My little Monkey and I recently hosted a playgroup at our home to celebrate Costa Rican Independence Day (September 15). In addition to a craft and lots of good food, I wanted to read them one of our favorite books about Costa Rica, The Parrot Tico Tango by Anna Witte.
However, in my experience, when a group of toddlers and preschoolers come together, it is difficult to get them to sit still for a story. I knew I would need a little something more to keep their attention, so I came up with this activity for us to do while we read.
The Parrot Tico Tango, set in the jungles of Costa Rica, is about a parrot who steals fruit from his animal friends yet in the end learns to share. To bring the action to life, I took out my handy craft foam and made a set of fruits like the ones Tico Tango takes from his friends.
I should say that it was creating this activity that got me hooked on craft foam. I tried in vain to find toy fruits I could use, but it is nearly impossible to find plastic or wooden versions of all of the tropical fruits featured in this book (mango, papaya, fig, etc.) So in the end, I had fun creating my own set of fruit, just using my own free hand drawings. Luckily, the kids could all recognize what they were!
On the day of the playgroup, I gathered the fruit and a wooden bowl and sat down to tell the story. First, I asked for volunteers. I chose one, whom I knew was not at all shy, to be Tico Tango. I gave each of the others one of the foam fruits.
Each time the Tico Tango in the story took a piece of fruit from a friend, I had my little Tico Tango helper do the same. When Tico Tango in his greed finally crashes and drops all of his fruit, my Tico Tango and I dropped all of the fruit on the floor, one by one. (This was the part the kids enjoyed most!) Just as in the book, the others gathered the dropped fruit in the bowl and prepared to feast. Yet when Tico Tango says he is sorry for what he has done, the friend relent and share the fruit with him. And at the end, they all danced, just like the friends in the story!
This is a great activity for a group, but I hadn’t anticipated what a fun solo activity it would be as well. My little Monkey now loves to play the “Tango Tango” game, and every time we read this book (which is often!) we have to pull out the fruit and bowl and play along. So much fun!
The great thing about using craft foam for the fruit is that if a little friend really wants to take home the papaya, or if the dates get lost, or if little hands rip the leaves off the grape bunch, it only takes a few minutes to whip up a replacement – not something I would be able to do with wooden or plastic fruit!
I hope you enjoy this book and activity as much as we do – and remember, it’s always better to share your fruit with your friends!