How To Create Extension Activities for Children’s Books with Author Laura Sassi: Plus Goodnight, Manger GIVEAWAY

Please note – the Giveaway is now closed. Congrats to Suzy Leopold of Through The Prairie Garden Gate,  who won a copy of Laura Sassi’s beautiful new holiday book!

I’m so excited to feature fellow NJ children’s author Laura Sassi on the blog this week as part of a blog hop introducing her newest book, Goodnight, Manger!

I was lucky enough to get an advance copy of the book, and my children adore it. My six-year-old was particularly drawn to the rhythm and rhyme – and without prompting, began singing the words as she read it aloud! My 7-year-old loved the illustrations, and made many many drawings of her favorite scenes – especially the animals.

Laura Sassi has created so many great extension activities over the years that I asked her to answer some questions about them. I always love when parents, teachers, and caregivers go that extra step to bring the book into play, crafts and discussion  – and Laura has a gift for just that. Today she’s sharing some of her tips, as well as activities specific to her newest book. Plus – there’s a great give-away (so read through to the end for details!)

Here’s the Q&A with me (Katey) and our guest (Laura):

Katey: I love creating activities for kids that go beyond the page of the text – and it’s clear that you do, too. Do you have any special experiences that you draw upon to help you come up with your ideas?  


Laura: I taught elementary school for eight years before having kids and I loved creating multi-sensory, literature-based activities for my students. That love transferred naturally to the next phase in my life – motherhood.  As a young mom, I created games and crafts to go with the picture books I was reading to my kids. I also loved using those books as jumping-off points for exploring rhythm, movement, and song. I found that picture books also provided great conversation starters for helping my kids understand themselves, the bigger world around them, and to nurture compassion and understanding for others. 
My kids are older now, but I still interact with little ones at book events and school visits.  I also teach Sunday school to 3 – 5 year-olds. Whenever I am reading to kids or teaching them, I try to observe their likes and dislikes, their interests and learning styles, then build activities around those. For example, when reading GOODNIGHT, ARK to preschoolers I quickly noticed that my young readers had an intrinsic love of counting and making animal sounds, so I developed activities that involved those concepts. As I share GOODNIGHT, MANGER I’m noticing that my young readers love looking for details in the pictures – such as the mice that appear on almost every page. They also love the rhythm of the words and the magic of the rhyme, so I am developing activities that address those in fun, creative ways.  Little ones LOVE movement so that’s something else I try to incorporate.


My first grader poring over the beautiful illustrations the minute our copy came out of the box!

My first grader poring over the beautiful illustrations the minute our copy came out of the box!

Katey: One reason teachers and parents use extension activities with books is to deepen children’s connection between the story and real life. Are there themes in GOODNIGHT, MANGER you feel particularly lend themselves to this purpose?

Laura: What a great question. My desire in writing GOODNIGHT, MANGER was to tell a fun Christmas bedtime story that would keep Christ (rather than Santa) as the focus. This Christmas theme lends itself beautifully to extension activities. Young readers, for example, can make connections to their family’s faith by making their own nativity Christmas tree ornaments inspired by the story. They can also use the story as a prelude to reading other, more closely Biblical re-tellings of the first Christmas. The story can also serve as a humorous reminder for the youngest readers (and their parents, too!) that Jesus was once a baby, who cried and felt everything they feel and can thus understand them and their needs at a very personal level.

GOODNIGHT, MANGER also touches upon the universally shared challenge of putting a sleepy, crying baby to bed. Young children with baby siblings (and their parents) can certainly relate to this aspect of the story.  They can enjoy the hurdles and obstacles that prevent Baby Jesus from falling asleep and then connect to the universal coziness and comfort of a soothing lullaby. This theme lends itself beautifully to all sorts on story/life connecting extension activities. Little ones, for example, can explore concepts of loud vs. gentle (practicing cradling and comforting a pretend baby). They can sing their own lullabies (perhaps using a simple Christmas carol) to put an imaginary Baby Jesus to sleep, or better yet, to help their mama calm a younger sibling.  
Katey: What age ranges do you most enjoy creating activities for? What ages do you think will most enjoy and benefit from activities drawn from GOODNIGHT, MANGER?
Laura: When I taught fourth grade, I enjoyed creating activities for that age range. But now that I have two books out for the littlest of readers, I have to admit that I am LOVING putting together activities for this youngest age set.  Everything about their world is new and fresh and I just LOVE the sense of  wonder and excitement  2 – 6 year-olds bring, not just to the reading of the story, but to the extensions activities drawn from the story. 
Katey: What tricks and tips can you suggest to engage multiple senses in extension activities?
Laura: My best bit of advice is to spend time observing and interacting with your intended audience- noting especially how they react and interact with the world around them. 
Kids in the 2 – 6 age range love to move and act out things. They love to get their hands dirty in paint and clay. They love to use their voices.  So, when thinking of activities – remember that. For example, if you want the children to pick up on the rhythm of the words in a rhyming picture books – have them clap to the beat of the words, or dance, or tap their feet.  If you want them to think about their favorite part of the story – take out paint or markers and let them draw.  Think of a concept you want to explore and then turn it into a game or activity that involves movement, or song, or something tactile
Katey: You’ve created some great extension activities for your previous ZonderKidz release, GOODNIGHT, ARK – which teachers and parents can find here, and parents can find up-to-date listings of activities for GOODNIGHT, MANGER on your blog as well.  What about other books caregivers love, but aren’t sure what to do with when read-aloud is over? Can you suggest any extension activities that parents can do with their kids on-the-fly? 


Laura: Oh, the possibilities are endless!  Here are a few suggestions to get the creative juices flowing:

  1. Play a little game of “I spy” or “Can you spot the…..” as you reread the story. 
  2. Add actions (and possibly sounds, if that fits the story) to a rereading of the story. 
  3. Play a rhyming game by taking a one of the rhyming pairs from the story and adding more rhyming words to the list.
  4. Look for things you can count in the story. If your child is ready, you can even work in some simple addition and subtraction problem solving. Ex.  “There are three…. If (main character) finds two more, how many will she have.
  5. Think of a song or game that somehow ties into the story. Explain the connection, then sing or play!
  6. Use dough, paint, blocks, whatever is handy – to build your favorite scene.


Katey: So many great ideas that parents and teachers can try out with any book! Thank you so much, Laura, for all your wonderful suggestions.  

Readers, we want to hear from you! What type of extension activities do you like to do with your kids? Have some of Laura’s ideas here today inspired you? And would you like to get your hands on a copy of the gentle, funny, rhyming bedtime story, GOODNIGHT, MANGER? 

If so, you’re in luck, because ZonderKidz is offering a hot-off-the-presses copy to one lucky winner – drawn at random from each person who comments on this post by Nov 12th. To enter, you must be a U.S. resident and have a physical mailbox (no P.O. boxes, sorry!)

In the meantime, you should certainly check out the trailer for GOODNIGHT, MANGER, by Laura Sassi, with its sweet illustrations by artist Jane Chapman.

About the Author: Laura Sassi has a passion for telling humorous stories in rhyme. She writes daily from her century-old home in New Jersey where she lives with her husband, two children, and a black Cockapoo named Sophie.In addition to picture books, Laura writes poetry, stories, articles and crafts for kids. Her work has appeared in Highlights for Children, Cricket, Ladybug, Spider, and Focus on the Family’s Clubhouse and Clubhouse Jr.  Visit Laura Sassi at You can also find her on twitter @laurasassitales and like her on Facebook.

About the Illustrator: Jane Chapman is a multi award-winning artist who has illustrated over one hundred books including five New York Times bestsellers. She lives in Southern England with her husband, Tim Warnes, two children and five chickens. Visit Jane Chapman at

27 thoughts on “How To Create Extension Activities for Children’s Books with Author Laura Sassi: Plus Goodnight, Manger GIVEAWAY

  1. Pingback: GOODNIGHT, MANGER Blog Tour: Stop SEVEN | Laura Sassi Tales

  2. Pingback: GOODNIGHT, MANGER: Blog Tour Itinerary! | Laura Sassi Tales

  3. Wonderful interview and so many fun ways to help anyone see more than just the words or pictures on a page! As someone who just ordered a few Goodnight Manger books for family and friends – I can’t wait to read this book (and get them signed!) Thanks Laura and Katey!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I also love a Christmas book that centers on Christ as the meaning behind the celebration! I hope to get a copy of this book to add to our home library.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. What a great idea for a book – I can barely get my baby to sleep when the floor makes a squeak!! And a very charming book trailer! We do extension activities, my daughter is very emotionally observant, so typically we ask her things like ‘how do you think she/he’s feeling’ (by looking at their facial features). We also LOVE any book that has hidden objects to find again and again. Great interview and post Katey!!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Thanks so much for having me, Katey. I’m enjoying reading the comments. I think popsicle stick mangers sound adorable. And I love the idea of using the facial expressions in picture book illustrations to contemplate how the characters are feeling. That adds another great layer to reading. Looking forward to hearing more ideas! =)


  7. The illustration on the cover is bright and engaging. I wish that we could add it as a curriculum extension in our public school classroom. It would pair well with Oonga, Boonga and I Heard Said the Bird. I think it would also be fun to put straw in a sensory table with plastic animals.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Great interview! I agree, by adding extended activities you can create a learning environment about the book outside the book. It’s a great way to show how a book continues to influence, even after the cover is closed.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. What a wonderful interview. We love books in our house and often extend just by asking questions or asking what he can see. In fact now, I am finding that he is automatically asking questions as we read through which makes me very happy (even though I have to keep stopping! ). Thanks for sharing and linking up with #TwinklyTuesday

    Liked by 1 person

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