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More than meets the eye to the book 'Owl Babies'

Updated: Oct 29, 2022

Owl babies has been a go to book for years! In fact, it was first published the year I graduated as a teacher in 1992. For this reason, it has a very special place in my heart. This space grew BIGGER as I took a closer look at the characters and discovered that they represent the stages of separation anxiety.

Back to my go to, it is has always been a wonderful way to support children to transition from home to an early childhood setting. It is also a brilliant way to soothe and talk about missing Mum, Dad or family at any time during the day in an early childhood setting. It is a great lap book or group times book.

As a lap book you can snuggle and enjoy the connection to a child or children and the illustrations of the baby owls. The reassurance that you are there as a teacher and that the person missed will come back can be shared. Hearing the story may be enough to sooth separation anxiety but I have found that a story basket can offer more through hands-on play or holding.

Sam needed more than the book and during the day there would be bouts of missing Gran with crying and tears. To support Sam, I created a story basket with finger puppets and a soft toy Mummy owl and told Sam they could get the basket from the shelf at any time. I noticed this helped and recognised that the texture of the owl was used as a comfort tool. I responded to this by suggesting to Sam that they could take an owl to play with them and return it when they did not need it any more. I had expected they would want ‘Owl Mother’ but they chose ‘Sarah’ owl. I asked why and Sam said “they are brave”.

This got me thinking about each of the owls and how children could identify with them and how each one had different traits that connected to the 3 stages of separation anxiety (Bowlby).

Sarah is certainly the brave or positive sibling. She also spoke first and could be the eldest? She is a leader and also the voice of reason. Sarah appears to be in the detachment stage but doesn’t have an understanding of time yet.

Percy is a doubter but also willing to follow Sarah’s lead. It is like Percy wants to believe but is not quite there yet. Percy appears to be in the despair stage but shows a glimmer of moving out of this stage.

And Bill just WANTS and LOVES his Mummy. Percy appears to be in the initial stage of separation anxiety, the protest stage with the repeated “I want my Mummy”.

This insight added another level to the book and admiration for the author.

Over time I created more story baskets based on what I had or the interests of the children. They have been with other knitted finger puppets, to very basic basic with natural peg dolls to hide in the tree hole to wooden buddies from my foundation box (free e-booklet) .

I then created a story spoon pattern for the owls as an inexpensive resource based on what Sam had said about Sarah, “they are BRAVE”. The spoons are so easy to make with the e-pattern, you just print, cut and glue them to a bamboo teaspoon or use a Velcro dot on a wooden spoon. You could add feathers if you wanted to.

In group time we talked about each of the owls and how they may be feeling and if they had ever felt like them. I hadn’t really reflected on owl Mummy but the children helped me to do so. And Lee shared that Mummy was good at helping the owl babies understand she would always come back. I was glad that Lee saw her in this light but from a teaching perspective not saying goodbye is not a good practice and wonder why she left without doing so.

Mummy going without saying goodbye was something that impacted on a child I taught years ago. After reading the book many times he began to say to his Mum when he arrived at the setting that she must remember to say goodbye “just like Mummy owl”. This was his initiative and I admired it as I knew that there had been some changes at home and he was able to articulate what he needed. This was yet another reason to LOVE this book. Maybe it should be higher than number 5 on my list.

In group time we talked about being BRAVE trying new things and I asked them which owl was the bravest and why. I said I would put the owls out for them to retell the story or to include in their play. I also said they could take an owl spoon when they needed help to be BRAVE. This was easy to do as they were quick to make and inexpensive.

Here is what we co-constructed on what each may say or be in our group time:

I am BRAVE (I am secure). Sarah.

I am learning to be BRAVE. Percy.

I need help to be BRAVE. Bill.

I told them that I also needed help to BRAVE sometimes. They thought I was joking, as I do try and trick them and do ‘funny’ things in group times or in storytelling. In order to demonstrate that I did need help to be BRAVE and do I shared a story. I need help to be BRAVE when it comes to heights and shared a story about the help I needed to cross a bridge that was HIGH over a river and VERY wobbly. I was able to be BRAVE with the encouragement of others (and promise of a shower, which they failed to mention would be cold). The children made connections to the slack line walking we set up in the outside area and how they at first did not want to try and had to be BRAVE and now LOVE walking across it.

Image of slack lining from Run Wild my Child.

I have also put my owl spoons in a storytelling suitcase, out as a sensory activity with leaves and also with material to make a nest for the owl babies.

My favourite part of the story is to be Owl Mummy and I have been in character over the years with puppets, story spoons and recently with an owl eye mask. I have also used an owl puppet as Mummy owl and got 3 children to wear the owl eye masks in group times to retell the story. There are now 3 owl masks put out in the dramatic play area. Mummy owl stays with me.

This will continue to be one of my favourite socio-emotional resources to support transitions, forming attachments and being BRAVE.

My other favourites are:

And I have e-patterns for them or you can get them all as a bundle.

Here are my other 9 MUST have books and you can see how I have used them all here.

1. We’re going on a bear hunt (blog)

3. The very hungry caterpillar

7. The 3 little pigs

Which book should I take a closer look at next time?


P.S. USE code MOREtoOWLS and get the e-pattern for half price ($2.75 NZD) and there is an affliate link that if you use I may get some moolah

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