This post is part of a series to help parents with children at home during school closures. Find out more here.
Owl Babies is written by Martin Waddell and illustrated by Patrick Benson.
If you don’t have a copy at home, there is an animation on YouTube and an audio version from CBeebies. You can play the audio while children are doing some of the activities, like drawing or acting out the story.
Toilet roll owls
If you’ve managed to get some (!) your children can use toilet roll tubes to make owls. Cut them to different lengths to make the owl siblings; a kitchen towel tube could be the owl mother. Use felt tips for eyes and cut triangles from scraps of paper for beaks and wings and anything fluffy like crafting feathers, cotton wool or shredded toilet tissue can be stuck on for their downy feathers. Try not to intervene too much: the aim is for the children to use their imagination, practice cutting and sticking, be creative, problem solve and feel proud of their achievement, not to have perfect owl replicas!
They can use the owls to retell and reenact the story or to role play taking care of the baby owls.
These ideas work for most books. Children can draw their favourite moment, redesign the front cover, turn it into a comic strip and draw different owl species based on pictures online or in books. Provide as many different drawing implements as you can and see what they’re inspired to do.
Your children can write a letter to the babies to reassure them and tell them their mother will come back. Your children can write as themselves or pretend to be the mother.
They can design a missing poster to find the mother. Draw a picture, describe her appearance, detail when and where she was last seen and include contact details and a reward. This could be a good opportunity to check if your children know your phone number and address.
Ask them to write a guide for younger children, telling them what to do if they are separated from the adult taking care of them. This can lead to a great chat about safety, what to do in different situations and which adults are appropriate to rely on for help. Older children can think carefully about the layout and how to adapt their writing for the target audience.
Can they rewrite the story with their own family as the characters? Children can write and illustrate it on paper or can take photos and use an app like Book Creator (this is a paid app but the only one I’ve used and I didn’t want to recommend something I hadn’t used myself. Let me know if you have a suggestion that is cheaper or free).
Let your children use the internet to research what owls eat and what the owl mother might have been bringing back for the babies. If they get excited about it and find out lots they can write their own book or prepare a lecture for the rest of the family. This Dorling Kindersley website might be a place to start and I always like to find video resources by typing ‘BBC class clips‘ and then a keyword.
The baby owls look different to their mother. Ask your child to find other books with baby animals in and investigate which look the same and which look different to their parents. You can look at baby photos and talk about what humans look like as they grow, too.
‘it was their house’
The book describes the hole the owls live in. Using things from around the house and garden (if you have one), challenge your children to make a home for the owls. They can use toys or their toilet roll owls to play in it. They can then recreate a home from another favourite story or think about other animals and make a home suitable for them. What would a frog or a hedgehog want from their house?
If you are lucky enough to have a garden, or are able to get to a park then take your owlets outside. You can practise flying, swooping ‘soft and silent’ like the owl mother and have a go at hunting each other. Find a tree and climb to different branches to find ones suitable for Sarah, Percy and Bill. You can play a game where someone is the owl mother and the others are babies. For younger children the mother flies off and hides, the others close their eyes and then she swoops back and the owlets jump up and down and flap. For older children they could go and look for the mother or try and open their eyes and catch her coming back. Using a phone, the owl babies can set a timer and see if the mother can come back after exactly 5, 10 or 20 seconds.
After reading the story, talk to your children about how the owlets were feeling at different points in the story. Ask them when they have felt scared or excited. Prompt older children to find other stories which help children understand their fears. Why do they think these stories are helpful? Would any of them be particularly helpful for a certain sibling or friend?
Look at the pictures and talk about which owl is the tallest and shortest. Who is tallest and shortest in your family? Ask your child to line up soft toys in order from tallest to shortest. They can measure the extremes and some of their favourites. Younger children can use small objects like Lego bricks to measure and older children can use a ruler or tape measure. If they are interested they could use kitchen/bathroom scales to check which of their toys are lightest and heaviest, making predictions before they start.
I hope you find these useful and I’d love to hear about it if you do any of them at home. If you have any questions or suggestions you can comment here, email firstname.lastname@example.org or find me on Instagram.