The Easter Story (Bible)

bibleEaster fun today. Yes, I know it’s a little early, but I wanted you to have time to set your own activities up. We used “The Beginner’s Bible” p446-458 to tell the Easter story, but any child friendly bible will do. I like this one, because it has great artwork and very simple text. You could also watch a video online such as this one

The Easter story can be a little hard to teach to small children. The concept of death is either alien to them, or quite difficult. However, I like to focus on the positive of Easter, that it shows God’s amazing love for us, because His son came and died for us. Plus of course, the amazing positive, that he didn’t stay dead, he came back to life.

For activities, I used items associated with Easter, then talked about how they link to the story because they symbolise life.

Box 1 – sensory treasure hunt:easter 001

I shredded a load of tissue paper and simply put it in a box with loads of Easter tat from the pound shop: glittery eggs, bunnies, chicks etc.easter 003 Fun exploration, hide and seek game.

Box 2 – Posting:

I put loads of different types of eggs and pom poms in a box with tubes, egg boxes and straws (for blowing the pom poms around on the lid. This box has actually been going strong since last Easter. Every so often Jumbles asks to play with ieastert, it’s our favourite homemade activity. It may not look impressive, but believe me, if your kids are like mine, you will get hours of time out of this box! Though, it does create a lot of tidying up too. I have had to restock it as a lot of the eggs have been damaged over time. The poorer quality pic shows the box last year.

Box 3 – Mark Making:

I recycled the salt tray from the Noah activity, but this time I put coloured breadcrumbs (also reused from Noah) in, along with spoons, scoops and eggs to fill. I wanted the breadcrumbs as they’re colourful, if you don’t want the hassle, just pour salt or sand in instead.

easter 004

External Links:

Watch the Easter Story
Buy The Beginner’s Bible


“Elmer’s Parade” by David McKee (World Book Day special)

elmerThis was one of the 2015 World Book Day books. So since a lot of people will have a copy I thought it’d be good to do some activities on it. If you don’t have a copy, any Elmer book will do for the first two activities.

Activity 1 – Elmer Suncatchers

Materials needed:
Shireseal (The clear sticky backed book covering stuff, I think it’s called contact paper in the US)
Tissue paper cut into small squares (I used a paper cutter to save time, but easily done with scissors if you don’t have one)

Draw an outline of Elmer (or have your other half do it for you if you’re like me and not confident in your drawing abilities) onto a piece of card, try to have it fill most of the space, but make sure you leave enough of a border for sticking the shire seal on.elmer 003

Cut out from the middle, making sure to keep the border intact, i.e. the scrap is the elephant shaped piece of card, the bit you’re keeping is the outer edge of the card with an elephant shaped hole.

Now, sticking shire seal without getting air bubbles can be tricky. However, I know some tips as I used to repair books when working in the libraries, and on our book repair training, we were taught the best way to apply shire seal. Cut a piece of shire seal the same size as your card, with the short edge lining up with the straight edge of the roll (so that when it rolls itself back up it is the short edge left showing, with the long edge rolled, sorry I’m finding that very hard to describe, look at the picture).

elmer 008Lie your elephant card down in front of you, profile way around. Peel the backing off one of the shorter edges and carefully stick it down on top of a short edge of the card. Use a ruler to slowly push the rest of the roll of shire seal down the card, it will open out and stick as you do this, note, as there is a hole in the middle of your project, it will also stick to the table, but I didn’t find this to be a problem, it will just peel off after. If your shire seal starts to bubble, try to unseal it and rejig, or you can burst bubbles with a pin, don’t worry about bubbles in the open space.

elmer 032Once your shire seal is attached to the card, turn the card over (peeling it from the table). Then give it to your child, along with a box of small tissue paper squares to stick on. Be prepared for a lot of exploration of the tissue paper, it’s a fun sensory activity by itself, the kids mainly put in on their elephants by showering it from above, rather than placing it. I also allowed them to throw it all on the floor at the end, as I didn’t see the harm in it, though I did tell them they had to help clean up too.

Once they have finished sticking the squares on elmer 035Elmer, stick it to a window or glass door for the light to shine through. Depending on how much sticking your children did, you may not actually need to use anything to stick it to the window, there may be enough gaps in the colour for enough shire seal to be poking through, that you can just press it to the window and it will stick, that’s what ours did.

 Activity 2 – Patchwork Parade

When I asked Jumbles what activity he wanted to do based on this book. He said we needed a colourful parade and had to dress up in bright colours. We went upstairs to raid the dressing up box, but didn’t actually have many things that would work, and whilst they have brightly coloured clothes, it was hard to show lots of colours at once, so I suggested we use some of my sewing stash. Jumbles loved this idea and wanted to sew some clothes for him and Bean to wear. Now I’ve done hand sewing with him before, using a plastic needle and netting type of material with holes to sew together, but he had never been allowed near the sewing machine before. I decided that he was old enough for very closely supervised operation of the machine.

So, I cut out several large squares of different colours of material for him to sew together. Then we sewed them…

Using a sewing machine with a preschooler:

1) The safety talk – I explained how the sewing machine could hurt, and pointed out the sharp needle, explaining that while Mummy had to touch it to thread the needle, he must not put his hand near it. I would only touch it when it was off. I also said that once we started, he mustn’t sew until I said go, and must stop as soon as I said stop.

2. Explaining how the machine works – with the machine still turned off, I showed him how the thread went through it. Then I placed material under the foot and showed him how turning the dial made the needle go up and down and the material move, I tried to get him to manually turn the dial, but he couldn’t quite manage it, so we did it together.

3. Operating the pedal – I decided to get him to use the pedal with his hands instead of his feet, this was for 2 reasons, firstly because his feet couldn’t reacelmer 041h the pedal from on the chair, secondly, because this way one hand at least was being kept busy and couldn’t go under the needle while the machine was on. I couldn’t get photos of him sewing as I needed to be supervising too closely, so this is a staged shot to show you how I set it up with the pedal on the desk, I was obviously closer for the sewing and blocking his other hand from being able to get near the needle, not that he tried.

I was a little nervous about how this would work, but actually it worked brilliantly, I think he really appreciated being trusted to do something so grown up. He was really sensible about it, double checking when he was meant to start, trying to stop instantly when I said stop etc. He loved experimenting with pressing the pedal harder or softer to speed up or slow down, I did find that a bit tricky as he’d suddenly shoot quickly to the end after being slow. However, I was ready with one hand guiding the material and the other poised near the off switch, which I never had to rush to use (I did use it between each square, just in case we accidentally pressed the pedal while I was getting the material in place).

We sewed a long line of squares together, I was originally thinking of a basic scarf, but then we looped it together at the end to make a sash. Now, obviously this isn’t going to last long, it’s unhemmed, so would fray, but I’m fairly impressed that a 3 year old was able to do all of the sewing himself. I’d like to encourage you to let your kids have a go, using proper tools is so much more meaningful and such a great experience for them.elmer 045

Jumbles was very proud of his sewing and was keen to show Daddy when he got home from work, oddly though, after making it, he just wanted Bean to wear it and had gone off the idea of a colourful parade.

Activity 3 – Stepping stones

elmer 047This isn’t really a proper activity, just an encouragement to remember really simple things that can be lots of fun. In the story, the animals have to cross a river on stepping stones, so set up a pretend river and some stones, we have a load of broken bits of paving slab, stones and wood in our garden, which we set up as stepping stones across our “vegetable patch” (a patch of mud, which currently has a tarpaulin over it, every year we intend to grow some vegetables, the closest we’ve got was last year, when we planted a few lettuces, which the slugs ate). If you don’t have stones, just use some pieces of card or newspaper. Have the kids cross without touching the ground between the stones. Try spreading them further apart. Even Bean enjoys this at 18 months.

External Links
Buy Elmer’s Parade
Borrow Elmer’s Parade from your local library

“The Very Hungry Caterpillar” by Eric Carle

veryhungryThis was my favourite book as a child, so I love enjoying it now with my own children. Jumbles loves joining in with the “pop” bit as the caterpillar comes out of the egg. They both enjoy putting their fingers in the holes and we count the fruit. It really is a classic.

There are a lot of activities you can do with this, so I’ve picked a few, which we did over the course of 2 days, but may revisit this book at a later date to do more.

Activity 1 – Fruit Kebabs:hungrycaterpillar 002

I wanted to start with real fruit, I enjoy getting the kids to explore real foods and get involved in food preparation. An activity I’d done very successfully while working in libraries was making fruit kebabs with older children. I thought that this was perfect, nice and simple, but fun, plus if we put a caterpillar face on the end of the kebab then we would make it look like a caterpillar was eating its way through the fruit.

Materials needed:
The fruit from the book (apples, pears, plums, strawberries, oranges)
Wooden skewers
Red paper

1) Prepare caterpillar faces by cutting red circles of paper or card, bending half a pipecleaner in half for antenna and taping it to the back.

2) Cut up fruit (children may be able to help depending on age) into small segments, our children did not help as we stupidly decided to do this at crank o’clock (around 5:30/6 in our house).

3) Either put all of the fruit in bowls in the middle, or, what we did, was count out ready the right number of fruits into a bowl for each child, that way, when Bean inevitably scoffed all of the strawberries before they could be threaded onto a skewer, she wasn’t spoiling it for Jumbles.

4) Give each child (or adult, we joined in too) a skewer and either try to put the fruits on in order, practising counting, or just let them try to poke the fruits on in any order.

hungrycaterpillar 0071 apple, 2 pears, 3 plums, 4 strawberries, 5 oranges

5) Attach the caterpillar face to the end of the skewer (I did this by sticking masking tape to the back, but having a kind of flap, which I then poked the skewer through, not sure this makes sense. blu tack would also work.

6) Eat your kebabs!

Activity 2 – Assault course:

For the Saturday’s food, I didn’t really want to get out real vhungrycaterpillar 018ersions of all of those different foods (chocolate cake, ice cream, swiss cheese etc) so I decided to go with something a bit different and to set up an assault course for the children to crawl through pretending to be caterpillars.

Materials needed:

10 large sheets of paper, or a roll of lining paper
Furniture or large toys that children can crawl through or under

1. Draw each of the items from the book onto thungrycaterpillar 014he sheets of paper, have the children colour them in (I am a terrible artist, but I find that even I can copy well enough to satisfy a 3 year old, and the pictures in this book have the advantage of being fairly simple) Jumbles doesn’t stick at colouring for long, and Bean started colouring things she shouldn’t – like the book, then while I was sorting that out, Jumbles drew on the wall, so I put the pens away at this point, hence the not terribly coloured nature of our pics. I think after we take the assault course down (we did it this morning as Jumbles is only at preschool in the afternoon, but he asked me to leave it up for him to have another go after preschool) we will get tissue paper and PVA glue and try to do some collaging on the pics.

2. Arrange furniture around the room in interesting ways, creating tunnels etc. Over each opening tape one of the pictures.

3. Read the “Saturday” page, and have your children crawl around the room pushing through each page to “eat” it.hungrycaterpillar 022

At the end of the assault course, I left a blanket, when Jumbles got there (Bean never completed the course, she mainly tried to pull the things down, though she did crawl through bits) I then coccooned him, which he found very funny, though I did realise that really I should have made a leaf to eat too, I just told him he had to pretend to eat a leaf before I coccooned him, but maybe you could add a leaf to yours.

Sorry, it was really hard to get a photo that shows it well, but hopefully you get the gist. You can also do timed laps of this course, if, like me, you’re trying to tire your kids out 🙂

Activity 3 – Coffee filter butterflies:

Materials Needed:

Disposable coffee filters
Felt tip pens
Water in a shallow container that their fingers can fit in. e.g. takeaway tub.
Pipe cleaners

I love making coffee filter art, it’s so simple, easy to do and looks most effective if children scribble, so it’s great for little ones.

1. Carefully open out a coffee filter for each child onto a protective surface as this may stain your table.hungrycaterpillar 027
Give them felt tip pens and have them scribble all over the filter, you don’t need to do neat colouring, but you also don’t want too much white space.

2. hungrycaterpillar 031Wet fingers and flick water over the filter, this will make the ink run creating lovely patterns. Don’t let them pour the water on (like Jumbles did just after this photo, as you’ll find it actually washes most of the colour off completely, and makes a big mess) a little is all you need, just make sure all of the pen has run.

3. Leave to dry

4. Scrunch up the middle and wrap a pipecleaner around as antennae et voila! One butterfly.

Also, if you need a Mothering Sunday card for this weekend, simply stick the butterfly to the front of a card. It looks very effective.

Stage and Play (commercial activity set)

hungrycaterpillar 034This was a lovely gift from my Mother in Law as she knew I was planning on doing activities for this book. It’s a strong cardboard activity set, and is a very nicely presented, easy to store set, with robust cards and a stage that they slot into. The cards fit in a tray under the stage when not in use, making it very transportable. Jumbles had fun playing with it, Bean was less interested. I gave him pipecleaners to use as pretend caterpillars, and he enjoyed poking them through the holes in the fruits etc.

Unfortunately, I do have a big criticism of the set, which is that it doesn’t have the correct number of each fruit. There are just 2 of each, Jumbles was searching for the rest of the plums etc and realising there were too many apples and was confused. I think that’s a shame, as counting is one of the obvious activities to do with this book. Also, the other foods are double sided, e.g. the chocolate cake is on the back of the swiss cheese, so you can’t set up all of the Saturday food to be viewed at the same time. Again, I thought this was a shame, I don’t know if they did it to save production costs, if that was the reason it’s a shame, as it’s a really well made set, where they haven’t scrimped on quality. It could have been done to save space on storage, but I think having the right number of items would have been worth it being a little less portable. Also, there are several different caterpillars in the set, a bending one, a curled up one etc. I would say these are less necessary than having all of the fruit. We may well make our own fruit to add to it for the next time we play.

External Links:

Borrow “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” from your library
Buy “The Very Hungry Caterpillar”
Buy Stage and Play

“This is the Bear” by Sarah Hayes & Helen Craig

image“This is the bear” is a popular book often used in schools. It has a good rhyming text and an easy to follow story, with a clear structure, making it great for story sequencing activities, which was going to be my second activity, but the first one took so long that I’m putting that on hold and will do it with another book. There are also other books in the series. I wanted to focus on gross motor skills, and trying to get some energy burned off as Jumbles has been going a bit loopy this week and I think he hasn’t been getting enough exercise, so I’m going to work on more active things:

As usual, read the story first, if you don’t have a copy, you can listen to it online: “This is the bear” read aloud (youtube).

Down in the dump(s):dump 002
Fill a large space or box with clean rubbish, a travel cot would work brilliantly as it has mesh sides, but ours is in the loft and I forgot to get it out (or send Mr Monkey Juggling up there) so I used our dump 003sofas, a small table on its side, boxes and cushions, to create a space, I then stuffed some rolled up blankets under the sofa to stop things getting pushed under there. You can just empty your recycling (excluding glass of course)dump 005 into the space, which will make clear up much easier at the end, but I wanted to put some interesting things in there, not just paper and boxes, I used carpet samples, old phones, a footmuff, bubble wrap etc. Find some toys to hide in there, before hiding them, take photos, or draw pictures of the toys, if you’re feeling creative, create “missing” posters, perhaps involve older kids in this step. Once posters are made, hide the toys in the dump without the kids seeing. Even if you don’t want to do posters, at the very least write down what toys you hid, you don’t want to accidentally throw any away when you clear up. Place children in the “dump” and have them search through the rubbish for all of the lost toys.

dump 007Both kids enjoyed rummaging, oddly, Jumbles (3) also enjoyed helping me sort the rubbish afterwards, so tidying up took a lot less time than I thought it would.

External links

Borrow “This is the bear” from your local library
Buy “This is the bear”

World Book Day special coming soon!

In honour of World Book Day, I wanted to do a special post, the problem is, all of my posts are relevant to World Book Day, so I wasn’t really sure how to make it special. So I decided that the best way would be by doing activities for some of the £1 books, as hopefully most people managed to get their vouchers from school and went and got nice cheap books. The picture books in the selection are Elmer’s Parade, and The Dinosaur who pooped a lot. However, I didn’t get any vouchers, so I don’t have the books to read 😦 I was just going to do generic Elmer and Dinosaur activities, but then I discovered that Amazon are selling them for £1 even without the vouchers. So I have ordered mine, though Elmer is out of stock, so I’ll be waiting a bit. And when I’ve got them I’ll post some activities. So watch this space, my apologies for being unable to do it on the day, but it really feels like cheating to not use the correct books.

Links to buy £1 books
Elmer’s Parade
The Dinosaur that Pooped a lot
A Pirate’s Guide to Landlubbing
World Menace Day
Best Mates
Magic Animal Friends
Dork Diaries
Geek drama
Goth girl and the Pirate queen
Killing the Dead

“Noah’s Big Boat” by Bob Hartman & Janet Samuel (or other retelling of Noah) Rainbows!

noahI did this activity for the under 5s at Church, so I’ll write it up like that, but obviously, if you’re just doing this at home, pick the bits you want. Noah’s Big Boat is a great rhythmic telling of the story of Noah. You could use any retelling of Noah though.

Begin by giving the children instruments to make rain sounds. We used rainmakers, shakers and an emergency blanket to crinkle. Explain to them the repeated pattern that comes up on every page of the book “Rain and rain and rain and pour” and say to make rain noises with the instruments as they say it.

Read the story, making the rain at the appropriate points.

We then got out several toy Noah’s arks (a plastic one, wooden one and a soft toy one) for the children to play with, they re-enacted the story. Ideally I would have got water play out as well at this point, but I’d done water play a couple of weeks previously and whilst it had gone well, none of the children had spare clothes, and ended up soaked, so I thought I’d better not do it again without pre-warning the parents.

My focus for the story of Noah was on God’s promise not to flood the world again and His sign of that promise: The rainbow. Rainbow activities are fantastic, here’s what we did:

Rainbow salt tray – I taped together 2 sheets of card to cover the bottom of one of my cat litter trays (I don’t have a cat, but bought some trays years ago, when teaching, as they’re great for messy play and crafts) then I coloured the card in in bright coloured stripes. The stripes didn’t look that neat, which I was disappointed about, but actually, once you poured the salt in and drew patterns, that wasn’t noticeable at all.noah (1) It looked really effective. I wouldn’t use a salt tray with under 2s as they might eat it, so I kept it up high and the older children knelt on a chair to use it. I provided paintbrushes, though fear that was a mistake and sticking to just letting them use a finger to draw in the salt might have been better as the paintbrushes encouraged flicking of the salt all over the table.

noah (3)Rainbow rice – rainbow rice is amazing. It looks so inviting when you first make it and set it up with stripes of each separate colour, then as soon as the kids get into it (and Bean literally does, she climbed straight into the box, monopolising it for most of the session) it gets mixed into a beautiful combination. To make rainbow rice, you basically need dry rice, food colouring and lots of shaking. I put the rice in batches into an old ice cream tub, on this occasion I added kool aid powder and a drop of water (because I wanted to make it smell nice too) and then shake vigorously. Once the rice is dyed, spread it out to dry overnight (just put it in the box the children will be playing with). I put a bit too much water in the red batch, it was still wet in the morning when we were due to take it to church. However, a quick blast with the hair dryer sorted that.

On previous occassions, before I discovered the joys of Kool Aid, and forced my parents to export it to me in large quantities, I dyed rice using food colouring, this does work just as well, do it in the same way as described above, but using drops of food colouring instead of the Kool Aid powder, but you don’t get the added bonus of the scent. You could consider adding spices if you want a nice smell.

With the rainbow rice, I provided spoons and jugs. A note on safety. Whilst coloured rice is edible, it would be very bad for children to eat much dry rice, so please do monitor children to ensure they don’t eat it. Oddly, Bean has never tried to eat it. I remember Jumbles did when he was about 2, but spat it straight out.

If you are still concerned about your child eating uncooked rice, an edible alternative is coloured breadcrumbs. Which takes a lot more preparation, but is just as much fun. I have a batch that we’ve had for the last 11 months, the kids still love playing with it. It breadcrumbskeeps well. To make coloured breadcrumbs, get a loaf or 2 of the cheapest white bread you can find (or if you’re like us and no one likes crusts, save all of your crusts in the freezer till you have loads) lightly toast the bread, blend it in batches in a food processer (or in my case a smoothie maker as we got one free once and use this for all blending) blend with a couple of drops of gel food colouring and a tiny amount of milk (I don’t know why milk not water, I keep meaning to try again with water to see if it works, the site I saw it on said to use milk, so I obeyed) then spread the crumbs out on a baking tray and toast under the grill, but be careful not to burn (though actually, I burnt some a bit and it was ok).

noah (4)Paper Plate rainbows – I saw this idea somewhere, but the link was broken, it looked simple though, I just decided to make it double sided instead of identical on both sides. Draw an ark in the middle of the plate, cut out, but leave the edge of the plate to make a rainbow over the top, repeat with a second plate. noah (5)On one plate stick tissue paper, or colour to make a rainbow at the top, draw a hill under the ark etc. On the other stick clouds on the top and colour blue under and around the ark to represent water. Glue the bottom and sides of the two plates together to make a basket. Fill with animal biscuits.

Rainbow ribbons – This was just an extra that I did with my kids at home. Tie long strips of ribbon to a wooden curtain ring, or one of those plastic links for babies. It is best if you use very long pieces of noah (11)ribbon, double them over pulling themselves through so that they can’t come off, but my ribbon wasn’t long enough, so I just tied the ends on. Use the ribbons to dance to music.

Polystyrene Rainbow:

icandy 024Drat, I just realised that I missed off this one. This definitely requires a lot of supervision as it involves giving the kids cocktail sticks. Again, I did this with just my kids at home, I wouldn’t do it with a large group. Anyway, poking cocktail sticks into polystyrene is great fun for toddlers and preschoolers. I drew basic rainbow lines and then Jumbles and Bean did some colouring on it, then poked cocktail sticks in and threaded coloured bottle tops (I save the ones off baby food pouches, actually, I don’t even use baby food pouches, but I make a friend save hers!) We also tried pushing tissue paper into the polystyrene – you tear off a tiny bit, poke it in with the stick, then pull the stick out, leaving the tissue paper in. I must confess, I ended up doing a lot of the threading here, and certainly all of the tissue paper, I think it would work nicely with older children, but mine were a bit little, they did enjoy putting the sticks in and stacking lids on though.

I have so many more rainbow things I want to try, that I may well have to do Noah’s ark again soon, but for now I think I’d better stop.


After the activities, sing “The Arky Arky song” or “Mr Noah” plus other water songs like Row Row Row your boat.

In fact, I think I’ll use this opportunity to list as many verses of Row, Row as I can think of, to help you with inspiration, as there seems to be a growing number:

Row Row Row your boat,  Gently down the stream
Merrily, Merrily, Merrily, Merrily, life is but a dream

Row Row Row your boat, Gently down the stream
If you see a crocodile, don’t forget to scream

Row Row Row your boat, gently to the shore
If you see a lion, don’t forget to roar

Row Row Row your boat, Gently down the river
If you see a polar bear, don’t forget to shiver

Row Row Row your boat, out across a puddle
If you see a teddy bear, don’t forget to cuddle

Row Row Row your boat, Gently down the Nile
If you see your Mummy there, don’t forget to smile

Row Row Row your boat, out across the creek,
If you see a tiny mouse, don’t forget to squeak

Row Row Row your boat, out across the bay
If you see a pirate ship, sail the other way (Arrrr)

Row Row Row your boat, quickly to the shop
If you see a kangaroo, don’t forget to hop

Rock rock rock your boat, gently to and fro
Watch out, give a shout (or, I have also heard wibbledy wobbledy, wibbledy wobbledy), into the water we go

(There’s also a verse about a rowing over a bump, seeing a monkey and not forgetting to jump, but I can’t quite think how it goes)

Now, those of you who have seen me lead story and rhyme times might understand why I don’t sing all of the verses I know!

External Links:

Buy “Noah’s Big Boat”

Borrow “Noah’s Big Boat” from your local library