“Play is our brain’s favourite way of learning” – Diane Ackeman. This is one of my favourite quotes. It really sums up what play is. When children are playing they are learning and it is essential to their social, emotional, physical and cognitive development. Play makes children happy and allows them to immerse themselves in pleasure and enjoyment. For children to learn they need to be happy, so it is crucial that children are given time and freedom to play.
The development matters government document, 2021, provides examples of how practitioners can support children to develop their reading and one of the ways mentioned is to ‘help children to explore favourite books through linked activities’ it also states ‘Consider which core books, songs and rhymes you want children to become familiar with and grow to love. Activities planned around those core books will help the children to practise the vocabulary and language from those books. It will also support their creativity and play.’ This highlights the importance of using books as a basis for play.
The Gruffalo is one of my favourite children’s books so I have shared some play ideas and activities around this book to help your little ones learn through play:
Gruffalo inspired sensory board – This is a perfect one for babies! Reading and listening to stories is just as important for newborns as it is older children and really helps build their language and vocabulary skills as they grow. You could create a sensory board using different bits of materials such as bottle top lids, artificial grass, fur, the top of a hairbrush or pebbles – be as creative as you can be! Just think of things that link to the story that you could represent in a sensory way for your baby to touch. For example, the grass would be like the floor of the woods, the hairbrush would be like The Gruffalo’s spikes. Glue them to a piece of cardboard or wood to make it a more permanent play item or pop them into a basket to make a quick treasure basket. You can see a photo of a woodland themed sensory board here.
Gruffalo fine motor – This is a really simple one, but great for developing fine motor skills! Simply draw or print an image of The Gruffalo and stick onto a cardboard box. Then using a pencil or similar, poke holes along The Gruffalo’s spine. Let your little one push pasta pieces in (even better if you get your little one to paint them purple first!) and it will create The Gruffalo’s spikes! If they push the pasta through the hole it also develops their understanding of object permanence. You can see a video of this play in action here.
Preschool and over play:
Gruffalo Small World – Small worlds are excellent for developing your child’s imagination, creativity and role play. They can truly immerse themselves in this imaginative world and bring a story to life! A tuff tray is a great way to set up a small world, but you don’t need one. Just a simple plastic tray or box is great. To set up a small world all you are doing is creating a mini version of the setting or scene from the story. So for The Gruffalo, we would want to set up the deep dark woods. Then give your little one small figures, or peg dolls, print outs or drawings of The Gruffalo characters and let them play!
Fun for all ages play –
Gruffalo playdough – Give your little one a slab of brown playdough with loose parts such as lollipop /coloured match sticks and buttons of different colours. Can they create their own Gruffalo complete with spikes and warts? For babies, make edible playdough and don’t give them to small parts. For toddlers, supervise carefully with the loose parts.
If you are looking for more ways to help your little one learn through play check out our Learning Through Play cards over at My Mummy Teacher which provides age appropriate, but adapted for a wide range of abilities, activities and ideas for play!
Article written by Ruth Lue-Quee, a Teaching, Learning & Play Expert and Founder of My Mummy Teacher.
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