Virtual Book Club: Inch by Inch

Jun 12, 2013

Leo Lionni was the featured Virtual Book Club author for May (yes, May--since I was posting about Christmas last week, it should come as no surprise that I'm a month behind with the Virtual Book Club as well).

We checked out several Leo Lionni books a couple of months ago and immediately fell in love with Inch by Inch.

In this book, a little green inchworm is on the verge of becoming a hungry robin's breakfast, but he hurriedly explains that he is an inchworm and therefore a very useful creature because he can measure things. The robin is intrigued: "Measure my tail!" he commands. The inchworm stays busy after that, measuring the legs of the heron, the beak of a toucan, etc. All is going well until a nightingale says he must measure her song or be eaten. The inchworm tells her to start singing and then slowly inches away...

Bradley adores this book. I do, too, but I must confess that at this point, I've read it so many times I'm rather thrilled at the prospect of it going back to the library tomorrow. And yet, I can see why he loves it: it's kind of like a seek-and-find book for babies. The inchworm, albeit the main character of the story, takes up no more than an inch of space on each page. So even though he holds a prominent position on each page, it is still a bit of a challenge to find him, what with him being so small and blending in with the grass and all. So it gives Bradley an inordinate amount of satisfaction to point to him on every page and exclaim, "There he is!" (And you better believe that he will not let you turn the page until you acknowledge his job well done.)

The story itself is somewhat unique because of its focus on different kinds of birds instead of just showcasing a variety of animals. I also like the emphasis on why measurements are useful and how it's possible to measure with something besides a ruler.

It was the measuring aspect of this story that made me come up with the following activity.

My boys love using measuring tapes to determine the length of various objects. I always think it's funny when they say something like, "Mom, this is seven pounds long."

I wanted to help them make their own inchworms, so they could use them to measure things. At first I was going to have the length of the inchworm translate to an actual number of inches, but then I realized it really wouldn't matter to my kids. The point of this activity was really just to teach them that we can use different things as measuring tools and that even though "seven inchworms" and "seven inches" may not mean the same thing, "seven inchworms" still gives us a relative idea of how long something is.

If you want to make your own inchworm, here's what you'll need:
  • a piece of elastic (it can be any length (the pieces we used were about three inches long) and any width (we used 1/2" wide elastic))
  • some colorful yarn
  • hot glue gun
  • fabric paint or googly eyes
I let the boys stretch the elastic to figure out how much they wanted. Then I glued the end of yarn to one end of the elastic.

Then the boys wound the yarn all the way up the length of elastic...

...and back down (that way, you still had pretty good coverage even when he was completely stretched out).

I found that it needed a little dot of glue here and there along the way (especially at the ends) to keep the yarn in place. A long stripe of glue along the finished worm didn't work because it all just cracked when the inchworm was stretched out. In all honesty, I never found the perfect method for keeping the yarn in place, but what we did was enough for the boys to still have fun with the worms for awhile.

After they finished winding, and I finished gluing, we added a couple of fabric paint dots (you could use googly eyes instead), and the inchworms were ready to use!

We took them outside, and the boys stretched them out...

...and scrunched them up...

...and then definitively declared: "This step is 22 inchworms long!"


  1. Love it. Brilliant. You're always impressing me. I'm hoping to come up with ideas like this for my little girl when she's older.

  2. LOVE this post! We've read Swimmy but I hadn't thought to look for his other titles. And we have to stop by the library today so, I'm hoping they have this one!

  3. You're such a homeschooler :)

    1. Ha! I know! If only it felt like the right thing to do...

  4. That is so cute -- and smart! I love the fun things you do for your kids.


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