairs, we read the beginning of our book, gathered the essential torch, rope and cake (or torch, belt and toy doughnut – real cake doesn’t last long enough to be a prop in this house) then set off for the stairs. I skipped a few sections as they were eager to get upstairs, although at the girls’ request we read the whole thing a little later at bedtime.

The look on their faces when they found the Snortle in bed was priceless! Daddy was letting out very convincing snores and we continued to read until he roared out ‘What are you all doing?’ the Snortle’s first line from the book. I didn’t see her face, but Daddy reliably informs me that poor little V looked briefly terrified before realising who was behind the mask and beaming.

A was swept away with excitement and chaos ensued as Daddy Snortle leapt out of bed and roared (less menacingly) at the girls and chased them. We kept reading the book and they ran around, before Daddy Snortle offered himself up as a trampoline. He read the Snortle’s lines, which added a new dimension to the story for the girls and they absolutely loved having him involved and performing.

This was fantastic fun, made all the better by having everyone joining in. I could have extended the preparation for this by making various other masks or costumes with the girls and I might do it again in the winter when we can make use of the dark in the evening.

The Snortle mask is now proudly displayed in A’s room and V was full of chatter about how it was Daddy behind the mask and that was funny. I loved how our exploration of the story moved through the house and will be keeping my eye out for more opportunities to hunt and explore with stories. Next stop, We’re Going on a Bear Hunt!

How can you use this?

  • Get everyone involved. I tend to take the lead with all of the book-related play, while Daddy sticks with more traditional story time, but mixing him into the action worked a treat and we’ll definitely do it again.
  • Make masks of key characters and wear them while you’re reading.
  • Is there a hunt in your book? Can you go on one? Go for it!
  • Don’t be afraid of chaos. The most fun we had was running away from the Snortle.

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Pink Pear Bear

How to Catch a Star? Build a tall tower!

It’s the first day of the summer holidays here so of course it’s been raining all day. We needed an indoors activity that would help burn off some energy and Oliver Jeffers’ How to Catch a Star provided inspiration for the perfect one.

In How to Catch a Star, we meet a boy who decides he would like ‘a star of his very own’ as a friend. The boy waits patiently all day for the stars to come out and when they do, tries all manner of ways to get to the sky and catch a star, from jumping and tree climbing to, my personal favourite, taking his spaceship, which is sadly out of petrol.

Jeffers’ distinctive illustrations make this such a memorable read; I love the use of colour and shadow while the shapes have really captured my eldest daughter’s attention. She’s endlessly fascinated by the illustration of the boy as he is eating his lunch; his usually round head is instead presented in a Pacmanesque open-mouthed pose and something about that change just grabs her every time! The story itself is a firm favourite and I’ve a feeling after the fun we had with it today, it’ll be more in demand than ever.

What did we do?
I gathered How to Catch a Star, the girls and a glow in the dark star in one place, popped the star onto the ceiling and let semi-organised chaos commence as they tried to figure out how to ‘catch’ the star. This is a great activity for creative problem-solving with children and has made me eager to set up more things like it.

The girls began, predictably, with stretching, reaching and jumping. They graduated to running jumps, then, when we talked about things that fly, enlisted Super Girl, then Super Girl riding on a dragon (who some of you may recognise from my The Crocodile Who Didn’t Like Water post). Super Girl on the dragon was my two-year-old’s idea and my personal favourite moment of this whole endeavour.

 

Taking inspiration from the book, the eldest wanted to try a rocket and built a pretty tall one herself, but even holding it up and standing on her tip toes, it still wasn’t quite there! That’s when we moved on to towers. After various rickety, unsuccessful attempts and some spectacular topples, we finally cracked it and caught our star.

How did it go?
As you can probably tell already, it went brilliantly and occupied us completely for about 20 minutes. Honestly, it may well have been longer; time just flew.

There was plenty of prancing around, problem solving, lateral thinking and laughter. Loads of toys made appearances, entirely led by the kids and the things they felt were relevant and necessary. There’s plenty of scope to do this again with more planning and involve different materials to build structures and ‘flying’ contraptions. We’ll definitely be catching more stars in the future.

How can you use this?

  • Is there a problem your book’s characters solve? Could you replicate it?
  • If not, could you create a relevant problem and allow your readers to solve it?
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Pink Pear Bear

Story Telling Shelves

While exploring Pinterest for reading corner inspiration, I came across the lovely idea of Story Telling Shelves.  They are super easy to put together.  All you need is a book and a small assortment of props and toys related to the book’s content.  You don’t even need a shelf; I’ve seen them presented in baskets and bags too.

Presented as an idea for classrooms, these are also a fantastic idea for your home bookshelves. As regular readers will know, I’m a big advocate for springboard activities and book inspired play and these shelves are perfect for encouraging exactly this.

It took about 10 minutes to assemble this Stick Man bookshelf, designed to inspire play based on Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler’s very popular book.  I love putting this sort of thing together and thoroughly enjoyed finding various bits and bobs to round out the little stick world I was creating.

The girls came down to it the next day and absolutely loved it.  The beaming smile on my eldest’s face was something to behold and she dived straight in to play.  You know they’re truly taken with something when they proceed to bicker about who gets to play with it on and off all morning.

There are so books that will be perfect for our story telling shelf and I can see it being a great addition to our Book Squirms fun.

 

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A good old-fashioned sort out

I live in a house of book lovers, but that love doesn’t always translate to tender loving care. I’ll admit it, I’m a page folder. Even when I know for a fact there are at least five bookmarks in the house, I still favour a folded page. My justification: Book marks fall out, but pages stay folded.  Full disclosure, I’m a binding-breaker, an accidental food-flicker and a water-marker too. I’m also a huge fan of the cram-it-on-the-shelf-as-quickly-as-possible school of tidying.

The shelfie of shame

Until a few days ago, our books and shelves were looking pretty sorry for themselves with everything jammed in higgledy-piggledy, particularly the girls’ book shelves, which see way more traffic than the grown ups’. It took a brave person with plenty time on their hands to dive in and try to extract their book of choice.

A good deal tidier, but not exactly inspiring

On Sunday, I finally rolled up my metaphorical sleeves and had a thorough sort out.  The books tattered enough to be unreadable (don’t worry, there weren’t too many) were consigned to the great library in the sky and I’ve had a good old-fashioned organising session, but there’s scope for a whole lot more creativity and fun.

One of the things I love about good libraries and reading corners is that they are visually appealing as well as organised. Pinterest abounds with amazing examples of reading areas ; at present we have nothing of the sort.

So that’s this summer’s big project sorted then: To create a gorgeous reading haven that will delight the girls for years to come. No big deal. The little project is to sort out their books and be more creative in their presentation and organisation.

As a starting point, I’ve called upon our sling book shelf to store little animal themed collections of picture books. We’ve got a dog shelf, cat shelf, bear shelf and bunny shelf. It’s a very simple idea, but the girls were fascinated when five bunny books appeared all at once last night and then went back into the same place.

 

Dog shelf books

I intend to change the themes fairly regularly and have loads of ideas for collections. Towards the end of summer there will definitely be a starting school/making friends theme emerging. I’m hoping to enlist the girls in picking themes and books once they get the idea. It could be a nice library activity one day.

 

I’d love to hear in the comments how you organise your children’s books; I’m always searching for inspiration, but usually resort to size for the sake of neatness!

The Paper Dolls

Yesterday was a lazy kind of Sunday, just perfect for a little crafting, a good book and some play time. With the littlest having a nap and A very much wanting to colour, draw and create, I hunted down The Paper Dolls, written by Julia Donaldson and beautifully illustrated by Rebecca Cobb. I honestly didn’t realise how many Julia Donaldson books we regularly read until I started writing about books!

In The Paper Dolls, a little girl and her mother make some paper dolls, which the little girl then plays with. She takes inspiration from her surroundings in her play and it’s such a beautiful example of a child’s imagination at work, the way her tiger slipper becomes a real tiger, her plate becomes an island and the dolls ‘lay down in a forest of grass’. Sadly, after dodging danger in tiger, dinosaur and crocodile form, the paper dolls fall victim to a little boy and his scissors, but they’re not really gone and live on in the little girl’s memory.

Rebecca Cobb’s depiction of the little girl’s memory is delightful and full of little details from the story as well as other things that loom large when you think back to your childhood, birthday cakes, pets and the like. Finally, the little girl grows up, has a little girl of her own and together they make some paper dolls. This is the point at which I have to hide the fact I’m tearing up from my audience! I love this book. Really love it. We’ve made the dolls a million times and it never stops being fun.

What did we do?
All we needed was paper, scissors, pens and The Paper Dolls. I cut the dolls out for A, who is so familiar with the process now she requests specific characters and shapes; today I was asked to provide Ben Elf, Holly Thistle the fairy, Nanny Plum and King Thistle. I did my best to oblige! Before we read the book, she drew and coloured them in then we read the book together.

The little girl makes her dolls jump, dance, float and hop so each time we read one of these verbs A made her dolls do the same. Once we’d read the book, we put the dolls in a few different scenarios. A needed a little guidance initially as she usually makes the dolls and then forgets about them, but once we’d put them in a boat in the sea (a bowl on a throw) and a swimming pool (A’s idea – in her block box) she got the idea and the second we stepped into the garden, that was it, she was off in a world of her own.

I cracked on with the weeding and she played relentlessly, all over the garden, for around forty-five minutes with her paper dolls. They went on the swing, down the slide and into the playhouse, but mostly they played in the flower bed with the flowers and the grass cuttings. It was amazing for developing her imaginative play and I caught snippets of her play involving, amongst other things, Holly rescuing Ben and everyone coming in for dinner time.

The Paper Dolls is a really lovely book and our enjoyment of it has been really enhanced by joining in and making our own dolls. I’d recommend giving it a go, especially if you have a keen crafter.

How can you use this?

  • If something (feasible) is made in your book, give it a go yourselves
  • Get outdoors. I can’t stress this enough. Taking our books and activities outside has an amazing impact on the kids’ enjoyment
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The Snail, the Whale and the Waves

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What did we do?

As we’ve been on holiday, a beach or sea-based tale seemed a natural selection for the Book Squirms and I. Unfortunately, I’d been so focused on not forgetting passports, tickets, currency or V’s beloved bunny, I hadn’t thought at all about what books to take so the pickings were somewhat slim.

Only one was really suitable so, armed with Julia Donaldson’s The Snail and the Whale, a whole host of beach paraphernalia, enough suncream for a small army, and the kitchen sink, we hit the beach for a sandy reading experience.

If you’re not familiar with the book, a snail who dreams of exploring new horizons is lucky enough to be given a lift by a kind whale and together they travel the world. Unfortunately, the beneficent whale is beached and it’s down to the plucky snail to overcome its feelings of helplessness, step up and save the whale.

The girls are already familiar with the story and A has always been curious about what happens to the whale when it is beached. She knows it’s a bad thing but doesn’t understand exactly why, despite my attempts to explain.

DSC_4526With the Spanish waves ebbing and flowing we had a great opportunity to help her grasp the drama of the whale’s predicament so we set about finding the biggest stones we could, our ‘whales’, dropping them in the shallow water and letting the biggest waves take them out to sea. Just hunting for stones on a beach is lovely for a little one, but add the thrill of hurling them into the sea and waiting for them to be swept away, and you’ve got a very engaging experience with almost no effort at all.

When the novelty of unbeaching whales had worn off, we drew trails in the sand like the snail’s trail, found lots of shells and pebbles resembling snails and piled ‘snails’ (pebbles) on top of ‘whales’ (rocks). Simple things, but they enhanced our reading significantly.

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How did it go?

This was a nice simple activity and using what we knew about the story to play with the stones was far more of a focus than reading, although we did have a run through it together.

The concept of the whale being beached is much clearer for A now and her imagination was sparked by the use of stones, shells and pebbles: there was a whole lot of snail and whale related play going on long after I’d finished reading them the book.

I find it fascinating how long the characters and key ideas from stories linger in the girls’ minds when we play or create directly in relation to their books. As with their Cave Baby drawings and The Crocodile Who Didn’t Like Water games from previous posts, they were both chatting away about snails and whales for a long time after we had read and made their own fun collecting snails (pebbles) in a little blue plastic whale I’d found.

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These deeper, more independent and imaginative connections the girls have with certain texts are making a big difference to their willingness to read and the pleasure they find in books.

How can you use this?

  • If there’s a concept in a book your little one is struggling with, find a visual or active way for them to explore it.
  • Get out and about with your books – I wish I’d thought a little harder about which books to take with us as I’m kicking myself now that there are loads of sea, beach or holiday books I could have been really creative with while we were away