Sometimes, when you try to go up against winter illness and weather, you lose. That was us this month. We tried to have our Baby Toddler Book Club meeting twice and had to cancel both times. The first time due to a nasty virus and the second time due to nasty weather. I was really bummed to have to cancel this meeting, not only because we love seeing all our fellow book club members, but also because we LOVE this book and we had such a fun activity to go along with it. For that reason, my four and one year old held our own little family book club while we were stuck at home for a snow day!
We love Goodnight Gorilla by Peggy Rathmann for many reasons. This nearly wordless picture book is full of bright and warm illustrations that depict a zookeeper saying goodnight to several animals in the zoo. He is oblivious, however, that at his first stop, a sneaky gorilla has grabbed his keys and is following him unlocking the animals’ cage doors. The animals then follow him home and try to go to sleep in his bedroom. They go unnoticed until his (presumably) wife turns off the light and the animals all wish her goodnight. At which point, she promptly takes them back to their homes in the zoo. The tricky gorilla still manages to sneak back into their bed when all is said and done. The simple repetitive phrase, “Goodnight, …. ” followed by the name of the animal, is a great simple phrase for new talkers. As the talker develops, the illustrations provide so much to discuss and include lots of vocabulary, names of animals, and even color matching (the color of the keys match the colors of the cages). I love how this book grows with my children and encourages active discussion during story time.
We focused on the color matching aspect of the book for our activity because my nearly two-year old is really starting to identify and name his colors, so talking about colors is a popular activity in our house. For this activity, I repurposed empty wipe containers (the kind that come complimentary in big boxes of disposable wipes.) I covered the sides of each container in a single color of construction paper that matched the color of the cages in the books. I then drew a few bars on the front to symbolize a “cage”.
In advance, I had also printed several keys using THIS wonderful printable provided on Kids Activities Blog. I only used the keys (not the locks) from this printable for our purposes, but Kids Activities Blog has their own Goodnight Gorilla activity that they use this sheet for. After I printed the keys on card stock and cut them out, I chose to laminate them using my tabletop laminator to give the keys a little extra support. (My kids still bent them, but at least this way, I’ll get more than one use out of them.)
Each kid had their own “set of keys” (one in each color). As we read the book, we stopped to find the color of the key that matched the color of the cage in the story and our pretend cage. After they found the right color, they pushed the key (a fine motor activity) into the slot at the top of the color-corresponding wipe container. When all the keys were in, we could “unlock the door” and take out the little animal that I had placed inside in advance. We have a set of safari animals at our house that we received as a gift. That set included most of the animals featured in Goodnight Gorilla.
After all of the animals were out, we lined them up just like the animals in the book as they paraded to the zookeepers house.
Throughout the book, a little mouse, drags around a banana as he follows the gorilla. At the end, the gorilla finally eats the banana in bed, so we ate our snack: a banana! After they held onto their bananas for basically the whole reading of the book, the kids were very excited to eat theirs “like the gorilla”. Honestly, I think the anticipation helped build excitement for this snack…although my kids always do like bananas!
When we finished snack, we did one more pretend play activity. The kids got underneath a laundry basket and pretended to be zoo animals who escape their cages. For example, I’d say, “be a lion” and they would roar and then they’d lift the laundry basket off of their head and laugh and I’d say, “oh no! you escaped your cage!”, which was of course followed by more giggles. This was such a simple game that came about when I was folding laundry one day and my almost two-year old was play-hiding underneath the laundry basket so I asked him to pretend he was an animal in the zoo. He acted as if it was the most hysterical activity in the world, especially when his big brother egged him on!
I hoping that I’ll be able to share these activities with our other book club members at one of our upcoming meetings, but in the meantime, enjoy some photos of our snow-day version of book club!
**Update: at the end of February, we were finally able to get everyone together for our regularly scheduled Baby Toddler Book Club meeting. We read Hand, Hand, Fingers, Thumb by Al Perkins and then also did an abridged version of the Goodnight Gorilla activity that we missed the previous month. Here are a few photos of the group participating in the activity.**