Reading aloud together may be a daily activity in your family, but did you know that a single book has the potential to become a whole lot more?
Book extensions, as they are called in the world of early childhood education, are activities that help bring a book to life. Book extensions can be art projects, science experiments, movement games — anything that gives children the opportunity to explore the themes and concepts of a book. The options are nearly endless!
Engaging in extension activities helps children better remember a book and also gives them important opportunities to process and apply the concepts they’ve encountered. So often we go right from one book to the next, but slowing down to more fully explore the richness that each book has to offer leads to deeper and more meaningful learning.
Book extensions can also provide structure for your daily life. The simple schedule below shows how just one book can inspire activities for a week or more.
Read. Yep, it’s that simple. You want to start by reading the book aloud. There are a variety of techniques you can use to make read-alouds engaging and enjoyable, but the most important thing is to just read together in any way that works for your family: during dinner, before bedtime, with dramatic voices, in a treehouse — whatever works.
And, as repetitive as it may seem, kids of all ages truly like listening to the same book over and over. Read the book throughout the week as you introduce related activities.
Create. You don’t need to be crafty to offer art projects inspired by a book. In fact, open-ended art projects — where the process of creating is more important than the finished product — are the most beneficial types of art activities for young children. If you’re feeling inspired to set your child up to create Pinterest-worthy crafts, go for it, but all you really need to do is provide materials. Set the open book on a table for inspiration and then put out one medium, such as watercolorswatercolours and paper. (Too many materials can be overwhelming for younger children, so stick to one medium per project at first.) Your child may or may not create art related to the book, but odds are that they will talk about the book with you as they work. Here's a free example of a book-inspired craft project.
Sense. Sensory play with books? Why, yes! Books can inspire all sorts of activities that involve feeling, smelling, looking, listening and tasting. A book about the jungle can be extended to sand play or bath play with jungle animal figurines. Cooking is a fantastic sensory activity — and one that naturally incorporates valuable math and science learning. Food extensions can be very simple: a book about colorscolours could be followed by fruit and veggie tasting, with a food for each colorcolour. Here's a free book-related cooking activity.
Move and pretend. Creative movement, whether it’s dancing, doing yoga poses inspired by the story or engaging in pretend play are wonderful kinesthetic ways to explore the concepts in a book. Perhaps the book you’ve read already comes with music you can dance to, but if not, try creating a playlist that’s thematically related to the book. You and your child could also pretend to be creatures from a book, dress up like the characters or put on thematically related puppet shows. Here's a free song for moving and grooving to a book.
Explore. Now it’s time to look for ways to connect the concepts in the book to your child’s life. Take a walk in your community and notice things that relate to the book. Or find additional books on the topic. You can even research some questions online. The more you can connect a book to your child’s experiences, the more they can synthesizesynthesise the new information with their existing knowledge base — which leads to deeper understanding.
Want some concrete examples? Sign up below to receive a week’s worth of free activities that extend the bestselling singalong, The Animal Boogie. You’ll get step-by-step instructions for a craft, two recipes, and even streaming music and animation!