Summer is here and that means we can move Baby Toddler Book Club outside where there is LOTS of extra room to get messy! Pete the Cat teaches us that if we get messy, intentionally or not, that it’s ok! Pete is a groovy cat who doesn’t lose his cool when he steps into piles of strawberries, blueberries, mud, and water wearing his new white shoes. He just keeps walking through life, singing his song (and teaching readers a bit about colors). The life metaphor is not lost on adults and the lesson is good for young children who are learning to control their emotions when life gets a little “messy”. (Anyone else know a 3 year old, for example, who loses it when things don’t go their way?!)
Every time my kids and I read this book, we imagine what it would be like to step in piles of strawberries, blueberries, mud, and water like Pete! The sensory experience just sounded like too much fun! Squishy, oozy, wet! We HAD to try it. Plus, we wanted to test out the hypothesis that our feet would change to the colors of the piles we stepped in. There was just one little problem, I couldn’t reconcile stepping in big piles of perfectly good fruit and the sheer quantity that would be required to make it a fun sensory experience would be pricey. So, that left us with a substitute: red and blue washable paint (like Crayola)! It was squishy, the right colors, and the price was right–it fit the bill. Of course, we used real mud (dirt and water) from our yard because it’s available and provides a different texture than the feel of paint.
For our book club, we set up a Pete the Cat walk. We rolled out long piece of easel paper and set up three aluminum disposable baking pans spaced a few steps apart from one another. You could use plastic tubs or whatever you have on hand that’s large enough. We had these pans reused from a previous book club meeting and the benefit was that we could just toss them when we were done (because they really were a MESS!) The first pan had red paint (strawberries), the second had blue paint (blueberries), and the third had mud. We finished off our walk with a plastic baby pool full of water. We had old dark towels at the end for the kids to wipe off.
After we read the book, we become Pete. The kids took off their shoes because it’s not much of a sensory experience with shoes on! The kids lined up and away they walked. First they stepped in the red paint and made little red foot prints on the paper, then the blue paint followed with little blue(ish red) footprints on the paper, then in the mud with muddy prints to follow. Last, the kids washed their feet in the baby pool. Most of the kids LOVED this experience. So much so that they repeated it again, and again, and again, and again! We wore a hole in our paper it was tread so much! The purpose of the paper was to create a little path, so they could see the prints they were making, and also protect the grass (a little). The paint did get on our grass. It didn’t bother us and will eventually wash/mow away, but if you are worried about this, put down extra paper. Also, I can’t guarantee even washable paint will come out of pavement. I didn’t test it!
This activity was a major hit with the vast majority of our book club participants. A few were hesitant, but eventually got into it and then repeated it over and over, and a few just observed. There were older siblings at this meeting since school was already out for the summer when we had our meeting and the big kids (5-6 age range) loved this as much as the little ones. One word of caution: the pans can get slippery, so be sure to offer a hand to the younger kids. Many of the 2-3 year olds wanted to hold onto a hand as they walked the path.
After we had our book club meeting, I was casually browsing Pinterest and discovered that there were others who have had this idea as well. I think it has become a fairly common book and activity combo. (Just goes to prove, I should have done my research and used their wisdom to save myself some planning time!) Here’s a few who’ve done it before! Be sure to check out their takes on the activity for additional ideas and tips (most used brown paint instead of real mud, like we used):
I’m sure there are others too!
After we used up all of our paint and much of our mud, it was time for a snack. This book has an easy healthy snack written right into it: strawberries, blueberries, and water to drink! We also made a chocolate “mud” fruit dip. We made two options in advance:
- A dairy-free coconut chocolate mousse (I used this MeaningfulEats recipe.) Be sure to use full-fat coconut milk for this one. I put two cans in the refrigerator and realized too late that I had grabbed one lite coconut milk. It learned that it sadly doesn’t work as a substitute!
- A Greek Yogurt Fruit Dip (I used Sweet Peas and Saffron’s recipe).
Both recipes were easy to make and relatively healthy. Both were very tasty. The Greek yogurt dip was runnier so easier to dip, but also messier! Take your pick! Obviously, one was dairy-free and the other wasn’t.
Messy meetings can seem intimidating, but this one was actually really easy to plan, set up, and clean up (paper and pans went in the trash and the water dumped into our grass). Plus, it’s the same amount of set up work for one kid or 10, so might as well try it with your book club group, right?! The book was a HUGE hit with the kids and nearly everyone loved the activity and snack!
We are taking a month off of our regular book club group (though you’ll still see posts about our Intergenerational Book Club). We’ll be using the month to prep for another year of Baby Toddler Book Club. We can’t wait to share with you the amazing books, activities, and snacks we are planning.
Happy summer reading everyone!