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Pop it in the basket!

When Pickle was just shy of 1 year old, I remember crying down the phone to my best friend because I'd had enough of playing with the plastic cookie jar and hearing its ridiculous song every single day. I needed a shake up. I needed to reframe the way that we were engaging with our resources. Now, there are infinite blogs on toy rotations and the like but today I want to share with you the quick-fire evening routine that changed everything for me.

Naturally, we had a good stock of picture books on hand and Pickle was fortunate to have a host of toys. What I struggled with was the motivation to come up with new ideas every day AND to make sure that these were inviting for little Pickle... 3 years on and I'm still using the same method to hook her into books.

Picture this: when you visit a book shop (and soon we will again!), what catches your attention? The beautifully neat books on the shelf? The front covers laid face up on the table tops? The striking window displays with colour-themed items and story props?

Of course we are all brought up with the advice not to judge a book by it's cover... but in the world of picture books, the illustrations are the icing on the cake and I know a lot of children who would devour the icing given half the chance! A great way to tempt a child to pick up books is to display them forward facing with their glorious covers on show and inviting to curious eyes and hands.

And why not make them even more engaging with your own little enticing window display? Wait! Don't go anywhere! I heard you wince and I know - honestly, I know! - all those pretty Instagram squares show great activities but they take time and effort to create. What you need is a cup of tea and a positive start to the day. Right? So, here's a quick hack. You don't need to buy lots of resources; you don't need to lay everything out perfectly or design an activity from start to finish. All you need is a basket - or a box - and a three minute hunt around the house. I promise!

Your aim: Collate an inviting basket of items for your little one to explore.

Three steps: Select your story, pop it in a basket with a handful of household items or toys and leave it somewhere where it can be discovered.

The result: A focus point to start your day and hands on activity options to breathe life and excitement into your chosen story.

Here's a handful of examples:

Story Props

Here, I've included Pickle's tea set along with a tiger toy and a homemade pegdoll Sophie. Presenting a well loved book with some simple props helps a child to engage in small world or role play opportunities but can also be as simple as giving them something to hold while the story is being told.

The other items in the basket are just colour-themed items from the house. We have used pieces of fabric to represent the tiger slinking around the house or curling his tail around Sophie. The orange paper could be for drawing a tiger but could equally be for scrunching, folding, painting, writing or a picnic mat for the tea set.

You could easily collate items to represent the characters from any book. For example, pop a fox, mouse, owl and snake in a basket and you have the cast of The Gruffalo to play with! These could be toys, found objects or even drawn or printed pictures that can be moved around.

Themed Basket

This weekend, we celebrated the start of Spring with one of Pickle's board books. As she is getting older and excited by Beatrix Potter, I also added The Tale of Jemima Puddle-duck. I had some Easter chicks and an egg in the cupboard so added some other items to tie in with the colours. The recycled egg box ended up being a fun counting tray for pom-poms and beads. We also cut it up to make a nest for the chicks and Pickle mothered them by creating a small feeding station using the little cups.

As you can see, the items don't need to 'go together' for a specific activity, the excitement comes from making connections between a new group of objects each day.

Invitation to Learn

For a slightly older child, you could even tie it in to a learning activity. We love our phonics activity cards from Play Makes Sense so incorporated an activity with our chosen book and several other items (lights, night picture, highlighter) that contain the 'igh' phonics sound. This basket provided us with over an hour of different tasks as we built towers, sorted a pile of words, shone lights on sounds and re-read the story looking out for key words. We also made our own artwork inspired by the front cover of the book and a leaf stamp. This basket took me 10 minutes to put together but provided so much value the next day. I even had time to make a cup of tea uninterrupted while she made her first investigation of the contents!

So, if the mornings are challenging, try spending just 5 minutes the night before and popping a book in a basket and adding some other items to interact with. If they don't take to it that day, you've only lost 5 minutes. If they do, follow their lead and let them dictate how you play - you've done your bit.

Love Ginny x

PS - You don't need to buy anything new to go in your boxes or baskets... but if you're looking for some new books to add to your collection, each Read With Me box is pre-packed with a host of themed activities that are ready to go. April's book is the brand new publication of The Boys and we have 20 signed copies ready to send out; first come first served!

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