Picture books aren’t just for kids. I’ve got five fun picture book activities for all ages – even grown-ups – that help you learn to think creatively, read critically, and communicate boldly. (This post contains affiliate links. Please see my disclosure policy for details)
I’m going to let you in on a secret.
I have a house full of people who read picture books.
We’re so counter-cultural.
Somewhere in the course of literary history, it was surmised that by a certain age, kids should be reading books with chapters. Picture books are for kids who can neither hack the heftier stuff nor have any hope of attending Harvard, right?
If my children end up at Harvard (and frankly I’d be thrilled if they didn’t), it won’t be because they were reading chapter books at age six (that was my oldest; my middle child is still blissfully illiterate). Children learn best when they think creatively, read critically and communicate boldly. It’s a skill set anyone can develop, especially with picture books at the center of creative literacy.
Fracture a fairy tale
See it: If you’ve seen Shrek, Wicked, or Tangled, you already know the premise behind fracturing a fairy tale. Choose a favorite, then re-imagine it from your own perspective. Mo Willems’ Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs is one example. His irreverent take on Goldilocks and the Three Bears places Goldy in the almost-clutches of a hungry dinosaur family.
Try it: What if you told Cinderella’s story from the perspective of a wicked step-sister? How about taking the Queen’s side in Sleeping Beauty? Why not put the Little Mermaid on the moon? Go ahead and tell the story however you choose – the more unusual, the better!
After “The End”
See it: Take a cue from Kaye Umansky’s A Chair for Baby Bear. This imaginative tale picks up after Goldilocks leaves Baby Bear’s chair in pieces.
Try it: How much did Jack’s life change following the gifts of the golden goose? Did Sleeping Beauty really live happily ever after? What about Hansel and Gretel after their escape from the witch? You could even imagine a sequel to a favorite movie or book.
See it: In Hush Little Dragon, Boni Ashburn turns an lullaby upside down – she transforms “Hush Little Baby” into a bedtime quest for baby dragon’s dinner. And in When Dinosaurs Came with Everything, Elise Broach explores what happens when dinosaurs replace the standard lollipop at the barber and sticker at the doctor’s office.
Try it: Follow Ashburn and Broach’s lead – take a finger play, lullaby or normal, everyday situation and have a blast giving it an absurdly plausible twist.
Fill in the blank
See it: Children’s books that encourage reader participation are fabulous choices for extension activities. David Weisner’s wordless picture books invite readers to tell the story, while Judi Barret’s Things that are Most in the World challenges readers to create their own outlandish superlatives.
Try it: Flex your creative muscles and fill in the blanks left by the authors who leave them.
Stand in someone else’s shoes
See it: Books like Doreen Cronin’s Diary of a Worm, Diary of a Spider and Diary of a Fly explore the world through the eyes of some of its littlest creatures.
Try it: Consider what voice you might adopt, then write a story from its perspective. What is everyday life like for a shark? A snail? Is there more to the story of the people you meet? What conflicts, situations, or choices can you create for them?
Reading a picture book is already a fun way to spend a lazy afternoon. Add some of these extension activities and you’ve got an added dimension of creativity, not to mention membership in a super-secret, counter-cultural reading revolution.
Viva la picture book!