Reading to your child is a great start, but don’t let the fun stop once the last page is turned … let the stories inspire some creative activities with your child this winter.
Another day stuck inside with grumpy, sick kids … do you need inspiration? Time for the magical power of books to do their work. Even a 3-year-old’s full-blown tantrums are usually quelled by a book and a cuddle. And to fill in the rest of the afternoon? Book-inspired activities!
Silly, noisy, fun storytimes convince our children that being a reader is fantastic and something they want to become. What could be more silly and fun than monkeys??
Monkey with a Tool Belt by Chris Monroe
Monkey’s Friends by Ruth Brown
And my favourite: Goodnight Gorilla by Peggy Rathmann
Banana Mateys. I don’t know where the name came from (most likely made up by my eldest as a toddler), but these yummy afternoon treats brighten up any dull day. First, break some bananas in half to make tails. Then insert iceblock sticks into the base as a handle. Dip your banana tails in melted chocolate, roll in sprinkles, and place them in the freezer.
While you wait, make monkey tails from long fluffy strips of fabric or old ties. Tie them around your waists and set up the furniture as an obstacle course for monkey-climbing antics. Yes, mums too – it’s good to be silly with your kids sometimes! Even if it’s just for 10-minutes. They’ll feel loved by your time and attention (and are more likely to behave better later on while you’re making dinner).
sticking it out
Books lead nicely into art activities, and these ones do the job of inspiring creativity particularly well.
Grab all your scraps of old wrapping paper and collage a picture with Who Hoo Are You by Kate Endle. Young children might enjoy the ripping of the paper more than creating an actual picture, but that’s okay too!
The Dot by Peter H. Reynolds (find it on YouTube if you can’t find it in the library) could start the ball rolling for dot painting, squiggle painting, exploring abstract art and all sorts of fun with shapes and colours. Dot painting could also lead into exploring Aboriginal and other cultural art. (Tip: painting with the ‘wrong’ end of a brush makes perfect little dots.)
Mouse Paint by Ellen Walsh is another cute book that can lead straight into painting and also teaches colour mixing. For the days you just can’t cope with the thought of a preschooler armed with a paint brush, here is a great way for them to have fun with paint, mixing colours, and squishing it all around with zero mess: snaplock bags! Spoon two colours of paint into a snaplock bag (and then into an even bigger one if you want to be really safe). Squeeze the air out as much as you can and make sure the paint has room to move. Zip and then sellotape the bag closed and there you have it: cleanup-friendly paint play.
I have always loved the combination of song, craft and drama with kids and, having grown up with a hat collecting dad, this list of books are some of my favourites for inspiring dramatic hat-ivities.
Millie’s Marvellous Hat by Satoshi Kitamura
Hettie’s 100 Hats by Janet Slingsby
The Quangle Wangles Hat by Edward Lear
The Magic Hat by Mem Fox
The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins by Dr Suess
Find the song ‘Down at the silly hat store’ on YouTube, then make or find hats to use for your own version. It’s great for kids of all ages and can even be made into a simple play with props for the street and hat store, and of course, lots of crazy hats!
Try cardboard animal-shaped hats with eyes, teeth, ears, beaks, etc. What about empty pot plant containers with fake flowers, or a hat made from recyclable objects? Perhaps you’ll end up at a Mad Hatter’s tea party by the end of the week!
stop bugging me
An easy, fun theme to find books on for young children is bugs. There are dozens. And the activities to go with them are just as numerous.
Time for Tea Polly Wally by Kali Stileman
The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
Snail Trail by Ruth Brown
Fill a bowl with string or wool (worms) and hide tiny bug-like objects inside (could use plastic toys, craft pompoms, raisins, pasta shapes). Your preschooler can pretend to be a bird, and pluck out their bugs using tweezers or chopsticks.
Make a hungry caterpillar from a paper bag and feed him. We found pictures of food online that matched the story of the hungry caterpillar and printed them off to feed our hungry paper bag caterpillar.
Or try making a caterpillar from a long piece of ribbon and sewing on a large button for its head. Then cut button-hole size slits in pieces of felt for the caterpillar to eat through. This teaches your little one how to work buttons (great for developing fine motor skills) and they love it.
Butterfly paintings always delight young children. Show them how to put the paint in the middle of their page and then fold it in half. When they open it, you’ll get a great reaction! Be prepared with lots of paper because they’ll want to do this more than once.
kids ideas for kids:
“Paper-mache a bowl that fits your head, and once it’s dry turn it into a silly hat!” Ahlia, age 6
“I love the Dora cookbook. I love to cook.” Jade, age 7
“You could make snails out of pipecleaners.” TJ, age 10
“Read James and the Giant Peach and then make tickets to go see the peach.” Georgia, age 10
“You could make paper planes, or study things you love, like planets.” Sam, age 7
“Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus is a good book for little kids.” Jared, age 12
“Make flowers out of tissues and bendy straws.” Megan, age 13
“Draw crazy faces! Half the face is normal and half is crazy!” Ellie, age 7
make reading fun
Mixing exciting activities with books is the perfect recipe for promoting a lifelong love of reading. Phonics-based reading programmes can be useful, but without fantastically fun reading experiences, these programmes will never achieve the same results. There is no better way to prepare a child for school and life than a parent who reads with them from birth and has fun doing it.
Kelly Eden-Calcott is a writer and mum to three girls. She is a trained primary teacher with degrees in Education and Early Intervention working with preschool children with special needs.