So you want to get your little learner involved in some literacy activities this summer? Welcome to the Read and Play Summer Series Edition. I am sharing some of my favorite early childhood books with you along with developmental activities that will engage your little one and prime them with the skills they need to become a lifelong reader. Let’s dive in!

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Introduction to The Little Mouse, The Red Ripe Strawberry, and the Big Hungry Bear

This is a favorite book in our house. My little man loves to read this before naptime.

A little mouse has just picked a delicious red, ripe strawberry, but now has to worry about a big, hungry bear! What will the mouse do to keep that strawberry safe?

This book is written in a very interesting way because it is supposed to be like YOU are the one talking to the mouse. YOU are the one who is warning the mouse about the big, hungry bear (though I doubt there even is a bear at all….you sneaky reader)!

I wouldn’t expect your little one to get this or even understand this, but you can definitely bring it up to see how your munchkin tries to process this.

Things to Note while You Read

  1. There are some words that are written in all capital letters. Definitely over-exaggerate those words. I like to make noises too while reading those words to emphasize how authors can “make” sounds using words (onomatopoeia).
  2. The pictures in this story are very descriptive and detailed. It is important to take time to slow down and study the pictures. Talk about the things you notice in them or have your child point out things they find funny or interesting.
  3. Point out this page where the picture looks blurry. Have your child think about why the illustrator made the picture like that. You can give hints by asking about how the mouse is feeling here or what happens when you feel very nervous or scared?

Vocabulary You Should Uncover

Books are an amazing way to build your child’s vocabulary. When you introduce vocabulary from a book, you should try to also incorporate new words into your conversations. There are two words you definitely should bring to your child’s attention in this book.

  1. RIPE— Tell your child that when a fruit is ripe, it is ready to eat. A lot of times when fruits aren’t ripe, they are green, but when they ripen, they become very colorful.
    Next time your child picks up a piece of fruit to eat, ask them if it is ripe and ready to eat.
  2. TROMP— Explain that when somebody tromps, they are stepping very heavily. Show your child what it would look like and sound like to tromp around the room. Have your child practice tromping too.
    Practice tromping to your next activity or around the house. You could even notice how your child tromps and stomps during a tantrum…haha.

Questions to Ponder

Asking a few questions before and during reading is a great way to get your child to start thinking critically about books. Here are a couple of questions that can get you started:

  1. After reading a couple of pages where you notice that the mouse is visibly scared, ask your child why they think the mouse is feeling afraid?
  2. After reading this page:

ask…”How would you try to hide or disguise the strawberry so that the bear can’t get it?”

Literacy Boost

The word “the” appears a lot in this book, so let’s take advantage of that! I’ve crafted this activity to help your child wherever they are on their reading journey.

If your child is just learning letters…

Letters written on cards on a tile floor; read and play

…focus on the letter t. Have a bunch of letters written separately on index cards, but make sure you have 10 index cards with just the letter t on them (it’s always a good idea to start with lowercase letters).

Introduce the letter t using letter cards or index cards with the letter written on them. Say, “This is the letter t. T makes the /t/ sound like in turtle and teeth. Can you say /t/?”

Put some sticky tape up on a wall. Have your child sort through the cards and try to find all of the cards with the letter t. When they find a card with the letter t, they can stick it up on the tape.

Child putting the letter t on a sticky wall; read and play

If your child knows their letters…

Start working on the word “the”. This activity mirrors the one above, but with a twist. Write a bunch of words separately on index cards, but make sure you have the word “the” written ten times.

Introduce the word “the” by saying, “Whenever you see these letters together in this order, it spells the word “the” like when you say, ‘I see ‘the’ cat’. T doesn’t make its usual sound here. In fact, the word “the” is one that you have to memorize because you can’t sound it out. Let’s practice tracing it.”

To trace, you can have some shaving cream or sand on a plate or some puffy paint spelling “the”. Have your child trace the word the while saying the word slowly 3 times.

Using looking at the word, saying the word, and using their hands to spell the word has been proven to help them remember it more easily.

Now, put some sticky tape up on the wall. Have your child sort through your index cards. Whenever they find one that has the word “the” on it, they will stick it on the tape on the wall. Count them at the end to make sure you have all 10!

Never Struggle When Reading to Your Child Again!

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    Sensory Exploration

    Delight your child’s senses while practicing some fine motor activities as well.

    Strawberry Cloud Dough

    Have your child create some strawberry scented cloud dough using just 2 ingredients:

    Let your child freely explore the cloud dough or try to form some strawberry shapes using the dough. Use strawberry cookie cutters as another layer of play.

    Strawberry Disguises

    In the story, the mouse tries to hide and disguise the strawberry. You already asked your child how they would try to hide or disguise the strawberry, but now is the time to get down to business.

    We were going for cow…or zebra!

    Use any craft supplies to try to disguise the strawberry from the big, hungry bear. Let your child’s imagination take it away.

    Chocolate Covered Strawberries

    chocolate and strawberries in small cups; read and play

    One way you can hide those strawberries is to get into the kitchen and start dipping some strawberries in chocolate.

    This is a great little foodie activity that your child can participate in. Once you have the chocolate melted (these are super easy and not that messy), have your child start dipping the strawberries and placing them onto wax paper.


    Art Exploration

    A real strawberry is a great way to let your child get messy and creative.

    I like to use very ripe strawberries that are soft for this. They are easier to “paint” with and can be easily grasped. Cardstock or thicker paper works best, but any type of paper will do.

    They can freely create with their strawberry “watercolor” or they can try to draw something specific. Let your little one take the lead!

    Loved this Read and Play? Check out others in the Summer Series!