Communication and Language: A whole lot of holes

Judith Harries
Friday, January 14, 2022

The first book that comes to mind when thinking about ‘books with holes’ is the classic picture book by Eric Carle, starring a certain hungry caterpillar, but there are many more featured here, along with activities to inspire communication and language skills.

Judith Harries


Key learning points

  • Listening attentively and responding appropriately when sharing books
  • Holding conversations and asking questions using a variety of books
  • Taking part in paired, small group, and whole class discussions, developing their own ideas
  • Using a variety of materials and techniques to create holes and artwork

Key words: holes, days of the week, rhymes, sizes, shapes, cut, scissors, hole-punch, porthole


Playing and exploring

  • Children learn the days of the week with the very hungry caterpillar
  • They can play a rhyming game with the little woodpecker

They will cut out some ever-decreasing holes using scissors

The very hungry caterpillar

As over 12 million copies of the original book have been sold, it is only fair to start with this story of the hungry caterpillar who eats everything before emerging as a beautiful butterfly. The holes are cut into the pages to represent the caterpillar's progress through each piece of fruit, and finally a nice green leaf. Use the holes to help children learn the order of the days of the week and develop simple counting skills. Don't forget to celebrate the annual Very Hungry Caterpillar Day on the first day of Spring (March 20th)!

Peck peck peck

Share this book by Lucy Cousins in which Little woodpecker makes holes in everything and makes rhymes as he goes along. He pecks holes in a hat and a mat, a racket and a jacket, and even a nectarine and aubergine. Play a rhyming game with the children choosing rhyming pairs for the woodpecker to peck. Use a bird puppet to engage the children in the rhyming activity. Make the puppet say a word and challenge children to choose a word that rhymes as quick as possible.


Classic books with holes

Child's Play have published a series of ‘Classic Books with holes’ including many traditional songs and rhymes, such as This Old Man, and Down at the Station. In There was an old lady who swallowed a fly the die-cut holes get bigger and bigger as the rhyme progresses. Show the children how to make a hole in the middle of a piece of paper by folding it in half and cutting a semi-circle or U shape into the fold. Provide pieces of different coloured sugar paper and make a set of holes that get bigger and bigger. Mount them together with the biggest hole on top.


Different shapes and sizes

Some books use lots of different sizes and shapes of holes cut into the pages. In Joseph had a little overcoat by Simms Taback, Joseph sees the hole in his coat and turns it into a jacket, then a vest, scarf, necktie, handkerchief and finally a button. The holes get steadily smaller and smaller. In Color Zoo by Lois Ehlert, the animals are created using different-shaped holes cut into the pages of the book. Let children use shape templates to cut holes out of pieces of paper and create some animals of their own.


Active learning

  • Children can make some counting cards using numbers and holes
  • They will make a finger puppet and use it to say a rhyme or tell a story
  • Challenge children to think of how holes can be useful

Make your own counting cards using holes inspired by the very hungry caterpillar. Cut out some cardboard dominoes and write the numbers 1 – 10 on one half of each card. Can the children punch the corresponding number of holes on the other halves?

Look at some books in the Finger Puppet Board Books published by Cottage Door Press. Some of these feature nursery rhyme characters such as This Little Piggy or Baa, Baa, Black Sheep as well as dinosaurs and unicorns. Make some character finger puppets with the children using a simple template. Can they choose a character from a rhyme or story for their finger puppet? They can draw a face onto the top of the shape or cut out a picture of a character from a magazine. Once the holes are cut the children post their fingers through to make legs so the puppets can move about. Invite them to take turns to say a rhyme or tell a story using the finger puppets. Let them work with a partner and make up a conversation using their characters.


The Hole Story

This picture book by Paul Bright only has actual holes in the cover but is a valuable story about where holes can be found – in cheese, clothes, tyres, boats, buckets, and so on. Talk about how holes are rarely welcome, and nobody is pleased to see them, unless…can the children think of anything they use that needs holes? A sieve or colander? A shower head? A button? Make a collection of useful things with holes. At the end of the story, the tube turns into a musical instrument by having holes added to it. Provide some recorders or ocarinas for the children to blow down and place their fingers over the holes.


Creating and thinking critically

  • Children will create a collage and ‘holey’ picture inspired by Eric Carle
  • They will use a ‘hole’ or frame to make a variety of pictures
  • They can create a porthole to look through and observe

Eric Carle was famous for his collage-style illustrations. He said ‘One day I was punching holes with a hole puncher into a stack of paper, and I thought of a bookworm’. Show the children his pictures that feature strong blocks of colour with lots of white ‘holes’ on top. Using a hole punch and white paper, help children to make lots of ‘holes’. Let them choose some colours to paint with bold brush strokes and then stick the holes on top.


The Book with a Hole

This book by Hervé Tullet is really an activity book with a hole blasted through the middle of it. It's full of ideas for filling holes from plates of food, creating faces, flowers, and even teeth using children's fingers. Share some of the ideas with the children and try out your own versions.

Make a mobile ‘hole’ or frame using a ring of cardboard and let children place it on paper and draw their own answers to some of the questions. Pretend that the hole is an open mouth: ‘what are you going to feed it?’ or a man's tummy: ‘what did he eat too much of?’ Pretend that the hole is a queen's face and draw her features and add a crown. Pretend that the hole is a basketball net. Can you scrumple up some paper into a ball and score a goal? Surround the hole with a wavy sea and turn it into an island!

Turn the circular frame or ring into a porthole and invite children to use it as a window to look into the world. Use hole punches all around the ring to look like the rivets in a porthole. Let them walk around and find a view to look at carefully. Can they draw a picture of what they can see through the porthole?


Listen to the author, Eric Carle, read The Very Hungry Caterpillar on YouTube, courtesy of the bookseller, Waterstones, or watch the animated film.

Bird puppet; paper; pencils; scissors; shape templates; cardboard; hole-punch; cardboard; magazines; useful things with holes; recorders; ocarinas; paints; brushes; large rings of thick cardboard.


The hole factory

Set up the hole factory by providing lots of different papers, templates and cardboard, with hole punches and scissors for children to create holes to their heart's content. Using ideas from the activities in the article children can make pictures, puppets and books using this equipment. Provide holey snacks, for instance, ring doughnuts, bagels and crumpets.


Holistic learning

Comparing sizes and shapes of holes and making counting cards will develop children's mathematical skills including size, shape and number (maths). Creating a collage inspired by the author, Eric Carle, will allow the children to express themselves by experimenting with colour, design and texture (EAD). Observing the world through the porthole will develop children's awareness and understanding of their environment (UW)

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