Blog post

The Snail and the Whale- Tray Activity

May 21, 2017Rabbit Ideas

*This blog post contains some affiliate links to products we have used.

Of all Julia Donaldson’s brilliant children’s books, The Snail and the Whale is my absolute favourite. It lends itself so well to messy play, too, so I didn’t need asking twice to set it up in the mixing tray- loving this resource- CrazyGadget Children Kids Tuff Spot Colour Mixing Tray Large Plastic for Playing Toy Sand Pool Pit Water Game Animal Figures etc. – MADE IN UK (Blue)

To set up, we focussed on two main scenes: the “towering icebergs and far-off lands” and the emergency rescue of the whale, towards the end of the story. There is so much to explore: volcanos, forests, deep sea… it really could be unpacked in several different ways, and as part of several different topic areas.

We made the icebergs from recycling materials; cardboard avocado packaging with cotton wool stuck on. Cardboard and recycling generally is such a great, budget resource for crafts and messy play- if you are on pinterest, head over to the Rabbit Ideas Cardboard Activities board for more inspiration!

For the beach scene; we used sand from the outdoor sand pit, shaving foam with blue food colouring mixed into it and a stick to mix it. Little is going through a phase of not enjoying having messy hands! As well as using our usual model animals (a great toy investment- so versatile!) Schleich Emperor Penguin with Chick we found a knitted finger puppet snail to include in the tale. This was lovely at first, but once Big got home from school and ‘joined in’ we got really into it and the woollen snail was put through it’s paces!

This book is a great adventure tale, and could easily be used to explain concepts such as courage, bravery and making a positive contribution, to young children. Setting it up as a tuff tray or messy play activity can help engage even very young children in the story, allowing them to explore it at their own pace. Sometimes, I read the story to the children as they are playing, which is a lovely way to spend time together and develop listening skills, too.

I love this story, both as a way for learning about the wider world with the kids, and as someone who would identify with the ‘snail with an itchy foot’ herself! The adventurous spirit of the snail and desire to share her tales with the others are such positive characteristics, which adds a depth to this children’s story. Like all the best picture books, it can be read on several different levels and speaks of so much more than the basics of the plot.

Have you read The Snail and the Whale? What activities have you chosen to do with it?

*Disclaimer: This post contains some affiliate links to products similar to ones we have used. If you purchase though the links, I may receive a small percentage of the profits to support the running of this blog. This will not affect the cost of the products to the buyer. 

The Snail and the Whale Tray Activity #tufftray #messyplay #picturebook #juliadonaldson *Blog Post contains affiliate links

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Comments (37)

  • Chantelle Hazelden (@MamaMummyMum)

    May 22, 2017 at 2:49 pm

    aaaaa we love this book and what great activities to go along side it! Thanks for sharing with #readwithme

    1. rabbitideas

      May 22, 2017 at 3:57 pm

      Yes, it is brilliant! Thanks for commenting! 🙂

  • Catherine @ Story Snug

    May 23, 2017 at 6:20 am

    I love creating activities and story sacks to accompany a book. This is a great idea and I love your icebergs!


    1. rabbitideas

      May 23, 2017 at 9:37 am

      Thank you! Story sacks or tray activities are great- the icebergs were Little’s own idea!

  • shelllouise

    May 23, 2017 at 7:45 pm

    This was a favourite of Kaycee and Ella’s when they were younger. They would have loved these activities.

    1. rabbitideas

      May 24, 2017 at 5:05 pm

      Lovely, it is a brilliant book!

  • Sarah MumofThree World

    May 24, 2017 at 5:53 am

    The Snail and the Whale is my absolute favourite Julia Donaldson book too! My kids are 15, 13 and 11 now, but back when they were little I always struggled to read it without crying, even though I’d read it 100 times before! I never thought of setting up any activities around it, but these ideas look very idea.
    Popping over from Read With Me.

    1. rabbitideas

      May 24, 2017 at 5:02 pm

      Yes, I love the spirit of adventure in it!

  • Acorn Books

    May 27, 2017 at 6:41 pm

    Great idea, it looks like your little ones had a fab time with this. A tuff tray is on my list of things to buy so we can do things like this! #readwithme

    1. rabbitideas

      May 29, 2017 at 6:52 am

      Tuff trays are so versatile!

  • BookBairn (@BookBairn)

    May 29, 2017 at 2:36 pm

    I’m loving the ideas of connecting books with small world play! Thanks so much, I’m really inspired! #readwithme

    1. rabbitideas

      May 29, 2017 at 5:15 pm

      Brilliant- please do share any photos or ideas with me on twitter- I’d love to see them. 🙂

  • Lara

    May 30, 2017 at 8:01 am

    I’ve not read this one… what a super play idea!

    1. rabbitideas

      May 30, 2017 at 7:00 pm

      Thank you, it is a great book.

  • Muffintopmummyblog

    May 30, 2017 at 8:28 pm

    This is so creative! I really love this idea – I’d never thought of recreating scenes from favourite books.

    1. rabbitideas

      May 30, 2017 at 8:30 pm

      Once you get going it is strangely addictive!

  • tammymum

    September 16, 2017 at 6:25 am

    I love this book too. My kids are a little young to really appreciate it they still enjoy pointing out the animals. I would have never thought to make a messy play activity out of it though, what a great idea! Thanks for sharing at #familyfun

    1. rabbitideas

      September 18, 2017 at 4:26 pm

      Thank you for the comment- it is a great book to keep hold of for the future- your little ones will love it!

  • James Hopes

    October 20, 2017 at 12:01 am

    It is a great book but we’ve never thought of linking it with messy play! Going to have to try that this week! #fortheloveofBLOG

    1. Jenny Rumney

      October 22, 2017 at 1:17 pm

      Great- let me know how you get on!

  • The Pramshed

    October 24, 2017 at 10:32 pm

    Wow what a great idea! The little one is always playing with shaving foam in the tray at nursery, I had never thought of doing it at home based on this book. We love this book too. Thanks for linking up at #fortheloveofBLOG. Claire x

  • Malin

    March 1, 2018 at 11:34 pm

    This looks like great fun! And I’m really impressed with your pin for this (and pinning this, obvs) ?x #bloggerpinparty

    1. Jenny

      March 3, 2018 at 6:01 am

      Oh thank you! I love that linky- it is great!

  • Martina

    March 3, 2018 at 8:45 am

    I love The Snail and the Whale too! Thanks for sharing such an amazing activity. At 6 and 4, my two will probably run it as a ‘production’ but I’m sure we’ll have heaps of fun with this. Again, thanks so much. #thesatsesh

    1. Jenny

      March 7, 2018 at 5:18 pm

      Oh what a cool idea to do it as a play/production! Thanks for reading 🙂

  • Claire @ The Ladybirds’ adventures

    March 3, 2018 at 3:24 pm

    We love the Snail and the whale book and this is a great activity to go with it. Thanks for joining #bloggerpinparty

    1. Jenny

      March 7, 2018 at 5:17 pm

      Thank you!

  • Hayley@ Mission: Mindfulness

    March 5, 2018 at 7:54 pm

    We love this book at our house too – for the very reasons you say and also for how the village work together to help the whale and the tenacity of the snail to get help! Such good messages. Love your ideas for creative and messy play based on the book too! #thesatsesh xx

  • Helena

    March 7, 2018 at 6:55 pm

    I do love these activities. Sadly my eldest daughter wasn’t interested in my ice scene made of tin foil and cotton wool. #thesatsesh

    1. Jenny

      March 8, 2018 at 12:17 pm

      Oh no! But more importantly, did YOU enjoy making it?! 😉

  • Helena

    March 12, 2018 at 9:08 am

    We love Julia Donaldson’s work and this would be lots of fun for sure. #bloggerpinparty

  • Rosie @ Little Fish

    March 13, 2018 at 2:28 pm

    Oh this is my favourite book too! We’ve set up a similar activity before too – it’s such a fun story to recreate. This looks great! I do love the look of this tuff tray – so versatile, we might have to get one of those! x #bloggerpinparty

    1. Jenny

      March 13, 2018 at 8:02 pm

      Great- so glad you like the idea. Yes, a tuff tray is such a great piece of kit- we use it loads!

  • Sarah

    March 31, 2018 at 12:53 am

    Oh I love this so much! We love Julia Donaldson books, but we haven’t read this one for a while, I’m going to read it tonight with the little ones! Such a fun activity idea, we really need to get a tuff tray! Thank you for linking up! #MakeItLinky

    1. Jenny

      April 1, 2018 at 7:26 pm

      Love the book so much! Yes, a tuff tray can be really useful.

  • Kate

    April 15, 2018 at 7:40 pm

    This is a lovely idea. What a brilliant way to bring the book to life!

    1. Jenny

      April 18, 2018 at 7:55 pm

      Great- glad you liked it!

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