At my Club and in my former life as a classroom teacher, I was always looking for fun themes to help spark my creative flow. Once I had a theme in mind, I worked to adapt games or activities we were already going to do, or had done before, to the theme to keep things fresh.
I recently learned that October is National Fantasy Month, which is SO PERFECT. Not only does a Fantasy theme have great educational value, as understanding literature genres is a skill included in most state literacy standards, but it is THE MOST FUN! I mean who doesn’t love dragons and fairies and royalty and knights and wizards and monsters?! And it is an even better fit for October, when many of us are thinking about celebrating Halloween at our Clubs. Ghosts and vampires and werewolves fit squarely within the Fantasy theme.
In this post I’ll give you some ideas I used at my Club, and some other great links I’ve found online. But remember – these are only to spark YOUR creativity. I know that you and your staff can come up with so many more. PLEASE PLEASE share with us! I love nothing more than to highlight the great work you are doing.
Soooo because I’m a former Education Director, you know I’m gonna start with some read alouds!
My ABSOLUTE #1 BEST ALL-TIME FAVORITE chapter book to read aloud is The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo. It is a great example of a fantasy story with incredible characters and some really powerful social-emotional and ethics lessons woven throughout. And it won a Newberry Medal so you know it is excellent. There was a movie adaptation, but it was *terrible*. Even my students thought so. I actually like to show it after we read it as an example of why sometimes (cough cough usually cough cough) books are better. Pro tip: Don’t be afraid to use silly voices and accents!
My second-place winner for early grade chapter book is How to Train Your Dragon by Cressida Cowell. The upside to this one is that the movie is just as good! And your members will likely be familiar with it. Another upside is that there are lots of craft and activity ideas around it on Pinterest, so you could really use it as a whole theme unto itself.
My ABSOLUTE #1 BEST ALL-TIME FAVORITE picture book to read aloud is also a fantasy! An Undone Fairy Tale by Ian Lendler seems to be a stereotypical fairy tale… until you read too fast and catch up with Ned, who is frantically trying to finish painting the set and making the costumes. So he has to improvise. And it gets HYSTERICAL. I’m talking doughnut crowns, fish wearing tutus, and monkey-knights. I had kids literally rolling on the floor laughing with this one. Another pro tip: this book switches between fonts, with one “telling the story” and the other giving the background info. I always use a super over the top cartoony British accent for the story parts, and my normal voice for the others. It always slays.
If I didn’t convince you with those three glowing reviews, here are some other lists. The first two include picture books, while the last one (with so many ideas!) are all chapter books.
A fantasy theme is a natural fit for an Education Room or Learning Center, but also provides some excellent cross-over ideas. For example, you can have members write a fantasy story in the Learning Center, and then illustrate it in Art. You could have them write a play or puppet show, and then craft their props. Pairs or groups of three could write a readers theater script, then perform it for younger members. Here are some prompt ideas you can use for these cross-over projects:
- Swap the villains in fairy tales. How would it be different if the Big Bad Wolf from Little Red Riding Hood is in Sleeping Beauty? What if the Three Little Pigs came up against the Giant from Jack and the Beanstalk?
- Tell the story from the point of view of a different character. Books like The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs are a great example.
- Mix up genres! What if there were unicorns … in space?!?! How might the appearance of wizards change the Wild Wild West?
- Bring fantasy into modern day. This prompt would work especially well with older youth. What if you had a fairy godmother right now? What if a dragon suddenly set up camp in your town?
- Halloween it up! Spooky stories or plays would make excellent content for a Halloween event or parent night.
Art ideas for a fantasy theme are endless. Just about any activity you have planned could be adapted to incorporate fantasy characters, settings, or ideas.
I found a couple of full free lesson plans that fit the bill.
Another that could cross-over between Art and the Learning Center is an activity about Coat of Arms. Youth could learn the history and meaning behind them in Education, and then create their own in Art. This free download gives some good background info as well as some symbolism, and is great for older youth. This one from Crayola is good for younger youth.
For a STEM and Art crossover activity, this blog gives a plan to talk about animal adaptations, then has youth design their own fantasy animal. You can get as in-depth or simple with it as you like.
For more STEM inspiration, check out this link. These look like activities more for younger youth, but could certainly be adapted based on the materials used.
Because we are all friends here and friends are honest with each other, I had a hard time coming up with some ideas for the Game Room and Gym. I’m sure there are so many games that could be adapted to a fantasy or Halloween theme, but I was mostly finding a lot of pumpkins. I did find this cute fairy tale charades game, but I am confident that your staff can brainstorm SO. MANY. MORE. I mean honestly, I bet your YOUTH could come up with some awesome ideas! (That’s an activity in and of itself- have older youth develop games that they then teach younger youth or their peers.)
One of the great things about blog posts is that they are infinitely editable. So, if you get inspired by this post and come up with some amazing activity ideas for National Fantasy Month, send them my way and I’ll add them to this very post! You can comment below, email me at ClubXBlog@bgca.org, or message me on the BGCA Youth Development Facebook page.
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