Gruffalo inspired messy play for babies and toddlers

Have you taken a stroll through the deep dark wood? The Gruffalo is one of my favourite children’s books. My toddler loves it too! The beautiful illustrations, rhythmic story-telling and exciting characters make it the perfect tale for toddlers. So why not keep the fun going after you close the book? In this post I am sharing my how to guide for creating Gruffalo inspired messy play for babies and toddlers.

What is the Gruffalo book all about?

Are you ready for Gruffalo inspired messy play? If you love this famous Julia Donaldson book as much as me, then you will know the story off by heart! But for those who haven’t read it yet, the story is all about a little brown mouse who scares away all the predators in the wood by telling them that they are going to end up as someone else’s dinner! The Gruffalo apparently enjoys Roasted Fox, Scrambled Snake and Owl Ice Cream.

The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson book and a 'story' word card ready for messy play

We have been playing with a baking theme for a few weeks, so after reading the Gruffalo for the 3rd time that day, I decided a combined deep dark wood baking tray was the perfect messy play for babies and toddlers!

Gruffalo Puppets

To make this Gruffalo inspired messy play activity work, I decided it needed the real deal characters. You can download the Gruffalo Finger Puppets from the official Julia Donaldson website here. After printing, I then cut out each character, laminated them and attached each one to its own paper straw using sticky tape. The laminated characters are great for Gruffalo inspired messy play as you can remove the straw and sticky tape and wipe them clean ready for another day!

Gruffalo Inspired Flashcards

To support my toddler’s understanding of the written word and encourage his sight vocabulary, I also made Gruffalo Inspired Flashcards. I have made them available for FREE so you can play too. The cards are perfect for labelling your Gruffalo inspired messy play for babies and toddlers. The cards will introduce whole words to encourage sight word reading and boost your toddler’s early literacy skills.

Gruffalo inspired messy play with cereal and green oats on a tuff tray and the book nearby

For older children, I decided to update my Gruffalo Inspired Flashcards and they now have colour coordinated borders on each word card so that you can match all of the characters with the story moments. For example, all of the orange cards are related to the fox (i.e. Roasted Fox, Underground House and Rocks).

Get ready to get messy

Of course, it’s important to remember that this is a messy play activity, so make sure you are prepared for a bit of clean up! You can contain the mess by using a tuff tray or splash mat. If it’s decent weather why not try taking it outside? Or make a mini version and enjoy playing at the table! Supervise your child so you can limit the mess as it’s happening and enjoy exploring the activity together.

Gruffalo inspired messy play for babies and toddlers.

So how do you make the messy meals?

So here’s what you have been waiting for! The perfect recipes for a Gruffalo inspired messy play baking tray. I have listed the ingredients below under a heading for each messy play dish. Simply mix the ingredients together and serve!

The brilliant thing about these recipes is that they are all taste-safe for babies and toddlers. It’s important to still remind your child that these aren’t for eating and they are play materials only. But if they do get a bit in their mouth, you can be reassured that they won’t ingest anything dangerous. So let’s get started and make your very own Gruffalo inspired messy play for babies and toddlers!

Recipe for Roasted Fox

  • 1 bag of lentils
  • 1 bag of oats

First up on my Gruffalo inspired messy play list is Roasted Fox. This dish had to be orange! So I have combined some red lentils and oats to create an exciting roasting pot to explore. My son has a kitchen with wooden toy food, so I have included a carrot and onion in the roasting pan for good measure. Burying toys and utensils encourages your child to search for them using their hands. This is a great way to practice fine motor skills!

Owl ice cream word card in a jug of cornflour and water with craft feathers for Gruffalo inspired messy play

Recipe for Owl Ice Cream

  • Half a packet of cornflour
  • Cold water

Next up on my list of Gruffalo inspired messy play dishes is Owl Ice Cream. This of course had to be white! So I have mixed up some cornflour and cold water to create a really fascinating substance sometimes called Oobleck. This mixture will temporarily harden or soften depending on how much force is being applied. It’s an exciting way for your baby or toddler to explore cause and effect. It will also stimulate their senses and introduce a brand new texture. To make it into OWL ice cream, I added some craft feathers which you can pick up from any bargain store or craft shop.

Scrambled snake word card in front of a  jug of wet, green oats with a whisk ready for Gruffalo inspired messy play

Recipe for Scrambled Snake

  • 100g oats
  • 400ml water
  • Green food colouring

Third on my list of Gruffalo inspired messy play dishes is Scrambled Snake. Snakes are often colourful and the one in the Gruffalo story is a gorgeous green. So my recipe is basically a green porridge! Simply stir the oats, water and green food colouring together until you have a gloopy, porridge consistency.

Gruffalo Crumble word card and Gruffalo straw puppet on top of a tray of cereal for Gruffalo inspired messy play

Recipe for Gruffalo Crumble

  • Weetabix
  • Malted wheat check cereal
  • Cornflakes

Finally, the last recipe on my Gruffalo inspired messy play list is Gruffalo Crumble. The Gruffalo is big, brown and hairy. So I wanted big, brown, crunchy textures for this dish. I combined cornflakes and malted wheat check cereals in a casserole dish. Then I popped a whole weetabix on the top. I wanted to leave this whole so my toddler could experience what happens when he applied force to the weetabix. Another fun way to learn about cause and effect!

Serve to perfection

These Gruffalo inspired messy play dishes were all served up on a clean grey bath mat to add an element of small world play. The puppets hid in the bath mat just as they hid in the deep dark wood. We kept the story nearby and arranged each meal on the tuff tray with a set of utensils. As we read the story, my son served up each of the meals and we found the word cards for each character. It was a great fun messy play activity!

Have a Gruffalo clean up

The grand finale of this Gruffalo inspired messy play was a debut screening of The Gruffalo movie which is about 25 minutes long and perfectly timed for a quick clean up. I simply wrapped my toddler in a towel and plonked him on the sofa with my phone to watch the movie. You can find the movie on the BBC iplayer here.  Meanwhile, I quickly scooped up the mess!

Male toddler sitting in grass holding a little brown mouse straw puppet for Gruffalo inspired messy play

Use a spoon to scoop the wet mixtures and a dustpan and brush to sweep up the dry. Pick out the craft feathers and toys, then put everything into a bin bag and pop it into your compost bin. After that why not head out for a nice long walk and your own adventure in the deep dark wood? You can even take the puppets with you!

Go for a walk in the deep dark wood with this gruffalo inspired messy play

Make your Gruffalo puppets even more exciting

Don’t stop now! Make your Gruffalo inspired play last longer by using the puppets in a whole new way. After printing the puppets from the official Gruffalo website, I then attached them to a glove to use for story telling and counting rhymes. You can find all the instructions for making my Homemade Hand Puppets for using with Counting Games here.

Homemade hand puppet using the Gruffalo website print out and my hand puppet instructions

How will you play?

So that’s it! A magical Gruffalo inspired messy play for babies and toddlers. Will you try this fantastical feast? I would love to see photos if you do! Tag me @craftytoddlercompany in your posts and remember to share your creations in the Crafty Toddler Community on Facebook too.

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