I walked into the playroom, and instead of my usual welcome, my twins objected,
“Mommy, you’re messing up our game!”
Apparently, they had a whole world set up in there, and I wasn’t meant to be a part of it. I’m usually happy when they’re entertaining themselves. Yet, sometimes, just sometimes, I want time to connect with them in those precious, unscheduled, after school hours.
Crafting Together, Inspired by Books
We’ve had a lot of fun together making crafts based on books. They loved the play dough craft we made for Strictly No Elephants, for example. They’re at an age where they really love taking crafts in their own direction and I make a point of encouraging their creativity, rather than forcing them to stick with the plan.
We look at the plan as our starting point, rather than our destination. Sometimes the craft materials get played with rather than crafted with. As long as the mess is being contained or can be cleaned up quickly, I let it unfold.
Last fall, when we made this button caterpillar inspired by A Very Hungry Caterpillar, the buttons themselves became a toy. And why wouldn’t they! Buttons can stand in for all kinds of food that a hungry caterpillar might eat. Crafting, for us, will often lead to pretend play and imaginative storytelling.
Starting with Favorite Interests
Sometimes we go the other way around. When Sophie was obsessed with space and planets, I created this rocket craft that we decorated together. Then, I went and found books about rockets to complement it.
The craft had sparked her interest, and reading books together extended it. It also extended our connection with each other.
Starting with Favorite Stories
A lot of the children’s books in our house have become like old friends. We’ve read our favorites over and over (I admit I tend to bury the ones I don’t want to read repeatedly!)
I’ve created a lot of book extension activities for my blog, and there are even more ideas on Pinterest. Sometimes, though, I like to just make something up as we go along. That’s what I did on this day when my girls were immersed in their playroom world.
I stepped around their game, and browsed the playroom bookshelf. Owl Moon, one of my all-time favorites, caught my eye. I sat down at the table with it, and flipped through the pages.
Then, I got out drawing paper and the colored pencils. My girls were intrigued.
“Mommy, what are you doing?”
Aha! I had them.
Now, let me just tell you – I can’t draw. I’m really bad. My seven year olds can do almost as well as I can. When I was a classroom teacher, I used this to my advantage. “Look how goofy my drawing looks! I’m sure you can do better.” And they’d all try.
So on with the Owl Moon story…
I drew a few terrible owls. They could see I needed help, and one went and pulled an owl magnet off the fridge and brought it to me. Finally, I drew one I was satisfied with, and started coloring it. By then, my girls had gotten out their own sheets of paper and were seated alongside.
Sophie drew her own charming owl. I love how she gave it a name and personality.
Isabella took it in another direction, and drew a forest with lots of birds and a lake. Why not. The important thing is that we were sitting together, drawing, chatting, and connecting over a book we all love.
Books enrich our lives in so many ways. Shared reading is a wonderful foundation not only for learning, but also for connecting with each other.
Do you ever use books to inspire your creative activities?
You might also like to also check out this fun set of book-inspired letter crafts for preschoolers from Books and Giggles;
About Heather: Heather is a teacher turned stay-at-home-mom to a son and twin daughters. In her (limited) free time, she loves reading, sailing, and outdoor adventures. You can find more of her educational activities, seasonal crafts, and picture book extensions over at Books and Giggles, or connect with her on Instagram, Facebook, or Pinterest.