Learning with Eric Carle & The Very Hungry Caterpillar

The Very Hungry Caterpillar is 50 years old! It’s such a great book to use to promote learning in the Early Year’s classroom.

Eric Carle’s timeless story has been enjoyed by several generations of children and adults. As well as books, CDs and DVDs it has inspired a range of merchandise and been translated into many languages. With its colourful illustrations and ‘holey’ pages it is a lovely story to read aloud and share.

The Story: The Very Hungry Caterpillar spends five days eating fruit before having a huge binge on the sixth day which gives him tummy ache. On the seventh day he feels better, builds a cocoon and two weeks later he emerges as a beautiful butterfly.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar 50 - Story SnugThe Very Hungry Caterpillar is a fantastic book to use in the classroom as it can be used to cover so many areas of the curriculum. The most obvious is the transition from caterpillar to butterfly which makes it great to include in a topic on mini beasts. It can also be used to stimulate discussion about healthy eating, children can prepare their own hungry caterpillar picnic including all the food that he has eaten throughout the story (Children enjoy the icecream and the watermelon even if they aren’t sure about salami and pickles!).

Areas of the maths curriculum can also be covered using the book. Counting is introduced, as the caterpillar’s appetite grows the number of pieces of fruit he eats increases. I have also used it to discuss symmetry, the children painted one side of a butterfly and either folded the paper over to make a complete butterfly or used a mirror to observe the symmetry.

Days of the week are introduced so I’ve included it in topics on Time. Children have rewritten the story with their own favourite foods and I have turned their stories into class books and wall displays. This is an activity that can be adapted for children throughout Key Stage One and they have also enjoyed The Very Hungry Caterpillar story sacks that are very easy to make.

Caterpillar crafts are always fun, we’ve made hungry caterpillar necklaces, pom pom caterpillars, painted butterflies and printed caterpillars (the one below was printed using apple halves). 20140319-102434.jpgWe modified this Valentines Day bookmark so that it looked like The Very Hungry Caterpillar.

Hungry Caterpillar bookmark - Story Snug

Our picture book collection includes several of Eric Carle’s books. As well as being lovely stories they are great for teaching children basic concepts and vocabulary. I have used them in Early Years’ classrooms and also used them successfully with non native English speakers. Learning English vocabulary works especially well if children already know the story in their own language, often the case with The Very Hungry Caterpillar.

The Very Busy Spider is a great book to include in a topic on minibeasts. It also introduces a range of farm animals to young children and our board book version has a lovely tactile spider’s web for readers to run their fingers across.

I always include Little Cloud in water or weather themed topics. It has inspired many cloud watching sessions and explains rain in a very simple way. We’ve also done lots of cloud inspired art and craft using cotton wool balls (for the craft below we cut out six plain white circles, stuck them together to make a cloud shape, glued on some cotton wool balls and added different coloured strips of paper to make a rainbow). 20140319-110843.jpg I have used The Mixed Up Chameleon and Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? to introduce and consolidate colour recognition and they both introduce a range of zoo animals. My daughter finds the animated version of The Mixed Up Chameleon very amusing especially when the chameleon is completely mixed up at the end.

Another favourite which introduces body parts as well as animals is From Head to Toe. It’s a great book to use as an ice breaker especially with non native English speakers who will easily be able to understand the actions shown in the pictures. I have used From Head to Toe in early years PE lessons and it’s a great book to pull off the shelf if you want to get a class of children moving for ten minutes. I’ve also recreated the story as a wall display, the children painted big animals or parts of the body on sheets of A3 paper and we sequenced the story together before putting it in the wall.

There several more Eric Carle stories that I could include. Do you have a favourite that you have used in the classroom? Or simply love to read?

More Eric Carle arts, crafts and learning activities on Pinterest

20 thoughts on “Learning with Eric Carle & The Very Hungry Caterpillar

  1. Thanks for sharing these great ideas. My kiddo and I really enjoy bringing books to life by acting them out or using them to inspire other activities. I especially like the idea of rewriting the story to include the child’s favorite foods. I can’t wait to try it.

    • From Head to Toe is a great one for getting kids moving, learning body parts and names of animals. I’ve used it really successfully with non native English speakers. You don’t need to know any English to join in with this one 🙂

  2. All of my kids loved Eric Carle books when they were very young. You should see our Caterpillar book. It’s falling apart. Love this ideas!

    Thanks so much for sharing on the #homeschooollinkup!

  3. Wow, so many fantastic ideas here! You’re right, it’s a brilliant book to use. I love the colours alone but I wouldn’t have thought of many of your ideas. Thank you for sharing such a wonderful post and for your other recommendations 🙂 #thethemegame

    • I saw a really nice idea on a blog where the mother had used The Very Hungry Caterpillar as the theme of her son’s birthday party. She served all of the food that the caterpillar ate in the story.

  4. I remember when The Very Hungry Caterpillar was first published. It’s a wonderful book and you have so many great ideas! #MMBC

    • Thanks Carol! The Very Hungry Caterpillar was in the class library when I was in Reception. As a child I didn’t have any of his books at home.

  5. The Very Hungry Caterpillar has been a firm favourite for both of my boys over the years.
    I love the bookmark, how cute! 🙂

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