Make Reading an Adventure for Your Preschooler!

Preschoolers are very busy! Not just physically, but mentally, too. They are beginning to master language, basic abstract thought, and they are watching and listening to everything you say and do. Reading with them, or to them, is critical to this development, and will help to make them lifelong learners. And, even though your little one likes to hear the same story over and over again, they continue to be delighted and learn not only language but lessons about life. If you can make reading an adventure, the more you will capture your preschooler’s attention!

The truth is, they love the time with you, too, when he or she has your complete focus. To extend their love of reading with you, try some fun activities or crafts which will help them categorize, use descriptive language, and better understand symbolism (for example, eating broccoli = eating little trees).

Here are a few ideas on how you can make reading an adventure with some very popular books to get you started:

The Very Hungry Caterpillar

One of the most celebrated picture books of all time, and one of Kids Harbor’s absolute favorites, this story still continues to sell at one copy per minute! It is widely accepted because of the simple story, the beautiful Eric Carle illustrations, and simple concepts. Numbers, days of the week, and how a caterpillar turns into a butterfly are just a few of the lessons.


  • Come up with a daily menu with your preschooler. Choose some of their favorite snacks and make fun combinations. And, have them count each serving. For example, on Monday your “caterpillar” will eat one cracker, two slices of apple, and three pieces of celery.
  • Of course, they have to eat everything just like the hungry caterpillar (this is great if you have a picky eater at home). If you want to take it one step further, make an easy mask with just a few craft items! Take turns wearing it as you both eat everything in sight.


Good Night, Moon

Originally published in 1947, this is another of the most popular children’s books… ever. Margaret Wise Brown wrote this premier bedtime story which has lasted generations because it is a fun and imagination-filled way to get any young one ready for sleep.


  • Let your child identify whatever may be close at hand, and tell it goodnight. Help them find rhyming words to increase vocabulary skills, and have fun. Good night, clothes, good night, rose… good night, bed, good night, head… good night, hall, good night, wall. Chances are you’ll get each other giggling before the lights go out.
  • The balloon in the book is a highlight for the little ones, and art projects are an easy way to bring out the creativity in your child. Even just cutting out a red balloon from construction paper and gluing a piece of yarn from the bottom can adorn a headboard or closet door. And, don’t forget to tell it goodnight!


How Do Dinosaurs Go to School?

This hugely popular series by Jane Yolen has the best of simple life concepts and the best of illustrations by Mark Teague. And, what young readers everywhere love is how hysterically funny these books are.

For any preschooler, this is a perfect reminder of how to treat others. After all, if a triceratops can learn good manners, anyone can!


  • Have your little one tell you what they’d do if a dinosaur was running up the stairs at their school. Ask your child if they have ever interrupted a classmate like a dinosaur does during a show and tell. Then, have them tell you why it’s better to wait your turn. Remind them everyone makes mistakes, even a stegosaurus, but they learn to be kind to their friends!
  • Plastic dinosaurs can be found at the dollar store or ordered online. Dipping their feet in paint and making footprints on thick paper is a great activity, and learning the name of each species, helps them recognize the images from the book (help them sound out the names, but they probably won’t learn them right away).
  • Teaching that dinosaurs come from eggs is an easy activity with clay or play dough. Make the eggs large and hollow so their little plastic monsters can rest inside.


If You Give a Mouse a Cookie

The mouse who visits an unwitting young boy has much in store for him, as he goes from one activity to the next on every page. And, the host tears his house apart finding what the adorable mouse guest needs to fulfill every request. After a cookie, there must be milk, then a straw, then a napkin, then a haircut? The loveable rodent has quite an adventure in store in this fun book by Laura Numeroff, now a 30-year old favorite read for preschoolers.


  • This is a wonderful book to get your child to use their imagination. Let them fill in the blank. Or, give them a starter such as, “If you give a mouse a crayon, he’ll probably want a ______ to go with it.” There are no wrong answers, and you’ll be amazed at what they can come up with, especially if you change the mouse to someone in your family! For example, “If you give your little brother a cracker, he’ll ask for a ______ to go with it.” It teaches them cause and effect but, for them, it’s still fun!
  • Make the mouse an actual cookie! Using a plain round cracker, cut out a triangular piece of cheese for the ears (use a dab of peanut butter to attach it). Raisins can become the eyes and a cheerio for the mouth. Of course, if you give your child a cookie, well, you know what’s next.


Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus

Mo Willems, who started as a creator for Sesame Street, wrote and illustrated this award-winning book in 2013. This story, which is now a series, is unique in that the reader is actually part of the story. The bus driver tells the reader “Don’t the let the pigeon drive the bus” even though the pigeon tries to do it anyway. He’s a sneaky one, and the reader must pay attention to the wonderfully simple drawings to see everything the incorrigible bird will try.


  • This is a perfect story to ask your child to guess what the pigeon is doing, and what they think he may do next. Because your preschooler is part of the story, they can take charge. Let them tell you what should happen next, and guess what would happen if a pigeon really did drive the bus.
  • The scampy pigeon is simple and adorable, and so is recreating him. Use a simple handprint your child can make with finger paint. Have them keep their fingers together and extend their thumb away from their hand. The thumbprint is the neck. Then, he just needs a round circle for his head, a triangle for his beak, and two round eyes. Just make sure your little one doesn’t take it on the bus! And just in case, don’t let him in the car, either!



Parent Resources

Doing activities with your children allows you to promote their reading and writing skills while having fun at the same time. Here is a great list of 25 activities for pre-readers, beginning readers, and older readers including what you need and what to do for each one.

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