posted in: Alfred Znamierowski | 10

nonfiction.mondayMy daughters have taught and continue to teach me many things. About myself, about patience, about love.

And they have also improved my active vocabulary! Like the names of so many dinosaurs, vexillology is a word I’ve only learned thanks to my daughters…

In creating our much loved cardboard castle M particularly enjoyed making the flags and this led to a discussion about what flags are for, what different countries’ flags look like, where you can see flags and so on. We didn’t have a good resource at home to go to, and so a trip to the library netted The World Encyclopedia of Flags by Alfred Znamierowski, and thus began our current passion for vexillology, or to put it another way, for studying flags.

This encyclopedia is exactly what we were looking for. The first section (“Flags through the ages”) includes historical background, talks about flag “families”, as well as military and navy flags, whilst the second half of the book includes flags from all over the world (both national and regional) and also a section on flags of international organizations and causes. There is enough well-written, informative text to keep older children and adults reading, whilst younger kids will be happy with the many full-colour flags on each page, each one of which has a story to tell.


M enjoyed looking for symbols like lions or eagles in the flags. It was also a great way to introduce her to aspects of geography (“Oh that’s the flag of Switzerland. Where is Switzerland”… so out came the atlas) and history, but what M enjoyed most was all the information useful for designing her own flags ie the various shapes they come in (eg swallow tailed and gonfalon – another one for my expanding vocabulary!) and the typical charges (ie figures such as crosses, stripes or other shapes) found on flags.

Although probably not marketed at 4 and 1 year olds, this was a great book for us right now, definitely a good reference book for the family, and at less than a tenner, quite a bargain.

Having enjoyed the book, M wanted to put her new-found knowledge about flag design to the test so we came up with a fun vexillological project – our own boats dressed with flags as you might see at a regatta.

Photo: Lucy Boynton
Photo: Lucy Boynton

We used (per boat):

  • A polystyrene box
  • A length of cardboard tube
  • Duck tape
  • String
  • A flag outline printout (I created this myself – if you would like to use it you can get it by clicking here – it’s a pdf file)
  • Felt tips
  • Stapler
  • boats1

    1. We attached the cardboard tube to the inside of the polystyrene box with duck tape.


    2. We designed our flags by colouring in the flag outlines.


    3. Colouring completed, we cut out the flags…


    4. … and folded them over a length of string (the string must be long enough to go from one end of the polystyrene box to the other via the top of the cardboard tube). We then stapled them into place. Boy, does M love using the stapler!


    5. We stretched the flag be-decked string from one end of the polystyrene box, over the top of the cardboard tube and down to the other end of the box, attaching it at both ends with some more duck tape.

    6. We decorated the sides of the boats with permanent markers (so that the decorations didn’t wash off in the water).

    7. We found some willing passengers and headed off to float our boats downstream.



    flags_frontcoverThe World Encyclopedia of Flags: 2star (And yes, you could choose it if you were to win the giveaway)

    Whilst making and decorating our boats we’ve been listening to an eclectic lot: Sailing Around The World by The Wiggles, The Suffrage Flag sung by Elizabeth Knight, and an old favourite – Take me in your lifeboat by Flatt and Scruggs.

    Other flag and boat activities that look really fun are:

  • Future Craft Collective’s Hope Wish Prayer Flags
  • Filth Wizardry’s aluminium foil river
  • No time for flashcard’s recycled boat with a selection of great sounding boat books
  • This is my first Nonfiction Monday post – a regular feature in the Kidlitosphere community, celebrating nonfiction books for kids. Picture Book of the Day has more information.

    For more reviews of nonfiction books for kids, check out this week’s roundup hosted by Anamaria at her blog, books together.

    Last, but certainly not least, please take a look at Kristine’s Squeak Squeak post over at Bilbified. She has written a wonderful post about a book her daughter loves and a really fun sounding book-inspired activity that they got up to. Kristine describes it as a “Zoe style” post – very flattering, but I wonder if she blogs with a woolly hat on her head, a hot water bottle tied on to her underneath her dressing gown, slurping coffee for dear life…. (what a start to the week, heh?!)

    10 Responses

    1. Tricia

      Welcome to Nonfiction Monday! I’m so glad you joined us and thoroughly enjoyed reading your post. I’m actually teaching a class on teaching geography this afternoon, and I plan to share your post. What a wonderful idea! Thanks so much for sharing it.


    2. Sarah N.

      I love the boats you made. My girls would adore that project. My M has really enjoyed coloring flags that I’ve printed out for her.

    3. Ashley

      Well thats a new word for me too!
      Your boats are a fantastic idea.
      Looking forward to more Non fiction Monday posts.

    4. Kristine

      I just realised how rarely I read non-fiction with my daughters. I look forward to being introduced to more non-fiction through your blog.

      This one reminds me of when I was a child. We use to spend several weeks on a small boat with my grandparents and uncle on their respective boats at Rottnest. During that period we’d celebrate Christmas, boxing day, new years day, my uncle, granddad and my birthday by flying our bunting.
      This link has some photos of the bay that we would anchor in. It’s very beautiful.
      I like your idea about meeting for a coffee and a play. What about somewhere midway – how about Italy!

    5. Zoe

      Hi Kristine

      Rottnest looks magical! What a wonderful place to celebrate your birthday.

      Italy sounds good too 😉 Nice coffee, great pastries… it’s good to dream!

    6. vanessa@silly eagle books

      I want to live at your house! This looks like so much fun–what a great idea to look at the flag book and then make the flags. I just recently bought a book about flags for Juliet–it’s one aimed at much younger children, not nearly as nice as the one you used, but I was surprised at how intrigued she was by it! I think she would absolutely love this activity.

    7. Maria

      It’s really a wonderful idea. Thanks a por for sharing it!!

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