Using Story Sacks to bring Story Books to Life

Back in May, I wrote a blog about 50 years of The Very Hungry Caterpillar  and described a visit to the local library with Daisy where we selected some books and a Story Sack to borrow from the library.  While Daisy is now familiar with borrowing library books, The Very Hungry Caterpillar was her first story sack.

 A story sack is a large fabric drawstring bag which contains the story book, some story props, a related non-fiction book and a game of some ideas for activities.  Here are the contents of The Very Hungry Caterpillar story sack.


 Using props with a story book provides an interactive way to engage children in storytelling and helps them remember the story  The props stimulate a child’s imagination helping them relate to the characters in the story which in turn will strengthen emotion development.


 The contents of a story sack provide a wealth of story-linked activities.  The Very Hungry Caterpillar story sack also included an A4 sheet of activity suggestions for parents (and grandparents!).  You’ll find more ideas will emerge as you use the book and story sack. 


 As I was reading The Very Hungry Caterpillar to Daisy she was determined to match each story prop to the appropriate page in the book and she particularly enjoyed fitting the food over the images in the book..  This, in it’s turn, lead to plenty of counting and talking about the caterpillar eating MORE each day which made more links back to our recent grocery shopping outing (previous blog) 


 After we had read the book and had used all of the story props, Daisy held onto the butterfly imitating a butterfly in flight.  Daddy arrived at this stage and Daisy began to talk about butterflies.  Then Daisy went off with Daddy to see if there were any butterflies on our garden as Daddy talked to her about different sizes of butterflies. 

 It wasn’t long before Daisy was able to tell me that we had white butterflies in our garden. 


 Our first story sack experience demonstrated just how stimulating a story sack can be.  While listening to the story Daisy used the story props to follow along, then she practised her counting skills, had an introduction to the life cycle of a butterfly, looked and found butterflies on our garden. All of this prompted her to remember our visit to the Butterfly House at the London Zoo where a huge, brightly patterned butterfly sat on Maggie’s buggy and refused to move off!

Story sacks were first created in the 1990’s and they have become a popular resource in nurseries and schools.  Nowadays story sacks are also accessible to parents and grandparents, through local libraries.  (Our story sack counted as one item when we took it out on loan and had was on loan for the same length of time as a book would be).

 Granny Smith says

As the school holiday approaches, the summer reading challenge ‘Space Chase’ is underway at local libraries.  It’s a great opportunity for grand parents to encourage our grandchildren to borrow books and story sacks from the library and to take up the Summer Reading Challenge.

Going Shopping to Develop Writing and Counting Skills


The skill of writing develops over several years and young children first learn about writing by observing adults writing.  A few months ago we started to introduce Daisy to the process of writing by including her in one of our routine activities that requires writing  We explained that we were going to go shopping together and needed to write out a shopping list before we went to remind us of what we wanted to buy.

Supermarket Shopping

We set out with a short shopping list of groceries; Daisy looked after the shopping list.  When we arrived at the supermarket we looked at the list together. I pointed to one of the words, read it out and we found the item together. In this way Daisy sees me using the words I have written and we slowly work down the list and fill our basket.

Daisy likes to hold my pencil and then she can scribble over a word when we put an item into our basket (not necessarily accurate scribbling!).


Language of numbers

In April 2018 I wrote a blog titled The Language of Numbers and we daily include the language of number with Daisy, in songs, stories and her play.  Knowing that Daisy now has a sound understanding of number names she is ready to begin to start to count.


Counting is a skill that we all rely on in our everyday lives.  Through everyday activities you can help your grandchild to begin to make the connections between number names and the process of counting.  The outing to the supermarket with a short shopping list is an ideal opportunity to combine writing and counting skills.

Recently when Daisy and I went shopping at the supermarket we counted the apples in the packet and how many bananas were in the bunch we’d selected.  Later we counted some croissant into a bag.


Back home we counted the fruit as we put into our fruit bowl.  Then I noticed that Daisy had started pretend play with the fruit in her play kitchen, copying her shopping experience.

Granny Smith says –

This kind of supermarket shopping activity does take time but I’ve found that my granddaughter is engrossed and she doesn’t get bored and fretful.  On our supermarket outings she is absolutely delighted when we find a small trolley for her to push or a basket that she can pull along.

Regularly include your grandchild when planning an outing and writing a shopping list.  Creating a list and counting can be repeated at other High Street stores or any other shopping experience.  Daisy was delighted recently when she went with Grandpa to buy some fish for the garden pond. She ‘helped’ to count the fish as they were put into their bag of water ready to be transported to the pond.

Introducing letters and letter sounds to your toddler grandchild.

Lately we’ve been using Daisy’s easel and a set of magnetic letters to play short activities/games to give her practice in learning about letters. To start, I filled the whiteboard side with a random selection of the magnetic letters.


We sat together and talked about the colours of the letters and together we sorted the letters into their colour groups. Daisy enjoyed this and did not find the activity too challenging so it was enough for a first session 


The next time I put some letters onto the easel left some in the tub. I then asked Daisy to find more letters that ‘looked’ the same at the ones on the easel. At her age I want Daisy to enjoy letter shape activities. It’s interesting to see that Daisy can recognise the different letter forms.


I am not trying to teach Daisy the alphabet and I want to keep her interested so after she had sorted the letters into groups of shapes Daisy had fun just playing with the magnetic letters; pushing them around on the board, fitting the ‘i’ into the upside down ‘m’ then fitting the ‘n’ into the ‘u’.

 For all of these activities I used a tub of magnetic lower case lettersfrom Learning Resources; they are sturdy, brightly coloured and the magnets grip nicely.* 

When I next introduced the letters to Daisy I started with the letters of her name; this is probably the easiest way to introduce letters to your grandchild.  If I was writing Daisy’s name I would use a capital letter for the initial letter and then lower case letters for the rest of her name.  But my magnetic set of letters are all lower case so for my next game, I put ‘d’,’a’,’i’,’s’,’y’ magnetic letters onto the board and let Daisy find letters to match these.  This is a development of the previous matching games from my February blog “Sharing Letter Shapes”.


The next big step is to introduce the sounds that letters make and, again, it’s good to start with the letters in your grandchild’s name.  So I started with ‘d’, repeating the sound ‘d’ for Daisy until she joined in with’d’,’d’,’d’.

Remember that this game is to introduce the sound that the letter makes and not to introduce the name of the letter. so this is d,d,d not Dee, Dee, Dee.

 Knowing that Daisy’s name starts with a ‘d’ we then talked about things that also start with an initial ‘d’ sound such as duck, dog, doll.  Daisy went off and found these toys and we put them all together.  I would have stopped the play at any stage that she became disinterested but Daisy was engaged and found all of the things.  


Granny Smith says

We engaged in these activities over several days during a recent visit and we left the easel and magnetic letters out for Daisy to access any time during her for pally. Back at home, when Daisy has taken the magnetic letters from the fridge, Mummy and Daddy have continued to help Daisy learn about letters and shapes.


Of course these activities can be practised with letters from any alphabet.

*Be careful with magnets around young children. Toys that display the CE mark are tested to make sure the magnets cannot come loose and present a hazard.


Pouring activities for hand-eye coordination using gross and fine motor control

From experience I’ve found that one type of play can often inspire another activity a few days later using the same play equipment but with a different focus and different results.  Messy play remains a regular activity for Daisy and since their recent introduction funnels have become a permanent part of her activities.

Having watched Daisy playing with funnels, jugs and other containers for water play I decided that she may be ready to use funnels, jugs and bottles with pour-able solids.

Lentils 1

I put out the familiar messy play equipment together with some orange lentils and green split peas on Daisy’s little table with a large cloth underneath to catch the spills. We chatted about the lentils and peas: their colours, their texture and how they felt.

I then showed Daisy how I could pour the lentils from the jug into a container and stopped when it was nearly full. This was a great opportunity to explore adjectives like full and empty.

Lentils 3I encouraged Daisy to have a go, with mixed, and messy results. In the days since I did this with Daisy, she’s had more opportunities to use pour-able solids back at home. And I keep finding stray lentils under the kitchen furniture.lentils 4Pour-able solids such as rice, dried peas or lentils give Daisy more control and allow her more opportunity to manipulate materials to achieve a planned effect. As she is pouring Daisy can watch the movement and flow of the pouring solids and see where they go. I wanted her to have practice in filling containers to experience cause and effect, like knowing when a container is full, and knowing when to stop. A jug is a type of one-handed tool so this activity requires gross and fine motor control as well as hand-eye coordination. Quite a challenge when you’re not yet three years old.Lentils 2Another challenge is to see if your grandchild can use ‘pincer grip’ (employing finger and thumb) to pick up any split peas or lentils.

Granny Smith says

This activity also provides Daisy with practice in life-skills such as pouring her own drink, adding milk to her breakfast cereal or even putting water out for the family pet.









The National Children’s Gardening Week: gardening with pre-school children

“What doing Grandpa?”

“I’m going to put some plants in the garden.”

“My help!” (Daisy’s preferred personal pronoun is ‘my’, as in “my do it”)

Daisy squatted down next to her Grandpa and while he sorted out the small geranium plants; Daisy grabbed Grandpa’s trowel and started to randomly dig in the soil.

It didn’t take long to get Daisy interested in gardening!


Daisy’s at an age where she is curious about everything and so she’s ready to find out about some of the processes involved in gardening, and the tools we use.  Instantly, Daisy wanted to use Grandpa’s trowel and small fork to dig in the soil – using those skills she has already developed when playing with sand.  It took Grandpa a little while to explain to Daisy how he was going to dig a hole with the trowel, put a plant in the hole and then replace the soil so that the plant could grow.  Daisy watched, dug in the soil and then together they planted some of the geraniums.


Once they had finished the planting Daisy used her small watering can (from her water play toys) to assist in watering the young plants.

Next time Daisy visits we’ll remind her about how she helped us to put the plants in the garden together we will look at the plants to see how they have changed.

This kind of activity can be repeated to suit the space that you have available, all you need is a plant pot, some compost and some plants (they could be edible ones).  If you want more inspiration, you’ll find plenty in the Things To Do section on the National Children’s Gardening Week website.

Granny Smith says

Tool set

If you are choosing gardening tools for your children/grandchild, select ones which are smaller versions of the ones that you use.  I prefer children to use wooden and metal gardening tools rather than plastic ones which can sometimes frustrate children because they’re not always as durable as the traditional tools.  With your guidance, they will be more successful gardening with the wood and metal tools as they learn how to use them safely.

Mummy found a set of gardening tools for Daisy at their local supermarket and I’ve also seen them available in garden centres.

50 years of The Very Hungry Caterpillar

We visited our local library again last weekend. Daisy always enjoys exploring the children’s area; with its book stands, displays, posters, small tables, chairs and beanbag cushions it’s a very stimulating environment.  We introduced a variety of books to Daisy and she took the opportunity to select some books herself. After a while, we sat together on the small chairs and enjoyed each other’s selections.


Daisy chose some library books to borrow and we came home with her selection of books along with a Story Sack for The Very Hungry Caterpillar. 

The Very Hungry Caterpillar is a children’s classic that’s become a favourite book for young children around the world.  Through the book, children have an opportunity to practise their counting and the order of the days of the week while the story explains the life cycle of the caterpillar to butterfly.  The caterpillar eats his way through a range of different foods and this also gives us an opportunity to talk about what we eat and what is healthy.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar was first published on 3rd June in 1969 and next month it will celebrate its milestone 50th birthday.  There is a special 50th edition with a golden cover so if you haven’t read The Very Hungry Caterpillar to your grandchildren, I recommend it to you.  It’s also available as a flap book, a pop-up book, a board book, large and small versions, something to suit your grandchild.


Granny Smith Says

Watch out for a Story Sack blog coming soon!

Listening Walks

I’m writing this blog while sitting in my garden, listening to a chorus of birdsong, some distant traffic and the sounds of the breeze blowing through the trees.

Last week I read about some recent data that shows, on average, Britons spend five percent of the day (an hour and twelve minutes) outside.  While another study commissioned by the National Trust found that children spend half the time playing outside that their parents did.  This research showed that nowadays children are playing outside for an average of just over four hours a week.

You don’t need to have lots of outdoor play equipment or have somewhere special to help your grandchild benefit from being outside. Wherever you live you can share outdoor time with your grandchild; use this time to develop their senses and, in particular, their listening skills.  Simply sit outside together and listen.

When you want your grandchild to listen, use the baby sign language for ‘listen’, cupping your ear.  We do this with Daisy and now she’s started to use the ‘Listen’ signing too.

Extend these listening skills with a listening walk. If you have a smartphone or other recording device record some of the sounds you hear on the walk so that you can listen again creating your own Slow Radio.  Once you start you’ll be surprised by the varied sounds you can capture: we recorded our footsteps, the buggy wheels, passing dogs, birdsong, vehicles and background conversation. Later, you can get more value from the recorded listening walk with your grandchild by trying to replicate or make versions of the sounds that they have heard.

A listening walk works wherever you are – town, countryside, seaside, park, woods, by a river…

Each listening walk will be different. Vary the timing of your walks, go out early morning and early evening.

Now Daisy will stand by the house door and tell us that she wants to go outside; I think that she would be outside all day long if that was possible.  Daisy is too young for unsupervised outdoor play so we dress her to suit the weather and we join her outside!

Granny Smith says

Helping your grandchild become a good listener is so beneficial.  Listening is a vital skill that will help your grandchild/child in many activities and in particular it will help them as they learn to read and write.