Books · Sensory Play · Story Play

A Hole at the Bottom of the Sea

Stories are a big part of our day. We love books and our house is overflowing with them. I try to find a story that fits any activity that we do, and this week really wanted to find some new sea/seaside/under-the-sea-themed ones to read alongside our crafts and play. So we went off to the library to see what we could find. But we failed miserably; I looked through every single children’s story book and found nothing. I did get a couple of non-fiction ones, but nothing quite beats a good story! So I resorted to a book we already had at home for our story time yesterday. This was one that we actually got from the library for free earlier on in the summer, to mark the start of National Bookstart Week.

The version of the book that we have is a special booklet edition of the story, adapted by Jessica Law and beautifully illustrated by Jill McDonald. The “story” itself is written as a (sort of) rhyme, and is about the food chain under the sea; about who eats who, and where the food chain begins. It is very cleverly done, and the rhyme is very repetitive (aren’t they all?), making it easy for children to pick up. In addition, as it only focuses on five animals, children are more likely to remember them all. And, as the animals are all slightly out of the ordinary (it is not just “fish” in this book), children learn the names of some new animals.

Earlier in the week I made some blue rice for some sensory play at some point, and I decided that this story  would a perfect place to start with it. I made the rice, as always, using just Sainsbury’s Basics rice (two bags) and blue food colouring. I mixed them thoroughly in a couple of baking trays, and left them to dry overnight. I even remembered to take some photographs as I made it (totally getting the hang of this blogging malarkey). Enjoy my random pictures below, they’re amazing I tell you!

While the children were eating their lunch I had a very nice, very relaxing, half an hour drawing the characters from the story onto some stones that we collected on holiday, using Sharpies (the things I can do when my husband is on holiday)! I am no artist, as you can see, but the drawings in the book are so simple (though much much more beautiful than mine) that I thought I might have half a chance of success; I wouldn’t attempt to do this for pretty much any other book; The Gruffalo, for example, would be fairly disastrous.

I also wrote the name of the object that I had attempted to draw on the reverse of the stone; just in case my drawing was that bad I couldn’t remember what it was supposed to be later. (Only joking – they are for letter and word recognition, but certainly double up as a reminder of what the picture is actually meant to be)!

I added these stones to the rice, along with a few small shells that I found. We then read the story. As we read the story we acted it out with the stones, and I got A and E to call out the names of the animals.


We discussed the different animals, describing each one, and I tried to get them to guess what each animal might eat before we turned the page (the animals appear in the book in their order in the food chain). I also tried to make sure that they understood that the story was about who eats who, as it isn’t particularly obvious throughout the story until the last page (or at least it wasn’t to me – it may well have been to them)! Once we had finished, we recapped the story using our story stones, and then I left them to play it for themselves.

They attempted to retell the story for a while, and they had the animals swimming through the “sea”, away from each other. After a short time, it descended into “find items from the play kitchen to add to the box”, though I was quite impressed to see the story continue with these additions.

They used plastic cutlery, cups, plates and bottles to scoop up the rice and drop it back into the box. They tried to hide some of the animals by doing this, just like the animals hide from the shark in the book. E used a fork to try to pick up the small shells that were in the box, as well as the rice.

I enjoyed watching his coordination and his concentration as well as his determination while he did this. He also exercised his pincer grip, as he eventually gave up and picked the remainder up in his fingers!


It was a lovely afternoon of play, and the more we play, the more the book itself grows on me; I admit, I was quite unsure of it when I first heard it back in June!

Today I wanted use our lovely story stones again, so I prepared a differentiated activity for both A and E to enjoy. For A I printed a list of the main words from the book (those that I wrote on the story stones).


We started by looking at the pictures on the stones, and I asked A to tell me what each animal was. She then turned the stone over and looked at the word. Having the picture helped with the recognition of most of the letters in the word (as she knew what the word was meant to say she was able to sound the letters out – even some of the ones she didn’t know). We spelt out the shorter words and she seemed to grasp the “ee” and “sh” sounds. Once we had been through the letters she then tried to match up the words on the stones to those on the paper.

For E I printed a picture of the animals from the story, lined up in their food chain order. He named each of the animals in turn, and then matched them up to the pictures on the stones.

If you would like to hear it for yourself, there is actually an audio version on the  National Bookstart Week website; the activities from the week are still available to download too!


Diary of an imperfect mum


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