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Activities inspired by Ella by Alex T. Smith

Ella: Alex T Smith (Scholastic, 2012)

As part of The Educators’ Spin On It Summer Book Exchange, I chose Ella by Alex T. Smith as the book to send to our swap partner, Here Come The Girls. This is a book that my girls love (actually, we’re all fans of all of Alex T. Smith’s work) and one that was too easy to think of activities to fit. Ladybirds and Spiders, what’s not to love?!

Here is the content of the box we sent, hoping to inspire lots of open-ended crafts. You can read about what they did with it here.

Ella Swap Box

I’d love to have more time to create printables to download for this blog, as they’re something I’m slightly addicted to, but this swap gave me the perfect opportunity to and you can download our Ella inspired craft sheets here.

I’ve reproduced one of the activities below as a taster:

Antennae Hair bands

Hair band
Black chenille stems (pipe cleaners)
Large red buttons


1. Choose two red buttons for the antennae – one circle and one flower to match Ella, or any that you like.

2. This part may need grown up help.

a. Thread a chenille stem through one button hole
b. Turn stem and thread back through second hole.
c. Twist excess stem.
d. Repeat for second antenna.

3. Wrap other end of chenille stems around hair band, spaced so they look like antennae.

The craft ideas could also be used alongside other ladybird or spider picture books.

I found the buttons, chenille stems (pipe cleaners) and googly eyes on eBay for very reasonable prices but they can also be found in most children’s art/craft sections in large stores.

When choosing craft materials for the swap, I stuck to a limited colour palette of reds and black/greys, which also made me think of the Claude books by Alex T. Smith. Using a limited (duochrome?) palette is another interesting art / craft experience for children.

Monster Pop-Up Card

I’m not really a very Christmassy person. I love buying presents, but I love doing that all year round, and I love the food. Mmmm, the food… And I do love the enormous amounts of cheap craft stuff you can get at this time of year, albeit with a very limited colour palette. I like the excuse for my girls to make cards and pictures for people. And I like seeing family.

But I despair of the materialism (despite being seduced by it), penguins and polar bears living together (it’s so wrong!), fir trees and pseudo-religious scenes can get boring after a while…

So, for a wonderful alternate Christmas Card (which will also be a great birthday card, or puppet for a theatre show, or colouring-in page, or a whole host of other things too…) I was delighted to see this monster pop-up card with full instructions from Nicola L Robinson, creator of the much-loved-by-us Monster Machine.

Colouring in

I was quite daunted when I looked at the three print-outs and the instructions, but once we started it was easy and the step-by-step tutorial is very well written. The first sheet (Part 1 – Card Inside) easily doubles as a colouring sheet and cutting and folding along the lines makes a very simple pop-up card for even the smallest children.

I printed off the sheets before going to pick MG and DG from school, and as soon as MG spotted them she was asking if she could “do it”, not knowing what “it” was but loving the pictures. I went through all the steps with her, doing my own at the same time, and then DG joined in as we were colouring. MG needed help with some of the folds, and with the fiddly sticking of the teeth and tongue but otherwise was fine. For DG we left out the teeth and tongue but she needed help with the cutting and folding.


It was a very enjoyable afternoon’s entertainment, and the television stayed off! Then there was lots of playing with the cards trying to scare Daddy, so great fun had by all! We used crayons to colour in, and kept it simple. I like how the monster has a lot of detail but is not so detailed that it’s hard to colour in. All the pieces fit perfectly. The only thing that would improve it in my mind would be if there was a multiple tongue & teeth sheet for if you’re making several cards, as there’s a lot of wasted card from that sheet.

We used thin white card for the inside and tongue/teeth and pink paper for the outside. We didn’t decorate the outside of the cards, just played with them! MG chose to cut her monster out so that she could use it like a puppet. The colouring in might be a big project for small children, so they might not want to give their cards away but they look really good on the mantelpiece.

My, MG & DG's cards