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 – 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?

Picture Book and Play – Jack and the Beanstalk

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’ve actually not done a huge amount of anything this week after a busy Easter weekend finally being able to see family, hunting for eggs and going for walks.

So I’ve picked out a story that we return to often and some of our past play activities around it – Jack and the Beanstalk.

I’ve talked before (many times!) about the brilliant Campbell First Stories range (here or here for example). Peapod loves this edition of Jack (illustrated by Natascha Rosenberg), especially finding Jack hiding in the cupboard or chopping down the beanstalk and seeing the giant fall!

The moving parts remain a big draw and the simplified, rhyming version of the story is a great first telling for little ones.

We added the Peep Inside version to put collection too as it’s a slightly longer, more faithful version, including for example the essential “Fee Fi Fo Fum…” lines which are a must in our house! Peapod loves shouting them out when playing!

The rich illustrations and intricate cut outs of the peep through elements add a more grown up touch and make these a really attractive series to read and handle too.

I also really like the way there’s a lift-the-flap style to some of the pages and peep-inside parts, which helps retain an interactive feature that children always enjoy.

The Peep Inside books are the perfect follow on from the Campbell First Stories, and we’ll be adding lots more to our collection!

Obviously, there’s so much you could do with this story; it’s one we could (and no doubt will) return to repeatedly over the years adding in lots of different activities – planting, natural collage, painting, measuring, counting, as well as variations on what we did this time with sensory activities, role play and building/small world.

This was by far Peapod’s favourite – building the castle and beanstalk and using figures to tell the story!

He also used his climbing toys as a beanstalk – climbing up, stealing the gold and sliding down before chopping it down!

He’s been practising his cutting so we started making a giant beanstalk but he lost interest once it was time to add any leaves! Still, we cut and stuck a lovely, long, green stripe!

We made a tray using butter beans, gold coins and green covered cardboard tubes for filling, pouring, hiding, stacking, dropping…

… and building of course! It just wouldn’t have been the same of the builders and diggers didn’t get involved 😂

What have you been reading and playing 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 – Supertato Bubbly Troubly

We were lucky enough to receive a free copy of this in exchange for an honest review. All views and opinions are our own.

Supertato Bubbly Troubly by Sue Hendra and Paul Linnet, published by Simon and Schuster

Supertato is back for another supermarket adventure and we couldn’t have been more thrilled to hear it!

Peapod is a big fan of everyone’s favourite superhero spud – his cries of “Supertato to rescuuue!” are joyous! (And, honestly, my own cries of the frankly inspired “Soap-ertato to the rescue!” have been pretty damned joyous too!) Indeed, there’s plenty of puns and silliness to keep us, his faithful “read it!” servants, happy too (I’m still chuckling at the stationery aisle now!)

In Bubbly Troubly it’s bathtime for the veggies and they’re having a splashing time playing in the bubbles.

But of course, it’s not long before Evil Pea gets involved and after a tricksy bubble bath switch up, the veggies are left floundering in the foam! Can anyone help them find a way out?

*Spoiler Alert*

Yes! Someone can. And that someone is maybe our new favourite character – Mystic Mango! Hilarious and so much fun to read aloud. Peapod loves this cool dude and repeatedly asks us “what Mystic Mango say?” (to which the only acceptable answer is “chill out, veggies!” despite him not actually saying this in the story!) I defy anyone reading this not to be as delighted by Mystic Mango as we were though.

This has everything you’d expect from a Supertato story – heaps of fun and plenty of puns, brilliantly melodramatic drama and tension as the veggies try to thwart their old adversary once more, and of course the eye-popping and exuberant illustrations!

I think perhaps the best review we can give it though is summed up on yesterday’s tweet

Any book which you go to bed talking about and wake up craving an immediate 6am retelling of must be good! It’s safe to say this has captured Peapod’s imagination and left us all laughing.

So, of course we had to have a bubbly troubly day ourselves! And what better way to start than with good old bubble blowing?!

Turns out it’s quite hard to both blow enough bubbles to chase and capture it on camera! But we had a great time in the park blowing, chasing, popping, stamping and catching bubbles!

Another classic, but how could we not?! Bubble painting! With only minor paint-and-bubble-mix ingestion. Winning.

We mixed paint, bubble mix and water in shallow tubs (great excuse for a take away!) then blew into them with straws and pressed our paper over the bubbles we made.

I wasn’t sure how well Peapod would manage this but he gave it a, surprisingly good go and really enjoyed it…til he got a mouthful of yellow…! It’s definitely one we’ll do again though!

He also chose to draw Mystic Mango and we did some Supertato and bubble colouring as well (the Supertato colouring sheets are available from the Simon and Schuster website here)

And of course, we have to end with this week’s utter fail.

And this week it was the activity I was certain he’d love (of course it was) – wet messy, splashy bubble play in his tray!

To be fair, it started off quite well. He enjoyed mixing the soap flakes to make the bubbly foam, and was very excited to put the veggies in and play with them.

But once the veggies were all in and the bubbles were well and truly bubbly, he decided it was all a bit wet and messy and on his hands! And even the trucks and diggers couldn’t save it 😂

We’ll try it again another day! Maybe I’ll have to wait til summer….! (If your little one is not quite so sensitive, we just mixed pure soap flakes and water – I started them in hot then added a little cold so Peapod could carry on mixing).

Veggie bath aside, we had a brilliantly bubbly day!

Picture Book and Play – Goldilocks and the Three Bears

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.

I’ve talked about the Campbell First Stories range, illustrated by Natascha Rosenberg, before, most recently in our Three Little Pigs post here, but they really are great.

With simplified, rhyming versions of the text and moving pictures they’re so engaging and fun.

I also wanted this Peep Inside version by Anna Milbourne and Mar Ferrero, but it’s not out til next week! I’ve ordered it anyway as these are a great accompaniment/next step to the Campbell ones with peep through pages, flaps and a longer, fuller version of the tales.

Peapod has had his First Stories version for a while now and often takes it down to read, and then “play it?” (I love how he’s started asking to “play” his books!) Mostly this involves him being Goldilocks pretending to be asleep, me being Baby Bear pretebding to cry then him waking up and running away!

So we’ve done plenty of this but we’ve also taken it into his tuff tray with some oats, compare bears and different sized bowls and spoons.

As you know by now, I’m nothing if not honest with these posts so allow me to say now that some of you might find your little ones want to diligently sort by size or colour etc. However, it wasn’t long here before our tray play reverted back to its usual “there’s a road block”/”need tractor”/bury the bears!

But that’s fine. Peapod enjoyed the feel of the oats and the sensation of them falling over his hands and arms.

He did some Goldilocks play which saw him unintentionally categorising and ordering the bears and bowls, and (even once he’d reverted to his favourite games in there) it was great for mathematical language of size and comparison, and problem solving (“it’s going to take me ages to bury these bears with this tiny spoon”… “use the big one!”)

We were lucky enough to get some nice enough weather to take the tray outside this week too, so we did some porridge making!

Let me tell you – this was quick to set up but clean up was another matter 🙈🙈 You’ve been warned!

That said, it was totally worth it. Peapod has lots of fun mixing and scooping and pouring and filling and of course we acted out the story once his porridge making was complete too!

I also got this out – A Chair for Baby Bear by Kate Umansky and Chris Fisher – and Peapod’s been really taken with it.

It’s a great spin-off style story, as we rejoin the Bears as they go shopping to find Baby Bear a new chair. I really like how it mirrors features of the original tale with its “too scratchy/scary/grand” chairs and the way the chairs themselves refer back to Baby Bear’s pretend play on the walk to the shop.

Peapod likes joining in with the “too…” parts and the repeated “please, please, please!” as well as talking about all the different chairs in the shop and which we’d choose. His favourite part is definitely the end which is a lovely way of bringing the story back to the original tale.

Peapod asked to play this one too -“Play it? What need?” – so first we went through the book and found what we’d need. He wrote the things down as we thought of them til we had a full list of props. He also wrote a note for Baby Bear from Goldilocks just like at the end of the story!

Once gathered and set up we spent most of Saturday playing this and it was lovely!

Picture Book and Play – Pancakes

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.

Tuesday was Pancake Day. I love Pancake Day – growing up it was always really fun, flipping (and dropping!) pancakes and filling them with as many sugary treats as possible (my best ever filling that always sticks in my memory being mint choc ice cream, chocolate sauce, caramel sauce and chocolate sprinkles).

Last year, Peapod wasn’t at all keen on pancakes but I was hoping he’d see sense this year. Sadly, he still turned his nose up, but he enjoyed making them – helping to pour, sift, whisk and mix (he was especially keen on the whisking!)

Obviously, he took a back seat for the flipping (leaving that to the experts!!) but helped to choose and chop the fruit to top them with.

Carefully arranging the fruit on his pancake before demolishing all the fruit on both plates and leaving the pancake untouched 😂

After helping with the real pancakes, I set up his tray with flour, water, bowls, whisk, spoons, sieve etc as well as his toy pan, plates and ‘toppings’ with yellow playdough for him to pretend to make his own.

He has LOVED doing this!

And of course, we’ve read some pancake stories too!

Our favourite has to be Mr Wolf’s Pancakes by Jan Fearnley, which we wrote about last year too. Peapod has loved this and we’ve read it at bedtime every day at least once usually twice, since Monday.

He woke on Tuesday and the first thing he asked was to “Play Mr Wolf’s Pancakes?!” So we were straight in the playroom at 6.45am acting it out before he went to nursery! He even switched his shop over to be the shop from the story!

Unfortunately I didn’t get any better pictures as we were too busy playing it!

We’ve also been reading Rhinos Don’t Eat Pancakes by Anna Kemp and Sara Ogilvie, which was one I’d not read before but we both really like.

It’s got a flavour of Not Now Bernard as Daisy is constantly ignored by her busy parents. And even a purple rhino showing up and stealing all the pancakes can’t get their attention. But a sign at the zoo about a missing rhino soon helps them see the error of their ways.

I love Sara Ogilvie’s gentle, colourful and expressive illustrations in this. I’ve written before about how well she captures ‘real life’ and her depictions of family life here do that perfectly.

Peapod loves the rhino. Not least the page with the rhino on the loo. And not least because he has an obsession with rhino poo (ever since we went to the zoo last year and the enclosure was a bit ‘fragrant’!)

And we’ve read Mairi Mckinnon and Silvia Provantini’s retelling of The Runaway Pancake which Peapod thinks is very funny indeed.

In this traditional tale which has many versions and similar tales the pancake hops out of the pan to escape its fate as fodder and makes a run for it, chased by the family. As it runs, it passes various animals who a join the chase until it reaches Pig, who’s got a much better idea than joining the chase…

We have of course played Runaway Pancake too, both chasing the ball and each other!

I appreciate this is a bit late for pancake day fun now, but both pancakes and pancake stories are for life, not just for pancake day!!

Did you have pancakes? Did you do any pancake play or reading?

Which picture books have you enjoyed this week?

Picture Book and Play – Builders

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.

Last week, I wrote about a lot of our construction themed books and play, and this week follows on from that as we look at a few more of our building themed stories and activities.

Peapod has got two versions of The Three Little Pigs that he really enjoys – the Campbell First Stories board book and one by Nick Sharratt and Stephen Tucker. We love both and have others in both these series that I’d really recommend!

Both have bouncy, rhythmic, rhyming text and interactive parts (the first with moving parts and the second has flaps), with plenty to look at and tall about. And of course both end with wolf burning his bottom in the cooking pot which he finds hilarious! (though his favourite part in the Sharratt/Tucker version is the spider in wolf’s empty cupboard!)

I adlib a bit to flesh out the Campbell version and to add in the traditional phrases from the story and its lovely hearing Peapod joining in with these now too as we read and act it out using some of his animals and construction blocks.

Obviously I helped build the houses, but that was sort of the point as Peapod has a lot of blocks but doesn’t often choose to play with them. So I hoped to get him a bit more into them by using them for this.

It didn’t really get him building, but he liked telling the story and definitely enjoyed being the wolf and blowing the houses down!!

Likewise, this classic from Allan Ahlberg and Colin McNaughton‘s Happy Families range, in which Mr and Mrs Brick worry that their new baby is not a builder like them and all the Bricks that have gone before.

He loves seeing Baby Brick knock all the houses down, immediately chose to play it after we’d finished reading it for the first time and going back to it often this week.

Again the joy was very much in us building and him (sorry, Baby Brick!) knocking it all down, but that was great fun and it’s helped us get playing with the bricks which meant that once they were out and a over the floor he started coming up with his own game.

I had to walk the people through them and they get stuck as their paths are blocked. I then extended this to us building towers in all the directions they were trying to go and he was soon throwing up towers like there’s no tomorrow!

He’s slowly starting to venture into walls, buildings and steps too, and while it’s still mostly us building any kind of recognisable structure, he is starting to have a go.

Peapod’s “house – there’s the door!”

We’ve also been building and playing with bridges, thanks to one of Peapod’s current favourite snack time reads – Iggy Peck Architect by Andrea Beaty and David Roberts

We’ve read it repeatedly and thoroughly enjoy it with its zippy rhyming text and wonderfully detailed, funny and stylish illustrations.

Peapod’s favourite bit is, of course the tower of dirty nappies which he thinks is hilarious! But he’s also fascinated by the bridge Iggy and his classmates build at the end of the book too and really pores over it!

We’ve also done some building block printing this week.

This was one of those ‘bite-your-tongue-and-step-back’ activities, as he soon decided block printing was all well and good, but actually painting his builders and printing with them and getting handfuls of paint to make mud/cover them in it was much more fun!

He had a ball, was so involved and then spent a good deal of time in the water washing them too so win-win!

Do your little ones like to build?

Which picture books have you read this week?

Picture Book and Play – Construction Site

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.

Peapod has been mad on playing with his builders recently so this is the first of a building site double over the next two weeks!

Yes, that is a Tool Station catalogue – nothing like a bit of ‘real life’ print! In fact, it was that rather than one of his picture books that triggered this interest in his building toys again, as he went and got his toolbox after seeing the hammers and drills in here!

He’s also enjoyed the Let’s Pretend Builders Toolkit which has pop out tools that he likes to get out and pretend to use.

I pushed plastic golf tees a little way into a box then left them out with his hammer.

This is one of those activities though that requires a bit of realism on our part; Peapod enjoyed it but it’s very much a short-bursts, short-lived one – he returned to it a few times a day over a couple of days for a few mins at a time. So don’t go expecting it to fill an hour, but since it takes no time at all to set up it’s all good, and great for hand-eye coordination and motor skills too!

A more long-lived activity, and probably Peapod’s favourite of those we’ve done, was his construction site tray. Peapod loved playing with “Orange Bear” when we had the snow in his tray, so I ordered a couple more of the diggers in that range and set them up in his tray.

We had this out for a good week and it was probably the most played with thing in that time. He spent hours here (and although the tray’s changed now, he is still playing with the diggers).

We used lots of modelling and his books to help extend his play and language in here. His favourite book to use was definitely Busy Building Site – he’s looked at this over and over again! He loves the flaps and the central character of ‘Builder Barney’ who takes us through a build from start to finish.

It’s a great book with lots of flaps to lift that help show the processes on the site; simple rhyming text to help talk us through it; ‘sound effects’ written on to engage and join in with; and, most importantly, lots of age-appropriate technical vocabulary labelling items on the pages.

Peapod has loved finding out what everything is called, matching it to his own toys where he has them, finding out what the builders are doing abd acting it out in his tray – he particularly likes digging foundations!

We adapted it as we went, adding in this ‘rubbish chute’ and ‘skip’ for example, and while he loved the pebbles and corks, he didn’t touch the bobbins despite us modelling them so I took those out. And Peapod chose to bring his other builders and people into it.

We’re also reading ‘Dig, Dig, Digging’ by Margaret Mayo and Alex Ayliffe most days and he likes to match the vehicles in the book to his own toy ones.

While it doesn’t explicitly say its poetry, I don’t know what else you’d call each short rhythmic passage – one for each vehicle, filled with onomatopoeia, repetition and action. A perfect, slightly surreptitious introduction to poetry!

As well as matching his vehicles to the images in the book, he also likes to bring them over to match to his jigsaws!

And of course, it wouldn’t be the same if I didn’t include one of the duds – this week play dough!

I made playdough and put it out with his tools, with the idea of making prints – hammering, drilling, screwing into it etc. – and while he did do this for all of two minutes, the dough quickly became a cake and the screws candles! He enjoyed it and that’s the main thing 😂

Join us next week for more building-themed stories and play!

What have you been reading and playing this week?

Picture Book and Play – At the Vet

Picture Book & Play is a new weekly post (moving to a Friday from next week!) 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.

If you and your little ones do similar bookish play, we’d love you to join in with Picture Book & Play and to let us know what you’ve been reading and playing too!

It’s a short one this week – we’ve kept it really simple with some vets role play, which Peapod loves.

I’ve written before (many times but in more detail here and here) about how much Peapod loves the Mog books by Judith Kerr, so for Christmas he got a couple of new Mog books including Mog and the V.E.T., which he loves; he thinks its so funny calling the vet the V – E – T!

Mog gets a thorn stuck in her paw and has to go to the vet (or the V- E – T as they have to be called due to how much Mog hates going) Of course, Mog not being a fan of the vet means chaos ensues and Peapod thinks it’s great fun seeing the animals run wild and the vet fall over! As funny and expressive as you’d expect from Mog!

Mog at the V – E – T! (The laundry basket is the car taking her there of course!)

As we’ve been reading it again recently, we’ve been using the Dr’s set and pet care set he also got for Christmas to play vets.

We’ve also used the brilliant ‘Busy Vets’ to help introduce the idea and talk about who might be at the vets, which animals we might see there, what the vet might need to do etc.

The Busy range of board books are so great for this – Peapod loves the moving parts, there’s lots to talk about with illustrations that are lively but informative and questions and captions to extend on the simple rhyming text.

We don’t have pets so this has been a great introduction to some otherwise unknown concepts for Peapod.

Peapod likes to be the “vesinny (veterinary) nurse” and specialises in putting on plasters (it doesn’t matter what animal it is or what ails them – a plaster is the cure!) and the fact that they’re a bit fiddly and great for fine motor skills is an added bonus!

He’s got a little notebook which he likes to record the animals he’s seen in – great for getting a bit of mark making in!

Even unicorns are treated at our vets (with plasters of course!)

Are there any favourite vet or pet themed picture books in your house?

What have you been reading and playing this week?