How the Robin got his Red Breast

A sensory story

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We've created this sensory story about a brave little bird, inspired by Roman Standard, 2005, a sculpture by Tracey Emin.

1. Collect these objects from around the house together:

  • Ice cube, white sheet or towel
  • Red blanket or scarf
  • Crisp packet, silver foil

2. When you're reading the story, ask your little one to pull out the object that they think is most relevant to the story when you see these signs.

3. When you’ve read the story, why not make your own bird's nest? Use things that you find around the house, garden or park - socks, sticks, string and spaghetti are some examples of materials that you might use!

Tracey Emin Roman Standard 2005 © Tracey Emin. All rights reserved. DACS, London 2023

Long ago, when wolves roamed the land, there lived a father and his son.


They were the keepers of the forest.


As winter settled in, the land was covered in a blanket of ice and snow.

They kept a fire burning day and night.


During the day the small boy tended the fire and overnight his father kept the fire burning.


The fire brought warmth and light to the land.

One day the father had to go away, overnight.


He told his son that he would have to tend the fire while he was away and made him promise not to fall asleep.


The boy agreed.

A hungry wolf watched from the trees and that night he saw the boy becoming sleepy.


His eyes began to close.


The boy sang to the fire to help him stay awake.

The wolf prowled silently among the trees, watching and waiting for the boy to fall asleep.


The flames of the fire slowly died down and the glowing embers began to fade.


The wolf crept slowly from the forest towards the sleeping boy.

From the undergrowth in the forest, a small brown bird was watching.


As the wolf approached the boy the bird flew past him, as quick as a flash.

She began to fan the glowing embers of the fire with her tiny wings until the fire burst into life again.


The flames were hot, and they burned the feathers on the little bird’s breast until they were bright red.


The wolf slunk back into the forest.

The little bird felt the pain from the heat of the flames, but she didn’t mind.


She was brave and strong.


Although she was very little, her impact on the world - and the people around her - was very big, indeed.


We can remember this whenever we see the robin’s red breast.

Stories adapted by Maureen Phillip, Pamis with the Learning & Engagement department, National Galleries Scotland

Illustrated by Caitlin Bowbeer