Editor's note: This article was originally published on Jenni Schoenberger's blog, Mama Plus One. It has been modified and republished here with permission.
"If You Give a Mouse a Cookie" is a great kids' book, especially when it comes to discussing cause and effect. After all, if you give a mouse a cookie, he'll want some milk to go with it. There are also so many great options for "If You Give a Mouse a Cookie" activity topics that you could spend weeks on this book without having overlapping ideas for tying into the book! Here, I list a few of my favorite activities for this classic book.
When it comes to baking cookies, what's the first thing you think of? Sure, you might think of the delicious taste, or the texture of soft-baked cookies. But I can guarantee that somewhere on the list, you're going to be thinking of the delicious scent that fills the air when cookies are baking.
The perfect "If You Give a Mouse a Cookie" activity for sensory development is to make smelling jars. I took six clean, empty baby food jars and used a nail to poke holes in the lid. Then, I dropped two to three cotton balls into each jar. You can finish up with essential oils, but I simply used different cooking extracts that would be reminiscent of cookies. The six jars I made were: vanilla, cinnamon, almond, orange, raspberry and peppermint. I screwed the jars on tightly and labeled each one with the scent, then encouraged Zach to smell. He had a few that he instantly turned up his nose at, but others became scent favorites.
One of our favorite activities with every new book theme is to create a fun dramatic play center that matches the book. Cookies are clearly a consistent theme in "If You Give a Mouse a Cookie" activities planning, and to capture that cookie spirit, we decided to make a delightful bakery dramatic play center. We used an existing play kitchen that we had (but if you don't have a play kitchen, there are some great make-your-own tutorials on Pinterest, or you can set up a nice table with some kitchen gear for a quick solution).
I added some play foods, and made a few items of my own using felt. Our essential bakery items included felt cookies, some felt cupcakes and a pie plate with a removable pie crust where we could put in pom poms in different colors like red for cherries or blue for blueberries.
Zach was equipped with a hot pad, some measuring spoons, an empty small milk jug, an empty creamer bottle, empty berry cartons, some spoons and bowls, and some play money. We used the checkout stand of a shopping set we had previously purchased, but again, a small table would work fine. Mostly, we just looked around the house for items that we already had that would work. A bakery is nice because almost everyone has some kitchen gear like cookie cutters that is quick and easy to use for a play bakery for a week or two.
Science and cooking
For me, one of the biggest things that kids should learn is both science and self-sufficiency in the kitchen. When you're able to use a book that has a cookie theme, it makes for a great combination. Kids who learn how to help in the kitchen at an earlier age feel more comfortable in the kitchen later and are better able to adapt to those real-life situations when they're older.
One of Zach's favorite "If You Give a Mouse a Cookie" activities was to be able to make chocolate chip cookies of his very own! I took time to premeasure most of the ingredients (getting his help with some of the easier-to-measure items like white sugar), then had him do the pouring, mixing and shaping of the cookies. It's a great hands-on tactical experience to feel the dough.
One of the activities I grew up on as a kid was making homemade crayons. Making homemade crayons reinforces some fantastic color principals that can really help kids grow. There are a few great ways that this activity ties into "If You Give a Mouse a Cookie," though. First off, with cookies being a central theme in the book, this is a great baking activity that doesn't happen to produce any food - making crayon cookies is a perfect way to practice the principals of baking without actually having any added sweets. Later, the crayons can be used to draw a picture of the child's family - just like the mouse draws in the classic book!
To make crayon cookies, start by peeling any broken crayons that you have. If you don't have any broken crayons, we had a lot of success by posting on a Facebook swap page "ISO broken crayons. If you're looking to throw them out, we'll take them off of your hands!" We ended up getting bags of crayons - more than enough to share with friends.
Sort the crayons by color if you'd like - varying shades of blue together, varying reds, etc., asking your child for help (and allowing them to do the bulk of the sorting, but helping as needed).
Another fun way to do crayons is to do fun color combinations, which works well for advanced students, also - warm colors together (reds, oranges, yellows), cool colors (purple, blue, green), or even colors that make an interesting pattern. Once you've sorted the crayons into a mini muffin pan, you'll bake them at 250 degrees for 10 minutes.
Remove them carefully, then let it cool for 20 minutes on the counter, then place in the refrigerator or freezer to make them easy to remove. I found the easiest removal process was to tap the pan on the counter to loosen the cooled crayon cookies.
Music and finger plays
"Hickory Dickory Dock" ties into "If You Give a Mouse a Cookie" perfectly! With a counting rhyme, you can do the activity with a mouse finger puppet, but even without, a song about a mouse running up the clock sounds like the perfect addition to "If You Give a Mouse a Cookie."
This rhyme and finger play is a lot of fun. To start the finger play, wave your hands back and forth the way a pendulum sways back and forth on a grandfather clock. As the mouse runs up the clock, make a motion as though the mouse is running up one arm. As you count off the time, use your fingers to show the time - one finger for one, two fingers for two, etc. Finish by running the mouse down your arm again. Repeat these motions for each verse.
This year, Zach's focus language is Spanish, so I'm looking to introduce him to the language as much as possible during the year. I was lucky enough to find the perfect Spanish language tie-in online. On YouTube, there is a Spanish language version of the book that works well for students who have read the English-language one once or twice. Grasping the full understanding of Spanish isn't necessary right now, but hearing the sounds and seeing the reader's lip movements is a helpful way for younger students to get a feel for those sounds.
Additionally, if you're using your own Spanish-language program, lessons on food and eating can be a really good learning lesson at this time.
One great fine motor activity for kids is to give them a pattern for mouse ears - two circles on grey paper, two smaller circles on pink paper (to make the inner ear). Have them cut this out, glue the pink centers onto the grey larger circle and attach to a headband or elastic to make a cute mouse hat.
For more Fine Motor reinforcement, Kumon first steps workbooks like "Let's Cut Paper! Food Fun" and "Let's Sticker and Paste! Food Fun" both tie in well to a baking theme. Their other workbooks, which are animal based, also tie into the fun animals in Laura Joffe Numeroff's books, so you really can't go wrong with their pasting and cutting workbooks.
We were very lucky to tap into the cookie theme during the week our town got a brand new bakery! It meant that we got to go and experience fresh-baked cookies and talk to the owner about bakeries a bit more. Of course, you could also visit an animal sanctuary and learn more about mice, or go to a children's art museum to tie into the mouse drawings in the book, but we found that a bakery tied in quite well so we could have fresh cookies and milk.
You can't just necessarily stick with "If You Give a Mouse a Cookie" activities. Instead, you're also able to expand on what your young reader is learning from this book by reading other books that tie into similar themes and topics. As you can see, we really latched onto the "cookie" part of the book, so we decided to seek out other cookie-related books to read and put in our book basket for the week.
The way we handle our book basket is that we take time to read our central book a few times in a week, but before bed, we pick out books that are related from our book basket to read. Otherwise, the book basket is situated for free reading - even though Zach isn't at reading age yet, a lot of literacy is gained through just sitting down and becoming familiar with books, looking at letter shapes, and learning book sequences through illustrations. Visit my blog for our cookie-related reading picks.
Apps that rock
If your kiddo is anything like Zach, they like having a little tech time. And screen time actually isn't necessarily a bad thing for kids! Kids are going to be exposed to technology, and the ones who are able to adapt easily and early will be the ones most successful when it comes to careers and further education. That said, obviously there are limits, but we've found it fun to tie some apps into the books we read. If "You Give a Mouse a Cookie" activities are great, but they can be balanced with great educational apps that encourage play. Visit my blog for several related apps.
All in all, there are a lot of fun ways that you can enjoy the book "If You Give a Mouse a Cookie." With all kinds of activities, book tie-ins and opportunities presented, you'll have no problem celebrating this great book by Laura Joffe Numeroff.