Playdates can be a fun way for your child to build friendships and get to know other kids at their school. If you’re looking to host playdates centered on learning, consider incorporating some fun reading activities.
Reading might not seem like a group activity that young children would naturally gravitate toward, but there are many creative and fun ways to sharpen their literacy skills during playtime. They’ll be having so much fun, they won’t even realize that they’re expanding their vocabulary and honing their reading comprehension skills.
“Encouraging and supporting a child’s love for reading can be one of the most powerful things parents can do," says Dr. Gina Pepin, Ed.D., Upper Michigan Teacher of the Year and author of The Power of Joyful Reading. "Providing opportunities for your child to experience positive and inspiring literacy activities after school is something anyone can easily do."
Here are five reading activities that are perfect for your child and their friends.
1. Book Scavenger Hunt
Using about 10 or more books, you can create a Book Scavenger Hunt for your child and their friends.
“This scavenger hunt can be tailored toward the books children and their friends are most familiar with,” says Pepin. “You can also tie in different types of print — you can include recipe books, sports trading cards, graphic novels and comic books, magazines, and more.”
In this activity, your child and their friends can compete to find certain reading materials around your home or from a given bookshelf. This might include a book that has over 100 pages or a book that has been made into a movie.
“It is an exciting and highly motivating way to get kids interested, engaged, and exploring different texts,” says Pepin.
2. Story Jigsaw Puzzles
Jigsaw puzzles are a great strategy that teachers use in the classroom, but you can also easily create a fun activity out of them at home. There are many ways to play this game, but here are just few of them:
Take turns writing parts from your favorite story on blank puzzle pieces. Then, mix up the pieces, read them aloud, and work together to put the puzzle together to create a cohesive story.
Type up and print out a children’s story, then break up the sentences into different pieces to match the number of jigsaw pieces. Next, tape or glue the parts of the sentences on the jigsaw pieces so they fit together, then mix the pieces up. Your child and their friends can take turns reading aloud and put the puzzle together!
Print and tape parts from several different children's stories on individual puzzle pieces. For instance: "The little boy met a bear!" and "The owl heard laughter in the distance." Next, ask the kids to make connections between the pieces and share how each could be connected to create their very own story!
3. Reader-Responder Fun
One of the children, or a parent, reads aloud a sentence or two from a chosen book. The children will take turns sharing what they are thinking or wondering about the story.
For example, the parent would read this sentence aloud: Jack and Jill went up the hill. The first child could say something along the lines of, “I wonder how big that hill actually is?” The parent would then read, To fetch a pail of water aloud. The second child could then say, “What is the water source on top of a hill? Did they find a well or a stream?”
The kids could even pretend they're reporters interviewing a source! You can also use dialogic strategies (having a conversation about the text) to help prompt more thinking and analyzing of the text.
“This is a wonderful interactive and creative thinking activity that can promote inspiration, inquiry, a bit of silliness, and application to the real world,” says Pepin. “It also builds oral language skills.”
4. Art Story Brainstorm
This is a fun activity that gives children the opportunity to let their inner artist and storyteller out.
Make copies of famous paintings, sculptures, or your child’s own artwork for this activity. Next, ask your child and their friends to use words to describe the artwork: textures, colors, etc. Once they can identify how the artwork makes them feel, create a story together about the artwork.
Give them time to reflect, respond, and share their ideas. Feel free to try different forms of art and see what stories they can imagine and take turns sharing.
5. Make a Theme Song
“Another exciting after-school activity could include an opportunity to connect favorite children’s books with fun, thematic, or silly songs,” says Pepin.
In this activity, encourage your child and their friends to bring a copy of their favorite picture book. Next, give them time to take turns sharing all of the reasons they chose that particular book. Write all of the titles of the chosen books from the small group on a poster board or paper.
Next, have the group brainstorm different song titles, melodies, or common lyrics that they think may go with the first book. Have them create a list of potential songs or parts of a song that would best represent the chosen picture book.
Then, read the book aloud together while playing the chosen theme song in the background — also play the theme song before and after the read-aloud.
“There are many genres of songs families could tie in with different children’s books,” says Pepin. “Maybe a family always listens to country songs — consider choosing theme songs from different genres for each different text. Have fun and be creative!”
Get your child ready for success with our back-to-school guide, which is full of recommended books, teacher tips, homework help, and other resources for a great school year.
Shop popular read-alouds to use for playdate activities below! You can find all books and activities at The Scholastic Store, where you will get free shipping on book-only orders over $25.