Happy Birthday, Paddington!

One of the ways in which I have tried to develop a love of reading in our children, is to create storybook suitcases. It came about when I discovered a box full of resources that I had made during my teacher-training, and it felt wrong to let them gather dust (especially after the hours I put into making them). I use a little suitcase that I had as a child and fill it with resources related to a chosen book – finger puppets, props, colouring activities, play-doh activities etc – and then I give it to the children to unpack and we spend the week reading the book and immersing ourselves in the activities. Today marks the birthday of Paddington Bear and it didn’t feel right to let the day pass without a few marmalade sandwiches and activities to celebrate our favourite pawed Peruvian. Paddington fans will know that P.B, like the Queen, has two birthdays – today, 25th June, and Christmas Day. We decided to celebrate the sweet stowaway for a week with a suitcase packed with a variety of classic Paddington books.

We have a well-designed suitcase set of eight Paddington books that has withstood our two-year-old’s overwhelming need to unpack and re-pack the books 56 times within an hour.  The selection of books is perfect to keep the wee ones interested and it’s easy to get lost in the bright and colourful scenes illustrated by R.W Alley. So yes, I put a suitcase of books in our story suitcase. I also included a gorgeous Paddington Bear plush complete with red plastic welly boots, brown suitcase, and “Please look after this bear. Thank you” note. Our Paddington plush was immediately adopted into the ever-growing plush family currently residing at the end of H’s bed and his welly boots were put to the test in a few imaginary puddles around the house.

Our suitcase also included resources to make an origami Paddington (aimed at the older ones) which turned out better than I expected. I used ours to make an invitation to a Paddington Picnic but if you have the time, the energy and a very large bottle of something strong, you could make a few and turn them into a Paddington garland.

Paddington at the Zoo had H belly-laughing as P.B loses all six of his emergency marmalade sandwiches to an assortment of animals during his visit. As this was her favourite, I decided to include a variety of small animals in our story suitcase. Sequencing and re-telling a story are important skills for developing comprehension and puppets and small models of story characters is a good way for introducing this. H thoroughly enjoyed using each of the animals to steal a sandwich (we used the wooden cake slices from her tea-set) while a disgruntled plush Paddington worked on his “hard stare”. 

It wouldn’t be a Paddington Party without a marmalade sandwich or seven, so I also included a marmalade sandwich making kit. It went exactly how you think it would – sticky toddler fingers, holes in the bread from exuberant spreading and marmalade on every surface. Did we make beautiful Instagram-worthy sandwiches? No, but did we have fun? Also, no. I joke. We did have fun. H even tried the marmalade which was surprising given her aversion to anything delicious. I took photos of the different steps in the sandwich making process which we added to our story suitcase and H has been using as a sequencing activity.

 It was only right that we concluded our Paddington party with a Paddington picnic. So, after checking for seagulls, we took our wobbly sandwiches out into the garden to enjoy in the sunshine. And, of course, we were joined by the Paddington plush because, in the words of Michael Bond, “It’s nice having a bear about the house”.                

David Neale