Picture Book and Play – The Queen of Hearts

Picture Book and Play is a weekly post in which we look at a picture book (or books) that Peapod’s been enjoying recently and some of the play we’ve had based on it.

So, yesterday morning, Peapod was playing in his tray, digging out buried letters with his builders when all of a sudden I hear “he’s run off with a tart!” which both cracked me up and made me worry slightly about what nursery are going to think this week…

However, after regaining my composure I hazarded (is that even a word?!) a guess that he was acting out the nursery rhyme in which the knave nicks the queen’s tarts and was correct (phew!)

So we found the rhyme and read it and talked about the pictures and who was doing what (‘the knave is stealing the tarts’ – “that’s not very kind!”)

Then I suggested we make some tarts too, an idea which was greeted with great enthusiasm! We used this BBC recipe (I had no idea how easy they were!) and Peapod enjoyed weighing, mixing, cutting and spooning out the mix…and of course eating them!

We put the left over dough in his tray with the cutters, rolling pin and some buttons, pom poms and shredded paper for toppings. He made a few, but really was more interested in being the knave stealing them and running off around the room while being chased!!

We also made a crown for the Queen of hearts to wear. Peapod helped pick out the red buttons and beads from the pots then cut the crown out (with a little help holding it) and decorated it.

And so we ended up having a great, impromptu Queen of Tarts inspired morning!

We read the rhyme in this book…

It has such a great selection of rhymes in, including both all the oft-repeated favourites as well as plenty of lesser known or forgotten classics.

All are brought to life brilliantly with full page (or double page) illustrations which Peapod loves to look at and talk about.

Some of our much-loved nursery rhyme books!

Does your little one have a favourite rhyme or book of rhymes?

What have you been reading or playing this week?

Picture Book and Play on a Rainy Day

Picture Book and Play is a weekly(ish) post featuring books Peapod has been enjoying recently and some of the play we’ve had based on it.

This week, it’s a topsy-turvy post as the play came first and the books came later! I don’t know what it’s been like where you all are but we have had A LOT of rain this week!

We did some rainy day painting using watered down poster paint and droppers (colour mixing, science, creativity and fine motor all rolled into one 😂) Peapod loves ‘process painting’ like this, he had a great time!

We also played lots of Spiders and Spouts (I’m in no way affiliated with Orchard Toyd, we just like them!) We swapped outvthe dotty die included though to use a numbered one for practicing number recognition.

On Monday, it threw it down all day. We’d stayed in all morning but by the afternoon, we very much needed a big of fresh air so it was on with the waterproofs and wellies and out hunting for puddles!

We had an absolute blast – stomping splashing and jumping in, over and through puddles. Then Peapod decided to float his umbrella in one (don’t get too excited – it really just sat in the inch of water but he was happy pretending!) and after this wanted the umbrella to blow us away, so we ran home with it stretched out ahead of us – “aaaargh! We’re being blown away! Come back umbrella!”

I’ve never enjoyed the rain so much!

Well, after this there were two bedtime stories I picked out. Neither of which had anything to do with rain but reminded me of our play – Lost and Found with its umbrella-boat and Blown Away with Penguin Blue and friends being swept away by the wind (this will no doubt also feature in a windy day post at some point!)

Lost and Found by Oliver Jeffers is an old favourite of mine and our copy is tattered and battered and worn from years of use in school.

A little boy finds a penguin on his doorstep one day. He goes to extraordinary measures to try to find out where its come from and get it home, eventually embarking on an epic rowing boat ride to the South Pole, only to realise that perhaps the penguin wasn’t lost but lonely…

Sparse text lets the illustrations do the work with buckets of gentle, dry humour and warmth. Oliver Jeffers books are modern classics for a reason!

Blown Away by Rob Biddulph is a very funny, rhyming tale about Penguin Blue’s kite flight across the sea to the jungle (with the friends he collects along the way!)

Bringing to life the joys of travel… and that unbeatable feeling of coming home again, it’s a feel good story of friendship and adventure, with a brilliant ending!

We’re also in the throes of a “why” epidemic currently, so comments like “it’s raining” are frequently met with “why?” With this in mind, I bought this book for us to look at…

What Makes it Rain? by Katie Daynes and Christine Pym

This is a gorgeous non-fiction book for little readers. Usborne do loads of this sort of lift the flap information books on a variety of topics for a variety of ages and they do them SO WELL.

This one has a double page on each type of weather, with questions children might ask peppered across the bright, cheery illustrations of things we might see or do in that sort of weather.

Lift the flap under each question to reveal its answer – perfectly pitched with just enough detail and information for little ones to understand.

It’s perfect for dipping in and out of on different weather days or to read little and often with those whose attention drifts! We’re big, big fans.

Have you been enjoying the rain this week?

What have you been reading or playing?

Picture Book and Play – Mini Rabbit Come Home

Picture Book And Play is a weekly post in which we look at a picture book (or books) Peapod’s been enjoying recently and some of the play we’ve had based on it.

We’re big fans of Mini Rabbit in our house (you can read our reviews of Mini Rabbit Not Lost and Mini Rabbit Must Help here and here) so we were VERY excited when our copy of Mini Rabbit’s newest adventure arrived a few weeks ago.

Mini Rabbit Come Home by John Bond, published by Harper Collins

Even to someone as camping-phobic as I am as an adult must fondly remember the absolute thrill of ‘camping’ in a flimsy pop up tent in the garden (only to come in an hour later cold or scared or hungry etc), or just the forbidden delights of of staying up late or making indoor dens to hide out in. Mini Rabbit Come Home captures the essence of all of this perfectly!

Mini Rabbit is excited to be camping outside the house for the night (it’s going to be the best night ever!) There’s just a few more things they need – and quickly, the clouds are gathering…

As anyone who knows Mini Rabbit will guess, despite his (perfectly depicted) childlike enthusiasm for helping, things don’t go quite to plan for poor Mini Rabbit.

The marshmallows are too tempting, the logs too big and where is that rope?! And then there’s those rainclouds… As ever, so much of this is told through the visuals which I absolutely love and which really adds to the humour of the story.

Of course, Mother Rabbit is wise to it all and prepared for all eventualities, leading to the most lovely, completely relatable and believable, and utterly heart-warming ending.

Plus, we thoroughly approve of Mini Rabbit’s bedtime reading 😉 I can’t lie – I was so tickled to see what it was!

Well, there was only one activity we could do after reading this wasn’t there?

Unfortunately, I am not a natural den-maker! (All those of you who’ve already been there, done this – tips welcome!) But, we did our best and it was loads of fun.

Peapod loved it and was really excited about it in the day or so before we had chance to do it – he even asked for marshmallows from the supermarket (spoiling my surprise 😂) and was telling me all the things we needed (I managed to convince him building blocks would be OK in place of the logs for the woodburner for his campfire!)

It’s safe to say Mini Rabbit’s marshmallows would have been safe with him, as Peapod was not a fan! But he did enjoy getting in a thoroughly sticky old mess putting them on and off sticks to ‘toast’! He loved getting his instruments out for the rain too!

Are you a Mini Rabbit fan?

Are you a camper or a camp-a-phone like me?! How’s your den building?

What have you and your little ones been reading or playing this week?

Picture Book and Play – There is No Dragon in this Story

Picture Book And Play is a weekly post in which we look at a picture book (or books) Peapod’s been enjoying recently and some of the play we’ve had based on it.

It was Peapod’s Dad’s birthday a couple of weeks ago and Peapod’s gift ‘for’ him were some Castle building blocks, so our downstairs toy shelf has been set up for all things castles and knights and dragons and princesses since then, along with some books to tie into it all.

One Peapod has really taken a shine to is There is No Dragon in this Story by Lou Carter and Deborah Allwright.

It’s one I really love too, so I’ve been really pleased to see him enjoying it so much!

Poor old Dragon is fed up of being the bad guy, so he sets off in search of a story he can save the day in instead!

But no one needs a dragon in their story…until some rickly feathers, one giant sneeze and a blown out sun later, a fire-breathing friend might be just what they’re looking for.

Starring all your favourite fairy tale characters alongside a very loveable dragon, with expressive, repetitive phrases that are a joy for grown ups to read aloud and little ones to join in with.

Peapod loves it when we ‘be’ Dragon asking to be in the story and let him reply as the characters, with a brilliantly pitched “No, no! That’s not how it goes! There are no dragons in this story!” and he makes an impressive giant, putting on his best deep voice for “fee fi foe” – ing with!

He wanted to act the story out this week, so he began gathering figures then we read through the book and made a list of what else we needed, before gathering it together and setting it up.

I do love a story sack or invitation to play, and sometimes I’ll do these, but usually we find the props we need together; it’s a good way to get some writing in and I find it helps with both his engagement, imagination and independence. Also – less advance prep needed from me!

All set up, we acted it out and used a dark cloth to cover everything when the sun goes out. Peapod loved peeking under it and having it put on him to be in the dark.

However, our cloth kept knocking all the characters over so we popped them under his tri-climb instead – perfect!

We also made our own dragon and Peapod had a great time roaring him round the house!

Have you read this book?

What have you been reading or playing this week?

Peapod’s Picks – What About Me Said the Flea?

“What About Me?” said the Flea by Lily Murray and Richard Merritt, published by Buster Books

I was a huge fan of Dinosaur Department Store (read our review here) , the first book from this duo, so I was very excited to see they had a new collaboration out and it’s every bit as warm, witty and wonderful as the first!

Sofia (or ‘Fia as she’s known in our house!) is trying to decide who should star in her story. The usual suspects – lion, unicorn, dinosaur, penguins, bears etc – all make their cases (and are such fun to read aloud trying out different voices!) but there’s a noise in the background that’s bugging our budding author – what on earth could it be?!

This is one of those brilliantly executed examples of the joy and excitement that comes from the reader knowing more than our protagonist, and the fun of the visual humour that comes with that!

We see it’s poor old Flea trying to plea for a part in the tale and we all loved spotting him on each page as Sofia remains oblivious.

And then of course, there’s the resolution which is PERFECT! A slightly dark and very funny touch saves it from being mawkish or obvious whilst allowing our friend Flea to get the ending he deserves. And that is all I’ll say on the matter!

The text absolutely bounces along – fast-paced, full of energy, fun and perfectly flowing.

There’s always a danger with rhyming texts that there’ll be an awkward rhyme jammed in somewhere, a close-but-not quite pairing, a syllable or sound just off, and this danger is doubled when cramming in the action and humour of a book like this, but we don’t need to worry. Lily Murray is a pro.

Everything fits just so and rolls off the tongue; there’s a confidence and an exactness to her text which makes her one of my favourite rhyming-picture-book authors around. Donaldson – take note.

And then of course, there’s Richard Murray’s illustrations which are lively, expressive and vibrant and absolutely packed with visual humour and detail – Lion’s fashion show spread is a personal favourite and I know Peapod loves the chaos the dinosaur causes!

This has fast become a favourite in our house abd I can’t wait for more from this pair.

Peapod’s Picks – New Easter Picture Books

We were lucky enough to receive free copies of these from the publishers. All views and opinions are my own.

With Easter round the corner, we were very pleased to receive two new picture books from Hachette perfect for this time of year!

Free-Range Freddy by Rachel Bright and Izzy Evans

A rhyming, rhythmic paean to wildness and non-conformity that hops, pops and bops along with energy and pace.

New chick Freddy causes chaos on the farm with his movement, noise and mess…but despite their initial displeasure the other animals grow to love it and soon embrace their wild sides too.

Alongside classic style illustrations, there’s a lovely use of language – from from its well-flowing rhyme to onomatopoeiac shrieks, squawks, cricks and cracks to some wonderful choices of vocabulary (bulbous, floppled, wobbled) this is great to read aloud and listen to.

With a message that every child needs to hear sometimes, this is lots of fun and Freddy’s spirited ways will appeal to children everywhere!

Oscar the Hungry Unicorn Eats Easter by Lou Carter and Nikki Dyson

Everyone’s favourite hungry unicorn is back! And no easter egg is safe!

It’s Easter and Princess Oola and friends are excitedly hunting for eggs…only they can’t find any. Not one. What (or should we say who!) could have happened to them all?!

The Easter Bunny can’t make more so the friends work together to decorate and hide some…but when they forget where they’re hidden is there anyone who could help sniff them out?!

Taking him from disgrace to hero, Oscar’s insatiable appetite and ability to sniff out chocolate at a hundred paces is a deliciously daft slice of Easter fun.

As a fan of both the first Oscar book and chocolate, Peapod loved this! He thought seeing Oscar munch all the eggs was very funny and was totally taken by the Easter bunny and pirates too.

On that note – the pirates were an inspired touch! Who doesn’t immediately think of pirates at Easter?! They were such silly fun and – like the rest of this brilliantly bright, bold book – illustrated perfectly.

How could you not love a book that can combine the Easter bunny, a chocoholic unicorn, pirates burying, losing and digging for treasure, a princess and more…?! An egg-cellent Easter treat!

Picture Book and Play – Easter Bunnies!

Picture Book And Play is a weekly post in which we look at a picture book (or books) Peapod’s been enjoying recently and some of the play we’ve had based on it.

As Easter approaches, Peapod and I have begun some Easter themed activities, starting with our Easter cards.

I totally cheated for this one and found it on a good old g**gle search.

I have tried to find the original source to credit here, but I’m just on an endless Pinterest-Google cycle so just please know: this isn’t my own idea and I’m not being asked to use it, but I did love it. If it’s yours, shout and I’ll credit you 🙂

We had a good laugh getting the footprints done and it was a great sensory experience for Peapod!

And once we’d done the spaced out ones for the cards, he had a great time stomping round (with me holding on!) shouting “fee fi fo fum…smell blood man…be dead…grind bones make my bread!” so a bit of a bookish bonus there too!

That said, between tickly brushes, slippery paint and a wriggly toddler I’m glad there were two of us on hand to help…and even then it wasn’t without mishap 😬! Definitely one to do on the grass outside next time!

We also did a quick bunny craft which he really surprised me with.

I put out bunny templates, cotton wool balls, pritt stick, sticky eyes and scissors and, honestly, I was expecting two bits of cotton wool half-heartedly stuck to it with several mismatched eyes and probably a severed head.

But (obviously with guidance!) he carefully covered the whole bunny, stuck some eyes on in about the right place (miraculously with no help) and (with me turning the card and doing the inside fiddly bits) followed the lines to cut it out too.

He even chose to do another independently…although that did end up de-furred and with eyes on its ears some time later!!

We’ve also got some bunny painting to do at the weekend to use up the last often footprint paint! We’re going to use cotton wool to splodge, stamp and probably spread the paint over our bunnies for some colourful Easter pics!

Of course, with all these Easter bunnies on the go, we had to get some of our best bunny books out to read too.

We read Rabbit, Rabbit, Rabbit by Lorna Scobie which I’ve reviewed before here and absolutely love.

(Incidentally – I was made up that our copy of Lorna’s new book ‘Duck, Duck, Dad?’ arrived the other day but had to resist the temptation to read it as it’s Peapod’s present for his dad’s birthday so we’ll review after that!)

Next up was Hooray for Hoppy! by Tim Hopgood, another enduring favourite we’ve read for the last couple of years at this time. Read more here.

And finally, Hop Little Bunnies by Martha Mumford and Laura Hughes, which again we have reviewed before but remains a favourite.

Peapod very much enjoyed dancing his newly made bunny around the room singing “hop little bunny” too!

And just because we couldn’t possibly get to them all yesterday, here’s some more of our favourite bunny books that we’ve got in our basket at the moment!

Have you got any favourite bunny books?

Will you be making any Easter cards or crafts?

What have you been reading or playing this week?

Picture Book and Play – Room on the Broom

Picture Book And Play is a weekly post in which we look at a picture book (or books) Peapod’s been enjoying recently and some of the play we’ve had based on it.

It’s a short post this week (and regular readers will be disappointed to hear there’s not a tractor or digger in sight) with just a quick, fun look at an absolute classic that there are MILLIONS (OK, maybe not millions but a lot) of activities you could link to it.

Room on the Broom by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler, published by Macmillan

This is a favourite here of both mine and Peapod’s, and one which is a Halloween staple – for us at home when I used to teach and at storytimes in work! You can read more of our thoughts on it here.

It only came up this week because Peapod randomly mentioned it, but it ended up tying in really well with our off-the-cuff outdoor play on Monday; I’d put Peapod’s water play things out with some flowers and herbs that seen better days, along with his scissors, spoons etc. for some mixing, pouring, cutting…

Obviously there’s so much to get out of this – capacity, hand-eye coordination, sensory exploration, find motor skills, experimentation…

But as we played, it became the witch’s cauldron as she makes her spell for the new broom.

We improvised with a tulip for Frog’s lily, found a pinecone for Cat and a twig for Bird. No bones to be seen though (luckily!) so Dog had to make do with a tulip stem!

And of course after all that we needed a truly magnificent broom…!

So we spent the rest of the afternoon flying round on sweeping brushes and acting out the story, with Peapod dramatically throwing the rush down “Broom snapped in pieces!” and running around on it “Whoooosh! Gone!” and me, for my part, roaring that I’d eat him with chips. Good times.

We had his Room on the Broom jigsaws out again too, and there’s obviously loads more you can do with this book (off the top of my head witch, wand and broomstick crafts; loose parts spells, treasure hunts, dragon painting, natural objects in playdough…) but this was just a spontaneous fun afternoon that unintentionally ended up being based on the book!

If nothing else, surely that highlights the power of stories for children – we’ve not read this since October, but five months later Peapod instigated an afternoon of play from it.

Do you love Room on the Broom as much as we do?!

Which picture books have you been reading this week?

Picture Book and Play – Shark in the Park!

Picture Book And Play is a weekly post in which we look at a picture book (or books) Peapod’s been enjoying recently and some of the play we’ve had based on it.

Shark in the Park/Shark in the Dark by Nick Sharratt

We love these books, and they have a real enduring appeal; I remember using Shark in the Park with my very first reception class over ten years ago – they couldn’t get enough of it and now Peapod is just as taken with it, excitedly shouting “shark in the park!” and vehemently shaking his head “nooooo!” when we reach the “shark in the park” peek through parts!

Timothy Pope has a new telescope and he’s sure he’s spotted a shark! But as we turn the page, we’re relieved to see it’s not a shark after all, but a cat/crow/sail/ice cream…! Phew – there are no sharks today…are there?!

This is such a brilliantly devised series of books (we’re not-so-patiently waiting for Shark in the Park on a Windy Day to arrive, which I shamefully have only just found out about!).

There’s the drama and excitement of seeing a shark through the telescope-peepholes to the next page gives way to relief and laughter as we see what Timothy had mistaken for a shark.

And then we have the repetition of Timothy looking through his telescope makes them perfect for joining in with, both verbally and with actions… and of course the perfectly played out endings, which are all about the visusl humour and the reader knowing what the characters do not – Peapod absolutely delights in the endings!

Of course, we couldn’t read these and not make a telescope like Timothy’s could we?!

Super simple – we used kitchen rolls and rolled up coloured card, Peapod decorated them with stickers and tada!

I also added some coloured cellophane and we had loads of fun seeing everything change colour as we put different colours on our telescopes, as well as just holding them up to look through! We talked about what happened of we looked through two together as well.

We didn’t do it yesterday, but this would be a great way to play I spy with initial sounds/colours/shapes etc too, and this is probably something we’ll play with our telescopes in the next few days.

Naturally, we couldn’t have a telescope to spot sharks with no sharks! So Peapod coloured and cut out a shark puppet too!

And of course he had to get the Shark out to play with in the bath last night too!

Have you read these books?

Which picture books have you been enjoying this week?

Picture Book and Play – The Perfect Fit

Picture Book And Play is a weekly post in which we look at a picture book (or books) Peapod’s been enjoying recently and some of the play we’ve had based on it.

We usually post on a Friday, but it’s a special bonus Picture Book and Play post today as I join the blog tour for a fab new picture book!

The Perfect Fit by Naomi Jones and James Jones, published by Oxford University Press

No matter how hard she tries, Triangle doesn’t roll like the circles, or stack like the squares. She sets off to find friends that look exactly like her.
But when she finds other triangles, playtime isn’t as fun. She misses shapes that roll and stack; she misses being different. So she embarks on a new quest…

This is a book which carries a clever and celebratory message of diversity and the positives that mixing with those a bit different to you can bring.

We see how although it can feel lonely at first if you feel that you don’t fit in, it would be boring if we were all the same.

And the illustrations are fab! They’re probably my favourite thing about it and both Peapod and I were really drawn to them. I love their textured, blocky print style and it’s spot on for the repeating shapes, with the slightly different finishes and shades really underlines the book’s message of diversity.

And the way their faces are so simply drawn but so clearly express their feelings is great and makes for another brilliant talking point. Peapod asking me “feels sad?” or “happy now?” as he pointed to them while we read.

Peapod pointing out Triangle’s sad face

Our main characters here are shapes, so as we read we not only named the shapes but talked about corners, edges and curves. We described the shapes – were they round? straight? big? small?

And none of this was forced or contrived, but all part of our normal book chat as we discussed what was happening and what the characters were doing.

And I loved this! The best way to encourage language? Use it! (Don’t believe me? Swear in front of the next toddler you meet!)

So a book which enabled us to naturally use, model, encourage and familiarise mathematical language through its story was an absolute winner for me – every early years and KS1 setting should have a copy!

We made our own shape characters. Peapod was particularly taken with Triangle so we started there. Then he chose to make a circle telling me “Circle rolls. Triangle not roll” again starting us off chatting about why and the properties of the shapes.

He then found a red square to because he wanted to make Square next and we talked about how Triangle couldn’t stack well like the squares – “too pointy!!”

We did some shape threading and hunting too. Though, if you’re a regular reader of these posts you’ll know that I like to include all the bits that didn’t quite go to plan too (there’s no pinterest perfection here!!) so I should point out that putting the shapes away ended up offering far more longevity, interest and shape-chat than the actual activities!

We’ve also been playing two of our Orchard Toys games (I am in no way affiliated with them and we chose and paid for these ourselves. I mention them simply because we think their games are brilliant!) – Incy Wincy Spider and, Peapod’s favourite as he delights in the disgusting pizza toppings, Pizza Pizza.

A perfect fit for classrooms and homes everywhere – this is not only a joyful look at belonging, celebrating our differences and building on each others’ strengths, but also a super smart look at 2D shapes! Brilliant!

Don’t forget to check out the other stops on The Perfect Fit blog tour