Our Family Hour: food, books, games and Australian animals

My family recently took part in The Reading Hour, an event organised as part of Australia’s  National Year of Reading campaign, to promote the importance of reading to children for at least 10 minutes per day.

For our family, reading is already an important part of each day, but we were still eager to take part in the national event.

To make The Reading Hour unique for our family we decided to prepare some special food and play book-related games. We had already decided that The Family Hour in Australia would be an ideal book to read for the occasion.

It was an incredible night, which Cam has been begging us to re-create.  It was a wonderful moment when we tucked Cam into bed at the end of the night, and she said, “I’ve had such a fun night.” Keep reading to find out more about Our Family Hour, including:

  • Our preparations for The Reading Hour
  • Our Reading Hour Supper
  • Our Reading Hour Games
  • Our Reading Hour Book List
  • A list of other Australian-animal themed books

* Apology: for the poor photos in this post. I broke my camera just minutes into our reading hour and relied on my phone to take pics.

Preparations for the The Reading Hour:

Cam and I read through the book in advance trying to find a family that was most like ours. We decided on the Ringtail Possum family because there was a mother, a father and a child. They were enjoying a picnic in front of the movies (We just love picnics and movies). I wonder which of the 15 animal families is most like yours?

With that decided, we chose to set up a picnic rug for our family reading.

I wanted the hour to be a bit of a surprise for Cam so we didn’t let her help with too many of the other preparations. Hubby and I read the book together in advance and brainstormed some easy but fun games to play. We based our games on these pages from the book:

Did you know that platypus swim and search for food with their eyes closed?

Mum and Dad finch catch insects and feed their babies together.

Numbats eat termites by scooping them up with their long sticky tongues.

We started our day by playing libraries, looking for other books to add to our reading list.  As The Family Hour in Australia introduces the reader to 15 Australian animals,   we browsed our bookcases and checked-out some other Australian animal related books. (You can read details and reviews of these books at the bottom of this post)

Our Reading Hour Supper:

Did you know that echidnas drink pink milk?

Our reading supper consisted of pink milk, kangamite and cheese sandwiches, and popcorn (which is a staple food item for all of our special family occasions)

Our Reading Hour Games:

  • We thought this game would be a great way to simulate searching for food with our eyes closed.
  • Each player takes a turn to be blindfolded. They must search through the cornstarch peanuts with their hands to find the hidden treats.

  • The chopsticks were a novel way of representing the finch’s beaks.
  • Scatter the toy insects on the floor. Each player must use the chopsticks to pick up as many insects as possible and place them into their egg carton.
  • The player with the most insects wins.

  • We lined our insects up to see who had collected the most.

  • In this game the sticky hands represent the numbat’s tongue, while the foam shapes represent the termites.
  • Each player is given a sticky hand, which is used to pick up as many foam shapes as possible.

By the time we had finished the games it was nearly bedtime and we were all rather excitable. To wind down, we finished the night by reading some Australian-animal related books as a family

Our Reading Hour Book List

Possum Magic Numbers

By Mem Fox and Julie Vivas

ISBN: 978-1862919723

Format Board book

Publisher: Omnibus Books for Scholastic Australia, September 2012

This is a simple but sweet and beautiful counting book that showcases creatures and objects from the original Possum Magic. Illustrated beautifully by Julie Vivas, children will find themselves counting tails, slippers and lamingtons along with possums, kookaburras and koalas.

A Surprise for Dingo

Rina Foti and Sandra Kendell

ISBN: 978-1921136764

Format: Hardback

Publisher: Windy Hollow Books, July 2011

Illustrated in a rich, deep colour palate, this book shows us an array of Australian animals anxiously waiting for Dingo in the Great Sandy Desert. Don’t for a minute think that these animals are scared though. They’ve got a surprise in store for Dingo and it ends in an outback-style party.

Bushland Lullaby

Sally Odgers and Lisa Stewart

ISBN: 978-1742831770

Format: Hardback

Publisher: Scholastic Press, September 2012

This is an ideal book to read when it’s time to settle down before bed. It takes you on an evening journey through the Australian bush as 13 sleepy Australian animals each finds a cosy and sheltered place to settle for the night.  Lisa Stewart’s pastel illustrations, of watercolour and rice paper collages, suit this book perfectly. They add a comforting tone to the calming text.

Some other Australian animal-themed books:

  • The Cockatoo Who Cried Dingo by Yvonne Morrison and Heath MacKenzie
  • Emu and Roo by Bruce Whately
  • Yes We Can by Sam McBratney and Charles Fuge
  • Blossom Possum by Gina Newton and Kilmeny Diland
  • Watch out Little Wombat! by Charles Fuge
  • Josephine Wants to Dance by Jackie French and Bruce Whatley
  • One Woolly Wombat by Kerry Argent
  • Diary of a Wombat by Jackie French and Bruce Whately
  • Blinkie Bill by Dorothy Wall
  • Mrs Millar’s Underwater Adventure by Annette Millar (this is all about the reef off the coast of Broome)
  • Sometimes I like to curl up in a ball by Vicki Churchill
  • Rufus the Red Kangaroo by Jill Morris
  • Edwina the Emu by Sheena Knowles
  • Billy Bilby’s Barbecue by Colin Thiele
  • Sail Away- the Ballad of Skip and Little Nell by Mem Fox.
  • And Kangaroo Played His Didgeridoo by Nigel Gray
  • The Cassowary’s Egg by Garry Fleming
  • The Muddle-headed Wombat by Ruth Park

Thank you to Aliesha Griffin, Sarah Collins, Tammy Moore, Katherine Bunce, Rachael Arnett, Kirsty Branagan, Kathryn Levey, Thuy On, Rebecca Riseley, Kyra McMahon, Cath Connell, Naomi Jones, Amanda Writer, Holly Cardamone, Elizabeth Langford-Smith and Tania Lee Spagnolo for contributing to this book list.

Can you suggest any other titles to add to this list?

Our Family Hour: food, books, games and Australian animals


  1. Looks like a fabulous night! I love the games and themed food! Wow! :) I love that your little girl was able to tell you how much fun she’d had before going to bed – such moments are priceless! x

  2. Shy the Platypus, though it’s more for older children.

  3. Jackie this family housr is so awesome and such a wonderful list of books too! You know I’m going to share this, right? :)

  4. What an amazing evening! I am envious of all the fun you guys had. I do have a few books to add to your wonderful list!
    Diary of a Baby Wombat (French)
    Where’s Stripey? (Wendy Binks)– there is a whole series of them!!
    Home for Bilby (Joanne Crawford)
    Edward the Emu (Sheena Knowles)
    Bip the Snapping Bungaroo (Narelle McRobbie)
    Sebastian Lives in a Hat (Thelma Catterwell)
    In the Deep Red Desert (Angie Lionette-Civa)

    • Thanks for the extra suggestions. There are two there I haven’t read myself: Where’s Stripey? and Bip the Snapping Bungaroo. !

  5. Just absolutely beautiful!! I so enjoyed reading about the effort you put in and seeing the pics of the fun that was had…thanks for sharing with us!

  6. This is just gorgeous, I love that magical bed time comment. Makes it all worth it :)

  7. This is such an incredible idea on so many levels! I had to share on my Etsy shop fanpage http://www.facebook.com/eljahb . I give my fans ways to facilitate memories as a family and this one is one of my favorites so far!! Thank you for being an example of how to make time with our kids meaningful and magical.

    I invite you to also stop by my shop:


  8. Jackie these games are fantastic. We’ll definitely be trying them – I think the Finch and Platypus games will be R’s favourites. Thanks so much for linking up to Tuesday Tots last week. I’m featuring this post on my round up of diy family games. http://www.oneperfectdayblog.net/2013/06/04/fun-and-simple-diy-games-for-kids/

Leave a Reply