Taking the story out: two fire stories

Continuing on from my blog on stories outside and Little Red I plan to dedicate this blog to two fire stories with good school links. Making fire forms a central part of most forest school programs, a scouts staple and adventure holidays. Teaching fire skills has numerous advantages for children. It teaches self control, patience, and gives a great sense of satisfaction when they can admire their fire. I’m not going to go into how to make fires or teach fire making here as there are plenty of sources on this and I’d inevitably miss out vital safety advice. My instructions would be no substitute for experiencing it through physically through a course. In both stories fire is central to the plots making them ideal to tell around the fire.

The tiger child


This traditional Indian tale tells the story of a tiger who wants fire. He sends his young nephew off to the village to collect fire as the villagers won’t be scared of the little tiger. However the young tiger is seduced by the villages comforts and becomes a kitten to the dismay of his uncle.

The story itself is simple, but it makes a good starting point to develop understanding of the world. The illustrations show aspects of a more traditional Indian village life. Apart from the obvious forest school link to fire making it provides good geography, art and music links.

This is part of a puffin series of books telling tales from round the world. In the same series is how rabbit stole fire. This is a Native American fire origin story. While I know the tale I don’t own this one so won’t comment on the quality or recommend.

The fire children


The second fire story I’m recommending is a West African tale. The fire children tells the story of how the first people were made and baked from the clay of the earth. Within my current work in year one I teach the Christian story of Genesis and the Hindu creation story. The fire children firms an interesting contrast to these. The picture book has beautiful illustrations and brings about many questions from inquisitive minds.

The story makes a good starting point to look at West Africa. Within key stage 2 we currently opted for the history topic on Benin. Within KS1 it gives another reason to look at the continents ticking the KS1 geography targets. For foundation stage another chance to understand the world.

As with the tiger child the fire children has good opportunities to create art. The most obvious being to look at work with clay. This blog: practical primitive has an explanation of how to extract clay from soil. Alternatively air drying clay can be bought to allow children a more permanent souvenir of the story. Or else just encourage some sculpting in the mud kitchen.  At a stretch if nether are available provide playdough to make figures.

And that’s it for this blog. Finish with a picture of my tiger child enjoying the roaring tiger.

Den day

Friday the 16th June is save the children den day. Many children in the world live without shelter. They have been displaced by natural disasters and conflicts. Save the children aims to provide them with the basic necessities of life: food, water and shelter. This year I will of just started at a new school when this comes around, so I’m not sure how much I will do this year. To make up for that I am going to spread the word here of the good work Save the Children are doing.


On the 16th June or as close to as can be managed you’re encouraged to raise money and awareness of these issues through building your own shelter, by building a den. This can be done in school or at home. By signing up you receive a pack of ideas to fund raise and also how to educate your class or own children about the challenges faced by children round the world.

For a bit of inspiration I highly recommend den building by Jane Hewitt and Cathy Cross.

Amazon link.


This little book has a wealth of ideas and pictures of different dens both inside and outside for inspiration. Some are obvious like the cardboard box den to some more creative ideas.

My second recommendation is Home-Carson Ellis. This beautifully illustrated book is a great topic starter for home around the world. It shows a wide variety of different houses around the world ideal for the message of den day.


It is still quite a way of off den day, but if your setting is anything like mine it takes a while to build materials for any of these theme days. For den building I have a good collection of tarps, old curtains, paracord, pegs and poles to allow the children to build nice simple dens themselves. It’s worth building a supply of cardboard boxes for easy quick builds. I like having the children help attach the para cord between two fences on our playground. Then a tarp under as a ground sheet and one over the top, then pegged at the ages makes a simple large den. The children can do most of the work themselves having done it with me enough times and it fits plenty of children at once avoiding disappointment for the children who can’t fit.

Building dens ticks off many parts of the EYFS curriculum. Just in case you work with staff or senior leadership who don’t see a value to the day I’ve listed some curriculum links. I’ve listed EYFS links, but KS1 and 2 have plenty of links too within PSHE, D&T and geography as well as core subjects.

Personal, social and emotional development

Den building always attracts large numbers of children. Within this are good opportunities for evidencing building relationships. They need to select resources and discuss what is working, so self confidence and awareness comes in. While building dens they have to manage their behaviour and once the den is built I often find they put caps on how many are allowed in at once for safety, which is always good for them to develop their own self control.

Communication and language

Hopefully the children will talk back and forth as they build and take into account others opinions. Often how and why questions will come up allowing them to show deeper understanding of what they are doing. If working in large groups generally plenty of speech will be involved. Then when the den is built further language usually comes out in role play.

Physical development

Den building allows opportunities for both fine motor skills such as tying knots, scissor control or attaching pegs and gross motor skills moving large equipment. Then as the den is built they need to negotiate the space in and out the den. Plenty of exercise can be involved in den building allowing for discussion of health and self care.


There are plenty of stories that can be linked to den building to develop reading. Then within planning and designing their den their are writing opportunities for what equipment they need and then creating signs, warnings, maps to the den after.


Plenty of basic counting skills can come into den building such as how many children are allowed in the den, but I find den building a better excuse for finding the comparative language of shape, space and measure coming into a real life example. Sizes, position, shape, distances and weight all come into den building naturally.

Understanding the world

The theme of den day is ideal for making those links to other communities and seeing how other peoples lives differ from their own.

Expressive arts and design

Building a den gives the children a way to express something about themselves on a large scale. They can access different tools, mediums and techniques to decide what sort of a den they want.

So within one special day the children can help other children around the world, but they can also cover a lot of ground in their learning. The day can easily be extended into a topic if the children engage well. The dens can easily be extended to homes and buildings. Then yo have many stories that can be brought in. The most obvious being the three little pigs, but plenty of other choices.

Underneath my den ready for Alice when she’s a bit older. Currently she is becoming interested in crawling under things. Under the table, under the armchair, under blankets, so not long until we can start on some den building.


A quick and easy den. An umbrella and scarfs. Easy to pack away too.

And to finish a landmark soul song from one of my favourite Motown albums.

Family day out

Yesterday saw me, Amy and Alice heading out into Hull. We rarely have a reason to go in now and it is a military operation getting Alice’s kit ready, but we needed to go into the bank. While in we checked out a few of the Hull city of culture events on offer.

First we went to check out “the blade“. The blade is a temporary art installation covering Queen Victoria Square. Siemens is set to be producing these from Hull.

Facts from the culture site:

  • The blade is 75 metres long, 3.5m in diameter at the root and weighs 25 tonnes.
  • It is the largest single-cast product in the world.
  • The blades are a composite of fibreglass, balsa wood and resin.
  • This blade is part of a turbine which stands 90 metres tall.
  • Over the course of 2017, hundreds of blades will be made in the new Siemens factory in Hull.
  • Blade bisects the square from Savile Street to Carr Lane, rising to a height of more than 5.5 metres at its tip, allowing double-decker buses to pass underneath.

It is rather impressive in nature coming up close to one of these blades that are now a common sight across the country. It is remaining until the 18th March when the mammoth task of transporting it out will begin. But for now a nice reminder of the cities links with renewable energy.




The birds seem to be enjoying settling on it and round it.

Still plenty of building works going on as they finish repaving the area. Shame it couldn’t be completed ready for the year of culture, but the areas done are looking much nicer.


It was a nice sunny day and the centre was looking really good. The completed areas are looking smart. The surviving older building in the square are lovely. It’s a shame monstrosities like Princess Quay were allowed to be built amongst the older architecture.

We took a walk along the quay to Ask for lunch. As we have rarely been into town we thought we’d treat ourselves to lunch. On the way we spotted another moth for Amy.



The quay was looking pleasant in the sunshine.




We had a nice meal at Ask. We shared a calzone and a tasty seafood ravioli and a honeycomb cheesecake for pudding. Alice was impeccably behaved. She sat talking, giggling then happily ate her own food.



After lunch we checked out the revamped Ferens Art Gallery. The gallery has secured a Francis Bacon exhibit for reopening. Pretty dreary, but a big name to relaunch with. They are also giving local talent exposure. Some good, some not so good.




I rather like these ceramic penguins, but had a high asking price.



There was a nice new sensory area with art activities for the children to do. Alice liked the light table and the colour discs. All in all a grand day out.

Garden Update

I’ve had a bit of time in the garden today and yesterday. Yesterday I started work on cutting back the climbing rose covering the shed. The shed needs re-felting so sadly it needed cutting back. It was lovely in bloom last Summer, but a good number of years of neglect has led to it getting out of hand. It was preventing me from getting to the shed roof and was destroying the fence. So sadly made the decision to cut it right back. The pollen beetles loved it, so will have to look at planting something else to make up for it. Looks a bit empty now.



Today I’ve had my mum and one of the nephews helping dig over the flower bed I’ve not touched much yet. The other flower bed has been dug over and barked and is starting to take shape. The over is still a bit of a wilderness. While I want a wildlife friendly garden, in its current state it isn’t providing much variety for species. So once it’s dug over I can look at planting a greater variety of flowers to attract in ore diversity. But the soil is rich in worms, centipedes and earwigs, so doing something right.So far I’ve planted quite a lot the bees like, so would like to look at some more butterfly friendly flowers.




While my mum and nephew worked on that I’ve repositioned some of the flowers I’d put in to put them in height order. My mum has given me some pansies which I’ve put in at the front. Of no great value to wildlife, but adds a bit of colour at a glum time of year. So put those in front of the viburnum.


Along the back I’ve added two variety of foxgloves and a hollyhock, both good for bees. Then I’ve put in some gladioli bulbs to grow up the fence. Hopefully come Summer have a better variety of colours. Last year it was very pink with the hydrangeas, so I’d like a few other colours. My mum had bought me a lupin, which I’ve placed just in front as the shorter growing plant.


So got one border coming along nicely. Gradually plugging all the spaces. The hydrangeas are trimmed back, the clematis are set to add some cover to the fence. Hopefully all be looking good come Summer.


The first crocus are flowering at the back. I’m thinking I should of grouped them more, but maybe next year.



Signs of Spring

Yesterday was the first day of the half term holiday for me. I took Alice out for a good walk and could really see the change in the seasons starting to happen. Through the park patches of snowdrops are starting to flower.

It was nice going through the park. It’s starting to warm up. More dog walkers were out, a couple of families out, and some kids climbing in a thicket of trees and bushes, using it as their hidey hole.




I took the long route round which takes me past one of several blue plaques in Hornsea. This one on the white cottage is dedicated to TE Lawrence. I like to think he enjoyed his time in Hornsea and found some peace.


Within my own garden the daffodils closest the house and warmth are looking set to flower. The ones down at the bottom of the garden have a little longer to go.

Throughout our walk Alice was chatting happily. Any other baby would of drifted off for their afternoon nap, but not Alice. She sat in the pram chatting and giggling the whole journey. You would have thought the sound of the sea, the rolling of the pram would make her droop off, but no happy as Larry. Thought she’d be grumpy til bed time with over tiredness but she was alright.

Free trees

The woodland trust are currently pushing the need to plant trees. The UK has one of the lowest tree covers in Europe. Our woodlands have been diminished. With most gardens small people don’t want large trees. Many people are turning their gardens into fake outdoors with fake grass, so trees are diminished. The woodland trust are looking to reverse the trend planting 64 million trees by 2020. They are offering free seed packs for: rowan, dog rose, alder buckthorn and holly.

The selection of what is sent to you is random, so until it starts growing won’t know for sure what I’ve got. I don’t really have space for a rowan tree, so if I find I’ve got one of the larger species it may need planting at school or elsewhere. All the selected trees offer good benefits to wildlife with significance for caterpillars and birds particularly.

Having had the free Kew Gardens wildlife seed pack last year that is now starting to grow I quite like these random surprise packs. It’s a nice idea but the various organisations offering them to help wildlife.



Taking the story out-Little Red Riding Hood

Having written previously about taking story books out I’m now going to look at one that I particularly enjoy using in the outdoor provision: Little Red Riding Hood. Little Red Riding Hood is an all round good story for Foundation Stage and year one. It can be done quite dark, it’s got a good villain, a brave hero to come along and rescue the heroine or their are alternate versions with Little Red saving herself. While it has lots of less than suitable interpretations for the younger years it still has a basic moral about listening to parents and not talking to strangers that still has as good a place today as when it was written.

Three of my favourite versions are:

Little Red Riding Hood-Lari Don


This version tells the traditional version with granny and Little Red getting eaten by the wolf. No messing about with wolves putting granny in cupboards this wolf does what fairy tale wolves are meant to do, eat people. Then the huntsman comes along to find a snoring wolf in the bed. While the wolf is asleep the huntsman opens up the wolfs belly and releases Little Red and Granny then sews the stomach back up filled with rocks. The wolf then drowns at the end. I’m not a fan of the many toned down modern versions of fairy tales as they generally lose something in the telling. This one engages children well. It has lovely illustrations and details the children remember.

The wolf’s story-Toby Forward


This version of the story comes from the wolf himself. It’s delivered in a Del Boy style tall story with the wolf explaining unconvincingly what he was doing at Grannies cottage. Better towards the end of F2 and year one as the children understand the story more and get the jokes. There are quite a few alternative versions of Little Red, but this remains one of my favourites. It provides lots of good opportunities in the class for further development of the story. For follow up work this story really helps with hot seating with the children playing the part of the wolf and getting into the characters head. It has good possibilities for PSHE and writing. I’ve used it as a lead in to the children writing letters as the wolf apologising to Little Red and trying to explain to her what happened.

Revolting Rhymes-Roald Dahl


Roald Dahl’s version is full of humour with Little Red as the heroine. She later turns up in the three little pigs to take on another wolf. It has wonderful rhymes that stick in the children’s heads.

The small girl smiles. One eyelid flickers.
She whips a pistol from her knickers.
She aims it at the creature’s head
And bang bang bang, she shoots him dead.

Little Red makes an ideal story for telling outside as much of the story takes place outside. The parts in grandmas cottage are easy enough to set up a role play area for outside. Reading a story outside and practicalities around this were discussed previously. Once the children know the story it is one they have no problem finding areas outside to roleplay the story. if you are lucky enough to be working in forest schools you have a perfect setting for Little Red to meet the wolf. If you are within school hopefully you have at least one tree to be your wood, but even if you don’t a hedge or fence is enough for most children’s imaginations. For parents a trip to the park maybe with Little red’s basket seems a good excuse for a picnic. Children are good at assigning settings that look nothing like the actual ones. Within my school playground. They assigned three small trees as the forest, a stump as the woodcutters spot and the stage as they cottage. In small groups they successfully acted out the different parts of the story. Role playing and acting out stories makes up an important part of learning to make their own stories. By becoming familiar enough with lots of stories they can then draw on the different elements to make their own stories or change existing ones.

Extending it beyond the role play back at one of my previous schools we had a mud kitchen where the children were encouraged to make cakes for Little Red to take to granny. We had a fairy tale post office with the children writing letters to different characters from stories. The example from the wolfs tale given earlier was the starting point done as a lesson with the class, but they quickly started to expand to do their own ideas. The wolf sidetracks Little Red sending her off the path to pick flowers, so it is an easy step from the story to explore wild flowers. While I’m not in favour of sending classes off to find and pick wild flowers I have taken them around the school field to look and see what we can identify. It’s usually little more than daisies, buttercups and dandelions, but they enjoy it and it does form part of Year Ones science curriculum. We have also planted small pots of wild flowers to sell at our school fairs. Den building is a good way to set up granny’s cottage. Many units have a home corner outside already or one that is wheeled out each day, but often these are ignored much of the time. Building a new cottage each day sustains interest over longer periods than the same home corner day in day out. Story mapping is nice for an outdoor activity in warmer weather. Some large scrap card some pencils, felt tips and crayons and you’ll find many children will enjoy mapping out, drawing the different events of the story.

So ideas summary for outdoor play with Little Red:

  • role playing.
  • Letter writing to characters.
  • Cake baking (mud kitchen, playdough).
  • Wild flowers (planting and exploring).
  • Den building (making granny’s cottage).
  • Story mapping.

Props are good for telling stories, although not necessary it does add to the story telling. My Little Red contains:

  • A basket
  • Little Red’s hood
  • Wolf ears
  • Wooden food
  • A wooden axe
  • A shower cap (for granny’s night wear)

Cheap enough items that add an extra level of interest to acting out the story. The children particularly like putting the cap over the top of the wolf’s ears. _dsc0984

I won’t be going into my park though to tell Alice this one though at the moment as the trees have become a duck pond with all the rain.


I’m sure there are many other ideas that can be done with Little Red. If you do anything else with it, please share in the comments.