Being brave is something that we all struggle with from time to time. We tell kids to be brave whenever they encounter something new. It can be a hard thing for them to understand, but there are some great books to help them. The Brave Little Turtle by Gill McBarnet not only shows kids how to be brave, but brings an environmental issue to light which can inspire kids to take action! There are lots of ocean activities you can do to reinforce these messages with your kids.
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The Brave Little Turtle was written and illustrated by Gill McBarnet. It tells the story of Nani, a timid little turtle who learns she can be brave when she needs to be. Her best friend is another little turtle named Lono, who is much bolder than Nani. When Lono finds himself tangled in some plastic floating in the ocean, Nani learns to be brave in order to help her friend. This book shows how we can be brave when faced with danger, while also teaching kids about the damage that is done to the oceans and sea creatures in them when humans throw plastic waste into the water.
This touching story is accompanied by beautiful illustrations which take the reader to the Hawaiian shores, while introducing them to some of the sea life found there. There are so many fun ways to bring this book to life and teach kids about the importance of protecting our oceans.
The Inspiration Behind the Story
I had the opportunity to ask the author about her intentions behind the book, and what inspired her to create books for children.
What was the inspiration behind writing the book?
The inspiration for “The Brave Little Turtle” was a desire to demonstrate
that even a seemingly timid person can become emboldened. It’s wonderful to watch self confidence developing in a child! (On another level, I wanted “Brave Turtle”
to dramatically show children how harmful plastic trash is, for our sea creature friends.)
What made you decide to tell stories through children’s books?
I’ve always been an avid reader which encouraged me to “tell” my own stories. Then, when I became a teacher I discovered how wonderful it is when children are entranced by stories. It’s deeply satisfying for a teacher (or parent!) to see a child’s eyes light up, when they are drawn in to a story!
What do you hope kids will take from the story?
I hope children will acknowledge that being brave isn’t about being the biggest or noisiest “show-off”, but rather about discovering inner bravery in times of crisis. I hope kids will share Nani – the brave little turtle’s – triumph and sense of achievement!
Recycled Sea Creatures
Recycled Turtles – This project uses recycled bottles to create adorable turtles that float. This is a great reminder that we should recycle plastic bottles to create something new instead of letting it end up in the oceans. Carefully cut the bottom off of a 1 liter or 2 liter pop bottle. (The bumps will be part of the turtle’s shell). Cut a circle shape out of foam, just slightly larger than the shell. (I used a recycled egg carton). Attach the plastic shell to the foam circle with glue. Weigh it down while the glue dries. I cut four flippers and a head shape out of a green sponge and attached them with glue to the underside of our turtle. You could also cut these shapes out of the foam you used for the turtle’s body. Once it is dry, your turtle can now float on water!
Plastic Bag Jellyfish – This project uses a recycled plastic bag to create a fun sea creature which kids will love to watch and play with. Cut a small square out of a plastic bag as well as some thin strips. Pour about a tablespoon of water into the middle of the square and then gather it up into a little pouch. Use one of the thin strips to tie the pouch closed. Tie the other strips around the same section, creating dangling tentacles. Once you have a jellyfish shape, fill an empty bottle with water and blue food coloring. Gently push your jellyfish through the mouth of the bottle, then seal the bottle. Turn the bottle over and move it around to see the jellyfish move through the water.
Exploring with Turtles
Turtle Sensory Table – Set up a sensory table or a small plastic bin for your sensory experience. Because turtles make their way from the nests on the sand to the ocean, you can set up a sensory experience that utilizes both sand and water. Create a rock wall down the middle of the bin with medium sized stones. Fill one end of the table with some sand, and pour some water or water beads into the other end. Place plastic turtles, sea shells and miniature eggs into the table and encourage kids to explore and play. Talk to them about how turtles make their way to the ocean after they hatch, like Nani and Lono did in the book.
Emphasizing Positive Qualities
Photo Frame – The beautiful artwork in the story includes frames which draw attention to something happening in the story. For example, when Lono gets the plastic stuck around his neck, the frame emphasizing the scene includes pieces of plastic and debris. This provides a great opportunity to allow kids to showcase their artistic talents while emphasizing something about themselves. Have kids decorate the outer rim of a paper plate with colors, pictures or designs which they feel represent themselves in a positive way. They could use numbers if they are great at math, or sports equipment if they are athletic, etc. When they have finished decorating their frame, attach a photo of them to the center of the plate.
Helping Out – This book is a great way to encourage kids to get involved and help clean up our oceans. Many areas have groups that volunteer to clean up the waterfront. Look for groups in your area that need volunteers and spend a day cleaning up the beach together. If you don’t live near a waterfront, encourage kids to get involved in other ways. Research together how you can help these organizations, or find a group in your area that promotes recycling. Getting involved will teach your kids the importance of taking care of the environment, while also bringing you closer as a family!