My two-year old daughter loves going to the library.  Since she stays at home with me while I work, I often feel guilty that she doesn’t have the opportunity to be with other kids, and often there is another family or two there when we go.  She loves playing in their pretend kitchen, investigating the bin of puppets, and loading the little shopping cart with books.  Plus honestly, it’s great to get out and spend some time together in the middle of the day.

Last week, when I asked if she wanted to walk down to the library, her eyes did the customary light up and twinkle.

While she plays, I look for seasonal books, as well as a few that might explain colors differently, or maybe star one of her favorite characters.

My fingers stopped flipping on a book from my childhood – If You Give a Mouse a Cookie.  I remember checking it out of my elementary school library in first grade.

(Pin for later!)

After a reminiscent smile, I added it to our pile to take home.

She didn’t care about it for days.  About four pages in, she’d climb off my lap and go get another book.  A little broken hearted, I gave it a rest for a couple of days.

Then randomly, it dawned on me.  Why don’t we bake cookies, and while they’re in the oven, read the book?  Maybe she needs some association?  Then, I thought…I bet others have done activities around the book, I wonder if there’s a teacher who has posted something online to look at for some inspiration.

Right away, I found The Pinterested Parent’s version of a counting game using a mouse head and paper cookies.  Perfect.  It took me about a half hour to cut things out, paint, and assemble, and to be honest, I didn’t look at the author’s example while I did it.  If I had, I totally would have flipped the paper plate around to create a pocket like she did.  Oh well.  I ended up securing a fold-over sandwich bag behind the mouth to catch the cookies…with scotch tape, obviously (it’s part of the book).  I used the rim of a drinking glass to trace out the ears, and the rim of a champagne flute to do the cookies.  I decided that each cookie would have a specific number of chocolate chips (hole punch made), ranging from one to five, and that I would write the number on the back.  She helped put on some of the chocolate chips, which I was really impressed with, considering their tiny size and the fact that glue is, you know, messy, which she is not into in the slightest.

Now, I’m not loyal to a chocolate chip cookie recipe.  I’ve been on the hunt for several years for the perfect version.  Something soft, but that will keep well, should a few somehow escape for a few rounds.  I decided to try this one from Apple a Day, and if you wondered, they’re delicious.  The recipe is going in my strong consideration pile.

I also printed this cookie flip off from HomeschoolShare.  (I forgot to take in-action photos of this one, sorry!)

She helped me “fling” the cookie dough off of the spoon.  She doesn’t like anything messy on her hands, so to be honest, I wasn’t sure this would work out.  She did okay, but actually got really mad when I whisked the cookie sheet off to the oven.  So, dad asked her if she would like to read a story about cookies, while she waited for the cookies to bake.  She got a cozy shower and jammie change, and sighed when she got to the couch.  Nice save.

* I apologize for the amazing photography in this post.  This was a spur of the moment thing that I didn’t honestly expect to work, so these are cell phone photos.  Sometimes, as moms, we just have to go with it. 😉  Enjoy the content part. *
The Easiest Way to Build an Afternoon of Meaningful Toddler or Elementary Child Activities - GrowingSpangs.com - If You Give A Mouse A Cookie - Develop Context for Young Readers
Don’t mind the remodeling junk, or our stellar impromptu cell phone photos…
The Easiest Way to Build an Afternoon of Meaningful Toddler or Elementary Child Activities - GrowingSpangs.com - If You Give A Mouse A Cookie - Develop Context for Young Readers
Friends, don’t feel bad for me because I’m allergic to eggs – sometimes, it has its perks! (Just sub 1/4c of applesauce, you can’t tell the difference). This is also the oldest and cheapest cookie sheet around, hence the sprayed olive oil)

The Easiest Way to Build an Afternoon of Meaningful Toddler or Elementary Child Activities - GrowingSpangs.com - If You Give A Mouse A Cookie - Develop Context for Young Readers

After we each enjoyed a cookie and she could realize the process (that I didn’t steal all of the cookies, forever), dad went to work, leaving us with the other two activities.

At first, she was so taken aback that the paper cookies just disappeared when she put them in the mouse’s mouth.  After I had a great laugh, I showed her the sandwich bag I had taped to the back.  She is an observer, and has to investigate everything.  She usually investigates instead of playing with something.  After I had slowly put a cookie in the mouse’s mouth with her watching the back side, she was satisfied, and went back to doing it from the front.  We found out that for her age, cutting a thicker mouth line helped a lot, since the construction paper bends and her fine motor skills aren’t incredible yet.

The Easiest Way to Build an Afternoon of Meaningful Toddler or Elementary Child Activities - GrowingSpangs.com - If You Give A Mouse A Cookie - Develop Context for Young Readers

Next, we tried the cookie flip, while reading the book again.  She’s recently really liked puzzles, so when I would pause and ask her to find the circle with the straw in it, she liked to take charge of that, and proudly show me the right circle, and put it next to the others in story order.

Overall, I’m going to do this once in awhile when I find a classic book, or when inspiration hits on a newer book.  She did great with helping with the dough, the art in gluing, fine motor skills with the mouse’s mouth, investigating, learning numbers, and recognizing pictures and putting them in storybook order.  She listened to the book and turned pages four times today.  From start to finish, about two hours of my time and done with things I already had in the house.

I’m usually a major hot mess mom, but honestly, that was so simple to pull off, and packed a lot of bang for my time vs growing toddler brain buck.  Finding two or three activities to correspond with a book once a week or even once every other week is totally do-able, and to be honest, most of the work was done for me within that book!  My daughter loves reading anyway, but imagine if books actually came to life in her own house more often…imagine making a book come alive for kids who don’t read.

The book’s author did the work, and you can use Google or Pinterest for the amazing resources they are, and plan a quick “field trip” for your family.  With Minnesota winter coming, I’m looking forward to some “book trips” myself this season.

They don’t care if you’re some version of an incredible parent that you have in your mind.  They just care that you spend genuine time with them.  That’s what makes you a great parent.

And…they might ask you for a glass of milk to go with it. 😉

-Ashley

How about you?  Have you done activities that corresponded with a book before?  What book could you try this with?

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If you’re looking for more creative ways to entertain kids, check out this Pinterest board.

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10 thoughts on “The Easiest Way to Build an Afternoon of Meaningful Toddler or Elementary Child Activities

  1. I love special moments like these with my daughter. Great idea to incorporate a theme from the book into your day, like baking the cookies. So sweet!

    1. Thanks Ayana! I think that’s what really made it work – her brain is a sponge, and she has to discover everything. Discovering one thing in many ways had to be so fun for her. Thanks for stopping by!

  2. This is a good idea, anyway you can incorporate learning and fun times with your child is amazing. And don’t worry the photos look fine she seem to enjoyed herself at the end of the day.

    1. Thanks Chastity! I agree, the more ways something can be incorporated, the more learning opportunities there are! 🙂 Thanks for stopping by!

  3. Love the idea and the creativity in making a game cum learning fun! Many times, as kids grow older, they often end up creating such awesome things themselves.

    1. That’s true Pooja…it’s fun to create ways they can use their imaginations really young – I can imagine the fun gets better later on that way. Thanks for stopping by!

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