Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Beyond the Book: "Guess How Much I Love You" by Sam McBratney

 S requested a story stretcher about bunnies this week shortly after his Bubbie sent Y a copy of Sam McBratney's Guess How Much I Love You along with a plush version of Little Nutbrown Hare. We actually had a copy of the book at home from S's baby days! Sometimes when we end up with doubles of a book, I pass along the extra to a friend or our local children's book bank. Other times, I hold on to an extra for a Mommy & Me set or a Brothers set. This is one of those books that is worth extra copies of! With S beginning preschool in a week, I also thought a book about the love shared in a family would be very appropriate right now. (Ok, admittedly, one of us needs the extra love and snuggles right now more than the other, and it may not be S!)

Sometimes when I prepare a story stretcher, I gather ideas from online. Other times I hit the books. And other times, I dig deep into the recesses of my imagination and come up with our plan. That is what I did with this one! So I invite you today to come along with me as we travel to the very back of my brain where story stretchers are born...

Children's literature is full of themes to play and learn about--both overt themes and more subtle ones. This  story is about Little Nutbrown Hare and Big Nutbrown Hare sharing a sweet bedtime exchange about just how much they love one another. There is certainly a theme of love and bedtime routines here and the main characters fulfilled S's bunny request. For the sake of our play and learning activities, I thought it would be fun to dissect the title. We ended up with a collection of activities involving guessing games (Guess), measuring (How Much) and love/family (I Love You).
I also needed to make sure to incorporate the bunny theme as well, since that was S's original idea. We began our afternoon reading the book all together. S held one copy and Y and I manned the second one. Then we switched copies and read it again, per S's request! We started our activities at the little table with a homemade color matching game: Pin the Tail on the Bunny. I set our bunnies out on the table and kept the tails inside a drawstring bag. We tried to guess which color would come out next before matching and sticking them onto the corresponding bunny's backside. Here's what you will need to make your own version of the game:
DIY Pin the Tail on the Bunny

  • rainbow colored printing paper
  • velcro dots (scratchy side)
  • pom poms in rainbow colors
  • laminating machine & printer
  • scissors
I searched the internet for a simple black and white silhouette of a rabbit. After copying, pasting and adjusting to my desired size (you can do this on a Word document or whichever computer program you prefer), I printed off copies on colored paper. I laminated and cut out each bunny and stuck a velcro dot to the tail. Now we were all ready to play! The pom poms stay put fairly well without adding velcro, however if you want them to stick better (or to be able to use them on a vertical surface) you may want to affix velcro dots to the pom poms as well.

We were ready for another guessing game. This time we gathered at the easel with my Mystery Bag. S's mission, should he choose to accept it, was to reveal a mystery word by guessing, one letter at a time, what letter I was hiding in our Mystery Bag using only his hands, no peeking! You can add in a blindfold if you wish. One at a time, I hid a large magnetic letter inside the Mystery Bag. S felt through the bag, making his guesses along the way, but was mostly excited to pull out the mystery letter and reveal our special word.

 And the word was LOVE. We looked at the title on our target book to see the same word! Now that we had spelled the word and read the word, it was time for some writing!
Early writing adventures include a multi-sensory approach. I love to show pre-readers and writers the ways in which they already read and write--even if not in the same way that older people do. Fostering feelings of competence and success at this stage inspires children to love the process of learning these skills. Today's writing activity was a fun one for the whole family and a great one to do at home with your own family:

Love Notes/Family Fan Mail
Choose some or all of the following and add in any other materials you'd like:

  • markers
  • lined labels for writing dictation on and/or writing prompts
    • I added prompts to several labels like "I love you as much as...," "I love you more than...," and "I love when..." Others I left blank so that S could dictate his own love notes!
  • heart shaped stickers
  • letter stamps with L, O, V, E, 
  • heart themed stamps (leftover from Valentine's Day season last year)
  • heart shaped doilies, foam cut outs (alternatively you can use construction paper or print off heart shapes--older children can cut out their own hearts and observe how symmetry works by tracing half a heart onto folded paper)
  • red gift bags

For young ones who are new to the art of writing love notes, you will want to model this. I prepped a Fan Mail Bag for each member of our family. I prepped a love note for each member of the family and read them to S. We placed them in the appropriate bags for family members to read later on. Love notes can be sweet, silly, simple or more detailed. Using labels allowed for S to place the words on paper, even if he's not yet doing so directly through writing. He had a great time dictating and doodling love notes to each of us and even requested help to write some for a few of his friends. We all especially enjoyed reading them at the dinner table later on and I think I might keep my "I love you more than sticks" love note forever! A bag full of fan mail is also a great treasure on a day you may feel down in the dumps--it's always a nice reminder to know much we are loved!

Y and the Purple Crayon...do I see another
story stretcher in our future??
For our final activity, I had set out and taped down some large sheets of white craft paper. I helped trace each of the boys bodies so we could guess and then measure how big both of the boys are--using magnetiles! You could definitely use a ruler to measure with if you prefer. At this stage, inches are still pretty meaningless to S and Y. Magnetiles are totally awesome and fun--plus they naturally stick together and come in a standard, measurable size. You can use any type of block as a measuring unit so long as each one is the same size and shape. Once both boys were traced onto paper, I cut out their shapes. We left those taped to the floor. Y was officially tuckered out by now and fell asleep. S got busy decorating both tracings and gathering our square shaped magnetiles. We started by making a guess (or estimate) of how many magnetiles tall each brother was and then used the magnetiles to measure. I recorded the process on each tracing and at the very end, we hung them up on the door (so our living room would look less like a crime scene!).

Even with S heading off to school next week, story stretchers will be a special way for us to connect and spend time together in the afternoons. S will likely need a little more open play time and quality family time after a morning of preschool's structure and routine. Play through children's literature is one of many great ways to incorporate that. Y will also have an opportunity now in the mornings for some Mommy & Me time and I look forward to sharing that experience as well. Whether you're gearing up for this back to school season (or counting down the hours), may we all enjoy these last days of summer while happily playing!


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