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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14 thoughts on “The Paper Dolls”

  1. I love how you turned the story of the book into something creative for you and your daughter! That’s a great idea, and a good way to get interactive with a story.

    And I completely agree with getting kids outdoors – so important.

    1. Thank you. I’m amazed by how much a change of setting adds to the reading of a book. We’ve made it as far as the garden and the beach. Next up, the woods!

  2. How lovely to learn from your books and create something yourselves! It is remarkable how many books Julia Donaldson has written. Everyone assumes it’s just her most famous books with Axel Scheffler, but there’s so many more than that!

    1. It really is remarkable. I just had no idea how many of ours were Julia Donaldson’s until I started blogging and taking closer note of the authors. I love the range of her work. Oh, to have an imagination that broad!

  3. This book is a firm favourite in our house and a great excuse to get crafting! Thank you for sharing with readwithme

  4. Our Paper Dolls post is one of Story Snug’s most viewed posts ever, it’s such a wonderful book and also non rhyming which surprised me when I first read it. Paper Dolls are so easy and fun to make and can stimulate so much creative and imaginative play. It sounds like your daughter really enjoyed playing with hers :o)

    #ReadWithMe

    1. She really did. I was surprised by how long her interest in them was sustained. Your Paper Dolls post was lovely and I agree that Rebecca Cobb’s illustrations are beautiful and just perfect for the story. I’m waiting for my daughter to really register the little girl growing up and having her own child to make the dolls with; I’ve a feeling when it finally clicks with her I’m in for a barrage of questions myself!

  5. These are the activities that stand the test of time and always will. Shows how very simple it can be to make a memory too that will sustain your children in the future. I remember when I was so nervous about home educating I found myself in a tepee in the garden with my daughter reading Peter Pan to her and thought that we had done something very right whilst others were stressing about SATS.

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