Reading and Bookish Play | MiniZoo Blog

As an English teacher, I am a huge advocate for encouraging reading in any way possible. MiniZoo figures are the perfect way to build upon your little ones’ reading experience by playing along with the animals from their favourite stories.

I’m sure I don’t need to convince you of the benefits of reading, as it boosts their literacy, even from a young age. But sitting down with a book can provide some quiet, calm time with your children in amongst their busy little lives. Reading already stimulates their imaginations, but using MiniZoo animal figures can further that development through making links and provoke curiosity and discussion with physical prompts.

Perhaps your little one is very active and excitable, and doesn’t sit and read for very long. Bookish play is a great way to encourage some active involvement on their part, and promote a love of reading.

Why not choose your child’s favourite book and match up some MiniZoo animal figures to enhance their reading time? Here are five of my daughter’s favourites:

1. Noni the Pony Goes to the Beach (by Alison Lester)

There are many options at MiniZoo for the title character, but I think the CollectA Pinto Mare Palomino makes for the perfect Noni the Pony. CollectA have also recently released a beautiful Mare with Terrier which would be great for both Noni and Dave the Dog. The colouring of this one is a littler darker though, so that’s why I went with the palomino. For Dave, I’ve chosen the Bullyland Beagle Henry, but the Safari Beagle would also be a good choice. The Schleich Cat Sitting makes a great Coco the Cat, and ‘The Ladies Next Door’ could be played by any combination of MiniZoo cows, but we use two CollectA Hereford Cows, a Papo Piebald Cow and a CollectA Fresian Cow

Schleich Dolphins and the Papo Humback Whale are perfect for the sea animals featured in the story. When Noni, Coco and Dave play in the rock pools, they find some more creatures, the Safari Mini Starfish and Mini Hermit Crabs can help to replicate the scene. You could even use some sand and water (or blue fabric for pretend!) to further enjoy your active reading with these figures. 


2. If My Dad Were an Animal (by Jedda Robaard)

The first animal in this story is a big hairy yak. A yak is simply a domesticated ox, so the CollectA Musk Ox is perfect. The Safari Koala is the perfect sleepy comparison for some dads, and the Safari Spider Monkey is a fun, cheeky animal to use for the story. The Safari Humboldt Penguin is stylish just like the dad in the illustration, and the Safari Eagle Owl is also a good choice for the wise dads out there. The remaining animals could be represented by the Schleich Giraffe MaleMojo Indian Elephant, and the CollectA Brown Bear. MiniZoo has several options for each creature listed in the story, so you’re certainly not limited by these options. 

3. The Very Brave Bear (by Nick Bland)

For this fun story, we’ve used the Mojo Grizzly Bear to play Bear, and the Safari Cape Buffalo for Boris Buffalo. In the story, the two burly animals compete for who is the most brave, only to be scared by a tiny little frog. For Froggy we have used a red Mini Poison Dart Frog to show the huge difference in size between him and the larger two. Your little one can recreate the forest, mud, hills, river, vines and cave that they run through in their escape with craft supplies, fabrics or even in the garden!


4. Time for Bed (by Mem Fox)

This book is one of the sweetest bedtime stories we own and is a lovely way to say goodnight to all the animals. It requires a number of adult and baby combinations of animals.

We have used the Mojo Mouse and the mouse from the Safari Fairy Tale Animals Toob for the mouse family. For the goose family, we have chosen the Schleich Goose and the CollectA Ducklings because they look very similar to the fluffy yellow baby goose in the story. The CollectA 3 Colour House Cat and the ginger kitten from the Safari Farm Babies Toob make the sweetest pair, as do the CollectA Fresian Cow with the CollectA Fresian Calf, the Schleich Sheep and Schleich Lamb, and the Papo Alezan English Thoroughbred Mare and Foal

For the parent and baby fish, we have chosen the Safari Largemouth Bass and the Largemouth Bass from the American Angler Collection. While the birds featured in the story are blue, my daughter is a loves the red cardinal, so we use the Safari Cardinal and Safari Mini Cardinal when we say goodnight to the little bird. The CollectA Bumble Bee and Safari Mini Bumble Bee are very sweet together, and the Safari Rough Green Snake and Safari Mini Snake also make a nice pairing for the slippery creatures. The Mojo Labrador and Mojo Labrador Puppy are Miss Two’s favourite, and mine is the pairing of the Schleich White-tailed Doe and Schleich White-Tailed Fawn

I love the way my daughter likes to tuck all the animal babies into their little blankets after each page.

5. What Can You See? Animals in the Night (by Ruth Austin) 

My daughter loves this book because it already requires some activity on her part – using the blue light to find the hidden animals. Because there are SO many animals in this book, so I’ve just picked the animals that are hiding to showcase in this blog.

We use the Science and Nature Large Leadbeaters Possum for the Opossum, the Schleich Lion, the green butterfly from the Safari Butterflies Toob for the Luna Moth, the Schleich Raccoon, and the CollectA Amur Leopard to represent the endangered wild cat. Other figures that we chose are the Safari Flying Squirrel, the Mojo Great Horned Owl with its beautiful wings extended, CollectA Koala sitting in its tree, Schleich TigerPapo Hedgehog, the Safari Brown Bat for the fruit bat, and the Schleich Tarantula for a scary but accurate representation of the hairy creepy crawly. My personal favourite is the CollectA Timber Wolf Howling because it is in almost exactly the same position as the Grey Wolf in the story. This story is great because it teaches little readers about different environments and ecosystems – which animals coexist, and how they live together.


Puppets are also a wonderful way to encourage reading, and MiniZoo has a huge collection of Folkmanis Puppets to assist. Check them out here and match them to your favourite books.

Please share with us your bookish play prompts on Instagram or Facebook pages. If you love sharing your MiniZoo play and getting inspiration from others, consider checking out our MiniZoo VIP group on Facebook.

If you enjoyed reading this blog, keep your eye out for my Book Week blog in October which will be in line with this year’s theme ‘Curious Creatures: Wild Minds’.

Jenna @ MiniZoo