What the Jackdaw Saw (deaf awareness)

61tQRblRM-L._SX258_BO1_204_203_200_Rather irritatingly after deciding to learn some sign language with the kids and blog about it, I thought I’d see if there was a deaf awareness week, so that I could schedule it for then. It turns out I’ve literally just missed it, so sorry that this post is just over a week late!

Anyway, this book is written by Julia Donaldson, with a group of deaf teenagers. She’s written two books, that I know of, aimed at raising awareness of deafness. The other is “Freddie and the Fairy”, which teaches the importance of speaking clearly, looking at the person, and not covering your mouth. This book (Jackdaw) introduces British sign language (BSL) teaching a few signs through the story. This post is all about BSL, so if you live in a country that uses a different sign language, my apologies, but you could find signing apps for your country and still do the activities.


Learning signs from pictures can be tricky, it’s much easier to watch someone signing. So download a sign language app. I used Sign BSL  a very simple app, where you search for the word you want to sign and it shows you a list of videos of different people signing that word. Some of the people are more animated than others, try to avoid the really dull ones for your kids! Do check what they’re signing though in the text under, sometimes they’re signing a related word to what you searched for.

Before you read the book, double check that you can sign all of the featured signs in the book, either using This youtube clip of the signs, or by searching for the signs in your app.

As you read the book, sign the words with your child as it teaches you. If your child is showing interest in knowing more, as Jumbles was, open up the app and ask your child what they want to sign. Practice together with your child. Remember, when signing you still say the word at the same time. Your child is likely to want to know how to sign their name, so potentially learn to finger spell their name beforehand, as learning the whole alphabet might be tricky. I thought Jumbles might find his name tricky, but he enjoyed doing it and remembered some of the letters later.


Learn together the signs for various objects around the house. Play a scavenger hunt. Sign things for your child(ren) to race to collect. Have your child challenge you to find the things they sign.

Suggested items:

Apple (note, in the first video on sign BSL, she is signing an apple computer, so pick a different one to watch!)


A great way to learn signs is through songs. Check youtube for loads of BSL songs, maybe your child’s favourite is there. Or check out Cbeebies BSL nursery rhymes

links to apps/videos:

Sign BSL – search for words, see videos of those signs.

“What the Jackdaw saw” signing video

Cbeebies BSL nursery rhymes

Free online BSL course (for adults, putting it here in case you’re interested in learning more yourself)

Affiliate links to buy from Wordery (free worldwide shipping):

What the Jackdaw Saw

Freddie and the Fairy




“Toddle Waddle” by Julia Donaldson & Nick Sharratt

This is a bit of an odd choice for a book to do an activity on, as I actually hate it. However, it’s Bean’s favourite book, she fetches it from the bookshelf every night (or at least on all of those nights that I haven’t “accidentally” misplaced it).

I don’t really know why I hate it, I should by all rights love it, I love both Julia Donaldson and Nick Sharratt, but I prefer books with a story, whereas this is sounds, no story in words to follow, just pictures and sound effects. Which is probably what makes it a great story that toddlers love, it has repetition, simple, excellent pictures, it’s just that I find it boring, but since I’m not its target audience, that’s fine.

As this book is not necessarily that well known, I’ll explain the set up, in case you are having trouble visualising, but really, you need to get a copy. The structure of the book is that it begins with a toddler and a duck walking, with the text “Toddle waddle” Then on the next page it shows the same, but with a woman wearing flip flops, with the text “Flip flop, toddle waddle.” It continues adding more animals in the line behind them, and the sound effects they make.

Anyway, this was the perfect book for working on listening and making sounds. Often when we talk about sensory play, we get caught up in messy play and forget our other senses (or at least, I do). So I wanted to ensure I covered the other senses too.

The activity

The idea was to find items from around the house to make the different sounds represented in the book. I thought that actually choosing the sounds would be a fun activity for Jumbles, but didn’t think Bean would be able to, so I waited for Bean’s nap. I did think that Jumbles would need a bit of help, so I collected up a lot of the musical toys and things that I thought might be useful and brought them into the living room. I purposefully didn’t bring enough to do all of the sounds, so that once we’d done a few Jumbles could start to try Looking further afield. I didn’t want to limit his creativity.toddlewaddle 001

He got really into this part of the activity and loved selecting different sounds. We worked through the pages, so we started with one sound, then on the next page added a new sound and then repeated the first, building up until we had reached the midpoint of the book where they stop, and watch a beach, with lots of new noises.

Initially, we just put the instruments down around us after we had played the sound, but Jumbles kept forgetting which order to play them, so I laid them out in straight lines, this worked much better.

We then, had to create 12 new sounds for the next part of the book, this is where his interest started to wane, it was also where Bean woke up, so I decided not to do sounds for the dancing and playing bit right at the end. Instead I wanted to reread the book with him from the beginning using his sound effects.

Bean really enjoyed listening to me read, while Jumbles playetoddlewaddle 010d instruments, and she joined in making noises on the drum etc. I want this blog to be honest and realistic, so instead of glossing over and saying everything continued beautifully, I will tell you that at this point, Jumbles got fed up and started shoving the instruments around and rolling around on the space hopper. I think I structured it a bit too much, so my advice if you’re doing this with the same ages, is, don’t worry too much about sticking to the story with the noises, just get them enjoying making the sound effects how they want. Try to avoid controlling too much as I think I took some of the fun out of it. Or it could just be that it took too long. I do plan on doing it again with Bean though, when Jumbles is at preschool, as she was really enjoying hearing the noises.

If you want inspiration for what to use for different sound effects, and find it hard to tell in the pictures, this is what we used (remember, a 3 year old picked some of them, if you’re thinking they’re odd choices):

Toddle waddle – Drumtoddlewaddle 024

Flip Flop – baby shoes

Hurry Scurry – egg shaker

Clip Clop – Stacking cups (banged on floor, or against each other)

Ting-a-ling – Bike bell

Leap creep – Slide whistle

Buzz buzz – kazoo

Flitter flutter- fanned paper

Boing Boing – bouncy ball, later changed to space hopper

Splish Splash – rice shaker

Puff Puff – Balloon pump

roly poly – bottle

Crunch Munch – biting a breadstick (typically we had run out of apples)

Slurp slurp – Drink with a straw

Chitter chatter – shaker

Helter Skelter – ball drop toy

See Saw – The scratchy instrument shaped like a frog (sorry, don’t know name!)

Snip Snap – The jaws from a toy digger

Ping Pong – a plastic plate

Choo Choo – a harmonica

So, in conclusion, use this as an activity for sound effects, but perhaps don’t structure as much, talk about what sounds they can hear, can they mimic those sounds using items in the room. Can they tap out the rhythm of the words with the drum?

I promise, my next book will not be Julia Donaldson, or Nick Sharratt, I do realise that’s all I’ve done so far! Honestly, I do love other authors too.

External Links:
Buy Toddle Waddle
Borrow from your local library
Toddle Waddle activity sheet

“The Gruffalo’s child” by Julia Donaldson & Axel Scheffler

Gruffalo coverI thought since I’d done The Gruffalo, that it’d be nice to do the sequel too. The Gruffalo’s child is set in winter, so the obvious thing to do is snow play. Now, if it happens to be snowing for you, great, wrap up warm, go outside and do this, but if like me there is no sign of real snow, you’ll have to improvise.

Now, in the past I’ve used cotton wool as a fun, no mess “snow” but it’s not terribly realistic, and won’t work for what I have planned as we need to make impressions in the snow. So, you can buy fake snow online, or make your own, now here I planned to link to an online recipe, as I’m sure I’ve seen many, but my internet isn’t working, so I’m writing this offline, and I need to have the snow ready for when I pick up Jumbles from preschool, so I’m just going to have to wing it, so here is my snow recipe:

wpid-2015-02-12-10.46.04.jpg.jpegSnow Recipe:
1. Leave freezer door slightly ajar overnight.
2. Come down in the morning to discover said door is open.
2a. (Optional) blame other half for not closing door properly.
3. Cook, throw out, or deem salvagable contents of freezer.
4. Scrape ice with a knife into a containter.
5. Freeze until needed
Estimated cost: 0-£1000 depending on how much food you have to throw away and whether you damage the freezer whilst scraping off the ice. Plus potential marriage counselling costs for repeated blame of other half for incidents such as this.

gruffalochild 001Alternatively, you could probably make ice cubes, and stick them in a blender. Or, if you don’t want to be quite so realistic and don’t want something that will melt, you can make snow by adding water to the stuff you find in disposable nappies (U.S diapers) see instructions (external link) I am not so keen on this method as although it’s non toxic, it’s still not edible, and Bean will try to eat it. Plus, I only use disposable nappies in emergencies, so don’t have many in stock.

Now I’m back online, I have checked and a fun way to make snow looks like mixing cornflour (U.S cornstarch) and shaving foam. Growing a Jeweled Rose.com has several snow recipes.

Activity:gruffalochild 012
Part 1: snow play
Set up your snow in a tray on the floor.
Read through the book, pointing out the footprints and how each animal’s is different.
Allow free play with the snow.
Experiment making marks in the snow using different implements and toys.
While your child looks away, take a toy and make tracks in the snow, see if s/he can work out what toy made the tracks. take it in turns with your child to make tracks for the other to guess.
Jumbles played around making roads and trying to write letters, whilst Bean scooped it up lots.

Part 2: Light and Shadow
We left a big gap and did this when it was getting darker.
Point out the end of the story, where the Gruffalo’s child is fooled by the mouse’s shadow, talk about how shadows of objects can look different.gruffalochild 023
Close the curtains, turn off the lights and play with torches, making shadows using hands and objects. If you want, set up a sheet which you can go behind to make shadows and have the child guess what it is. We draped a sheet over the doorway of our cardboard house, my Godson, also 3, had come over by this point, the boys enjoyed playing with torches, then they went into the house and I held up toys outside in front of the torch for them to guess. Bean was not impressed with this section of the activity. (I had to turn the lights on for the photo).

Buy artificial snow
Make snow using disposable nappies
Growing a Jeweled Rose snow recipes
Buy The Gruffalo’s child
Borrow The Gruffalo’s child from your local library

“The Gruffalo” by Julia Donaldson & Axel Scheffler

gruffaloThere 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 likeJan2015 265 me, you’re needing some indoor activities, read on:Jan2015 262

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:

Jan2015 267

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.

Suggestions for the path:
Jan2015 264Sand
Astroturf (get free samples online if you’re cheeky enough)
Greengrocers material (buy on ebay)
Mud or compost
grass cuttings
bark chippings

Optional extras to improve the experience:
Jan2015 271Print 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.

Depending on their age, children may enjoy helping to set up the trail.Jan2015 274

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.


Gruffalo.com printable activities includes mask, finger puppets, recipe.
Colouring sheets
Borrow The Gruffalo from your local library
Buy The Gruffalo online