Book Play Ideas

Combining books with props, toys and other activities can not only enrich the story but it engages more senses and can help with…

  • Communication & language – children naturally start to take on the role of the character, expanding the conversation and sounds beyond the pages of the book.
  • Retention – the more senses used when learning can massively help with how much is remembered, so even just doing some movements as you read can help.
  • Problem solving – taking a problem that a character in a story faces and turning it into an activity is a brilliant way of letting your child have agency and start to think about the different ways they might approach the problem (see How to Catch a Star).
  • Motor skills – smaller toys and props to hold and manipulate as you read through the story helps develop fine motor skills. If the story allows incorporating bigger movements or physical challenges can help with gross motor skills (see Stomp Stomp).

We’ve put together four books from our shelves together with some of our toys to demonstrate how easy and valuable it is to create these kinds of book play set ups.

Oh Dear!

by Rod Campbell

Oh Dear Book Play

This lift-the-flap book is set on a farm, where Buster the little boy is introduced to lots of the animals that live there and the noises they make, as he tries to find some eggs for his breakfast.

We used the figures from our Story Farm Set and combined them with some real eggs (hard boiled). As well as making lots of animal sounds with the characters we also wrote numbers 1-6 on the eggs and counted them into and out of the egg carton. We talked about the hens that laid the eggs and about the different ways we might cook them.

This book play worked on…
✌️ Sorting & Counting – number figures 1-6
🗣 Communication & Language – animal names and noises
🌎 Understanding the World – where eggs come from
👌 Motor Skills – lifting the book flaps, handling the animals and placing the eggs in and out of the carton

Play set up is aimed at 1 – 2 year olds

That’s not my Panda

from Usborne

Thats not my panda book play

The ‘That’s not my…’ touchy feely books from Usborne all follow the same simple format. A little mouse encounters lots of different pandas each with a different feature that doesn’t quite feel the same as his panda, “it’s paws are too rough”. On each page there’s a different texture to touch.

We combined this with our beautiful Panda Stacker, the mummy and baby panda tiles from the Wild Animal Family Match game and one of the cards from the Art Cards for Baby pack.

This book play worked on…
🗣 Communication & Language – panda and textures
🌎 Understanding the World – linking the adult panda to the baby
👌 Motor Skills – stacking the pieces of the panda
👁️ Visual Development – the high contrast art card is easy for baby to focus on, helping their visual development

Play set up is aimed at birth – 1 year old

Stomp, Stomp

by Sebastein Braun

Stomp Stomp Book Play

This book from the fabulous publishers Nosy Crow has big flaps that reveal a different dinosaur and its characteristics.

The colourful illustrations in the book matched perfectly to our Chunky Dinosaur Puzzle so we used them to reenact the different actions the dinosaurs make.

This book play worked on…
🗣 Communication & Language – dinosaur names and verbs
🌎 Understanding the World – we talked about how the dinosaurs lived a long time ago, their size and some of their behaviours
💪 Physical Development – by reenacting the movements and actions from the book, as well as adding some of our own

Play set up is aimed at 1 – 2 year olds

How to Catch a Star

by Oliver Jeffers

How to Catch a Star is all about a little boy who’s determined to catch his very own star and tries lots of different ways to get one.

The rocket in this book is almost identical to our sweet little Magnet Rocket, so we just had to add that to our play set up. We paused halfway through the story and talked about the different ways that we might try to catch a star.

The rocket was also a brilliant prompt to talk about space, stars and magnetic forces. We also made an air rocket from cardboard and a reusable straw. These are so much fun – draw and cut a rocket from cardboard, masking tape a piece of paper to the back of the rocket that has space to slide in the straw but is taped at the top so that the air can build up in it. Now when you place the straw inside the paper and blow into the straw the rocket should come shooting off the end and fly off into space.

This book play worked on…
🤔 Problem Solving – methods to get to something that’s out of reach
🌎 Understanding the World – stars, space, magnetic forces and air pressure
🗣 Communication & Language – space terms, descriptive language for stars (pointed, shiny, gleaming, bright)

Play set up is aimed at 2-4 year olds


Have you put certain toys or activities with some of your favourite books? We’d love to see them if you have, please use the tag #ecotoyplay

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