Guest Blog – Make A Story in a Bag

Wow, it’s been some time since I’ve opened up my blog – a break I never intended but as life has a tendency to do, it’s been hurtling a few unwelcome things my way to deal with. So I was delighted to be contacted by Seisha Lock from who requested to do a guest blog and came up with this wonderful story activity and a way to recycle those threadbare socks!


Make a Story in a Bag

For lots of kids the beginning, middle and end don’t always come so easily. Ask a first grader to tell a story of the day, for instance, and often the result will be hilarious because it’s all mixed up. As fun as it is to listen teaching kids that stories have an order is important. Want to give your kid some practice? Make some puppets and put them to work!

What You Need:

  • 3-4 old socks
  • Glue
  • Markers
  • Construction paper
  • Yarn (for hair)
  • Book of your child’s choice (from school, home, or the library)
  • Brown paper lunch bag

What You Do:

1. Set it up.  Explain to your child that you are going to read a story and then act it out! Let your child pick whatever book she’d like and start by reading the story together. Stop after every 2-3 pages to talk about what’s happening. At the end of the story, ask your child:

  • Who was the story about?
  • Where did the story take place?
  • What happened in the beginning of the story?
  • What happened in the middle of the story?
  • What happened at the end of the story?
  • Help your child write down the answers to each of those questions, to use for a puppet show later on, or take dictation if your child struggles with this task.

2. Reuse those socks! Sure, your toe may have wormed a hole in the tip, but old socks make perfect puppets. Just throw them in the wash first! Once they’re clean and dry, tell your child she’s going to make puppets for each of the characters in her story, and then act it out!  Give your child the craft supplies and let her use her imagination. Yarn makes great hair, googly eyes add a fun touch. And old ties or bandanas serve as great “costumes”. If she’d like, she can use construction paper to make background scenes, houses, or any other important settings from the story.

3. Act it out. Gather the family and announce the performance. Let your child take the lead and tell you whether she’d like to play all of the characters, or whether she wants some acting backup from you or a sibling. Once the show is over, place the sock puppets, scenery and written story summary in a brown bag and have your child write the story title on the front.  Be sure to keep your “story-in-a-bag” for future shows! This is a fun way to see if your child really understands and remembers a story, and who knows? It may become a new family tradition!

Thank you Seisha, it’s always good to pair up with others who enjoy promoting the fun in literacy.

I hope to get back into my blogging soon so watch this space for more to come.

Playing by the Book

Are you genuinely allowing your child to learn through play?

Throughout my blogs I like to suggest activities for parents to try in order to help them show their children how books and reading can be fun. Remember that little word show that I used.

I took some time the other day to peruse some of the many colourful blogs which light up my WordPress feed when one particular one held my attention.

Its title was Why I Don’t Like Play Based Learning posted by Happiness is Here.

It was a bold statement. It was intriguing. I thought the blog was honest, well written and challenging. I loved it.

However they cited an activity designed to encourage reading so I felt I needed to respond.

I couldn’t argue the sentiment; the article was spot on when it pointed out that the popular so called play based learning is usually led by adults and not children. Yet above all it was the fact that the word play was being used to describe adult led activities which had initiated the writer’s concern. This made me question some things. Are there set rules for what play is or isn’t? Can’t play be anything that the participant finds enjoyable? If so, if the child is a willing participant in an adult led activity and enjoys it, is that not considered a form of playing? Is it true that play by definition can never be directed and where does that leave me and my fun book related activities? I think I may be guilty of using the phrase learning through play from time to time.

My understanding of the article was that they too feel that, what I call fun learning activities have their place but they also made the valid point that a distinction should be made between whether the activities are child led or adult led. Child led play is an entertaining and enjoyable way in which the child chooses to occupy themselves opposed to a planned activity an adult has instructed them to do. The difference is that there’s an intention or ultimate goal behind the playful and fun activity created by the adult whereas child led play has no expectations or set path; it’s about learning through exploration and it hasn’t been pre-planned; there’s no wrong of right way to play, it’s the result of a child responding to their immediate environment.

So why is this free unstructured play so important and how can it be incorporated into encouraging reading?

More and more parents want to teach their children how to question and think for themselves and for me reading is one such powerful tool which can enable this process of brain development to bloom naturally. Ironically what some people aren’t aware of is that one of the best ways to help children think for themselves is to leave them to do as they please and omit all the good intentioned controlling measures, expectations and structures the adult has planned.

Play Drawing on Books

To implement child led story making and reading activities this would involve leaving your child in a safe environment which includes piles of assorted books on a blanket, magazines positioned in various places within the immediate area as well as a choice of other objects, toys and activities made available. No instructions should be provided except to make sure the child is aware that you’re there if they need you and that they can do whatever they like as long as it’s enjoyable to them and not harmful to themselves or others. Although the books are the main focus, it’s important that there are alternative options to books. This can be magnetic letters, posters, puppets, toy animals, paper and pencils etc to encourage imaginary or role play. The idea is that you’re making the tools available but the choice of how, what and for how long they use them for is up to them.

Play Standing on Books

This will be a difficult concept for many of you to grasp as it means letting go of some deeply ingrained social expectations. Why? Because the results could be anything ranging from the child conventionally reading or looking through the books, completely ignoring the books and pursuing another activity, building book towers, playing shops or schools with the books, bending the books to scribbling on the books and cutting out the pictures and sticking them on their bedroom walls (gasp). Some would call this unruly, irresponsible or even lazy parenting as for many it’s a giant leap away from the controlling, structured and over protective world we live in.

Play Sleeping and Sitting on Books

So how does this approach benefit the child? If you can manage to resist interfering, make no judgements and keep calm at the results your child will have achieved an independent new understanding of the world, through trial and error where their actions have come from a sheer desire or curiosity to learn and discover. A room filled with books and other activities where they’re given free reign takes the fear out of having to read so by leaving them to their own devices they no longer feel threatened by the expectation to read and soon find the fun in books and the chances are that their natural curiosity will take over and lead them to pick up a book one day and want to work out what the words mean.

Play Books on Your Head

For me the title play based learning suggests learning which incorporates the concepts of play into the foundations of the activity so I don’t see an issue with using the word play as such as it’s not actually defining play itself. I do on the other hand think we should be more mindful that as important as these fun learning activities are they are still showing or even dictating to your child what and how to do something. So if I were to label it, perhaps I would call it directed or guided play learning or if you really wanted to omit the word play, directed fun learning. If you want a child to learn for themselves, provide the tools and the environment and then just let them be, it’s as easy as that. The hardest part will be letting go of your control because if you’re governed by time or you’re seeking a certain result which you perceive to be right then child led play isn’t the approach for you. Although if you do try it, you might find it’s not just your child who feels liberated.

To learn more the following blog I found provides an excellent explanation of child-led play: The Adult Role in Child-led Play – How to Become a Learning Ally by Nature Play.

How to Make Five 5 Minute Bookmarks

Five 5 Minute Bookmarks

Today I’ve put together some simple DIY bookmarks for children. Each of which can be made in five minutes but they’ll keep your books looking fun forever.



Things you need: x 1 sheet coloured card, x 1 sheet white paper, googly eyes, x 1 pipe cleaner, glue, pencil, scissors and hole punch.

Five Mins Bookmark Monster

Step 1: Draw round a cup or glass twice to make a two circle shapes and cut out (approx 8 cm diameter).

Step 2: Place the two circles together and hole punch three holes on the top edge.

Step 3: Split circles and cut one of them across the middle to make two triangular teeth.

Step 4: Cut two triangles from white paper to fit the teeth and stick on.

Step 5: Add googly eyes between the teeth and the punched holes.

Step 6: Stick the semi circle (but not the teeth) and the full circle together making sure the punched holes line up.

Step 7: Curl the pipe cleaner in and out the holes to make the monster’s curly hair.



Things you need: x 1 sheet coloured card, several squares of coloured tissue paper, glue, pencil and scissors.

Five Mins Bookmark Tissue Mosaic

Step 1: Cut various colours of tissue paper into small squares.

Step 2: Cut a long strip of coloured card (the size of your bookmark).

Step 3: Stick the tissue paper onto the card with glue making sure they overlap to cover all of the card.

Step 4: Trim the edges to get a neat finish.



Things you need: x 2 sheets different coloured card, glue, pencil and scissors.

Five Mins Bookmark Flower

Step 1: Cut a strip of coloured card approx. 20 cm long and the width a ruler.

Step 2: Fold the strip in half then fold down each end by approx. 2 cm.

Step 3: Cut both 2 cm end folds into a point.

Step 4: Stick the strip together, leaving the pointed ends bent outwards.

Step 5: Take the other sheet of coloured card and draw and cut out six small petal shapes.

Step 6: Cut out approx. 10-12 larger petal shapes in both colours.

Step 7: Start to fan the petals around the top of the stalk and continue to layer with the different colours.

Step 8: Cut out a small circle to finish the centre of the flower.



Things you need: x 4 sheets different coloured card, x 1 sheet white card, x 4 small paper stampers for different shapes, pattern cutting scissors, hole punch, wool to match coloured card, pencil and scissors.

Five Mins Bookmark Paper Punch

Step 1: Cut four 3.5 x 21 cm strips of coloured card and four more in plain white card.

Step 2: Pair up one white card strip with one coloured card strip.

Step 3: Paper punch any chosen shapes into the top card strip.

Step 4: Hole punch through the top of both strips.

Step 5: Cut five 16 cm lengths of wool in matching colour and tie through punched holes to secure the two strips of card together.



Things you need: x 1 sheet coloured or patterned card, x 1 sheet white paper, x 1 piece of orange card, googly eyes, glue and scissors.

Five Mins Bookmark Owl

Step 1: Take a sheet of coloured or patterned card and fold it in half.

Step 2: Place a cup or glass just below the folded edge of the card and draw round the glass for a circle shape.

Step 3: Draw some pointed ears onto the fold in the card. It is important to keep a small flat point for the ears to keep the two sides of the card joined together.

Step 4: Cut out the double thickness card and unfold to make sure the two sides are joined.

Step 5: Cut out two round circles from white paper and stick on the owl.

Step 6: Stick two googly eyes to the white circles to complete the owl’s eyes.

Step 7: Cut out a small triangular beak from orange card then stick between the eyes.

Don’t forget to try my Batman bookmark too.

Writing with Purpose: Thank You Box

It is often said that to be an author you should write something every day. However I find it very difficult to produce a comprehensive piece of writing when there’s no purpose. Writing needs direction from the start, a path to follow, a place to arrive at and a means to an end. This could be to write a story, fill out a form, to convey an important message, to provide others with useful information, write a cheque or to record a memory.

For children on the other hand, writing can be like drawing. Their newly found fascination of putting pen to paper is sometimes what drives them to pick up a pen and write as they experiment with forming various shapes and marks to create meaning out of an otherwise blank page.  Others instinctively love to record their thoughts or label their pictures but like adults, many children too have no inclination to write unless it is for a purpose.

So if you’re looking to encourage your child to write remember that first they may need a purpose to write. I put together this writing prompt in the aftermath of the Christmas mayhem, the time when my boys have a long list of thank you letters to compose. I’m not going to lie, I always find this a painful business of constant reminders and impatient hovering but I persist in putting us through the ordeal because I believe appreciation and thankfulness is a lesson worth learning. So this year I’ve attempted to make the whole process somewhat more light-hearted!

First I bought two plain craft boxes in the shape of books and filled them with brightly coloured blank cards and envelopes.

Writing Box 1

I then gave both my children a pack of mixed postage stamps, character and thank you stickers, self-inking stamps, printed paper, a small glue brush and a novelty pen each to make up their own thank you box.

Writing Box Stamps

Writing Box Tools

I then suggested some ideas of how to decorate the boxes and left them to it…

…and perhaps that’s where I made my fatal error!

I’d had an image in my mind of a perfectly covered book box, a kind of decoupage with postage stamps!

Oh silly me! Of course that’s not what we ended up with!

So here are some close ups of the decorating results, no frills, very little sticking and certainly no decoupage in sight! Some might say the quickest route to completion was sought!

Writing Box Decorated

I thought about scrapping this blog but only very fleetingly because I realised that despite my disappointment I’d actually achieved what I’d set out to do and that was to provide my children with a writing box that is personal to them and one they wanted to use. Oblivious to my hidden grimaces they had enjoyed themselves and were very enthusiastic about the results. They were even swapping ideas of what to do on their thank you cards. I couldn’t help but chuckle at my desperation for perfection. All too often I see blogs on children’s craft activities which are enviously beautiful but almost to the point of being too immaculate and in practice are often far too intricate for little fingers to learn. It soon becomes obvious they’ve been designed by an adult and completed by an adult as the realistic results start to emerge once the little ones get their hands on them!

So I guess the lesson I stumbled across today was that encouraging a love of something isn’t about the ideals we strive for, it’s about providing the tools to let our children do it their way!




Picture Book Craft: Everyone is Carrot Rating

Wanted Ralfy Rabbit Book Burglar 2

WANTED! Ralfy Rabbit Book Burglar by children’s author and illustrator Emily MacKenzie (published by Bloomsbury Publishing 2015) has been awarded a googolflex carrot rating in our household. We got the idea from Ralfy himself who loves reading and gives every book he reads a special carrot rating. So I thought perhaps by spreading more of Ralfy’s carrots around, his love of reading could become infectious and encourage many more children to read.

So please follow the instructions to print out your own Little Book of Carrot Ratings to help make bedtime reading even more fun.

Step 1: First you will need some carrots… a maximum of five per book rating. Here are twenty four on one page so print onto card as many times as needed.

Carrots x24

Step 2: Next cut out the carrots individually and put blu tac on the back of each one so they can stick to the score cards.

Carrots Cut

Step 3: Cut one piece of A4 orange card in half to make the front and back covers for your book.

Step 4: Print out the following two carrot score cards. Cut out and stick onto card of any colour. You need one score card for every book being rated so this image can be printed multiple times as required. The score card has room for the title of the book, a space to draw a picture about the book and a maximum of five carrots.

Carrot Rating Sheet x2

Step 5: For the book cover, print the following image onto a sheet of paper and stick one onto one half of the A4 orange card. (I’ve included two cover images as I needed one per child).

Carrot Book Cover

Step 6: Punch a hole at the top left hand corner of the front and back covers and any carrot score cards. Use a split pin or treasury tag to attach them together so it is easy to undo and insert a new carrot rating at any time.

Little Book of Carrot Ratings

Now your Little Book of Carrot Ratings is complete and ready to help you rate your books from 1-5 carrots. Five being the most delicious! The carrot scores can easily be removed and changed at any time and enough carrot score cards can be added until the novelty wears off.

It’s very simple to do. Have fun!

PB Craft Ralfy Rabbit

CLICK TO BUY Wanted! Ralfy Rabbit, Book Burglar



NOTE: Books for Children Blog is a participant in the Amazon EU Associates Programme, an affiliate advertising programme designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to

How to Make a Batman Bookmark

Sometimes I find I just need a quick activity to entertain the children for half an hour. So this week I thought I’d share my Batman bookmark craft with you to try out over the half term.

Batman Book Craft

Step 1: Cut out one 12 x 12 cm square piece of black card (Fig. 1). Fold in half horizontally (Fig. 2). Unfold, then fold in half horizontally again the other way so the cross crease is clear to see (Fig. 3).

Batman Bookmark Step 1

Step 2: Cut out one of the folded squares and put aside for later. An L-shape should remain (Fig. 4). Fold the top left corner towards the middle, crease (Fig. 5), then cut along the crease. Repeat on the opposite side to make the ear shapes (Fig. 6).

Batman Bookmark Step 2

Step 3: Take a second piece of black card and mark out another 12 x 12 cm square (but do not cut out yet). Now mark two 6 x 6 x 6 triangles off one corner then cut out the full shape (Fig. 7). Fold the main square horizontally each way as before (Fig. 8). Cut out the square to the left of the additional triangles (Fig. 9).

 Batman Bookmark Step 3

Step 4: Next fold the side square onto the middle square (Fig. 10). Then fold the remaining shape on top of the other two squares to form a house shape (Fig. 11). There is now an ear shape and a house shape (Fig. 12).

Batman Bookmark Step 4

Step 5: Take the ear shape with the ears pointing up and v-shape pointing down (Fig.13). Next the aim is to make the v-shape between the ears flat. To do this cut approx. 1 cm horizontally either side of the v-shape. Trim off by cutting to the top corners of the ears on either side (Fig. 14).

Batman Bookmark Step 5

Step 6: Next take the house shape (Fig. 15) and glue the ear shape (Fig. 16) onto it so the ears fold inwards (Fig. 17). The roof point of the house shape should reach the middle of the flat edge between the ears.

Batman Bookmark Step 6

Step 7: Finally pick up the small square you put aside in Step 2. Fold it in half diagonally then cut along the fold to leave two smaller triangle halves. Take one of the halves and fold it in half again then unfold to show the crease (Fig. 18). Add glue to the two corners which are furthest apart. Stick the two corners onto the house shape (Fig. 19). Make sure the triangle is pointing downwards so it can be stuck on as the nose. The fold should be slightly elevated to give a slight 3D effect.

Batman Bookmark Step 7

Step 8: Make small white triangles for the eyes and stick on at an upward slant (Fig. 20).

Batman Bookmark Step 8

… and there you have a Batman bookmark which sits on the corner of the page.

Visit my Children’s Bookmarks Pinterest board for more DIY bookmarks.


NOTE: Books for Children Blog is a participant in the Amazon EU Associates Programme, an affiliate advertising programme designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to