Shark in the Park (Nick Sharratt)

sharkparkNot to be confused with the inferior Usborne phonics book of the same title (apologies to that book, but this one is outstanding); This is one of my favourite books for reading with young children, it works well both with individual child and with groups.

The basis of the story is that a little boy is in the park looking through his telescope, he keeps thinking he sees a shark through it, but it always turns out to be something else, not a shark’s fin. This is done through holes in the pages, so first you just see a small part of the picture, which looks like a shark’s fin, then you turn the page to reveal the big picture. The book works for quite a wide age range, from toddlers who just love putting fingers in the holes in the pages, to primary school kids, who get what’s going on and love spotting the shark that Timothy misses at the end.

When telling the story, I always get the children to use their hands to make a telescope over one eye, then as we do the “He looks at the sky, he looks at the ground, he looks left and right, he looks all around” bit, I get them all looking in the right directions.

As kids get to know the book, they will start to join in on the “Shark in the Park” bit. Encourage this, pause slightly and make it obvious when it’s time to say it.

The book has bold illustrations, it’s funny and has a great rhyme, which flows well, though children will chime in shouting “bird” instead of crow if they aren’t old enough to understand that it has to rhyme (and quite long after that actually).

I have done an activity for this in the past, when I used to work in libraries which was a simple character hunt in the park, I photocopied pages of the book, with the peephole page covered over them, so children run around the park searching for “sharks” they can only see if they are sharks or other things (crow, Dad’s hair, cat etc) once they lift up the top cover to reveal the full picture. Hiding sharks in the park is a great fun thing to do and should probably be the activity you take from this blog entry, unless you want to spend a lot of time struggling over bits of plastic and tubes and producing something that is not overly impressive and only keeps the kids busy for 10 minutes. If that sounds your cup of tea, then read on!

This time, I decided to make telescopes as our first activity. Now, it’s very easy to make a telescope for a young child, you get a kitchen roll, or the inner from cling film or wrapping paper or something, you tell them it’s a telescope, you get them to decorate it, they’re completely happy. For some reason though, I didn’t do that, I decided to try and be clever and make a telescope that actually folds the way a telescope does. This took ages, both kids got very bored and I ended up making it entirely by myself and it resulted in something that looks, not that much like a telescope, but Jumbles was pleased with it (though completely unimpressed by the fact that it closes up, and in fact being no more pleased with it than if I’d handed him a cardboard tube). I have decided to blog anyway, and maybe someone out there will be impressed with my effort, if not the result.

I used 3 different diameter tubes, cut to around the length of a toilet roll. Then I cut circles about a cm wider than each tube from a plastic milk bottle.sharkinpark (4) sharkinpark (5)I fringed the outside and the inside of the circles, being careful not to cut through. Then stuck the circles onto the ends of the tubes, the fringing on the outside just helps it to bend round and stick onto the tube, the fringing on the inside is to help it to grip the tube that slides inside it. This is the really fiddly bit, trying to get the circles stuck on and ensuring that the middles are fringed enough that the next tube can slide through it. I am sure there are countless easier ways to make the tubes slide within each other, but this was the only way I could think of. When it’s actually finished, the sliding mechanism is really satisfying.

Once all three tubes had the plastic on, I used parcel tape to properly secure it. sharkinpark (6)The plastic actually helps to add dimension to the telescope in the areas where Timothy’s telescope is coloured yellow. You will note I’ve also added some string. I did this so that the telescope couldn’t be over extended, I taped string through the inside, securing it at the end, so that you couldn’t pull the 3 parts apart. sharkinpark (16)It didn’t work very well, the tape is not strong enough to stop someone doing that and so it ended up with the string flopping down inside blocking vision after it had been pulled wrongly, so I wouldn’t bother with the string again. Just put it back together every time it gets pulled out too far.

After the telescope was complete, I covered it with white paper, so that Jumbles could decorate it, he never did. I’m not sure why I’m surprised by that, it was clearly my craft, not his! He did enjoy playing with it though. I think maybe it looked better before I put the white paper on.

sharkinpark (11)Just to prove that it does indeed telescope in and out, here is a pic of it closed:

I’m convinced that this method for creating a telescope could create a fairly realistic looking toy if executed by someone with more patience and better crafting skills. If anyone wants to have a go I’d really love to see your results. However, I am now rethinking using this as a craft activity for the 4-6s that I’m leading in our church’s summer club, which is why I was making this prototype.

Anyway, once I’d made the telescope, the idea was to look through the telescope at things and try to guess what they are from just a small part of them. This is quite tricky, because obviously your child will just use his other eye, unless you cover it up, but that is often disliked, your other option is to utilise the method of the book and obscure most of the item using a piece of paper or such like. In the end, I had taken so long to make the telescope, I couldn’t really be bothered to come up with an inventive way to view small parts of things, so we just ran round with the telescope looking at things and pretending to see sharks. If you want to do a bit more. Why not prepare a few pictures of just a small section of a well known object and get them to guess what it is, enlarged is even better. I’m thinking something like this: Extreme close up quiz

There is a sequel to this book “Shark in the dark” which is the same premise, but Timothy is looking out of his bedroom window at night time and sees things that he thinks are shark fins, sadly as is often the case, the sequel is not as good as the original, the rhyme doesn’t flow as easily. However, that is partly made up for by the fact that it is glow in the dark.

External Links:
Buy “Shark in the Park”
Borrow “Shark in the Park”

Carlo Likes Reading (Jessica Spanyol)

carloI wasn’t too sure about this book, but Jumbles really liked getting me to read all of the labels and then I thought the logical extension would be to label things in the house. Jumbles loves asking what things say and pointing out words when we see them. He’s not reading yet, but has a love of the written word, so it makes sense to surround him with words as much as possible.

So, I thought of simple words that would be good to make labels of, you could then just label everything yourself, but I think getting the kids to put the labels on the right things makes more sense. luggage tag page1luggage tag page2You can do as many labels as you like and might choose different things than we did.  I was thinking of every day items, some of his favourite toys etc. you could also do labels for children’s names and Mummy and Daddy.

luggage tag3If you just want to use the same ones as me, I did them as pictures so you can just print and cut them out (they are set to print 9 labels on an A4 page, I apologise if you’re in the US, I believe your paper size is slightly different, so you may have to adjust).

carlo 001Warning, if you ask your child what to label, you may find s/he suggests quite complicated things to be labelled, so I’d definitely recommend that you do a few simple ones first, all of Jumbles’s suggestions were specific lego models e.g “flying bad cop car” I managed to get him to choose single word items eventually, the third set of labels are his choices.

Once you’ve printed, simply cut them out, punch a hole in and thread string through, then run about the house with your kids, labelling things. I’m not sure how necessary the string is, with a 1 and 3 year old, they weren’t going to tie the string themselves, Bean mostly wanted to eat the labels. Jumbles just balanced them on things, or sometimes tucked the string in.

External links:
Borrow “Carlo likes reading”
Buy “Carlo likes reading”