Children’s Book Play – Animal Board Books

Sharing a Book

Some children love nothing more than spending hours being read to, snuggled up together. Others can be a little more reluctant and prefer more ‘active’ forms of entertainment. Whatever your child prefers there are so many possibilities when exploring board books through book play. I love board books as they can be used with babies right through to early readers and they are so much more forgiving than paperbacks in the early years.

I want to share with you lots of different book play ideas in this blog post. I’ve used Hello Animals – Where Do You Live? By Loes Botman and published by the wonderful Floris Books. Floris kindly sent us this book for review. There are lots of books you could do similar things with, but we adore the choice of authors and illustrators Floris Books publishes. They are a real treat. Hello Animals – Where Do You Live? is dreamily illustrated.

Book play is so much fun and I often find that a few minutes spent together ends in quality independent play after. I’ll often share a book activity together before I need to go and make lunch or dinner. Once we’ve shared the book and activity I’ll leave the book and activity resources for my daughter to play with on her own. Sometimes the play will reflect an activity we have done, but often she makes the play her very own.

Hello Animals – Where Do You Live?

Here’s my list of book play ideas for Hello Animals – Where Do You Live? board book. As you’ll see lots can be used and adapted for different books. They are roughly in order of development, however, just pick and choose the activities you think your little one would enjoy.

  • Just hearing your voice reading the simple words in the book or making up words or stories to go with the images is ideal for babies and older children alike.
  • Turning pages and holding a book can give lots of enjoyment for babies and great for their motor development and eye gaze.
  • Make animal noises to go with the animals in the book – encourage little ones to join in.
  • Use a Makaton or sign language sign to go with each animal name and/ or noise. You can find lots of video for Makaton signs on the CBeebies website and YouTube are great for both Makaton and BSL (British Sign Language) signs (I always pre-watch videos first on YouTube to ensure they are suitable for little ones to watch).

A Few More Book Play Ideas

  • Introducing adjectives (describing words) and verbs (doing/ action words) to extend the vocabulary in the book. For example ‘the spikey hedgehog lives in…’, ‘the blue tit swooped down from the tree’. It’s amazing how even very small children pick up language and use it with such ease; I wish I could learn a language that easily. For babies and toddlers just using this vocabulary is wonderful, then as children become older you could encourage them to come up with their own alternative adjectives and verbs.
  • ‘Read’ to a friend or a toy. This is something that my daughter has enjoyed doing from a young age. She didn’t know the words but would make up her own ‘babble’ to read to a favourite toy. As children get older they can actually read to their friend/ toys.
  • Ask questions – What is the bird perched on? Could that give us a clue of where they live? What season do you think it might be? Why do you think that? How many animals are there altogether in the book? Where would you like to live? Why would you like to live there?
  • Children who are learning to read – you could have the animal names on pieces of paper and match them up to the images in the book.
  • With captions such as ‘in a pond’ write the words on separate little pieces of paper – can they use the book to put the words in the right order? Can they make a silly caption/ sentence but putting the words in the wrong order.

Learning to Read through Book Play

As children get older they often enjoy returning to familiar books that they loved when younger. They’re also great to be used as early readers. Hello Animals – Where Do You Live? is a brilliant one for that with its repeated refrains (this just means a regularly repeated phrase) of ‘in a…’ and ‘where do you live?’ for this book.

Yes phonics is an important skill in learning to read English, however, there are so many other parts to learning to read. Repeated refrains are great for building up confidence in reading words that appear often (high frequency words/ HFW) and developing fluency and intonation.

Don’t worry if they aren’t ‘reading’ the words and just recalling them from memory. These are all important skills for reading. Getting your child to point to each word as they say it can help them get an understanding of the difference between letters, words and sentences. It helps them track the words as they read. Questions you could ask include – How many words are there? How many letters in that word?

Book Play Ideas and Resources

Just by adding a few additional toys/ resources you can extend the play even further. For this part you will need some animals. These can be any animals you have at home, you can print them out or make them yourselves by drawing and cutting out.

Book Play Set Up

For each of the activities below I used the layout above with the selection of animals around the book. I also used some play bases and a tree for where the animals may live – but you could just as easily make these from paper/ card at home. Doing crafts based around a book is definitely one of our favourite things to do together at home.

  • Can they match an animal with an animal in the book? When they find a matching pair – are they identical? What is the same/ similar? Are there differences?
  • What movement does that animal make? Leaping, jumping, swooping, soaring, creeping etc. If you’ve got an active little one you could get them to act out the movement themselves or they could move the animal in the way of that movement.
  • Where does that animal live? Get children to move the animal to the home or make them a home. We had a great discussion about our amphibian friend!
  • What do they eat? Where do they find their food? Can you make them some food?
  • If you have more than one of an animal you can count how many. Which animal do you have the most of/ least of?
  • Different sizes of animals could be ordered and you could explore adult and baby animals.
  • Red herring – one of my daughter’s favourite activities – which animal is NOT in the book! Add one animal that is not in the book to your collection.
  • With your collection of animals you could play the classic Kim’s Game (do fewer animals to start and gradually increase). Show several animals, then cover with some fabric or a tea towel (I always seem to have these on me!) and remove one animal. Uncover and then see if they can guess who is missing.

Independent Book Play

Once you’ve done any short little activity with your little one (can just be a few minutes) leave out the toys/ books/ resources for them to continue their play in a way of their choosing.

Hello Animals – Where Do You Live? By Loes Botman and published by the wonderful Floris Books

New Release for February 2021

Hello Baby Animals – Who Are You? By Loes Botman and published by the wonderful Floris Books

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