Book party for kids: Children's literature crafts, games, storybook activities

Winter can be tons of fun or acres of boring, if the weather is super cold with little snow. When it's too cold to play outside and too boring to play inside, most kids' attention turns to mischief. Why not head your little troublemakers off at the pass with a cheap (mostly free) afternoon of fun, compliments of your storybook shelf? Here's a snowbound book party for kids, with children's literature crafts, snacks and storybook games.

Announce a book party. Stay-at-home parents, take the afternoon off and read to kids. Turn off the phone, computer, music and television. Pile the couch and floor with pillows and blankets. Invite stuffed animal friends. Choose a snowbound book party theme--adventure, mystery, winter, animals--and let each child choose several of their favorite Or just keep it open-ended. Rotate reading one of each children's literature books. Parents, you get a pick too.

Warning--be careful reading scary kids stories. Even books you didn't think would frighten may scare kids silly if read by a talented storyteller. I chose Sherlock Holmes "The Devil's Foot" (my favorite scary stories) for one snowbound book party. I thought the children might be bored by Arthur Conan Doyle's Victorian English. After reading a bit, I looked up to ask if they enjoying and saw eight bulging eyes and four mouths gaped. In unison, they commanded, "READ!!" At bedtime, four tired children insisted they couldn't sleep it was that scary.

Decorate the house for the snowbound book party and wear costumes. Put energetic kids to work making storybook based decorations and costumes of their favorite characters from kids stories. Themes might be nursery rhymes, fairy tales, fantasy (even older kids will love this). Don't buy anything: set out the recycling bin, dress-up clothes, bedding, towels, boxes, camping furniture and craft supplies. Make bored snowbound children put their vivid imaginations to work.

Good children's literature kids stories to use are: "The Chronicles of Narnia", "Aesop's Fables", "Grimm's Fairy Tales", "The Hobbit", Beatrix Potter, Dr. Seuss or children's literature about the Bible, cars or animals. This will keep kids busy for hours, which is good if you have to do the book party on another day. My now-grown son did this with his college roommates for a going-away party. They decorated rooms in different biomes: mountains, desert, rainforest. They made treasure maps, games, and choose-your-own-adventure activities.

Make snacks. Inventive children will enjoy creating festive treats from children's literature. Again, don't buy anything special: use leftovers and let them experiment. Serve tea, coffee and cookies like grownups do at their book clubs. Kids love pretending to be adults. Use your storybook selections as springboards for ideas; Make foods listed in kids stories. Some, like American Girls, have accompanying cookbooks or recipes listed in the back. We once had a vintage Winnie-the-Pooh party and made Pooh recipes of haycorn pie, succotash and honey cake.

Engage kids. Children who like writing might write a journal entry about the storybook. Preschoolers and special needs children might illustrate kids stories they hear. Let kids draw and color while they listen. This keeps fidgety ones busy. Don't make is too schoolish. Keep the focus on fun.