Very Last First Time (Literature Study and Activities)

Very Last First Time by Jan Andrews and Ian Wallace is a beautifully told story of a little Inuit girl who collects mussels on the seabed floor by herself for the first time. The illustrations (which incorporate the pointillist style) are not only pretty, but also quite fun (look for the hidden pictures on some of the pages). And the depiction of life in Northern Canada is intriguing. 

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I love this book.

And I love all of the rich activities that we were able to do to supplement the book. 

So what did we all do? Here’s a sampling of the fun we had:

1. Arctic-Themed Morning Station


I found a set of Arctic figures at Michael’s – on sale for 50% off! These figures have proved to be an invaluable learning tool when talking about Northern Canada. (Side note: I may or may not have used the husky as a wolf. Creative license, right?)


The morning activity station pictured above included a tray with the Arctic figures and some sugar cubes (pretend snow blocks) for building. This station was a huge hit with both of the girls and provided a soft introduction to the science and social studies component of our literature study. 

2. Inuit History and Culture

Scholastic has a wonderful series of books about the Canadian provinces and territories. Nunavut was created in 1999 and the book pictured gives a fantastic overview of the history and culture of Canada’s newest province. 

Believe it or not, I think our favourite tidbit that we pulled from this book has to do with snacking habits in the northern part of our country. My kids were completely intrigued by the thought of eating raw whale skin with blubber attached and ice cream made out of fat, caribou meat and salt. 

I’d totally try the caribou ice cream. 

3. Animals of the Arctic

Canadian Geographic has these amazing animal fact sheets with a search option that lets you sort by province. We matched up our Arctic animal figures to the correct fact sheets and learned some incredibly interesting things. 

For example, did you know that caribou have scent glands in their ankles? I didn’t either. When they sense danger, they rear up on their hind legs and release the scent to warn the other caribou of danger. Crazy, right?

And arctic hares have long, dark eyelashes – the kind I desperately wish I had – in order to protect their eyes from the glare of the sun on the snow. It’s amazing stuff. 

4. Soap Carvings

Soapstone carving is a beautiful part of Inuit culture. Lacking soapstone, proper tools and carving expertise, we decided to try our hand at making our own art by carving soap. The kids had so. much. fun. 

5. Building an Inukshuk 

Rewind for a sec to Christmas Eve day. Even though we were on our two-week break from school, it was warm enough to go to the beach and collect stones for an inukshuk. So we did. 

(Side note: Can I just say how much I loved having a green Christmas?)

Last week, we talked a bit about the meaning of inuksuit (that’s the plural of inukshuk). Then, using our rocks and a glue gun, we built a small inukshuk for our display shelf. 

6. Ooey Gooey Igloos

Making igloos out of marshmallows and icing was, without question, the highlight of this particular unit. We talked about how the Inuit used to live in igloos in the winter and in tents made of animal skins in the summer. Then we talked about how the Inuit live today. And then … the girls ate their igloos. 

7. Fine Motor Skill Development – Tracing 

We found a great Inuit colouring page at education.com. I had the girls trace the photo and then colour the traced copy. This is a great activity to develop the fine motor skills needed for handwriting. We cut the pictures out and hung them in the window where the light could shine through. So pretty!

8. Extra Craft – Christmas Snow House

Last but not least, my Mom bought us this sweet little foam snow house kit from Michael’s and I thought it was the perfect extra activity for this lesson. What a fun way to celebrate all things winter! Colour and glitter are always a win in our house!

Very First Last Time is included in our list of 100+ Winter and Holiday Themed Storybooks to Read to Your Child.

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