Our summer book exchange: fun with Elmer the Elephant

Elmer bookIt’s been a very busy few weeks, so we’ve not read anywhere near as many books as usual. In case you missed it, there’s a new man in our lives… the lovely Little Mister was born on 1st July (you can read more about him here!). But while we were eagerly waiting the late arrival of our second bundle of joy, Little Miss and I did manage to take part in the Love Books Summer Exchange.

Love Books Summer Exchange badgeHosted by US blog The Educators’ Spin On It, this fab exchange sees parent bloggers paired up to send each other’s child a picture book and accompanying activity. We were teamed up with Adventures of Adam and it was great to also discover a new blog I hadn’t read before that’s full of toddler play ideas – I’ll definitely be a regular reader from now on.

Little Miss was thrilled when our parcel, complete with rainbow-coloured tape on the box, arrived. I’d forgotten it was coming as well and given how heavily pregnant and tired I was at the time, it was a very welcome distraction!

Book exchange parcel arrives

Inside we found the original Elmer book by David McKee along with everything we’d need to make and decorate our very own milk bottle elephants for the ‘Elmer’s Day’ parade that’s part of this much-loved story. We’ve read a couple of different Elmer books in the past, so Little Miss was vaguely familiar with the character, but we’d yet to read this one which is the very first story about the colourful patchwork elephant. First written in 1968 and published since 1989 by Andersen Press, the book has been celebrating its 25th anniversary this year and has sold millions of copies around the world, being translated into many different languages.

Elmer activity kit

Little Miss loves elephants and painting so the package was an instant hit with her. And that was before she realised there were also stickers included. She absolutely cannot resist stickers!

I’ve always had a soft spot for Elmer too so was very pleased we’d now have the original Elmer book at home. I love the message behind the story – that it’s ok to be different and changing yourself to fit in with the rest of the herd isn’t the way forward. The book sees the brightly coloured Elmer paint himself grey to try and fit in, only to find it’s not much fun when the other elephants no longer recognise him. It’s not long before Elmer’s vibrant personality bursts to the fore again and his true colours are revealed once more when rain washes the paint off. The other elephants declare that this day will become known as Elmer’s Day and every year they decorate themselves for a special parade in his honour.

We read the story one night before getting started on our Elmer activity the next day. Emma, the mum behind the Adventures of Adam blog, is a trained primary school teacher and the activity she shared with us used to be a favourite for her classes. She’d sent us two plastic milk bottles to make our elephants from – a big six-pint one and a little one-pint one to make a cute baby. The baby was already cut out for us and I just followed the lines on the big bottle to cut out an elephant shape. As you can see from the pictures, it’s really simple to do – these bottles just happen to be the perfect shape to make elephants from, with the handle of the bottle making the trunk!

Little Miss was intrigued to see the big elephant taking shape and then couldn’t wait to get her hands on the paint brush to decorate him. We added a bit of glue to the paint, as instructed, to make sure it stuck to the plastic.

Elmer activity collage

As you can see, she initially went for a multi-coloured effect, similar to Elmer himself, although as more and more paint went on a dirty-purple became the dominant theme. This amused me since our elephant became closer to the standard elephant shade that Elmer tries to achieve in the book before realising he’s better off as he is in all his technicolour glory – of course, the irony was lost on a toddler!

We left the paint to dry overnight before letting Little Miss loose with the fab foam stickers included in our package. I hadn’t seen these before but quickly tracked down another pack in the supermarket as they proved so popular. Adventures of Adam had also included tissue paper as another decorative option, which could be stuck on in a collage effect. As you can see from the picture below that we were sent with our activity instructions, the artistic scope is endless!

Elmers Day Parade elephants

With the stickers on, we decided our two elephants were complete. We didn’t get around to it but you could also add eyes, either using some boggle-eye stickers or by just drawing them on. You also have the option of adding ears and could paint a layer of glue over the top of the finished elephant to make it smooth and a bit waterproof.

Finished elephants

We had a great time taking part in Love Books Summer Exchange – it’s such a simple idea but so rewarding. I really enjoyed putting together the package we sent, based around the Big Yellow Digger book, and you can visit the Adventures of Adam blog to see how they got on. And, of course, it’s always lovely for a child (and this big child too!) to get a surprise parcel to open and play with.

The milk bottle elephant is a great activity, so easy to do with a toddler, and one I’m sure we’ll repeat in the future. I’m a bit of a fan of making animal models from those simple household items that otherwise just pile up in the recycling – you can also see our forays into the world of toilet roll tube creatures here!

To see some of the other book and activity ideas from the swap visit the Summer Exchange Pinterest Board.

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Categories: Baby bookworm, Toddler activities | Tags: , , | 5 Comments

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5 thoughts on “Our summer book exchange: fun with Elmer the Elephant

  1. Looks like you had a superb time! So pleased you enjoyed the story and the activity. Adam loves his Big Yellow Digger story you sent us. I appreciated the irony of Elmer ending up elephant colour. So pleased to be paired up with you for the Summer Book Exchange.

  2. Pingback: Summer Book Exchange: Big Yellow Digger - Adventures of Adam

  3. I love those milk bottle elephants – they look awesome!
    Thanks for sharing at the Mumsnet linky.

  4. Goodness this is a very very good idea! Love the its easy! We will do this! #minicreations

    • Thanks, it was good fun. I was glad someone passed the idea on to us as it’s so simple and great to make use of something that otherwise just piles up in the recycling!

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