Hands-on Learning With Books: Activities for the Early Childhood Class

Hands-on Learning With Books: Activities for the Early Childhood Class
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Appreciate literature in your classroom. It is one of the best ways to motivate your students to take an interest in written as well as a spoken language.  Why not integrate learning across the curriculum with good books? 

Don’t fall short on ideas for the upcoming school year. Turn to your children’s literature library and engage in hands-on learning with books. Read stories on these topics and then follow through with fun and informative activities.

If You Read About Colors

  • Take a tour of your classroom and match colors on each page to colors in your room.
  • Take a color survey. Divide a poster board into columns, one for each color of the rainbow. Next, have the children present their favorite color. Invite them to make a mark on the poster or paste a picture of themselves in the correct column.
  • Set up art materials in the art center. Let the children experiment with primary and secondary colors in their drawings. You can use crayons, paints, markers, or watercolors.
  • In the science center, set up experiments with color. Fill small jars with water. Invite children to place drops of food coloring into the water to make primary colors. Use drops of these primary colors to create secondary colors. Kids love to use plastic eye droppers.

If You Read About Transportation

  • Add small transportation vehicles to your block area.
  • Provide transportation pictures for the kids to sort into three piles: air transportation, land transportation, and water transportation. 
  • Place some cardboard boxes in your outdoor play area. Invite the children to pretend they are UPS or FedEx delivery people and transport these packages via wagons and big wheel toys.

If You Read About Ecology (or Earth Day)

  • Take a litter walk and clean around the playground or neighborhood. (Kids need to wear gloves)
  • Start a recycling center in your classroom.
  • Plant a butterfly garden.
  • Make a language chart on ways we all can conserve water, electricity, and so on.
  • Take a nature walk and take pictures of plants and animals.
  • Create art collages with recycled items brought to school from home.

If You Read About Another Country

  • Play music or sing songs from that country.
  • Get small travel posters and cut them into jigsaw puzzles (store them individually in zipper-lock plastic bags). Have the children put them together.
  • Collect dolls and plastic figurines and place them in your dramatic play area. Add clothing to play dress-up. 
  • Ask a visitor to come to talk to the children about their country.
  • Prepare food from that country for lunch or snack.

If You Read About Feelings

  • Present a variety of feeling cards and have the kids sort these into different emotional piles, such as sad, happy, scared, and lonely.
  • Create a language chart where children finish the following sentence, “It really makes me angry when _________.” Each student takes turns telling the class what makes them angry. Write down each statement. Make a variety of charts with different emotions. Hang them where parents and visitors can read the children’s comments. “Out of the mouths of babes” is quite interesting!
  • Older students may engage in writing a story about specific feelings. For example, “Write a story about a child getting lost in a department store” or “Write a story about a child winning a prize.” The topic list is endless!

If You Read About Food

  • Plan a cooking project including food introduced in the story.
  • Plant a small vegetable container garden. Place this in your schoolyard and engage your students in caring for this garden.
  • Make food collages by cutting out pictures of food from magazines.
  • Sort plastic foods into groups – vegetables, fruits, dairy, meat, and grains.
  • For science, cut open a variety of foods to see how they look inside. Do tasting tests. For example, investigate a variety of apples.
  • Create food puzzles from boxes of packaged foods. Cut the front cover cardboard into jigsaw pieces.

These are only a few of the many topics found in books. Present hands-on learning activities from your favorite stories. So, grab a book and start brainstorming!

Here are a few lesson plans based on books from Bright Hub Education:

Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey

If you Give a Mouse a Cookie by Laura Joffe Numeroff

Growing Vegetable Soup by Lois Ehlert

I’m as Quick as a Cricket by Audrey Wood

The Polar Express by Chris Van Allburg


Personal experience as a teacher in an early childhood classroom.

Book photos courtesy of Amazon.com

Feature photo Kids Reading Books