The Gruffalo

Let's Take a Stroll Through the Deep, Dark Wood!

The Gruffalo, by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler, celebrates its 21st birthday this year. The pictures from this story have become such a familiar part of our cultural landscape, featuring on t-shirts, wellington boots, theme park rides and forest trails, that it's easy to forget what a brilliantly written piece of poetry it is.

We all know that 'there's no such thing as a Gruffalo', but the other creatures in the story can all be found in the UK. Perhaps you have spotted or heard some of them.

Foxes live in the town and the countryside. Did you know that a fox's underground house is called a den or an earth? Try making your own earth at home with blankets or boxes.

There are five owls that can be found in Britain: barn owl, tawny owl, little owl, long-eared and short-eared. It is the tawny that makes the famous 'twit twoo' sound, but the sound is actually made by two birds calling to each other. The female says 'twit' and the male answers 'twoo'. If your child is interested in owls there are lots of activities on the Barn Owl Trust page.

There are three types of snake that can be found in the UK: grass snake, adder and smooth snake. Adders are venomous but their bite is rarely fatal (although do seek medical advice if you're bitten!) I nearly stepped on one on Cannock Chase a few years ago; the only time I've been lucky enough to see one.

Try this quick game to shake out those sillies. When you say:

Make Your Own Snake

Take a piece of paper or thin card, A4 size or bigger. Starting with your pen in the middle, draw a spiral around until you get near the edge, about 2-3cm thickness. Finish off the spiral with a snake's head.

Cut around the spiral and colour or decorate your snake however you wish. Attach a piece of string or wool to the tail end and hang it up to twirl in the breeze.

I borrowed this idea from talented illustrator Ruth Waters. Her site has a downloadable template that you can print and cut around to make a neater snake.

The Gruffalo's Child

In The Gruffalo's Child we get to see the deep, dark wood in the depths of winter. Once again the clever mouse plays a trick to get out of a sticky situation. Use a torch or a lamp to have fun making shadows with your hands on a wall.

If you're out in the woods see if you can spot hazel trees, which in summer begin to sprout nuts that will be gobbled up by dormice, squirrels and mice come the autumn. Hazel was once thought to have magical properties which is perhaps why the mouse chooses it to help scare off the Gruffalo's Child.

Have you noticed that the Gruffalo's Child has a Stick Man toy? The Gruffalo's Child was published before Stick Man, and was the inspiration for this ever popular story.


As well as being a prolific author, Julia Donaldson also writes songs, and there is one for 'The Gruffalo' and for 'The Gruffalo's Child'.

Both of these feature in A Treasury of Songs, along with many other lovely children's rhymes. The CD helped us through many long car journeys when my daughter was little!

For more stories, songs and nature-based activities have a look at some of my previous blog posts.