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Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Dig, Dump, Roll Sensory Bookish Play for Preschoolers

Ever since I was really little I've always had an innate love of books and reading, so it's no surprise that my children have developed their own love of reading at a young age too. It's probably directly related to the number of children's books we have all over the house. 

You can never have too many right? Unless you ask their dad, he definitely thinks we have too many... and yet I keep finding even more to add to our collection {sorry, not sorry}. Our latest addition is Dig, Dump, Roll by Sally Sutton.

Dig, Dump, Roll is the follow-up to the wildly popular picture book Roadworks. In this book Sally Sutton uses interactive, rhyming text to entice children to guess what kind of vehicle is at work on each page. Bright cropped illustrations work alongside the descriptive text to give further clues before all is revealed over the page.

Crash-a-rumble Smash-a-grumble 
What’s at work? 
Here’s a clue: It will clear the ground for you. 

Bulldozer! Coming through! 

My 5yr old can't read herself yet, but she very much enjoyed the descriptive text {it's entirely possible I'm a little too enthusiastic when reading aloud} and guessing what would come next. To my surprise she was very quick to guess the final surprise, but then she admitted to me they'd read this book before at kindy {cheater!}. Clearly that proves that it's a book kids love to read over and over, even when they somewhat remember what comes next. 

Dig, Dump, Roll has been selected for the prestigious 2019 Storylines Notable Book List. Since 1999 Storylines has produced an annual list of outstanding books for children and young people published in New Zealand by New Zealand authors and illustrators during the previous calendar year. The annual list of Notable Books ensures that children, parents, grandparents, teachers, librarians and the public are all made aware of the large range of high quality New Zealand books being published.


After we finished reading the book together I brought out a little small world bookish play activity I'd prepared while she was at school. Bookish play is a general term for any play based activity that is centered around a particular book. Its a great way to extend the story or main theme of a book beyond the pages and onto the craft table or into the playroom. 

With its descriptive, interactive text, Dig, Dump, Roll is the perfect starting point for some messy, fun, construction themed sensory bookish play. Of course I went with a cutlery tray construction small world because the girls love sensory play and small worlds, so it was a no brainer. 

Dig dump roll bookish play activity using a cutlery tray.

<<< Please note this activity poses a choking risk to children under 3yrs of age due to small parts. This activity is intended for children aged 3+ and to be done under strict adult supervision >>>


~ A cutlery tray {we use an Ikea one}
~ Construction vehicles {ours are from Kmart}
~ Construction loose parts {rocks, sticks}
~ Sensory construction bases {chickpeas, blackbeans}
~ Chocolate or brown playdough
~ Chocolate dirt {recipe further below}
~ Wooden letters


- Hypothesising {how do the machines work, how can we build with each material}
- Categorising types of construction materials
- Sensory input {touch, smell and taste}
- Hand strengthening {squishing the sensory materials}
- Pincer grip practice {picking up the beans and chickpeas}
- Hand/eye co-ordination
- Language development
- Sight word practice
- Letter recognition
- Imaginary play

If you've been following me on Instagram for a while, you'll know I love using cutlery trays as a base for small world play {search #cutlerytrayplay for some of my other play ideas}. They're particularly perfect for scenes that use many different sensory bases as each compartment contains the individual bases so they don't mix together {until the kids get to it anyway}. The tray slots are also great for defining separate play spaces like animal enclosures for a zoo, or in this case different construction zones. I love the Ikea cutlery trays because they're plastic and can be used with wet or dry materials.

Dig Dump Roll sensory bookish play tray
Construction bookish play sensory bases
Edible chocolate dirt sensory base.

I deliberately chose sensory bases that would all be taste safe, just in case my 1yr old was awake when we did this activity and she wanted to explore it as well. While I never encourage the girls to eat any of the sensory materials I put out for play, I know with a mouthing toddler it's inevitable that it could happen, so I'd rather use items that won't cause harm if accidentally ingested. 

I chose beans, chickpeas, edible dirt and playdough specifically because they all work in well size and texture wise with the construction vehicles I paired them with. I included the rocks and sticks because this set up was for my 5yr old, however if I intended to do it with both girls I would remove the rocks and sticks to be safe.

We've lived with fake grass for years now so my kids have never really had the chance to play with real dirt or mud. I substitute mud by making chocolate oobleck, but until now I've never had a substitute for dirt. This week I decided to try and make a chocolate edible dirt version. 


1 cup flour
1/3 cup chocolate powder
1/8 cup canola oil

Mix dry ingredients together in a bowl with a spoon and add oil slowly until it resembles a crumbly dirt consistency. Squeeze mixture with hands, it should hold its shape under pressure, similar to kinetic sand. Add more oil sparingly if required.

For our chocolate flavouring and dirt colour I simply used chocolate powder sachets that I've been keeping for sensory play. You could also use cocoa powder, drinking chocolate or Milo. Just insure your chocolate element is powder based so the cloud dough mixes properly. You can adjust the recipe amounts based on how much you need, just ensure you keep an 8:1 ratio of flour to oil.

Dig Dump Roll book and bookish play tray activity

I added in our small wooden letters to spell out the title of the book, with hints from the vehicles, for some bonus word recognition for my daughter. After we read the book together I brought out the tray and at first she sounded out the words trying to figure out what they were. She got dig and dump relatively easy and needed a little bit of help with roll. I think she did pretty well considering they haven't started on sight words yet at school and they haven't finished learning all the letter sounds.

She then drove all the letters around in the different vehicles which was great incidental letter recognition. Eventually her play moved on from re-enacting the story to planting the chickpeas into the dirt and using the sticks as plants that sprouted from the seeds. I love how bookish play uses a story as a springboard that leads to all sorts of other imaginary play. An added bonus of this particular activity is that the aroma of chocolate was ah-mazing.


Disclosure - We were kindly gifted a copy of Dig, Dump, Roll from Walker Books for the purpose of review. All other products featured within this post are part of our personal sensory play resources and were previously purchased by myself.

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