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  • Rebecca P. Cohen

Have Fun Learning to Read

This week, I read aloud PJ's Backyard Adventures: Play at a Paris Playground (about a real playground in Paris!) to groups of two, three, four, and five year olds. The different ways little ones engage with this book is something not always found in traditional early readers. Because the book has fun layers to it, I can see how each child learns. The process is really cool to witness; I'm watching learning! and you can too. As a parent, I wanted something that would help me see how my child learns to know how I might be able to help them next outside of school.

Whether a birthday present or Pajama Day class gift, fun travel activity book, special 1-1 time with your child, grandchild, niece, or nephew, here are 5 ways you can interact with PJ's Backyard Adventures. In play with the book, perhaps a child will show you what they need next in their development:

1. Four to five year olds (and up) love finding the hidden sight words on every page. Point to the underlined word and children can look for it hidden in the illustration on that page. In groups, I ask the children to raise their hands when they find the word so their friends have time to find it too. Children learning to write their name, ABCs, or other words can hide words in their own pictures for you to find! (activity page here)

2. Ask questions about what is happening. One three year old asked to look at (not read) the book. As we turned the pages, I asked, "What is PJ doing here?" She replied, "He is using his imagination." On the next page I asked, "What is happening here?" She pointed to a fairy and said with wonder, "I am in the sky." She was already activating her imagination, relating to the story, and becoming her own storyteller.

Two year olds can point to where they put on their hat (head), pajamas (body), and boots (feet) just like PJ. Also, some can answer questions, such as, "Who is this?" after you read the page (response, "PJ!") and "Who likes the playground?" (response, "Me!").

3. Kids love to color, some more than others. Children can color the pages (you can even print a PJ coloring page here). To color a page over and over, take a photo of that page with your tablet or phone and the children can use your device's mark up feature to color the page digitally!

4. Cut out PJ, paste him to cardboard (for extra sturdiness, optional), and take him with you on your outdoor adventures! Parents have told me their kids love having PJ as a companion, whether in the car, on a plane, the grocery store, or on a nature walk around the block!

5. And oodles of other activities in the back of the book: practice tracing letters, cut out flashcards and play with them (my nephew loved doing this!), draw your favorite place to play, and draw and write about where you could have an adventure (smaller children can tell you a story to write down for them). If you want to purchase a book for a classroom, here is a PJ lesson plan. To purchase 10 or more books, contact me for a discount.

Have fun with your little explorers!


About Rebecca P. Cohen

Rebecca P. Cohen believes time outside transforms our lives for the better. Rebecca has worked with over 6,000 children around the world helping them make outdoor connections for a healthier life.

Rebecca is author of 15 Minutes Outside: 365 Ways to Get Out of the House and Connect with Your Kids, the children's series PJ's Backyard Adventures, and creator of Rebecca Plants Curiosity Cards available for iPhone and on Google Play. She is also host of the video series, Get Out of the House, which shows fun ideas for time outside in every season. For Rebecca's inspiring blog and free downloads, visit

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Fifteen Minutes Outside, PJ’s Backyard Adventures

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