When I read to my kids, I just read to them, with no activities. But sometimes I want to add a little something, so I bust out this easy book activity!
Normally I do not have activities to go along with the chapter books that we read. That’s a personal choice. I think it’s great that some of y’all make amazing crafts and things to go with your reading time, but it’s just not my style.
There are a few reasons why I don’t plan and print activities to go along with our books:
- I want my kids to fall in love with literature. I know that making it fun and not schoolwork can help with that. I never want them to view reading as a drag.
- I want my kids to be able to read without looking to me to dazzle them with “more.” Reading is pretty great on it’s own.
- I’m pretty lazy. I’m way too lazy to gather all the supplies for an activity, or to change the printer ink cartridge as often as it would need to be changed if I hopped on the printable-activity-sheet train. I think some of this laziness comes from the fact that, since I’ve become a mom, I’m tired about 67% of the time.
(Now, please don’t take this confession of tiredness as an invitation to message me about a great supplement you sell. I know why I’m tired, and a lot of it is because my husband travels for work. When he’s gone I stay up way too late watching reruns of Dance Moms. Priorities, am I right?)
However, there are times when I am looking for a little something to keep my kids occupied after we have read together.
(Did I mention that my husband travels for work? That’s a lot of solo-parenting hours to fill.)
That is when I bust out this ridiculously easy book activity. I call it Observe and Report. All it takes is a blank sheet of paper and some crayons or colored pencils.
Observe and Report
Believe me when I say it, this is an EASY book activity.
First, snuggle up on the couch with your kids and a book.
If you want to, you can explain to your kids that today as you’re reading they should pay close attention to the setting of the story.
Of course, if I do this, I don’t use the word, “setting,” I say something like, “During this chapter, try to picture in your head what the place looks like.”
I want to encourage them to do things they should do for the rest of their lives as they read. Making a mental picture of the scene is one of those great things to do.
Second, read the next page or pages or chapter in the chapter book you are currently reading to them.
I don’t know about you, but my kids sit like perfect angels as I read, because I am an amazing Christian parent.
I kid, I kid.
Most of the time we don’t make it through a whole chapter because everyone is getting wiggly, but that’s fine. A page or two is still time reading together! And that’s all it takes to for this activity.
The reading and listening is the Observe part of the activity.
Third, move to the table or counter and give each child a plain sheet of paper and something to draw with. I let me kids choose between crayons or colored pencils.
You could always use markers, too. However, in our house the markers have mysteriously migrated to the cabinet above the fridge, after one too many attempts to paint the dog’s toenails with them.
Finally, have everyone draw what you just read about.
That’s how your kids Report.
Seriously. Didn’t I tell you? It is the easiest kids book activity ever.
What’s the point?
This activity is so simple! Why would we want to take the time to do it at all?
Peace and quiet! I kid, I kid…sort of.
Having a moment of quiet down time is great. There’s nothing wrong with a calmer activity every once in awhile. There are also a few other good reasons to do this literary activity.
First, it helps the kids visualize the story you are reading aloud. This can be especially helpful if the book you are reading doesn’t have a ton of pictures.
Second, it allows your kids to talk. We spend so much time teaching our kids and talking at them. It is good to give them times when they can just talk without being interrogated.
Look at their Report and say something like, “Tell me about it!”
Then, just listen. Don’t interrupt. Don’t try to guess what things are. Just let them share with their little voices what is in their little hearts.
You may be surprised what all they have picked up from the book. When given a chance to talk, our kids have wonderful things to say. This activity gives you a chance to listen to them and look in their eyes and let them know how important their words are to you.
Finally, my kids love this activity! It is so simple, but so enjoyable when they do it together.
A Few Things to Keep in Mind
There are a few more things you can keep in mind while you are getting ready to try this super easy book activity.
First, I have found that Observe and Report works best when you use it with books that have a setting that is familiar to your kids.
For example, we live in the woods, so drawing the setting of A True Home is easy for my kids.
In contrast, The Magician’s Nephew took place in London a century and a half ago. That would be really difficult to Report, since my kids have no idea what the things that the book talks about should even look like. Let’s be honest, my ability to accurately picture a hansom cab isn’t that great, either.
Second, I’ve gotten my kids to buy in to doing this activity by always making it a big deal that the Report is for Daddy. Once they finish their drawings, we leave them on the counter in a prominent spot so that I don’t forget about them. Then, as soon as Daddy walks through the door, they can explain their pictures to him.
Most of the time my preschooler explains his picture in great detail. My toddler just squeals, “DADDY!! REPORT!! DADDY!!” over and over again.
Third, you might want to make your own guidelines if you find that this activity is not taking up as much time as you would like to fill.
For example, my son has a tendency to color the entire scene with one color. There’s probably some deep psychological reason why he does this, but I tend to chock it up to him getting excited and forgetting to switch crayons.
In order to stretch the activity out a bit more, I instituted the guideline that reports need to have at least three colors.
You could do other things to stretch the activity if you find they are breezing through it before you can switch the laundry. You could have your kids draw in their favorite character after they draw the scene. Or, have them turn over the paper and draw what they hope happens next in the story.
The possibilities are endless!
Ways to Mix Up This Easy Book Activity
Occasionally, I have spiced Observe and Report up a little bit.
- Use different art supplies.
I normally stick to printer paper and colored pencils because that’s what I have readily available. But anything will due! Sometimes the scene will lend itself to a different art medium.
For example, when we read a part of a chapter in The Little House in the Big Woods that took place in winter, my kids drew their Report with chalk on black construction paper so that they could make snow.
Use whatever art supplies your kids love, and that is easily picked up. If you decide to incorporate glitter, you have my prayers.
- Report on the real world instead of the book.
Sometimes my son doesn’t want to report on the chapter we just read. This could be a sign that he doesn’t understand what we are reading. It is a good opportunity to ask a few questions to see what he has picked up from the book so far.
Alternatively, not wanting to report on the chapter could be sign that he is like me, and he hates being told what to do.
If I meet with any resistance to drawing what we read about, I just give him binoculars and send him to the porch. He looks around for a while then comes back in and draws a report about what he saw.
When he’s done, I have him describe his picture. I ask about how what he saw around our house is the same or different from what we read about in the book.
Life is short, this activity is not worth a battle with your kids. If they don’t want to Report on the book, don’t sweat it. Drawing what they see around the house, or drawing where they wish they were are still great ways to get talking with your little person.
- Have your child draw herself in the scene.
If your kids are pretty clear on the concept of drawing the setting of the book, ask them to draw themselves, too. Ask them what they would be doing if they were there.
These are just a few ways to spice up this easy book activity. There are countless other variations you could imagine!
The point of the activity is to get the kids thinking and visualizing what we read, and us talking, so there isn’t a “right way” to do it!
Easy Doesn’t Mean Low Value
You might have noticed that I’m really happy about how easy this activity is. I keep saying that: it’s just so easy!
It’s true. This is a no-prep preschool or toddler aged activity using materials you probably already have. It is EASY. But it’s also beneficial and worth doing!
Try it today!