Wild Things & The Arts: Music, Dance, Drama And Even Cooking!


All photos taken by Carolyn @ Magical Movement Company

If you love Maurice Sendak's story, Where the Wild Things Are!  as much as I do, you might really enjoy re-creating this story play with the little children in your group.
This whimsical tale is about a little one named Max, who dresses up in a  "wild thing" costume and then upsets Mom by telling her, "I'll eat you up!" Mom sends Max straight to bed without supper...and while confined to bed room, Max gets magically transported to the land where the wild things live. Turns out, Max is the wildest of them all and becomes the king (or is it queen?) of where the wild things are! 
My own daughter (who is now an adult & well-known in the Hollywood scene) had her dramatic debut at the age of four, as the star in her Preschool performance of "Where the Wild Things Are," from that wonderful story book by Maurice Sendak.

The book is available at Amazon at this link: Amazon books, Where Wild Things, Sendak

Over the years since I loudly applauded my daughter's preschool performance as Max, I have "produced" this little story play many times with the little children in my own preschool programs. It is one of the easiest and most versatile stories to recreate and it turns out just gorgeous every time!

I love the fact that this story project can have activities that are carried out over several months, or it can be spontaneously acted out in one twenty-minute afternoon session. If you already have a little costume & prop box in your environment, the children can dress up like wild things using what you already have.

The first time I decided to make this story play our Spring Performance at my little Montessori program, Albion Children's House in Northern California, we ended up spending 2 months doing "wild thing" activities!

We started out, of course, with reading the wonderful book at a cozy read aloud circle time. Many of the children were already familiar with the story, but still they love to hear it read over and over. The fun part of this book, is that the children can definitely be participants! They can "show their terrible claws" and "gnash their terrible teeth" along with the story. And, little children quickly memorize the sing-song text of the tale and can soon practically "read" it themselves! 

I made a felt board story for the children by photo copying the characters from the book, cutting each one out, laminating them and, then putting sticky-back velcro on the back of each piece. This velcro will adhere nicely to a felt board!  This is another fun way to tell the story to the children and this activity makes a wonderful Montessori-style shelf work for an individual child to manipulate at work time.

You can also use these felt board characters like puppets, by attaching the laminated pieces to large craft sticks and the children can use the puppets for even more interactive fun at story circle. 

I couldn't resist buying wild things puppets and these have always been a big hit with the children!

I love creating wild things masks with the children and this can be one of those long-term projects using paper mache  and a classic mask-making technique. Here's a link for one way to make a paper mache mask: Family crafts: paper mache mask.  

Or, children can create quick wild things masks with paper, or heavy card stock, or even face paints!

What is so truly wonderful about performing "Where the Wild Things Are" with little children, is that just about anything goes! We've decorated our masks with paints, markers, sequins, fake fur, easter basket grass, pipe cleaners, colorful cellophane, buttons, yarn...the list goes on! One season of wild thing performances, the children wanted to make wild thing hats instead of masks and these turned out really nicely! (see the header photo of this post)
Wild things are meant to look "wild"...and I have found this open-ended aspect of creating a wild things story play to work really well with young children and their wild creations. 

I've never once heard the comment, "That doesn't look like a wild thing." 

I do think this story is delightful, however, it is more appropriate for Preschoolers and older, but probably not for toddlers. It's definitely up to the teacher/parent to decide whether their group is at an age that will enjoy this story. 

If you decide to "perform" this delightful story, there are so many creative things you can do to add to the performance. 

There's Max's boat...that's an amazing project in itself! Lends itself easily to a big cardboard box getting decorated and then your older Preschoolers can paint the name MAX on the outside of the boat.

Then there's Max's room that grows a can really have fun with that! My favorite is to go outside with the children and gather things from nature that can be hung across the stage area. We've also performed this story play in an outside environment and that was perfect, too!

For the wild rumpus, you can add rhythm instruments for the children to play and these can be made by the children as well. (fun to take home after the performance) If everyone wants to dance, you can have fun with  the song from the 60's "Wild Thing, You Make My Heart Sing!" by the Troggs. Here is a link for the words to the song and you can also download it at iTunes: Wild Thing lyrics, The Troggs.

Of course, Max will need a crown. I usually have each child make a "Max-style crown" as an art project to take home after the performance. Paper crowns are always fun for children to make and can be as simple or elaborate as you and the children desire! 

And, Max can easily be a girl, a boy, or even a group of children (brothers & sisters, maybe?) Not to mention, there can be lots of wild things and they can each look entirely different! 

Sometimes, I have invited the actual mother of the child who will play the role of Max to be the mother in the performance. However, I have always found that there are usually several children who love to play the mom in the story!

Don't forget about Max's bowl of soup that was waiting by the bed upon returning from the place where the wild things are! 
We always have a day of making "wild things soup" that can be as simple as opening a can of vegetable soup and serving it in a "wild" way (in a funny bowl or with ingredients like seaweed added that look pretty wild!). Or, the children can  devote the whole morning to gathering veggies from your children's garden, scrubbing them clean, carefully cutting them up, putting them into your big soup pot and cooking it up for a delicious lunch! (Always create this soup with close adult supervision at all times.) This can also be a wonderful refreshment to serve to the audience at your performance.

The finishing touch is the wonderful hand-drawn program for your little production. The parents (and other audience members) will really enjoy having a program with the children's names and their adorable wild things art work printed up! We've even gone so far as to take our show to the community with posters around town publicizing the event and holding special performances at the local children's hospital and the nearby nursing home. One year we entered out wild things masks in the county fair and got an honorable mention! (Plus good publicity for our school!)

"Where the Wild Things Are" performance with Carolyn at Albion Children's House

I'm sure your group will come up with many new ideas for your wild things activities and I would love to hear your ideas. Just leave me a comment or two in the section below! 

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