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If I Had a Sleepy Sloth

Gabby Dawnay, illus. Alex Barrow,”
Thames and Hudson
Age 0-5 years

A little girl thinks about different animals she might have as a pet and decides that she would like a sleepy sloth. She describes the reasons she would like one, because they are smiley and good at gripping and hiding. She talks about all the things they might do together, playing games, swimming but mostly…. chilling!

This is an appealing and amusing picture book for the very young with great illustrations. The rhyming text and picture clues make it easy for young children to join in with reading once they are familiar with the story. This is another in the series by the same team. See our activity page for If I had a Dinosaur.

Watch the story read aloud by David Schwimmer on CBeebies


Share the story

Read aloud
Before starting to read the book to your child look at the cover together and talk about the animal pictured and other kinds of animals your child knows it reminds them of. If you have a copy of the hard back book you could feel the texture of the sloth on the cover too.

Read the story aloud to your child.

Join in
Children can join in with the opening spread – naming the animals the little girl might choose as pets from the images. If you leave pauses your child might like to supply the rhyme at the end of each couplet. Children of 4 or 5 beginning to learn to read can follow the words as they curve over the pages with their finger as you re read the story.

Talk about the story

  • Share favourite pages together and why you like them.

  • There are some words which are likely to be new to your child such as ‘peek’, ‘hammock’ and ‘camouflage’

  • Talk about what pet each of you would like if you could have any animal in the world and why – as exotic as you like.

Things to make and do

Be like a sloth
You could both try being very, very still like a sloth. Which of you will move first?! Can your child close one eye like the sloth in the cover illustration? Try dragging your body along the ground like a sleepy sloth. Go to the park and use the climbing frame to hang upside down and move like a sloth. Make your movements very slow, gripping on really tightly to the climbing bars.

Play hide and seek
See if you can be as good at hiding like a sloth, trying to keep very still and choosing where you hide carefully so you can’t be seen.

Make a rainforest setting in a large tray
Set up a large tray or builders tuff spot with greenery cuttings and house plants, pieces of bark, twigs and logs. Add some small wild animal toys. You and your child could hide different animals in the foliage and see if they can be found.

Make a picture
Make your own picture of a sloth hanging upside down. You could add camouflage to your picture with tree bark, twigs and leaves using paint or collage.

Find out more

Read more books by this author and illustrator team:
There are two more books In the same series:
If I had a Dinosaur (see here for our activity page) 
If I had a unicorn

Other books by the same team:
London Calls
A Possum’s Tail
A Roller Coaster Ride Around the Body

Find out about sloths:

  • Find out about sloths from information books or online

  • Watch a video filmed in an American zoo

  • If possible visit a zoo such as London Zoo to see sloths living in a rainforest environment

Find out about animal camouflage:

Look at photos of some camouflaged animals, can you spot them? See here

Your child might like to make their own picture of imaginary animals hidden by their camouflage.

Adopt a sloth

To help with their protection and conservation adopt a sloth