I was first introduced to Jan Slepian and Ann Seidler’s The Hungry Thing at a workshop on phonemic/phonological awareness (learn more about that here). So, obviously, this book and activity are great for building those critical prereading skills. In this story, the Hungry Thing shows up in a town, asking for food. The people can’t figure out what he wants. When he requests “shmancakes” they each have a different idea about what “shmancakes” actually are. One boy makes sense of it all, reminding them that “shmancakes” sound like “pancakes”. So they give the Hungry Thing some and he eats them all up! This continues on to include “feetloaf” and “gollipops”, “boop with a smacker” and “tickles”. As I read this story, I always pause a bit, allowing the children to chime in with the appropriate rhyming word.
Afterward, I introduce my Hungry Thing puppet. Mine is just a fuzzy, monster-like puppet. You could make your own out of fabric or a paper bag, improvise with one you have, or create a cardboard picture with the mouth cut out, similar to what I did in the dinosaur activity here. It doesn’t matter which one you use, the Thing is so hungry! Can the children help feed it? Arrange some play food on the floor, or give one piece to each child. Be sure to say the name of each piece of food as you set it down or hand it out so that the children are sure to know what they’re called.
“FEED ME!” the Hungry Thing says, just as it did in the book. The children respond as the townspeople did in the book, “What would you like to eat?” With much expression, the Hungry Thing asks for each food, substituting the first sound in each word as he did in the story. (You can certainly use nonesense words, “felery” for celery, but some of the children’s favorites are also when it ends up being a real word – hair for pear, sneeze for cheese. Do it any way you want, it just needs to rhyme.) The children place the food in the hungry thing’s mouth. My kids’ favorite part with my puppet is when the Thing munches voraciously on the food and then burps loudly with the food flying back out (so that I can clear the way for the next item). Think of Cookie Monster as your motivation.
Reading this book and participating in this activity helps to build rhyming skills, which are a fundamental pre-reading skill. Your children will love this activity! I often leave the book, puppet, and a bowl of food out in the reading area after doing this activity with a group of children so that they can continue the activity on their own!
For more food-themed activities, click here!