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With spring approaching, my two little boys have been asking questions in that never-ending style only a preschooler can master. During our last trip to the library we grabbed a stack of books to help us get ready for spring. One of the fast favorites is Make Way For Ducklings by Robert McCloskey. After reading the book to the boys just once, they pulled from all our toy tubs to retell the story.
Make Way For Ducklings is the 1942 Caldecott Medal Award winner for the beautiful charcoal drawings also by McCloskey. The simplicity of the drawings inspired children to use their imaginations to fill in details of the story. Doodad especially wanted to make the ducklings each a different color!
In the story Mr. and Mrs. Mallard are searching for a safe and quite place to lay their eggs and raise their ducklings. They find the public park in Boston, while being perfect for ducklings to play, is a bit too noisy for hatching eggs. Mrs. Mallard lays the eggs on an island in the nearby river instead. When the ducklings are big enough she marches them through the city to the center island of the public park.
My boys are still pretty little. Magoo is 5 and Doodad is 3. At such a young age it can be difficult to develop reading comprehension skills because their language arts skills in general are still developing. I have found that any kind of hands on dramatic play creates a medium in which the boys are able to retell stories with an amazing amount of detail. For a retelling of Make Way for Ducklings, the boys picked the toys they wanted to use and build a mini-city in our basement.
First I had the boys identify the key parts of the story that we needed to represent with toys.
We can make buildings with blocks!
We need a police car!
Get the tub of animals!
Magoo spent over an hour building his version of Boston’s Public Park. Doodad lost interest after about 10 minutes and supervised from his perch on the couch with a stack of library books.
When the city was done, Magoo used two small plastic birds as Mr. and Mrs. Mallard to fly around looking for their new home. We had quite a bit of debate regarding these two bird. I say they are swans but Magoo insisted they are just mom and dad ducks.
After finding a nice place to lay her eggs and raising the chicks, Mrs. Mallard leads the line of ducklings though busy downtown Boston. We only have 4 small birds that are representing the ducklings. Doodad was very concerned that we got it wrong. Several times he pointed out that we need 8 baby ducks!
And the obligatory horse photo. Magoo loves horses and was disappointed to not find one in the book. When I was taking pictures of his city, Magoo told me his version of the story had a horse. He insisted I take pictures of it!
We had so much fun playing in our little city. I was very impressed with the details of the story that the boys retained. It is so easy to set up an open ended free play scenario with young children. Grab a few library books and a bucket of toys and get to story telling in your home!