Picture book activities

There are some amazing picture books out there and we have recently done some great craft activities based on our favourite books. Both the kiddies really love making the connection between what we read and what we make.



We made the MASSIVE COOKIE from ‘Wild Boars Cook’ (Meg Rosoff and Sophie Blackall). The recipe is on the last page of the book.


I remember ‘Corduroy’ (Don Freeman) from when I was little, and this is a follow-up. When I was at primary school, we made knitted bears and Mum helped me sew overalls for my bear to look like Corduroy.


Both my little ones love ‘A river’ (Marc Martin). They trace the river on every page of the book and also make sure they find the boat every time. For this activity, we drew patterns with crayon like the patchwork in the book, then painted over it with watercolours.


‘The Very Hungry Caterpillar’ (Eric Carle)


And perhaps a lesser known Eric Carle book, ‘The Bad-tempered Ladybird’. The best bit of this activity was discussing which way we were going to put the mouths to make both a happy and a grumpy ladybird.



‘The Rainbow Fish’ (Marcus Pfister)


We actually made this entire book again redrawing the illustrations because she loved it so much. It’s a great story – very cute! ‘Crayon’ (Simon Rickerty)



This one looks a little crude, but it was a LOT of entertainment. Especially when we went hunting around the house for all the elephants we could find! We also kept this box for a long time as a play thing. ‘Too many Elephants in this House’ (Ursula Dubosarsky).

What’s your favourite picture book activity? Please comment below.

I try to keep my pinterest files up-to-date with our latest fave reads if you need some library-inspiration:

Ages 0-2
Ages 2-3
Ages 3-4


Children’s books

I’m pretty fussy about children’s books. I blame my Mum, who has always provided me with top-notch literature. I’ve been wanting to write this blog to share new book ideas with other parents, and to also collect ideas from you. 

Adella has been a good reader from early on. I will never forget, when we were staying at Auntie Sally’s house, how Sally pointed out that as soon as Adella gets out of bed in the morning she has to go and say hello to her friends, her books! We read two books before bed every night, and now, COPIOUS numbers during the day. I guess it’s the TV substitute, since we haven’t gone down that path yet. She gets quite irate, however, when she wants a book read to her and you’re in the middle of something and can’t do it right this second. So, in preparation for baby number two, we’ve been practising reading books to her toys (which gives me about 3 extra minutes – not long). Also, I’ve been getting her to sit next to me on the couch and turn the pages herself and I’ll read over her shoulder, because I figure that she can then do that while I’m breastfeeding. Here’s hoping.

But, back to favourite books…

I think it’s also important that you, as a parent, enjoy reading the books. This became particularly apparent when we did our big international move. We put our lives in a suitcase, and the rest in a shipping container, which we wouldn’t see for a few months, so we picked 6 favourite books that we wouldn’t mind reading over and over.

Our shortlist was:

  • Where is the Green Sheep? – Mem Fox
  • Bom! went the Bear – Nicki Greenberg
  • “Slowly, slowly, slowly,” said the Sloth – Eric Carle
  • Each Peach Pear Plum – Janet and Allen Ahlberg
  • Time for bed – Mem Fox
  • Zzzzzz. A book of sleep. – Il Sung Na

Mem Fox seems to always be a winner. ‘Where is the Green Sheep?’ has had such a long shelf life. She has enjoyed it from really early on, and now, as we are learning our colours, she is starting to be able to read quite a few of the pages herself. The illustrations are divine, (illustrated by Judy Horacek – who also did ‘Good night, Sleep tight’ for Mem Fox – another gem of a nursery rhyme book), and it has really helped with learning lots of simple nouns. ‘Time for Bed’ is a lovely bedtime book, where you see the parent animals say goodnight to their babies. We also enjoyed ‘Hello Baby’ from the library.

‘Bom! went the Bear’ has a fantastic musical rhythm, with lots of animals and lots of instruments! My only criticism is that the copy we have has quite fragile paper, and I’ve had to repair it a lot. Again, this is still a favourite, and one of the earliest consistent sounds that Adella made was “bom!” when she saw the book.

“Each Peach Pear Plum” was a classic from my childhood. It’s still a winner, with lots of things to spot on each page. Though it is slightly un-PC as Baby Bear does almost shoot Baby Bunting whilst hunting. Whoops.

Eric Carle’s books are all fabulous. We were given “Slowly, slowly, slowly,” said the Sloth”, which I’d never heard of before, but I know him from “Brown Bear Brown Bear, What do you see?” and of course, ‘The Very Hungry Caterpillar’ (see our first caterpillar birthday party here!),  and most recently we borrowed a great book about learning colours from the library (‘My Very First Book of Colors’) where you can flip the pages to match the colour with the picture.

‘Zzzz. A book of sleep.’ has been a continual fave. Adella has a current fascination of owls, and this whole story is about the owl who stays awake at night whilst the other animals are asleep. There is an owl to find on every page! ‘Zzzzz’ is also another early sound she learnt to make!

So, they were the top six travel books. But, I have other favourites that I can’t resist mentioning!

At 19 months, with our colour learning, bold, primary colours are fab. The ‘Meg and Mog’ series, by Helen Nicoll and Jan Pienkowski, are a great blast from the past. Our other fave has been ‘Peck, Peck, Peck’ by Lucy Cousins. Complete with bold colours, and little finger holes that the woodpecker has pecked, this was a hard one to return to the library. However, it did change its poetic rhythm part-way through, which was annoying as the reader, but it did grow on me!

‘Whose nose?’ taught her where her nose was very early on and we started reading this as soon as she could focus on books. And I know there is a whole series of these. If we hadn’t been living in China, I would’ve chased them all down. The other great series is ‘That’s not my…!’. We have ‘That’s  not my dragon!’ for our dragon baby, and have borrowed a number of others from the library. These all have feel-y fabrics inside.

For my parent-buddies still living in China, we bought a set of bilingual ‘Spot’ books before we left. They are all lift-the-flap and great value for money. Plus, I get to still practise some character reading! I just got them from the Xinhua bookstore at The Place, but I’m sure the other big stores would have them too. There are lots of other titles too.

For my parent-buddies in Melbourne, my Mum recently bought Adella a book called ‘Peggy’, by Anna Walker. It is simply beautiful. It’s all about a chicken who gets accidently blown into the CBD by a big gust of wind and has to find her way home. Gorgeous. And she takes the train, which is a winner in Adella’s eyes.

Another highlight is ‘I got this hat’ (Jol & Kate Temple), which is fab for a girl who loves hats! And I must mention ‘I’m a dirty dinosaur’ (by Janeen Brian, illustrated by Ann James). It has a great rhythm and it’s easy to do actions to. We also recently met Ann James at her studio and she gave Adella a copy of ‘The Way I Love You’ (David Bedford), which she also illustrated. It’s about a girl and her dog and their beautiful friendship. She gave it to Adella because the girl in the book has the same piggy-tails! ‘Here comes Grandma!‘ (Janet Lord, illustrated by Julie Paschkis) is another book with beautiful illustrations and a dog to find on every page.

So, what are your faves? We are trying to frequent the Hobson Bay libraries – and they are great!! There’s a storytime on 5 days a week, each at a different venue, and one of the librarians even plays the guitar! Each time we go, we come back with a new set of books. I would love suggestions… even if they are for down the track, or for baby number two!!! Let’s share! Please comment below.

I thought I’d try and make a big list that I can keep adding to… so I’ve collated the books that I discussed above, plus other people’s suggestions onto: this pinterest board. I’ll do my best to keep updating it. Please let me know if I’ve missed any, or if you find some great new books!

A world in 20 words.

If you could sum up your world in 20 words what would they be? My almost-18-month-old has 20, and they seem to do her fine.

She started with “shoes” at 15 months. Which scared me, a lot. I’m in no way a shoe-person and I had images of a little princess in high heels. But I think it developed from a Chinese habit. When we lived in China, the first thing we’d all do when we came in from outside was take off our shoes. And we still do. It feels really weird to have shoes on inside the house. So, once she worked out that she could make words with her mouth, as soon as we got in the door, she’d point to her feet and say “SHOES!”, though it kinda sounded like “ʤu:ʒ”.

At 16 months, we soon heard “nana” for banana. A non-surprise there, since it’s her favourite food. This was sooned followed by “toes”. This one is totally my fault, as she sleeps in a sleeping bag and I got into the habit of saying “Where are your toes?” when she woke up. Now, as soon as one of us goes in to get her out of the cot, all she does is shout “TOES!”. Whoops. My husband quipped that he guessed I wouldn’t be doing the same game with our second one, but I think Adella will have this in hand on my behalf.

Next came “flower“, which is a tricky one to say and sounds more like an aspirated “wawa”, but developed from the habit of picking a flower everytime she went for a walk with Grandma. We continued this, and now we need to pick a flower each time we leave the house, or visit the backyard. Luckily we have a couple of huge bushes of daisies.

Sheep” and “lion” are her favourite toys. Sheep is a massively excited screech that goes “SHEEEEEEEEEE!” and for lion, she wiggles her tongue from side to side in an open mouth to get a “lblblblb” sound.

And, in no particular order, she has quickly learnt to say chair, car, Dada, dog, cup, bib, clock, bye-bye, hat, pants, top, hat, help and off. Combine this with a little baby sign language, and what more could you need?

And where is the most important one, you ask? Mama?? Mummy??? As much as it saddens me to say, she just can’t make that ‘mm’ sound properly yet. Not combined with vowels anyway. It pulls at my heart when she points out Dada in a photo of the two of us, but not me. But she’ll get there. When necessity strikes!

I guess we just have to stop swearing now, before she picks that up too.

What was your/ your child’s first word?

Cultural differences – writing processes

At a recent discussion about writing in the classroom, a Chinese colleague of mine asked if she could draw a diagram on the board. She drew this:


She explained that the first diagram was of how Western kids are taught to write. They have a topic/goal/main idea in mind and they write directly towards that with support and evidence. From the outset, you know the topic of the essay and you pretty much know where it is going.

The second is of how Chinese kids are taught to write. They start big. Maybe with the weather, their feelings or a descriptive passage. Their writing evolves from here and it is not until the final paragraph or sentence that you actually know the topic or opinion of the writer.

Different, huh?

And the more I’ve been thinking about it, the more I can see this around me here in China.

At school, changes are made to our curriculum with the end goal in mind, but no adjustments are made regarding the day-to-day teaching process.

When you ask a bank clerk ‘why’ he has to photocopy your paperwork for the nth time, you get an answer that goes around the point, but doesn’t actually reach the actual reason.

When I used to teach writing for IELTS and Toefl exams, I had so much trouble getting the students to construct a logical, step-by-step essay, let alone a paragraph. But clearly, I was fighting something that was ingrained from primary school.

It really does seem to relinquish the control from the students and shift it back into the system. The analysis step seems to be missing from the writing process, in a country that prides itself on creating mathematically-superior kiddies!

Alternatively, regarding medicine, the Western approach is very direct and you will be prescribed a pill that directly targets the problem that you have. The Chinese approach treats the big picture, your whole system, which will consequently and indirectly treat your medical issue. 

So, perhaps there is an upside to be found?

These are just my observations, and I would absolutely love to have any comments from others who have similar observations, or even better, someone who has been a student in both systems!