Little Bookclub: Spring reads (and a spring-themed book nook)

Hmm, I’ve noticed a definite theme running through many of my posts since the new year: longing for spring, planning spring activities, celebrating the arrival of spring. I guess it would be fair to say I am just ever so slightly spring obsessed…

This made it a pretty obvious choice of topic for our March Little Bookclub – that, and the fact that I had already been hunting down any spring-related book I could find for ToddlerGirl!

Spring books for toddlers - and a spring themed book nook

I always have a little ‘cosy corner’ in our living room for ToddlerGirl to read her books, or just sit quietly (yes, it does happen occasionally!). I like to mix this up every now and then, though, to introduce a themed book nook or an inviting den/camp for her, to subtly reinforce the ideas in the books we are reading, to encourage her to pick up a book to read by herself, or simply to provide an interesting and inviting new space for play.

I decided to create a spring-themed book nook to tie together the various books I’ve found for her on the subject. We’ve got a great cardboard box at the moment that provided the perfect starting point. I positioned this in her cosy corner space, added a cushion inside to sit on, draped it with a yellow blanket and then added some props:

  • a tweeting robin soft toy perched on the top, along with an owl cushion
  • our two fluttery pipecleaner butterflies dangling down
  • a flower garland picked up at a festival last year
  • a ladybird nightlight inside, along with a little rabbit soft toy
  • a soft toy treehouse, with it’s soft toy animal occupants
  • a pull along buzzy bee toy
  • a frog musical instrument
  • a basket of books, with a magnifying glass

ToddlerGirl was very impressed with her new book nook and has been playing with all the toys set out over the last week or so, and is very particular about hanging the flower garland just so over the entrance to the cardboard den! She’s also been enjoying the books set out for her.

So, what books do we have in our spring selection?

Books about spring for toddlers

(NB: List contains affiliate links.)

Everything Spring by Jill Esbaum

This is a National Geographic Kids book and has some lovely photographs of all things spring, including the first flowers poking out of the ground, trees in bud with leaves and blossom, cute little animals and rainy days. The text is very simple but has a poetic quality and matches the photographs perfectly. We had this book last year and ToddlerGirl really enjoys looking at all the pictures. I think it will last a good few years, as it can be suitable for a younger toddler upwards.

Spring by Gerda Muller

We love this series of seasonal picture books. They have no words, which make them great for very young toddlers as well as older children. ToddlerGirl will often choose this one out of the basket herself and study the pictures, which are beautifully drawn and depict various spring scenes. It is lovely to hear her making up her own stories to match the pictures this year.

Eggs and Chicks (Usborne Beginners)

This Usborne Beginners book is a new addition to our home library. It gives lots of facts about birds and eggs, showing nest building, egg laying, hatching, looking after young chicks and different types of eggs. This is all told through clear photographs, with simple text to accompany. ToddlerGirl has been very interested in all the pictures but doesn’t want to sit and listen to all the words just yet. It’s been a good one for us to dip into and have a chat about one particular aspect, and I’m sure we’ll be reading it for a good few years to come.

Eddie’s Garden: And How To Make Things Grow by Sarah Garland

This is a brilliant picture book, telling the story of Eddie setting up his own garden with the help of his mum. The illustrations are lovely and, while the text is quite long, it is very engaging so ToddlerGirl will sit and listen to the whole thing and immediately want to read it again! I think it helps that Eddie has a little sister, Lily, who is more in ToddlerGirl’s age range and who ‘helps’ create the garden in the way all toddlers would do – attempting to eat worms, digging huge holes and wanting to be watered with the watering can! There is also some good information at the end on growing your own garden. In fact, the whole book is great for inspiring little ones to get involved in gardening. ToddlerGirl and I have been making plans to grow our own sunflowers and maybe even attempt a bean den, which we agree looks brilliant!

Grow Your Own by Esther Hall

This is another gardening-themed book, perfect for the spring. Sidney lives in the city and doesn’t have much to do with gardens – or vegetables, picking even the mushroom off his pizza! A visit to his Granny’s house changes that, however, when she subtly involves him in the growing and maintaining of her vegetable garden. This is a great book to show toddlers where some of our food comes from and introduce the idea of growing our own food. It could also be useful for any fussy eaters! ToddlerGirl has been enjoying it and we’ve been able to talk about the fact that our vegetables come from the ground.

Ferdie’s Springtime Blossom by Julia Rawlinson

Ferdie the fox is learning all about the seasons in this series of books. He is excited that spring has arrived but, when he heads into xx, is dismayed to see what he thinks is snow everywhere. He hurries to warn his animal friends that they need to go back into winter mode but they soon all discover that the snow is actually blossom! The illustrations are gorgeous, in the yellows and greens of spring, and the story of the sweet little fox and his friends is a winner for ToddlerGirl.

I also popped in a farm picture book and one of my garden bird books. Surprisingly, ToddlerGirl has been really taken by this, flicking through to look at all the pictures of the birds. It’s led us to talk about the birds we get in our garden and to find the pictures of them in the book (and examine them with the magnifying glass!).

What books would you include on a spring reading list?

For some lovely activity ideas to do to celebrate the new season, see my post Spring things!


Little Bookclub: Love and friendship

You may not realise but it’s Valentine’s Day this week. Oh, what – you knew that already?!

OK, you’d probably have to be living under a rock to escape this particular date in the calendar. While I’m not really into the idea of doing lots of Valentine’s themed activities with ToddlerGirl – and at the risk of jumping on the bandwagon – I thought it would make a good theme for this month’s Little Bookclub. The titles we’ve been reading explore different aspects of love and friendship for toddlers.

Little Bookclub: Love and Friendship

(NB: This post contains affiliate links.)

Pip and Posy: The Super Scooter
Axel Scheffler

Part of the Pip and Posy series by Gruffalo illustrator Scheffler, this has been a firm favourite in our house for a long time now. Pip turns up at the park with a shiny new scooter. His friend, Posy, decides that she really likes the scooter and snatches it away from him to have a go herself. She falls off and hurts her knee, at which point Pip comes and takes care of her. This is a sweet story with a good message about respecting others’ property and the kindness of true friendship. ToddlerGirl returns to it time and again and, now she is a little bit older, it gives us some useful talking points.

Emma Dodd

This is a really lovely book about the love a parent has for their child. The text is simple and rhyming, talking about all the ways in which the parent polar bear will look after, support, guide and cherish the baby polar bear. The images are bold and beautiful, focusing on the polar bears and their snowy environment. In our edition, the pages are also embellished with silver foil, which adds a gorgeous sensory touch. Emma Dodd has written a few other titles in a similar vein; we have enjoyed the ones we’ve read, particularly ‘You’ featuring a cheeky little monkey. I think Forever may be my personal favourite, though. In my hormonal state, I tear up every time we read it together! ToddlerGirl obviously enjoys it too as we had to read it five times in a row the other day.

Sharing a Shell
Julia Donaldson and Lydia Monks

So, we love love love Julia Donaldson books in this house and this one is no exception. A little crab is finds a shell to make his home in a rock pool. He is soon joined by two new friends, Brush and Blob – he provides them with a home and they help him defend it and keep it clean! An argument between the crab and Blob disrupts the domestic harmony until Brush brings them all back together again and they realise that, whatever niggles they may have with each other, life is so much fun ‘rollicking around the rockpool as three’. The story is entertaining and energetic and ToddlerGirl loves the rhyming text and colourful illustrations – with added sparkle on each page! Definitely another Donaldson hit.

Rachel Bright

Ah, the tricky concept of sharing! Anyone with a toddler will understand what a hard lesson this is to teach. This brilliant book is a good tool to help underline the message that sometimes we have to share our things with friends or siblings, as twins Frankie and Fifi find out when their beloved Funny Bunny becomes a casualty of their fighting. The humour in the story shines through the text and the images, which are bold and colourful, and stops it from being ‘preachy’. We have had this on loan from the library repeatedly over the last year and I really think it’s time I purchased our own copy as it never fails to grab ToddlerGirl’s attention.

I Love You
Giles Andrae and Emma Dodd

This is a really lovely book that takes us through all the things in a child’s daily life that bring happiness and love: parents, grandparents, friends, special toys, the natural world. The simple, rhyming text is paired with bold, bright images making it a very easy and engaging read. We have also read the I Love Daddy book in this series, which went down very well with ToddlerGirl, but I personally prefer this one for its uplifting message that we are surrounded by love and wonderful things. It makes a great wind down read.

Hugless Douglas
David Melling

A little bear wakes up after his hibernation in need of a hug. He sets off to find the perfect one, cuddling all sorts of unsuitable objects including rocks, trees, rabbits and sheep before he realises that the hug he was after was from his mum. This is such a sweet story, told with a good deal of humour in both the text and the illustrations. There is a bonus spread at the end picturing the sheep demonstrating all sorts of different hugs, which ToddlerGirl finds hilarious. We first tried this book when she was about eighteen months old and she didn’t really take to it then. She really enjoys it now, so it may be that it’s best suited to slightly older toddlers.

What books would you recommend on the theme of love and friendship for toddlers?

See the Little Bookclub page for more book selections and activities.

Little Bookclub: Christmas books for toddlers

Hmm, what to make the theme for our December Little Bookclub? I did have to give it quite a lot of thought before eventually deciding on… you’ve guessed it… Christmas! Alright, I deliberated on it for, oh, maybe ten seconds. It was a pretty obvious choice, really.

Little Bookclub - Christmas books for toddlers

I know, I know, it’s horribly clichéd to focus on Christmas-themed books in December (although it would also be a little weird to look at them in June…) but I just don’t care! I love Christmas, so ToddlerGirl and I have been immersed in all sorts of festive activities this month, including reading a number of suitably Christmassy books.

The difficulty with this month’s selection was in the sheer number of options out there. I’ve found some that focus on the joy of Christmas, while others provide an introduction to the nativity story. I think they all bring something of the magic of the season…

Christmas With YouChristmas With You
Julia Hubery and Victoria Ball

This is a lovely book celebrating the pleasures of Christmas: the anticipation of the day to come and the sharing of this with family and friends. The illustrations of the mouse family are wonderfully warm and cosy, perfect for snuggling up with, while the text is very poetic and flows beautifully, meaning I have been really enjoying reading it out loud to ToddlerGirl. That being said, I think this book is probably better suited to a slightly older audience; she will cuddle up and read this with me, but it doesn’t always keep her attention. It is a paper book rather than board book, so that probably gives a clue as to intended age range. At the moment, it is probably more a favourite of mine than hers! But I shall definitely be remembering this one for future Christmases.

Pocket's Christmas WishPocket’s Christmas Wish
Ann Bonwill & Russell Julian

Another very sweet book focusing on what the spirit of Christmas is really all about. This time we are with Pocket the rabbit who is following a trail of footsteps that he believes will lead him to the true meaning of Christmas. It cleverly weaves in the gifts of the season with items Pocket finds along the way reminding him of love, joy, comfort, and finishes with Pocket discovering the gift of giving. It has a lovely, heartwarming message without being too saccharine and ToddlerGirl has been enjoying reading this with me.

Room for a Little OneRoom for a Little One
Martin Waddell & Jason Cockcroft

This might be my personal favourite of our selection. It tells the story of the nativity through the eyes of the Kind Ox who shares his warm stable with a host of animals who have nowhere else to go. This culminates with Tired Donkey, who is carrying a pregnant Mary. It’s a clever angle to take, with the focus on the animals giving it immediate toddler appeal while still introducing the basic concept of the nativity story. The text is simple and the illustrations are absolutely beautiful. There is one spread with the Stray Cat looking at the Small Mouse which I find particularly striking; the detail in the cats face and eyes is just gorgeous. So I love it, clearly! What about ToddlerGirl? It didn’t start off as a favourite but she’s been selecting it from the book basket and requesting it for her bedtime read, so she is definitely enjoying it. It is a very calming read for her, so a particularly good one when she is cuddly and in a quieter mood.

Little Owl and The StarLittle Owl and the Star: A Christmas Story
Mary Murphy

Another take on the nativity using animals to introduce the story to little ones. In this version, it is Little Owl who we are following as he is led by the bright star to a stable in Bethlehem. On the way, he sees the shepherds and wise men and hears the angels singing but he is drawn onwards by the star. He reaches the baby Jesus and is struck by the happiness he is radiating; when he reports this back to the star, it shines even more brightly and fills the whole world with light. It is a very simple yet lovely retelling – and it has an owl in it, so ToddlerGirl was hooked from the first reading!

Merry Christmas, Little Cheeps!Merry Christmas Little Cheeps!
Julie Stiegemeyer & Carol Baicker-McKee

This is a really cute little book taking us through a few of the many joys of the festive period, from singing, to decorating, to cuddles to the excitement of waking up on Christmas Day. The rhyming text is simple but sweet and the images are interesting as they have been modelled out of what looks like towelling (for the chicks) and playdough for the rest of the scenes, which creates a completely different effect to an illustration of course. It’s not our most read book out of our selection but it does a nice job of encapsulating some festive family fun.

Topsy and Tim Meet Father ChristmasTopsy and Tim Meet Father Christmas
Jean and Gareth Adamson

This is without a doubt ToddlerGirl’s absolute favourite book this month! We have read it many, many, many times already. The appeal I suspect lies in the focus on a little boy and girl not that much older than ToddlerGirl and the every day story of the lead up to Christmas. The family head to the garden centre to pick out their tree and some new decorations, visit Father Christmas in his grotto, and then head home to make a snowman and decorate the tree. This is clearly all fascinating stuff when you are only two years old! We are planning on taking ToddlerGirl to a grotto before Christmas so this story will hopefully help her to understand a bit more about what is going on when we do!

That’s our selection of Christmas books, all of which (with the exception of Topsy and Tim) I’ve found at our library. We also have ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas, of course, which I think is virtually obligatory at this time of year! I only have a very small copy picked up when ToddlerGirl was a baby and would love to find a gorgeously illustrated version as I’m sure we’ll be reading it for years to come – any recommendations for that or other lovely Christmas reads are very welcome!

Little Bookclub: Halloween

It’s a bit hard to escape Halloween these days. It’s not usually something I celebrate – I don’t think I’ve ever been trick or treating in my life! – but I’m noticing a lot of Halloween-themed activities these year, both online and in the real world. It’s obviously becoming a more prominent festival in the UK than it was when I was a child, so I decided that I would introduce it in a very gentle way with ToddlerGirl this year. As well as planning some Halloween play ideas, I thought we’d make it the theme of this month’s Little Bookclub.

Little Bookclub - Halloween

Of course, I don’t want to focus on the spooky scary side at this stage, so I’ve found a small selection of toddler-appropriate books for us to read together.

Room on the Broom, Julia Donaldson

This is an old favourite of ours and absolutely wonderful at any time of the year. As the story is all about a witch but is very low on the scary factor, it is perfect for toddlers as a Halloween read. The witch keeps dropping items of clothing from her broom. As she hunts for these, she meets some new friends who help her to find her things and then end up joining her on the broom. They then save her from a hungry dragon (the only point that may be a bit scary) and the witch magics up a magnificent new broom so they can all continue to travel together. The rhythm and repetition through the text make this a lot of fun to read aloud. This is coupled with lovely, expressive illustrations in Axel Scheffler’s distinctive style. ToddlerGirl really enjoys reading this and we have this on both CD and DVD, so we can also listen to the story and watch the film!

Meg and Mog, Helen Nicoll

Another witch and her cat… I remember the Meg and Mog books from my own childhood, so when I saw this at our local shop, I quickly pounced on it. The stories all centre around Meg, the witch, and her cat as they have various adventures. This first one is about their Halloween, when Meg accidentally turns her witchy friends into frogs! There is a lovely humour in the text; for example, when Meg makes breakfast for herself, Mog and their owl which consists of all sorts of yucky, non breakfast items. ToddlerGirl is just able to understand that that is funny as it’s not what we would have for breakfast. It’s a very simple story but good fun – and a great, gentle Halloween read.

The Tickle Ghost, David Mckee 

This was a lucky find at our library. I personally have not been bowled over by either the illustrations or the text but ToddlerGirl really enjoys it, so it has definite toddler appeal. I do like the concept, though. A little boy is upstairs getting ready for bed when a ghost creeps into his room. But there is nothing remotely scary about this ghost as it’s his dad dressed in a sheet and all it does is tickle! It’s a very sweet idea and a great way to turn something potentially scary for little ones into something funny. We went to one Halloween event this week that involved doing impressions of ghosts. ToddlerGirl wasn’t sure about it until I whispered to her that it was like the tickle ghost in her book. This immediately helped her, so the book gets a big thumbs up from me as a useful tool for dealing with toddler fears.

Pip and Posy: The Scary Monster, Axel Scheffler

We love all the Pip and Posy books we’ve come across so far. The books are simple yet very engaging, focusing on the friendship between Pip and Posy and the games that they play. Written and illustrated by Axel Scheffler (The Gruffalo), I’ve found that each story has a sweet message at its heart. The Scary Monster is no different: Posy is at home on a rainy day, having fun baking. When there is a knock at the door, she is scared as it looks like a monster is there. It turns out to be Pip in fancy dress and the two take turns to dress up as the monster and play together. I like the fact that the book gives me a platform to talk to ToddlerGirl about being scared and explain that it’s normal to feel a bit frightened sometimes – and also that the book shows that things like scary monsters can (usually) be explained away. When we get to the part where the monster knocks on the door, ToddlerGirl reassures Posy “Don’t worry, it’s only Pip”, which is very sweet!

Shark in the Dark, Nick Sharratt

Oh, this book is so much fun. Timothy Pope has a telescope which he uses to look for things but he keeps on mistaking objects for a shark. The pages have cut out holes to reveal the parts of the objects he can see that look like shark fins. When you turn the page, however, you realise that it was something completely innocuous, such as the sail of a yacht. The images are bold, the rhyming text simple, the humour easy enough even for a two year old to understand. It’s brilliant for reading aloud and for encouraging participation – ToddlerGirl is even quoting parts of it now! Beyond the fun parts of the book, there is also a good message that things we are worried about are not always as they seem, which any child (or parent) who’s ever looked at a dark shape in their room at night and imagined it’s all sorts of scary things can relate to! The book is a follow up to Shark in the Park, which is very similar and equally as fabulous. This is a firm favourite of ours and on the Library Books I Would Like To Own list.

So that’s our non-scary Halloween reading list for Little Bookclub this month. Have you read any of the books? Or do you recommend any other Halloween-themed books that are suitable for younger toddlers?

(Our Little Bookclub activity for the month focused on Room on the Broom and Meg and Mog. We enjoyed some witch themed games, mixing up potions in our witch’s kitchen, making a witch’s brew sensory bottle and more. Read all about what we got up to in the post Witchy Wednesday here!)

Watery-themed play… the dry way!

For this month’s Little Bookclub, I decided it would be fun to dive beneath the waves and explore under the sea. To go along with our theme, I set up a quick and easy activity this afternoon, using the song ‘Row, row your boat’ as our starting point. It proved to be great fun for ToddlerGirl, providing a whole afternoon’s entertainment.

While she was napping, I laid out:

  • Some chiffony fabric we have in a beautiful blue/green, which makes perfect pretend water
  • A shallow cardboard box, to act as the boat
  • An empty wrapping paper roll and a couple of empty kitchen paper rolls, to act as the oars
  • A few toy fish and underwater sea creatures, dotted on and under the fabric – and a couple of rubber ducks on the top!
  • Some of ToddlerGirl’s soft toys inside the boat
  • Our ‘under the sea’ themed books propped open nearby

Once she was awake, she immediately went to the ‘boat’ and tossed the toys out to climb in herself! We sang a few verses of ‘Row, row your boat’ and I showed her how to paddle using the oars. This kept her occupied for a good while, as ‘Row, row’ is a favourite song at the moment and we know quite a few verses to this! (Her favourite by far is: “If you see a crocodile / Don’t forget to scream – aaaaahhhhh!”)

She then climbed out and started to play with the sea creatures dotted around the fabric. She particularly enjoyed finding the ones I’d buried underneath, taking them out and putting them back again to ‘hide’ them.

We then got the fabric out to examine it a bit more closely, putting it over our heads and swoshing it around the room. This was a lovely sensory experience for ToddlerGirl, especially when I pulled the fabric very slowly off of her, which was met with a chorus of “Again! Again!”. I also remembered we had some wonderful iridescent tissue paper, which I dug out; with its scrunchy texture and bluey green colour, it makes another great item for using as pretend water. ToddlerGirl loved waving this around and scrunching it up.

To finish off, I set up the boat scene again and this time added a lovely wooden fishing puzzle that we have. It comes with two fishing rods with magnets on the end that are used to ‘fish’ the puzzle pieces out. ToddlerGirl has her own little technique for using the rods: instead of dangling them over the pieces until the magnets ‘stick’, which does require a bit of control, she pulls the line through the rod and holds onto the magnet and then places this onto the puzzle pieces. She worked this out all by herself, which I thought was a great bit of problem solving!

As it was approaching dinner time, I left the scene set up with some soft toys again and ToddlerGirl played happily with them and the puzzle. I always consider it to be a very successful activity if it buys me some time to see to the dinner! Once everything was bubbling away on the stove, we snuggled on the sofa and read a few of our ‘under the sea’ themed books, a perfect end to an afternoon of (pretend) watery play…

Little Bookclub: Under the sea

For this month’s Little Bookclub, I thought it would be fun to dive beneath the waves and investigate the creatures and other sights of the underwater world. There is so much to explore under the sea and we have been really enjoying our watery theme so far!

Snap! By Margaret Mayo and Alex Ayliffe
This book is in a similar vein to Dig Dig Digging which we read for our ‘exploring sounds’ Little Bookclub. It introduces various creatures that live on or under the water, such as seals, sharks, dolphins, fish and otters. The illustrations are bright and cheerful and ToddlerGirl will spend time pointing out the details on the pages – the penguins on the polar bear page are her favourites! I find it (and the others in the series) to be good for reading aloud, as there is a lovely rhythm to the words. The only downside is that it may be slightly too long for her as, depending on her mood, she can lose interest before we reach the end. Overall this is a lovely book, although perhaps not quite as much fun as Dig, Dig, Digging.

Little Turtle by Roger Pridy
We have had this book since ToddlerGirl was 5ish months old and it has been a firm favourite, along with the others we have from the series (Little Monkey and Little Chick). Each page features a large, bright illustration of a sea creature and a couple of lines of rhyming text to go with it. Some pages also have other sensory elements, such as different textures or shiny patches. The final page folds out to reintroduce all the creatures, which is great for recapping what you have read. I name each one and ask ToddlerGirl to point them out to me. The simplicity of the text and illustrations means that this was particularly lovely when she was under a year but digging it out again has proven that it is still a winner. The text is also short enough for her to begin to be able to remember sections of it. My favourite part is when we reach the crab page. The rhyme goes: ‘Beware the crab, I think he knows / Just how to pinch your tiny toes’ and we have always pinched ToddlerGirl’s toes as we read it, to the point where she started reaching down to do this herself! She remembered this as we were reading along to it this week, which really made me smile.

Hooray for Fish! By Lucy Cousins
This is a great find from our library and has been added to my ‘Library Books That I Really Want To Keep Forever’ list. We meet Little Fish on the first page who goes on to introduce us to all sorts of unusual fish (eye fish, shy fish, sky fish). There is a very simple rhyme to the text and the illustrations are gorgeously colourful, bright and bold. With so many different types of fish, it gives a good opportunity for talking about things such as colours, patterns and numbers, as well as for finding fish on a page. At the end, we meet the most important fish of all, Mummy Fish, so it has a lovely message too. Both ToddlerGirl and I love this. We can spend a lot of time examining the pictures and it probably the book chosen most often by her to read at the moment.

Under the Sea, Usborne
Another library book, this has some pretty drawings of underwater scenes on each page. My favourite is the final spread showing lots of pretty coral. The illustrations are much more realistic than any of the other books we have been looking at this month, so it has been particularly interesting from that point of view. There is a little clown fish guide who you have to find on each page, with several flaps to open to see where he may be hiding. I have to admit that this isn’t my top choice but ToddlerGirl has surprised me with how much she seems to like it, as she will often bring it over to me to read with her and I’ve also spotted her sitting and reading it herself. The pictures are quite detailed, so I think this is what she enjoys about it.

The Rainbow Fish by Marcus Pfister
I’ve heard of this book before but had never read it, so when I spotted it at the library, I quickly pounced! The illustrations are gorgeous, especially of the rainbow fish himself with his shiny scales. He is incredibly proud of these and is the most beautiful fish in the sea, but has no friends. When he asks the wise old octopus why this may be, the octopus suggests that if he gives away his beautiful scales, he will find he is a much happier fish. The Rainbow Fish isn’t sure if he can do this but eventually he does until hardly any of his shining scales remain. He may be plainer but he now has a lot of friends. Hmm… To be honest, I was disappointed with this. Instead of feeling that there was a wonderful moral message about sharing, friendship, vanity, I actually was left with the impression that the fish basically has to give away the things that are special about him in order to make friends, and also perhaps that he needed to make himself less beautiful and more like everyone else for the other fish to like him. I would have personally preferred the story to focus on the personality traits that he needed to work on. Of course, it is a complex message to distill into a simple board book and I don’t think it succeeds. However, ToddlerGirl and I enjoyed looking at the pictures and she is far too young to pick up on the message. I won’t be rushing to reintroduce it to her when she is older, or maybe I will, simply to make some counterpoint arguments to the story!

So that is our ‘under the sea’ reading list for this month. Have you read any of these? Or do you have any other suggestions along this theme?

(Update: You can also read about our watery-themed play… the dry way, which was a lovely, simple activity to do alongside our under the sea reading list.)

Honey Hill’s Noisy Day – Music Activity

We’ve been really enjoying reading Honey Hill’s Noisy Day as part of our April Little Bookclub selection on exploring sound. The Honey Hill friends are practicing with their musical instruments for a special performance, which makes it a perfect choice for thinking about different noises. As I was reading it with ToddlerGirl, I decided to do a very simple activity to go alongside it.

Of course, the obvious activity to do with this book involves musical instruments! I had a look through the instruments we have for ToddlerGirl and selected ones that matched those featured in the book. I had to improvise a little, so we ended up with:

A toy piano (I switched the song setting off, so that the keys just played notes rather than whole tunes!) A mini maracas Some bells (to symbolize a tambourine) A round cake tin and a wooden spoon for a drum

ToddlerGirl and I read the book together once, then we went through it again, picking up and playing each instrument in turn. For our next reading, I let ToddlerGirl find the corresponding musical instrument and play it. Then we ended with a little freestylin’.

Next, I decided to make a homemade musical shaker with ToddlerGirl. I had a clean, dry water bottle ready and had put some dry pasta into one bowl and a few pretty sequin shapes into another.

We sat on the floor together and ToddlerGirl carefully dropped the pasta twists into the bottle, followed by the sequins. I have made a few different sensory bottles for her previously but this is the first time I have let her loose in making one herself (obviously under constant supervision!) I’m so glad I did. She took it very seriously and concentrated hard when picking up the pasta and sequins and dropping them into the bottle. I loved watching her little face, completely intent on what she was doing. When she had finished, I sealed the bottle and let her give it a good shake. I made a big deal of the fact that she had done it all herself and we had to show it to Daddy when he came home from work. She’s been looking incredibly pleased with herself, as she should be!

After making our shaker, we sat and went through Honey Hill’s Noisy Day again with all our instruments, including ToddlerGirl’s special homemade one. This has been a great fun activity for us to do together and was really very easy to set up. It’s also been a good way of getting some extra mileage out of our library book!