Extending books into creating art

Kinderling News & Features

Jaquelyn Muller is the author of two children's books, I Love You 5 Lollipops and Elizabeth Rose on Parade.

Children's stories in themselves are great teaching tools. That learning, however, can be greatly expanded and reinforced when you add story extension activities. The type of extension activities you engage in with children is limited only by your imagination.

What is art extension?

Book art extension activities are when you take concepts, ideas or characters from a children's book and extend the child’s learning through art. It helps solidify the concepts for the child, with them actively creating something that they can then relate back to the book. It brings the book alive for them. 

It’s easy to dismiss art extension activities for children’s books as a messy infringement on your home; all those pipe cleaners and icy-pole sticks getting stuffed down the couch and clogging up the vacuum cleaner!

However, there are good reasons why our teachers make them a part of our children’s everyday learning at school.

Story extension activities are valuable because they:

  • Expand concepts presented in the story
  • Extend on a theme
  • Build children's experiences through exploration and participation
  • Deepen children's knowledge and expand their skills
  • Allow children to explore ideas and try problem-solving ideas
  • Provide a link between the story and real life, helping the story come to life and have meaning in reality.

 And of course extension activities are extremely valuable as they promote children's learning through fun!

Don’t be afraid to give this a go with your family. Developing extension activities is easier than you thought. But be warned - you'll never view a book as just a story again!

There are no hard and fast rules as to what sort of extension activities you can plan from a children's story. Often it's easy to create activities, which cover a wide variety of subjects. Look at the elements of the story and the images. Make a list of those themes, characters or scenes you think can be easily translated into simple art activities that your child may be interested in. Don’t make this overly complicated; this is supposed to be fun. Be guided by what your child already likes to do (draw, paint, glue, cut, write, etc).

Listen to Jaquelyn’s interview on Kinderling Conversation:

What books do I choose?

Pick a favourite book that both you and your child like. This will help to inspire you to draw out some ideas.

Let’s look at an example.

Where the Wild Things Are, by Maurice Sendak, is my favourite childhood picture book. Its themes include imagination, showing your inner ‘wild thing’, feeling at home, unconditional love and not judging someone by their looks, amongst many others. These themes can be gently explored further with a range of art-based activities.

  • Create a map that shows the voyage from Max’s bedroom to the land of the Wild Things, to create a spatial sense of just how far from home Max went on his adventure.
  • Cut out a Max crown from cardboard and sprinkle it with gold glitter, then see how ‘Max’ you can be (okay, so I may have lost you at glitter).
  • Make a Wild Thing mask either using the characters in the book or come up with your own. Give your Wild Thing a name, describe their characteristics and act it out!
  • Build Max’s boat using the bottom of a margarine container, then add a skewer for the mast and paper for the sails. Will your boat float in the bathtub?
  • Create Wild Thing puppets out of cardboard and icy pole sticks. Use the puppets to re-tell the story.

What do you need in an art kit?

I actually have to hide my art kit high on a shelf so my 11-year-old does not pillage from it, but it has everything I need when I’m wanting to work out a new art activity for my books, I Love You 5 Lollipops and Elizabeth Rose on Parade. Being set in the circus there are lots of fun ideas I can come up with, and my youngest is always on hand to help test them out.

Don’t go spending a lot of money but if you have a few of the staples you will always be able to combat a rainy afternoon or a restless ‘Wild Thing’ with your own extension activities.

  • Icy-pole sticks (a must have, and the coloured ones can save you a heap of time)
  • Paper plates (rather than plastic so you can draw and paint on them)
  • Cupcake wrappers (stretch them out flat for all sort of great circular shapes for heads, bodies, flowers, planets)
  • String (you’ll need to hang masterpieces for at least a week)
  • Glue
  • Sticky tape
  • Stapler (maybe you control this one…)
  • Scissors
  • Coloured paper
  • Pencils/markers
  • Paint/brushes
  • Cardboard
  • Empty containers from around the house.

Have you come up with your own art extension activities? What have you and your kids loved making?

For more activities, podcasts and book reviews visit www.jmullerbooks.com.

Also see

:: An author's guide to getting kids into books
:: Helping kids to plan and write a story
:: Reading and children: where to after picture books?