Literary activities for bored kids
In a past life, I was an after-school-care coordinator while I studied at university. And in the not so distant past, I tried to do a little freelance editing while at home with a school kid, kinder kid and baby. You could say I have had some experience in entertaining kids…
In case you have kids or grandkids at home with no school due to the coronavirus or are starting to think about the school holidays with more time at home, here are a few suggestions to keep them entertained – and provide sanity for you. Believe me, I’m writing this as much for me as for you!
Some of the activities will suit primary school kids, others are better for secondary school students and all of them can be adjusted for your own needs.
- Literary day – ask each kid to choose their favourite book for a day. On that day, the whole family eats like the characters in the book, dresses like them, acts out a scene, makes props such as newspaper hats, cardboard swords. Perhaps the favourite book is the gorgeous picture book, My mum and dad make me laugh by Nick Sharratt, where the mum loves spots, the dad likes stripes and the little boy loves grey elephants. Imagine the possibilities for food and clothes with spots and stripes! Perhaps your teenager loves Twilight – what smoothies could you make for a vampire? Who does the best Bella impersonation? And if your book has a movie, you definitely have permission to watch the movie!
- Make a mini concertina book – instructions here – and sketch out your favourite story with stick figures. Everyone else in the family has to guess the title.
- Make a book using a stick from the garden or park and rubber bands and turn it into a botanical masterpiece with botanical illustrations of leaves and flowers or draw pictures of the characters. Instructions here.
- Design a poster for a book as if it were going to become a movie. Decide on your cast and the tagline. Mr 10 recently read Crossover by Kwame Alexander and he decided that he’d play the main character (a kid passionate about basketball) and the dad character would be played by Le Bron James. Teenagers can do it digitally, young kids can do it with paper and paint.
- Make paper dolls of your favourite characters – look at this website for ideas. Think about how Katniss or Harry Potter would look like, as well as all the other characters. Younger kids might like the picture book Paper Dolls by Julia Donaldson. Older kids might prefer to make individual ones like the ones from this art book The black apple’s paper doll primer by Emily Winfield Martin.
- Have a look at this clip about the hero’s journey. Make a clock, perhaps out of a paper plate, and track your favourite character’s journey. You can simplify this to four plot points for younger kids.
- For half an hour after lunch, play DEAR – Drop Everything And Read. You, too – I give you permission.
- Write a blackout poem, using an article from a newspaper or magazine – example here.
- Think of your favourite picnic scene in a book – Picnic at Hanging Rock, Wind in the willows, Famous Five – and recreate a picnic scene in your back garden for lunch or dinner.
- Your kids are going to come across Shakespeare at school if they haven’t already. Let them watch a few modern films such as 10 things about you, She’s the man, Shakespeare in love, Romeo and Juliet. Suggest they read a simplified version first, such as Leon Garfield’s Shakespeare stories so they know the story.
- Follow Miss Thirteen’s example (when she had chronic fatigue) and watch the entire series of Gilmore Girls – this catapulted her into reading classics like Moby Dick, and books by Charles Dickens, Jane Austen and Jules Verne.
- Make some peg dolls to recreate nursery rhymes – I have made these with so many kids and everyone loves them! Margaret Bloom has a wonderful book, Making peg dolls and there are supplies here.
- After dinner or while washing the dishes, create a story together. Everyone has to contribute two words, and go around and around the table – There was …. a man …. who liked…. to paint… his letterbox … with pink…
- Use lego figures, action figures, dolls to make up stories and film them using iMovie. Add music.
- Read your kids a poem every day. Ask them to find a different one from books like The Waldorf book of poetry or websites like this one.
- Print out photos of when the kids were little and help them to write their own story about themselves.
- Ask the kids to write a journal of their time at home to record for their grandchildren. Remind them they are the hero of their own story, they are the protagonist. Do not be surprised if they cast you as the antagonist!
- Older kids could write a dystopian story. Perhaps they could set it in the future, and have the character look back fifty years ago to 2020, to the year of bushfires and coronavirus. What has changed? What do we do differently? What is the technology like?
- Encourage the kids to write emails or letters to their grandparents or relatives who are isolated.
- Make a family time capsule – this is who we are at this moment in time, stuck at home because of the coronavirus. We ate, we studied, we read, we watched, we loved, we feared, we found this difficult, we found this fun. Open it in two years time or ten.
- Put a sheet of paper on the fridge to tally up the number of books everyone in the family has read. If you need to bribe, do it with chocolate or pocket money or a future excursion.
- Play libraries and make borrowing cards or alphabetise your books.
- Read a story to an audience of teddies and dolls. Film your kid reading and send it to a relative. Mr 10 and I – when he was four – filmed ourselves reciting The owl and the pussy-cat. (Note to self – find that video!)
- Make bookmarks that match the books and give them to neighbours and friends.
I know for sure that my kids will roll their eyes at some of these activities. But the point is, a few of them will stick. So keep trying. Let me know if you have any more ideas in the comments. We’re all in this together.