Parents often wonder how they can teach their children to read but even more importantly, if you want your kids to become life long readers, is learning to love reading!
Reading aloud every day to your child is a great start in inspiring a love of books, (I read to my babies from around age 4 months or earlier) but don’t let the fun stop once the last page is turned … let the stories inspire some creative activities, discussions, food and fun. Try one of these out!
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1 Cheeky Monkeys
Silly, noisy, fun story-times convince our children that being a reader is fantastic and something they want to become. What could be more silly and fun than monkeys??
Books to be inspired by
- 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 Lula as a toddler), but these yummy afternoon treats brighten up any dull day.
- First, break some bananas in half to make tails.
- Then insert ice-block sticks into the base as a handle.
- Dip your banana tails in melted chocolate,
- Roll in sprinkles
- 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 and dads 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).
2 Sticking it out
Books lead nicely into art activities, and these ones do the job of inspiring creativity particularly well.
Book inspired art activities
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 (here 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 Australian Aboriginal and other cultural art. (Tip: painting with the ‘wrong’ end of a brush makes perfect little dots.) Try this simple aboriginal art for kids.
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 bag painting!
- Spoon two to three 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 cellotape the bag closed
- and there you have it: cleanup-friendly paint play.
Check out my Pinterest board: Make it with the kids for this and more ideas!
3 Mad Hatters
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.
Books to be inspired by
- 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
Play the song Down at the Silly Hat Store on YouTube, then make or find hats to use for your own version like these kids did. It’s great for preschool and school kids 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!
4 Stop bugging me!
An easy, fun theme to find books about for young children is bugs. There are dozens. And the activities to go with them are just as numerous.
Books to be inspired by
- Time for Tea Polly Wally by Kali Stileman
- The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
- Snail Trail by Ruth Brown
- Bird feeder
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.
2. Hungry Hungry caterpillar
Make a hungry caterpillar from a paper bag and feed him. When my girls were little they loved this activity. I found pictures of food online that matched the story of The Very 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.
You can watch the animated version of The Very Hungry Caterpillar here too, but remember to read the book as well!
3. Beautiful Butterflies
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 normal and half 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.
One of the best ways to prepare your child for school is to reading with them daily from birth and having fun doing it!
Check out this great post 5 Essential Pre-reading skills recommended by a Kindergarten teacher for more ideas.
I will post soon about the best books for babies.
Exciting news! Lula and I have will have our first children’s book coming out soon! Keep an eye out for news of the launch. Sign up to my newsletter to keep informed of news and new articles.
Until next time,
Originally published in Tots to Teens Magazine, New Zealand