Making Books with Young Children: Every Picture Tells a Story

ImageI have talked before about how we are a house full of story tellers and avid readers.  Jasper has begun creating his own stories; he’s used them in his play for a while – adding narrative as he acts out his ideas of pushes his trains around the track, but he has now started to ask, “Can I tell you a story?” This is always greeted, of course, with a resounding “Yes!”

So I thought it would be nice if we started to turn some of Jasper’s stories into books.  I’ve videoed lots of them and played them back to him, watching him squeal with delight (this could be more to do with vanity than pride in his story-telling – he does love watching and listening to himself!) but I thought it would be particularly meaningful if his stories were made into actual books.

Here’s how:Image

  • Take a piece of A3 paper and fold into quarters before drawing a frame in each corner.  (incidentally, this was a great opportunity to talk about fractions and how many more frames we needed to draw before we had filled all the quarters!)


  • Put the paper down so it’s landscape and then cut across the fold on the left to the middle.
  • Flip the paper over so the cut side is still on the left and draw 2 more frames, one above the other.
  • Fold in half (downwards) and then wrap the edges around so you have a 4 page book with front and back covers.

ImageThis idea was taken from Paul Johnson’s Making books – this is not an affiliated link.  If you click this link, I do not receive any money from Paul Johnson or amazon.  It is a wonderful book though, packed full of book making ideas including concertina books and pop up books.  I would certainly recommend you get hold of a copy for some truly marvelous creations!


Anyway, now you have your book and can fill it any way you like.  We decided to write our own version of a story we knew.  As I said earlier in the post, I wanted Jasper’s stories to feel really meaningful and be “published” for him so I wrote the story exactly as he said it (even if there were bits that didn’t quite make sense) on the left hand pages and he drew pictures on the covers and the right pages.  This gave us a great opportunity to talk about what you usually find on the cover of a book, how illustrators might choose what to draw and how to link pictures to the story.  It also was a great opportunity to practise the pencil-grip and shading – Jasper gets cross when I mention this usually but this morning, because he was so engaged with making the book, he made super progress with his fine-motor development.

ImageAs for the content, I mentioned in an earlier post that Jasper loves the story of ‘The Ghost Train’ by the legendary Alan Ahlberg and that we created our own version when we rode the steam train last week, in honour of Halloween.  Jasper changed parts of the story – we had a “bright, bright station” instead of a “dark, dark” one and he used so much descriptive vocabulary, particularly to describe how the smoke swirled around the train as it chugged through the tunnel. 

So I thought this would be a great story to write in the book.

Jasper had other ideas though.  He still wanted to tell a story about a train, but he decided it was going to be ‘more like the Dr Bones Bump in the Night’ story (another Alan Ahlberg one) and the trains were going to thunder down the track and bump into each other. In the end, there was of Thomas the Tank Engine too!  I asked him why there was so much thunder in his story and he replied that we’d a lot of thunder recently so the trains probably had some too! I couldn’t argue with that! And isn’t it just another example of the power of nature?!

Here’s the finished version:

Image‘Once upon a time there was a train and its name was Thomas.  He had another friend called Percy. ImageAnd they had some more friends.  One was Gordon, one was Henry, one was Edward, one was James.  They did a chug around chasing each other.  Another train called Hero bumped into them.  And then he chugged back.  He bumped into the track so hard he stopped.  Then there was a big thundering noise.  It wasn’t thunder, it was Gordon chasing the trains past hero. Then was another thunder but it wasn’t thunder, it was Spencer. They all had to go back to their sheds.’






Pumpkin fun for young children

My son is 3 and he’s just starting to get really excited about Halloween.  Last year, we went to a party but he just saw it as a Imagechance to dress up, whereas this year, he’s been hunting for ghouls in the cupboard and ghosties lurking behind corners all week.

This morning (at 5am when he got up!) we decided to carve our pumpkins.  I’ve seen some fantastically intricate ones all over the internet; some are truly breath-taking and must have taken the creators hours upon hours of careful carving!

It got me thinking though.  Jasper was filled with enthusiasm and desperate to create his own spooky pumpkin but – although I am keen for kids to have a go and think health and safety has become utterly ludicrous – there was no way I was letting a 3 year old loose with a vegetable knife or even help me to carve.

So what could I do?  I wanted the pumpkins to be his, not mine but I also didn’t fancy a trip to a&e to have his fingers sewn back on.  That would be taking today’s gore a little too far.  After a little thinking, I came up with some ways to involve Jasper properly (but safely!).

Here are my top tips:

(1) The design

Halloween is all about the spooky so we played a little game to see who could pull the scariest face.  We experimented with sounds too – we howled like werewolves, cackled like witches and roared like monsters. ImageImage We pulled out our tongues, bared our teeth, scowled.  You name it, we did it! We then decided which was the scariest and decided that these would be the faces we tried to create on our pumpkins.  Then, with a dry-wipe pen (and after we’d done all the scraping), Jasper drew the design onto the pumpkin ready for me to carve.

(2) The scraping

The great thing for little ones with pumpkins is all the sensory fun they can have.  Inside the hard shell is a world of slime and string; hard, flat seeds buried in oozing flesh.  Wonderful at any time of year, but when you’re already in the spooky mood, the possibilities for exploring vocabulary in addition to experiencing different textures are immense.

ImageSo, Jasper had drawn the circle on the top of the pumpkin (he’d explained to me that it wasn’t a proper circle, the shape wasn’t correct and that because the pumpkin was bumpy, he had struggled to draw it!) and I’d carved around his shape.  He then tugged the lid off and we talked about why it was difficult to do even though I’d carved and he commented it was a bit like tugging vegetables out of the ground.  He thought it was funny that you had to tug a pumpkin lid off when you didn’t have just had to snip it off the plant in the first place (we’d grown our own earlier in the year!).  Then we scraped  the stringy bits, we scooped seeds with fingers – we essentially just had a great old time squashing and squeezing!

(3) The carving

Now, this is the part where I didn’t let him join in.  I don’t know, perhaps there are safe tools you can get so the kids can have a go themselves but as I said, all I had was a vegetable knife.  I didn’t want to lose the Halloween mood though, so I put some spooky music on (Ghostbusters, Monster etc) and Jasper had a boogie around the other side of the room pretending to be a vampire which is what he’s going to dress up as later, whilst I did the carving! When I’d finished, I lit the tea-lights and turned off the lights but I let him blow them out when we’d finished.

(4) The aftermath

Earlier in the week, we went to the woods to collect out autumn objects for out nature table.  They are still drying in the airing cupboard (check back soon to see the end result) but Jasper suggested we add the pumpkin seeds to the mix.  So when scraping, we sorted the seeds into one bowl and the flesh into another.  I’m sure we’re going to have a great time with the seeds – I’m thinking sorting, counting, planting, stacking…. but I didn’t want to just throw the flesh out either.  As we’d grown our own pumpkins, I was hoping to be able to use these for carving and cook the insides but they just didn’t last long enough so we ate those a while ago.  Our carving pumpkins are from the supermarket and when we’ve eaten them in previous years, they’ve been, although edible, bitter and stringy.  Perhaps they’re bred for tough carving flesh or carving – I don’t know!

ImageAnyway, I still wanted to do something with the insides, so I spread them all out thickly on a baking tray (you could use a bowl though or any container really) and buried some little toys, foil, money and keys underneath.  I blindfolded Jasper and he dig through the mix to see what he could find.  This was a brilliant activity for him thinking of the textures and shape of objects – what did it feel like?  What could it be if it was smooth, shiny, made of metal etc! It was particularly interesting when he found chunky bits of carved skin and had to squeeze to see whether it was pumpkin or the hidden treasure.

Happy Halloween everyone!