Chalking Up Fun With Cave Baby

What did we do?
The weather was on our side yet again this morning so we headed outdoors once more. Today’s activity was based on Cave Baby, a beautiful book by perennial favourite Julia Donaldson, illustrated by Emily Gravett, which made it a prime candidate for an arty spring board activity.

If you’re unfamiliar with the story, poor bored Cave Baby gets into trouble when he gets hold of Cave Mum’s paintbrush and unleashes his inner artist. A very cross Cave Dad threatens Cave Baby with the ‘big brown bear’, a mysterious figure who looms large for the rest of the book.

As some of us have probably discovered, drawing where you’re not supposed to is an absolute joy for children so I decided to embrace the idea. I found:
Cave Baby
• Assorted relevant cuddly toys
• A paintbrush
• Chalks
…arranged them on a garden chair and called the kids.

We started the book with V and A using the props to act out various parts. Every time we got a mention of ‘the big, brown bear’ we held the bear aloft and shouted it together…amusing given that the only bear I could find was decidedly small and beige! We had lots of fun finding a suitable cave for the baby too.

At the point towards the end of the story when Cave Baby is again let loose with a paint brush, I gave the girls the chalks and let them go wild on the patio. I finished reading the book to them as they were drawing and loved seeing how A, being a little older, really took on the words and let them shape her drawings. They may not have been looking at the book anymore, but they were certainly still listening.

How did it go?
It took a little time to get them into the story, mostly because I made the mistake of setting up right next to the water play table and they could see their toys from yesterday floating enticingly. However, once they had a prop each, they were pulled in and took part enthusiastically. V particularly loved shouting ‘beeeeeaaaarrrrr’ at the appropriate points.

The chalks went down an absolute storm. I love the style of illustration in this book, especially the splashes of colour and was very excited to join in with the drawing! The patterns in particular grabbed A’s attention and as soon as she had the chalks she was drawing stripes and spots and zig zags.


As V wanted to play with the water shortly after the story finished, I gave her the paint brush, dipped it in the water and showed her how she could ‘paint’ on the floor with water. This was a decided hit and I had to hunt down a second paintbrush so they could both get involved. We also did hand footprints with the water; more authentic cave painting ideas!

An hour after I finished reading the book, they were still going strong with the chalks and water. I was required to inspect suns, moons, flowers, tomatoes, cave babies and even crisps they had drawn. They then moved onto the fence posts, which I’m dearly hoping will come clean.

Its’s a riot of colour in the garden, all inspired by Cave Baby’s antics, and we’ve chalked up another great activity!

How can you use this?
• As always, use props to bring the story to life
• Create pictures inspired by stories
• Embrace the ‘naughty’ behaviour of characters (in a controlled way!)
• Get involved – the girls loved my bearded bear picture

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