Having been a long-standing favourite in preschools, story sacks involve using various supporting props as accompaniments to a book in order to make reading even more memorable. While there are plenty of ready-made packages out there, there really is no need to invest in any fancy and elaborate pre-made sets, chances are you already have everything you require to make some of the most classic tales jump off the page. Here are some examples of story sacks and activities and how they can jazz up any story.
Remember, there are no rights or wrongs when it comes to reading to your little one or using props to make story sacks. Let your imagination run wild with all your favourite tales and watch your child become engrossed in a world of books.
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Build your own story sack
‘Goodnight Moon’ is one book we can guarantee you’ve got the goods for. First published in 1947, this classic bedtime tale has stood the test of time. Help your child interact with it even further with a story sack. There are so many items here to take your pick from, and we’re certain even those of you with the barest of cupboards can muster up some socks, a brush, a telephone and chair, all of which that’ll help bring a spark of real-live magic to bedtime. The slow pace and melodic rhythm make this book great for all ages, including babies. Be prepared though, your child is going to want to hear the story time and time again.
In ‘Fox’s Socks’ by Julie Donaldson and Axel Scheffler, Fox has lost his socks and he needs to find them. You may or may not have a cuddly fox at hand, but we can assure you the rest of the items needed for this story sack can be found in your wardrobe. Shun the stereotypical reading format by planting items around your home, then hunt along with Fox and find his missing socks. With a bow tie in your kitchen cupboards and a shirt under the stairs, (okay, you may or may not need a little imagination with this one), your child will love hunting through the house and turning the pages for the next instruction.
The classic fairy tale of ‘Goldilocks and the Three Bears’ never goes out of fashion, so why not add a bit of extra sparkle? Combine the book with three cuddly bears, three bowls and a doll, and you’re well on your way to the best story-time ever. If you happen to have a doll’s bed or two lying around the house, even better. How about three different-sized spoons? Role-playing is an excellent way to engage young children in books and this simple story sack is a great way to develop your child’s imagination. Spend just minutes gathering items and a simple bedtime book has been transformed into an active and engaging learning time.
If you think children need to be older to get the most out of story sacks, then think again. Even babies can gain extra enjoyment with the help of a sensory story sack. All you need to do is fill plastic zip lock bags with sensory items to match the tale. For example, if you’re reading ‘We’re Going on a Bear Hunt’ by Michael Rosen, let them squish bags of mud, fiddle with bags of grass, and fondle sacks full of powdered sugar as you read to them. Stick the bags to the ground or window to make it easy for your baby to play with. Don’t forget to double seal the edges with tape to avoid spillages. If your little ones are a tad older, why not create a sensory tray? Shredded paper makes a great alternative to grass and blue hair gel creates a wonderfully squidgy river that they’ll love playing with.
You can also design a surprise sack and let the kids unwrap or unveil items as they are revealed in the story. ‘Dear Zoo’ by Rod Campbell is a definite for all animal lovers. The story is simple, a child writes to the zoo asking for them to send him a pet, but all of the initial offerings are somewhat unsuitable, from a grumpy camel to a jumping frog. Help your toddler connect to this beautiful book by collecting soft or plastic toys (or a combination of both) and allowing them to pull animal after animal out of the sack, matching them to those in the book. With repeated text and simple phrasing this is another book that’s suitable from a very early age. If you have a little more time, why not convert an old shoe box into an air mail parcel, or better still wrap the toys in brown paper ready for your toddler to unwrap. It doesn’t take long and the smile on your child’s face will make it all worthwhile.
Worried your children are a little beyond the simple story sack? Then why not expand reading time into an arts and crafts activity. ‘The Very Hungry Caterpillar’ has been a favourite book among toddlers for decades now and it’s not hard to see why. But why does the fun have to end when the books does? So many items in your kitchen are just begging to be converted into a caterpillar. Got an empty egg box? All you have to do is cut one side off, paint the head red, the rest green, add a couple of black dots for eyes, and boom, one hungry caterpillar. Got an empty kitchen roll? Cut it into sections, paint the head and body, thread them onto a piece of string, and wham. Got a spare crisps tube? You know what do with it? Paper chain caterpillars, potato-printed caterpillars, finger-painted caterpillars, the possibilities are endless. And if that’s not enough, you can always make the caterpillar’s food too!
Puppets are a great way to bring stories alive, and don’t worry, you don’t have to invest a fortune when all you need are a few spoons or some black paper, and the smallest smidgen of artistic talent. Your child isn’t going to judge your art skills, but will be instantly thrilled and enthralled by whatever you make for them. The choice of books is entirely up to you, as is the style of puppet. Wooden spoon puppets have more longevity, but plastic spoons are cheaper and more likely to be laying spare in one of your kitchen drawers. Shadow puppets are another winner, and great for those who may be worried that their drawings aren’t up to par. Of course, if your toddler is slightly older there’s no reason why they can’t join in with the making of the puppets too.
Not many books in your home? That’s not a problem either. Story sacks can easily be applied to your favourite nursery rhymes too. Take ‘Ten in the Bed’. What could be more fun for your little one than lining up ten of their favourite cuddlies only to systematically help them roll over and drop onto the floor? They’ll be having so much fun they won’t even notice they’re learning as you repeatedly help them count through the toys left.