Harry the Dirty Dog

I don’t know about your kids, but my kids are drawn to dirt and especially mud! They love any sanctioned excuse to play in it, so this past month our book club gave them one!

We read the classic book, Harry the Dirty Dog, by Gene Zion and Margaret Bloy Graham. There is no doubt that the 1956 publication is dated in some noticeable ways, but the story still seems to resinate with children today. They love the idea of a dog that doesn’t want to take a bath and gets so muddy he is unrecognizable. Maybe it sounds familiar to some kids?!

We read the book “story time style” (we started calling it this several years ago) now that the kids are getting older. I read the book and the kids sat and looked at the pictures as I read. Some parents still had copies nearby for their kiddos, but many now do better with this format than sitting on their parents’ laps to read their own copy of the book (which is the preferred format for babies and early toddlers.) It’s one of the many ways that book club grows with our children.

After we read, it was time to get dirty like Harry! We filled two aluminum trays with dirt from the backyard and a little water (to make mud). We filled additional trays with soapy water. In the dirt trays, we scattered about 10 mini plastic dogs. The kids were told to get the dogs really dirty like Harry and then wash the dogs in the soapy “bath” tray. We included a few old tooth brushes (left over from our Digger Dog meeting) for scrubbing the dogs too! If you are going to replicate this book and activity with younger kids, keep in mind that you should select plastic dogs that large enough that they are not a choking hazard and always watch your children closely.

It was a blast to watch how the little ones interacted with the mud. Some loved to get dirty and dove right in, others were much more hesitant.

Regardless, most of the kids loved our snack! We made little Harry dog snacks. We cut out dog shapes from whole wheat sandwich bread using a cookie cutter. We spread a thin layer of cream cheese on the dog shape and added raisins to make a “white dog with black spots”. We then mixed a little bit of peanut butter with cocoa powder to make mud. Each child got a small spoonful on their plate with a plastic knife and could spread the mud onto the dog. We have one child with a mild peanut allergy in our group, so we just used sunflower butter mixed with cocoa for his “mud”. This was a very cute, easy, and healthy snack that my kids asked me to make for them again and again.

Our book club unintentionally selected a lot of books about animals the past few months! Our recent books have included dogs, mice, farm animals and our next meeting will include a book featuring a very famous (and cool) cat! Be sure to check back to see how we stay “cool” even when step in some messy piles!

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