Three years ago, my oldest child and I asked a group of our parent/child friends if they wanted to “read, PLAY, eat, and give.” Our book club, with these four components, became a constant, every single month since. Starting this fall, however, our original baby members will all be going off to preschool and, as they are no longer babies or toddlers, it is time to pass the “book” to a new group of little ones. Beginning soon, we’ll have an all new group of eager one-year olds (my youngest included) and their parents who will be gathering to Read, PLAY, Eat, and Give. With this transition, it seems apropos then that our last book for the big kids was called, “Can I PLAY Too?”.
Can I Play Too? is an Elephant and Piggie book by Mo Willems. Gerald the Elephant and Piggie are two friends who have many laughable adventures in this series of easy-readers. The books are illustrated and narrated with speech and thought bubbles so have a cartoon-like format. In this particular book, Gerald and Piggie are playing catch when their differently-abled friend (Snake) asks to join their game. Since Snake does not have any arms, they must find a way to include him. After several failed attempts throwing balls at the snake, they develop a new game that involves tossing the snake back and forth instead of the ball. Inclusion is an important value that we hope will be incorporated into our children’s play throughout their school years (and beyond of course).
Since Elephant and Piggie play with a ball in this book, we used that as our theme. We spread out a play parachute on the floor (my family happened to receive one as gift, but a large sheet would work just as well). After allowing the kids to shake the parachute, we put a large soft ball on the parachute and encouraged the kids to slowly roll the ball around (this took A LOT of restraint for some kids). After rolling the large ball around, we replaced it with several small plastic balls (like those found in a ball pit). This time, the kids were instructed to shake the parachute until they bounced all of the little balls off. Then they could run to find them and put them back (good energy release). Originally, this was going to be an outdoor activity, but rainstorms thwarted our plans, so they didn’t have quite as far to run, but we got the general idea.
After shaking the balls off several times, we let the kids get ON the parachute and the adults lifted the edges toward the center and back. This made most of the kids giddy. Finally, we encouraged the kids to lay UNDER the parachute while the adults lifted it up and down above them. Most of the kids laid on their backs with the feet in their air and giggled with excitement. There is something about the parachute that is magical for little ones (and admittedly, the adults tend to really enjoy it too)!
When our parachute play was finished, we took out the “ball pit,” which at our house is a kiddie pool filled with ball pit balls. Since all of the kids didn’t immediately fit in the pool, they had to ask to take turns (and wait their turn), which was a great exercise in sharing and patience.
Keeping with the ball theme, snack balls were in order. We had two kinds:
1) No-Bake Carrot Balls, which I made using THIS recipe from Kids Activities Blog. We love this recipe not only because it’s soft and easy to eat for our younger members, but it’s SO healthy and the kids LOVE it (well mine do anyway). My kids think they are getting away with lots of little dessert treats, but what they are really doing is eating mostly raw carrots, nuts, and figs (or other dried fruit)!
2) Peanut Butter No Bake Energy Bites from Smashed Peas and Carrots. I’ve been making this recipe for a few years and haven’t altered it much at all, except that I often substitute carob chips for chocolate chips. This recipe is delicious and was equally a hit with the adults as with the kids.
This meeting was a bit like the end of an era for our oldest kids. Baby Toddler Book Club has been a part of my oldest child’s life for as long as he can remember. But with this change, my youngest child will be introduced to the new tradition along with many of his little friends. Check back soon to find out what we’ll be reading with the one-year olds!