I love Eric Carle. Let’s just put that out into the universe. After teaching elementary school for over thirteen years, I can’t help but love Eric Carle. When my daughter was born I transitioned from a “brick and mortar” classroom to virtual teaching. The advantage is that I am home with my daughter while still pursuing the career I love. The disadvantage is that I had to pack an entire career’s worth of teaching supplies into my garage.
I moved my entire classroom library into my daughter’s room, but there was one set of books she was immediately drawn to. Eric Carle. Maybe it is the whimsical illustrations or perhaps the simple, predictable text. In any case, we are currently all Eric Carle…all the time. I can’t blame my daughter…she has good taste!
3 Guaranteed Reasons to Love Eric Carle
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1. Predictive Text Builds Confidence in Young Readers
No, I am not referring to the predictive text that often means you send inappropriate texts to someone by accident. I am referring to the format of text which allows young readers to easily predict what comes next. There is a designated format which repeats throughout the text.
When young readers pick up on the pattern, you see the sparkle in their eyes. At first, they read along with you. Then, they use the pictures along with the pattern to feel like they are “reading”. This develops confidence right from the start. Be sure to point to each word as you read it to demonstrate one-to-one correspondence.
My daughter’s number one favorite book is Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? On each page, the animal sees yet another animal while following the “Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?” pattern. At the end of the book, it is a teacher reading to her students and the children list all of the animals they see. Each animal is associated with a color, for example, “red bird” or “black sheep”. This is perfect for reinforcing animal names and colors.
But wait! It gets better! There is also Panda Bear, Panda Bear, What Do You See? and Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What Do You Hear? These books follow the same predictable pattern. Panda Bear addresses endangered animals, which can be a great way to tie in social studies. You can identify where the animals in the book live on a map and talk about ways to help these animals by doing things like taking care of the environment. Perhaps toddlers may even want to clean up if they think it might help one of their favorite animals!
Polar Bear introduces some great animal vocabulary like “mule deer” and “blue heron”. Again, readers get to reinforce their vocabulary by identifying each animal again at the end of the book. To teach sequencing, you can make copies of each page and ask your child to put them in order. We also did a little craft where we took the outline of the polar bear and glued shredded paper to it. It was messy but fun!
2. Young Readers Learn About Life and Life Lessons
Eric Carle loves to expose young readers to creatures great and small. Within each story, the reader has the opportunity to learn about either the miracle of life or an important life lesson.
The Very Hungry Caterpillar
In The Very Hungry Caterpillar, kids read about the life cycle of the butterfly. I remember reading this book as a kid myself and I loved that I could touch the hole on each page that the caterpillar “ate” through. Any time you can get toddlers touching, feeling, and interacting with the text, is a win! After reading, I like to a variety of crafts.
Pasta Life Cycle Craft
Draw a circle on a piece of construction paper and divide it into four sections. Label the sections “egg”, “larva”, “pupa”, and “adult”. It is never too early to expose children to the correct vocabulary terms! For toddlers, you may want to draw a sketch of what each stage looks like or print pictures of each stage for easy matching. Then, ask your child to glue the appropriate pasta piece to each section. Use dried lentils for the egg state, rotini pasta for the larva stage, shell pasta for the pupal stage, and farfalle pasta for the adult butterfly.
Tissue Paper Butterfly Craft
Get a variety of colored tissue paper and cut or tear into pieces. Draw an outline of a butterfly and ask your child to glue the tissue paper pieces onto the butterfly. You can attempt to demonstrate symmetry, but most likely your toddler will create a brand new butterfly design. For more tissue paper butterfly crafts, check out this article.
Handprint/Footprint Butterfly Craft
I love to do a painting with my toddler monthly. Some we keep and some we give as gifts to the grandparents. An easy painting crafts and also perfect for Mother’s Day, is to use your toddler’s handprints or footprints to create a butterfly.
I buy 8 x10 blanks canvases and allow my toddler to paint the background of the canvas anyway she likes. Sometimes she uses a sponge paint brush to make dots and other times she just takes her fingers and smears paint every which way. Once this layer dries, use your child’s hands or feet to make the butterfly wings and stamping them on the canvas in a bright color. Add the body and antennae and voila! ”
I buy 8 x10 blanks canvases and allow my toddler to paint the background of the canvas anyway she likes. Sometimes she uses a sponge paint brush to make dots and other times she just takes her fingers and smears paint every which way. Once this layer dries, use your child’s hands or feet to make the butterfly wings and stamping them on the canvas in a bright color. Add the body and antennae and voila! “Hand”made butterfly.
Use a hot glue gun to attach a colorful ribbon to the canvas for hanging. We use these crafts as household decor for each season, but they are sweet gifts to send a family member, as well.
The Mixed Up Chameleon
In The Mixed-Up Chameleon, a chameleon wishes he was more like all of the other animals in the zoo. The chameleon is not happy with his own size and shape. He thinks all of the other animals are more beautiful or interesting. The chameleon takes on the qualities of the other animals and gets very “mixed up”. Eventually, he learns that he is special just the way he is.
This is a great way to talk about loving yourself and not trying to compare yourself to others. We adults could do well to learn this lesson! You can talk about how our differences are what make us so special and how boring the world would be if everyone was exactly the same.
Another great lesson to teach is camouflage. This is a great way to incorporate science and literacy. What better way to teach your child how the chameleon is able to camouflage himself than by playing hide-and-go-seek? Before playing, ask your child to find a place to hide where they can really try to blend in with their surroundings. Get those toddlers moving and learning at the same time!
A Mixed Up Craftivity
Copy a page or pages of the book and cut it into pieces. You can either ask your toddler to put the pieces back together like a puzzle or ask them to create their own “mixed up” collage masterpiece!
For more “mixed up” crafts, check out this post on Babies to Bookworms.
The Grouchy Ladybug
In The Grouchy Ladybug, this insect is rather rude! She refuses to use her manners like “please” and “thank you”. This bad-tempered bug does not like to share and believes she is bigger than all of the other animals. She asks each animal if they want to fight!
Don’t worry, there is no fighting in this beloved tale. However, I love this book for talking to my toddler about her feelings of anger and frustration. It is a great way to emphasize the idea that you get things in life by treating others the way you want to be treated. This is a great book for role-playing how to express your feelings and ask for things nicely.
A Grouchy Math Craftivity
I also like to a counting activity where we paint a paper plate red and then I ask my toddler to count black construction paper circles to add to the “ladybug”. Add some black pipe cleaners to make your ladybug look even more realistic!
3. The Illustrations are AMAZING!
If you want to get your toddler interested in books and reading from a very young age, start with Eric Carle. His illustrations are filled with bold, bright colors that are intriguing and appealing to the eye of a child. There is also a whimsical, child-like quality to the illustrations. It is almost like a kid really did draw the pictures!
Check out this site where Eric Carle himself explains how he creates his illustrations. You can recreate his illustrations with your toddler using finger paints, water colors, and tissue paper. Eric Carle likes to create pictures using a collage style method that toddlers will instantly gravitate to. Save your paper scraps from other arts and crafts projects and use them to have your toddler create their own Eric Carle-esque collage!
For more Eric Carle crafts, check out this post on Teach Mama.