Bringing Books Alive with Bookish Play

I’m a Mum of four boys and a former Primary School teacher. Instilling a love of literature in my students and now children is a goal of mine for many reasons. Fostering a love of reading provides children with a framework or background knowledge to inform and make sense of their world. Reading aloud exposes children to sounds, rhyme and vocabulary to help them develop literacy skills. Books can spark imagination, expose children to different cultures and help children process emotions or new events.

Since being a stay-at-home parent, one of our favourite ways to deepen connection with a book or story is by extending on an element or theme from the story with an activity, craft or through play. “Bookish play’ is a general term to describe any activity that is centred around or related to a chosen story or book. It can be directed or open ended, simple or more involved and can be adapted to suit different ages or abilities.

I feature lots of ways to bring books alive on my Instagram account @lovefourlearning but here are some of my favourites.

Story Baskets

Story baskets are a wonderful way for young children to show their understanding of a book. Gather some props, they could be figurines, dress up clothes, puppets or pictures to represent elements of the story. Don’t feel pressured to have everything from the book as you can alternate between acting out parts of the story and reading pages. See if your child can act out sections of the story. Can they retell the story in their own words? Are they able to innovate parts of the story to tell their own version?

I love story baskets for developing comprehension and vocabulary with young children.

Story Stones

Story stones or story spoons are terrific for sequencing. What comes next in the story? Can you find the spoon or stone to tell me what happens now?

I also find with one of my littles that holding something in his hand helps improve his concentration when listening to a story being read aloud to him.

Sensory Play

Research shows that sensory play builds neural pathways, supports fine motor skills and language development and I have continually found it increases my children’s memory of a book. Sensory play can be an engaging way to interact with characters or symbols from the story. I often find through open ended play children may choose to act out or retell sections of the story or it may just be a lovely way to discuss their opinion of the story by chatting to them about a book as they play. My boys respond well to questions about a book when their hands and eyes are busy immersed in play. Asking questions such as “Did you like the story?” “What would you change?” is building higher order thinking skills. Sensory play such as a tub of water with some animals from the story or some shaped cookie cutters and some playdough are simple ways to bring a book alive with sensory play.


There’s nothing I love more as a busy Mum, than a read and create session in the morning. I’ll read a book to my four year olds, we’ll make a craft or I’ll give them some materials to create a scene from the story. It means that then no matter how busy the day gets, we’ve read together and they’ve had a chance to be creative and practise some mark making. It doesn’t need to be complex. It could be as simple as asking your child to draw their favourite part of the story with some markers.


What’s better than listening to a story? Eating of course! Involving your little ones with making a themed snack or treat in the kitchen is such a lovely way to bring a book alive! Perhaps the story includes a recipe you could try? Is there a theme in the story such as under the sea or dinosaurs? Shaped cookie cutters to cut a sandwich for lunch or a piece of fruit for snack time are a fun and easy way to relate the story to mealtimes.

Small World Play

Small world play allows children to act out scenes from books in a miniature play scene, created with small figures and objects. Children add in their own dialogue and storylines bringing their own ideas and imagination. Small world play works so well with known or familiar texts such as fairy tales or a much-loved classic like The Very Hungry Caterpillar or the Gruffalo. It can also be a way of becoming more acquainted with a new scenario or setting that features in the story. Often, I’ll challenge my boys to recreate a scene from a picture book using their toys.

I hope you’re inspired with some ways to bring books alive in your home. It’s such a lovely way to connect with children whilst fostering a love of learning and literature!

Bringing Books Alive with Bookish Play                                                                                                                           Lucy White