There are so many amazing books to choose from, I wasn’t sure where to start. So I’ve gone with a request, for something everyone has: The Gruffalo, by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler. A fantastic book for reading aloud and acting out.
This book really lends itself to sensory play. I thought we’d do a barefoot walk. Now, I am doing this in the winter, and don’t fancy letting them freeze in the local stream at this time of year, so I brought the woods to our garden, but it would be much more fun to do this out in the wild, if you have woods with a stream and rocky area, then plan out your own walk, but if like me, you’re needing some indoor activities, read on:
First, take the kids out for a walk somewhere where you can collect lots of sticks and stones, despite living in the middle of a city, we were able to do this fairly easily.
I am fortunate and have a carport so that we can do messy play out there, if you don’t, cover your floor as it will get messy:
Set up a trail across the room, with different stations, I like to use underbed storage boxes, they can be closed up or stacked when not in use, plus they clean really easily:
1. The deep dark woods – fill a box with, or just place on the ground the twigs/leaves/pinecones, collected on your walk
2. Rocks – fill a box, or just an area with rocks and pebbles
3. Stream – use a silver emergency blanket to represent the stream, weigh it down with small stones. If you’re in the UK, poundland sell twin packs of these in their camping section, I would highly recommend buying a pack. If you don’t have any, use foil or some blue material.
4. Lake – a paddling pool, or box of water, or, if you have nowhere suitable for water play, end the trail at your bathroom.
Make a path from one station to the next, perhaps vary the materials of the path to give variety for walking on. If you’re spreading the trail across a long distance e.g through the house to end at your bath, consider making some paper arrows, or footprints to follow.
Optional extras to improve the experience:
Print off and colour in animal masks for the characters in the story, tape these to sticks and prop them by the correct part of the trail (fox by rocks etc) then children can hold masks to act out story if they wish. Or make finger puppets, the official Gruffalo site has a Gruffalo mask, finger puppets to print and other activities.
Running the activity:
Tell the story once through before starting, pointing at the different areas where the mouse meets the animals. Then retell, or have the children retell, the story slowly as they move through the trail. Don’t rush them, they may want to explore one station for ages, talk about the way the different materials feel.
Keep towels nearby and once they’ve finished exploring, use the lake to wash hands and feet.