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Bringing books and stories outdoors

Now that the weather is beginning to become warmer, it is easier to build some outdoor play into daily activities.

Trinity Children’s Centre in Norfolk recently used the book ‘Stickman’ to have a very successful  indoor/outdoor event:- 

“We started with book and story time indoors, making stick-men and then having adventures outdoors with our stickmen. This included making houses and searching for food and friends for the children's stickmen. We captured children's stories and adventures (ie. Freddie: "pine cones for stickman to sit. Then he can read a book") while playing out in the woods and encouraged them to go on further adventures with their stickmen at home.”

Their event was open to adults and children

“We had 13 parents/carers from the community join in, including 3 dads, one grandmother and one childminder and everyone enjoyed themselves.  A brief talk about Bookstart and the importance of including books in children's everyday lives started the event off and parents were offered the chance to take part in the Bookstart Corner programme. After the event we took parents over to the local library to borrow their own copy of the book 'Stickman' and to sign up for their own library card if they were not already registered.  We had lots of positive comments ie. "We enjoyed building stickman and having an adventure in the woods", "Good fun, enjoyed making a stickman".”

Lots of books lend themselves to outdoor play

  • ‘We’re Going on a Bear Hunt’ (Michael Rosen) can easily be adapted into hunting for mini toys or mini beasts.
  • ‘The  Very Hungry Caterpillar’  (Eric Carle) – useful for learning all about caterpillars and food!
  • You could use ‘Brown Bear, Brown Bear What Do You See?’ (Eric Carle) as a basis to create the children’s own rhymes about what they can see and find outside.
  • Nick Butterworth’s ‘The Secret Path – Tales from Percy’s Park’   could lead to creating a maze outside with long ropes for pretend hedges and paths – although don’t get lost like Percy’s animal friends!
  • The wonderful Shirley Hughes’ collection ‘Alfie- the Big Alfie Out of Doors Storybook’ has the ever favourite Alfie and Annie Rose having lots of outdoor adventures.

 Your local library will have lots more suggestions.

Top rhymes and songs to include

As well as books there are also lots of rhymes and songs about marching; singing; birds etc :-

  • ‘Five Little Speckled Frogs’
  • ‘Five Little Ducks Went Swimming One Day’
  • ‘One Man Went to Mow’

and if you’re unlucky with the weather :-

  • ‘I Hear Thunder’
  • ‘It’s Raining, it’s Pouring’……..! 
  • ‘We’re Marching in Our Wellingtons’

It’s possible to create your own mini farm area either indoor or outdoor with soft toys so children can build their own version of ‘Old MacDonald’s’ farm.

National Bookstart Week

National Bookstart Week is coming up from 8-15 July with a ‘Jungle Adventures’ theme.  You could start thinking now about how to turn your outside space or a corner of a local park into a mini jungle!

To conclude

Don’t keep stories and books inside!  Use them to get the children thinking about what they would like to do outside – facilities permitting!

If possible, document the outdoor fun in photographs and also keep the learning experience going by encouraging the children to create pictures and collages of their adventures.

If you are in a setting where it is appropriate, don’t forget you can invite parents and carers to join in too.


Bookstart is one of a number of programmes and prizes run by Booktrust, a national charity whose aim is to create a society of people who are motivated to read and who see themselves as readers whatever level that might be. Booktrust starts at the earliest possible age as we believe children who have an early introduction to books benefit in many ways; educationally, socially, culturally and emotionally.

Janet Harrison is a qualified Early Years Practitioner who spent many years working with children and families in the North West of England.  She is now the Regional Team Manager for Booktrust – a job she loves but with less opportunity for singing/rhyming and outdoor adventures!

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