We have a lot of spring birthdays among our little book club participants, so March was a perfect month to read The Secret Birthday Message by Eric Carle. In this book, a little boy receives a secret message that asks him to follow several “shapes” until he ends at his birthday gift. Each page of the book includes a cut out of one of the shapes. My kids have both loved the cut out shape element of this book as toddlers.
We decoded our own secret messages at book club that led us on a little hunt to find a gift as well! To make the secret messages, I simply typed the following text into a Microsoft Word document:
A Secret Message for You! (Paint with watercolors to reveal the shapes.)
Go down the
Go through the
And into the
That’s where you’ll find a
I printed the document and after each short phrase drew a shape with white crayon that corresponded to a part of the path the kids would follow. Our “shapes” were: stairs, vertical rectangle, circle, line, triangle, and gift. The white crayon doesn’t show up on white paper until it is painted with water colors. As the kids painted, the shapes appeared.
We then took our secret messages and followed a path down our stairs, opened our basement door (rectangle), then went through a play tunnel (circle), then followed a line (which was as piece of painters tape on the carpet), then went into a tent (triangle) and that’s where they found a present (used books, mostly from the Little Free Library we have in our front yard). In the book, the little boy received a puppy, but we weren’t all in favor of adopting puppies (!), so we needed another “gift” and used books were very fitting for our group! Each child got to pick a book to take home.
After our secret message hunt, we finished our meeting with a shape themed snack. All of the parents chipped in and brought a shape or two. We ate: watermelon stars, heart and diamond cheese, circle blueberries, triangle strawberries, crescent clementine slices, rectangle graham crackers, and square saltine crackers.
I really loved how this meeting came together and found it to be a great way to discuss shapes with the little ones. After the meeting was over, my older child (almost 5), came home and wanted to know what we did at the meeting while he was at preschool. He was so enthused by the idea (and I had leftover supplies), that he painted a secret message and followed the path that was still set up from our meeting earlier. He giggled the whole time! He loved the concept (and the snack), which proved to me that this activity would work just as well with older as well as younger kids and is fun one-on-one too!
I wanted to note that I tried a new approach for this meeting. I covered up our toy shelves before our meeting to see if that helped the kiddos focus on the book club with less distraction (toys at someone else’s house are a pretty strong pull)! I have had questions from other book club organizers about how we get the kids to focus and this was a strategy that I had been wanting to try. I think it worked really well. The kids were engaged with the activity and didn’t seem to particularly miss the toys that were covered. When we were done with the book club activities, we took the sheets off the shelves and let the kids play while we visited as usual.
Below are photos from our meeting, including the secret message for those who want to see what it looked like on paper. There’s no “secret” about, you can see we had lots of fun!