There are many ways to build activities out from books. A lot of activities look great at first – but turn out to be too complicated on closer examination. Have you ever run into that situation? Another issue is that activities can be heavily weighted towards teaching – too heavily and that can feel boring to a child.
I’m a fan of activities that are simple and easy to get started with. These activities also can be expanded as the child chooses. They may go into more details, do the activity multiple time, or take it in a fresh direction. I also seek out activities that build on the child’s natural interest.
Copying Illustrations as an Activity
Kids love illustration. Some children are interested in emulating the illustrators work.
Copying is a great tool for learning about how artists each have a specific style. Copying can be done freehand or by tracing. You can use the same medium the artist used, or work with what you have on hand.
One note of caution: Some children may feel overly pressured to exactly replicate the artist’s work and that can produce stress. If that happens with your kids, then this activity may not be the right choice for them.
Here’s How We Drew Like an Illustrator
We tried drawing in Mo Willems style ✏️🖍🖌⠀
Mo Willems is the author of the popular and award-winning Pigeon and Elephant & Piggy series. He also wrote Knuffle Bunny (a Caldecott Honor Book). And you may also know that he wrote for Sesame Street for years.
We love his writing and are forever thankful to a random mom we met at our local library for introducing us to the Elephant & Piggy books. Her one short comment – “Oh hey, do you know these books, they are so funny!” – has led us to hours and hours of fun and laughs!
Mo’s artwork is simple. To create illustrations like Mo is a greater challenge than it may first appear.
But to copy the illustrations is easy and fun!
- Pens of any kind (We used a Sarasa Porous Pen)
- Paper (We used 20# white – also known as regular, ordinary copy paper!)
- A few Mo Willems books
- That’s it! So fun and simple
- Pick a picture in the book that you like.
- Draw part of the illustration. Start with just part of it before attempting to copy the full illustration.
- Next try copying a full illustration from one page.
- Try drawing with a pencil versus a pen. What do you notice? What about using a thin-tipped pen versus a thick-tipped pen? Or a crayon versus a pencil or pen.
- Draw alongside your child if it makes sense. Some kids like this, others will compare their work to yours too much (when this happens pick a different activity to do while they draw).
- Talk about the medium that Mo used for his illustrations. Can you figure it out from the pictures? Hint: It “might” say on the copyright page. But if not, that’s not problem. Expand your learning over to his websites and see if you can find out how he creates his artwork. Presto, you’re doing an author examination! See what else is interesting to your child as you learn more about Mo. It’s fun to see how one activity can take you on a deep dive of a subject!
More Drawing Like an Illustrator
This activity can be replicated for any illustrations your child likes. Children LOVE pictures! From picture books to graphic novels to books with photo illustrations (which leads to taking photos with a camera in the same style).
Inviting them into this activity helps reinforce their self-esteem by honoring the type of illustrations that speak to them. It’s also a good way to reinforce their ability to identify what they like (versus what someone might influence them to like), and to strengthen their self-advocacy skills (standing up for what is important to them).
Other ways to do this activity include:
- ✏️Free hand draw
- 🖍Use a medium of their choice (i.e. pencil, pen, marker, paint, etc)
- 📝Trace (use tracing paper, or any thin paper you can see through)
- 🎨Research the medium used by the artist (check the copyright page for details or research online)
- 🖌Use the medium of the artist to model the artist’s work OR create something in their own style
The possibilities are quite endless!
Any and all of the above allow for individual choice, inspire learning and develop the use of their hands.
Most important … this activity is fun!
Always remember, children LOVE pictures.
More than words (at least initially).
Adults, please try this too. What can you create?
Artwork Inspired By
THE DUCKLING GETS A COOKIE
Words and pictures by Mo Willems
Published in 2012 by Scholastic, Inc.
- Buy on Amazon
I want to repeat this activity – only next time we want to try using a brush marker pen which I think is one of the pen types used by Mo (I saw him use a brush pen in a Lunch Doodles with Mo Willems video – find those at Kennedy Center’s YouTube Channel, just do a quick search to find).