Igniting Critical and Creative Thinking

7 September Picture Books and activities kids love

7 September picture books and activities kids love

September signals that fall is almost here and that means it’s time to pull out our favorite September picture books and activities to share with our kiddos.

When I think of September, I automatically think of back to school, changing leaves, Hispanic Heritage Month, and all the fun September National Holidays and to recognize.

I am all for having fun and learning during these September National Holidays, but I want the activities my kiddos complete on these days to have an academic focus as well. So, without further adieu, let’s dive in and check out my favorites to get your kiddos thinking and learning with these September activities,

1. Read a Book Day – September 6th

Favorite September Picture Books

There are so many picture books about fall and September, but hands down, my favorite picture book to share in September is Leaf Man by Lois Ehlert. All the illustrations in the book are created using real leaves and other items from nature.

You can have your kids make their own leaf critters!

Leaf Man - making leaf critters

How to make your own leaf critter:

  • Read the book Leaf Man.
  • Have students collect freshly fallen leaves and other natural items such as seeds, burrs, twigs, moss, and berries.
  • Lay the collected leaves on large sheets of paper with no leaves overlapping. Cover the leaves with another sheet of paper and place large books on top to help keep them flat while they dry out. It should take at least a week for the leaves to dry out.
  • After the leaves are dried, sort the leaves and other items. Egg cartons are great for twigs, small pinecones, nuts, and berries.
  • Let the kiddos select the items they want to use for their critter.
Activities for Leaf Man picture book
  • Give each child a large sheet of white paper and some glue.
  • Have the children move the materials around on the paper until they have a critter design they are satisfied with.
  • Have the students glue down their items with liquid glue. I like to have them apply the glue to their leaves using old paintbrushes so that the glue is evenly distributed on the leaf.
  • For added enrichment, it’s fun to have the student write a story about their leaf critter.

What can you do if you live somewhere that has few trees, doesn’t have a true fall? Just for fun, I created a digital version of the leaf critter activity that your kiddos can complete in PowerPoint or Google Slides. Click the image below to see the product.

2. Sudoku Day – September 9th

September Picture Books and Activities -Sudoku Games

Sudoku puzzles are one of my kiddos’ favorite September activities. There are many benefits for having your students solve Sudoku puzzles

  1. They teach logic and reasoning – all components of critical thinking.
  2. It is thought they improve concentration and memory
  3. They’re fun!

You can download these FREE Leaf Sudoku puzzles in The Teacher’s Toolkit, my FREE Resource Library.

Sudoku Leaf Puzzles in my Free Resource Library

3. Positive Thinking Day – September 13th

September Picture Books and Activities for National Positive Thinking Day

With everything the world has been through the last couple of years, we could all use a hefty dose of positivity, When bad things happen, we’re all quick to think negatively. But bad things can change into good things as The Rough Patch by Brian Lies points out. It is about loss and then finding the positive. This is one of my favorite September activities because it helps our kiddos see something positive in even bad or hard things in their lives.

After reading The Rough Patch, I like to lighten things up a bit. That’s Bad! That’s Good! is a favorite picture book to celebrate Positive Thinking Day on September 13th. A similar book is, Fortunately, by Chip Remy. There are several ways I use these books for Positive Thinking Day:

  1. Everyone in the class sits in a circle. Student 1 says something they think would be bad to happen, like “I fell off my bike and broke my leg.” Then Student 2 says, “That’s BAD! but…” and then adds something positive like, “Luckily I didn’t ruin my bike,” Student 3: “That’s Good! But… I had to get a cast on my leg,” Student 4: “That’s Bad! But everyone in my class got to sign my cast.” You go around the circle until everyone has a change to add to the story. The last kid in the circle must say “That’s Good! and add something positive to end the story,
  2. You can do basically the same activity with the book Fortunately, but you need to start off with an unfortunate event and end with a fortunate one.
  3. It’s fun to have each kids in the class write their own That’s Bad! That’s Good! or Fortunately, Unfortunately story.

4. Talk Like a Pirate Day – September 19th

September Picture Books and Activities for National Talk  Like a Pirate Day

What kiddo doesn’t love pirates? Unfortunately, authors and movie companies have filled our students’ minds with a ton of MISINFORMATION about pirates. On Talk Like a Pirate Day, I like to read books about pirates such as Tough Boris by Mem Fox. We also play an All About Pirates PowerPoint Game Show to learn more about pirates. You can get a copy of this game show in The Teacher’s Toolkit, my FREE Resource Library. Click on the arrow to view the video.

When you think of Pirates, of course, one of the first things you think of is buried treasure. Actually, most pirates did not bury treasure or create treasure maps because they wanted to divide the booty between the crew as quickly as possible. However, one famous pirate, William Kidd actually did bury treasure.

Make a Pirate Treasure Map

As a fun activity, I do like to have my kiddos create a treasure map as a part of their September activities.

make a pirate treasure map
  • First, start with a blank sheet of paper.
  • Lightly draw an outline of an irregularly shaped island. Do not take up the entire page – leave some room around the island for your compass rose, a legend if you want to have the kiddos use that, and the ocean.
  • Add interesting features or landforms to your island such as inlets, mountains, caves, waterfalls, a pond, forest trees, etc. I suggest adding at least 3 features.
  • Decide where you want your treasure to be buried and put and X on that spot.
  • Use dotted lines to show the path to the treasure.
  • Add a compass rose.
  • Add a legend if you want (pirates didn’t put legends on their treasure maps, but you can have your kiddos put one if you want to make this a mapmaking activity.
  • Go over the design of your island with a darker color pen and color it in. Pirate maps were not in color. If you want them to look more authentic, give each kid a sheet of parchment looking printer paper and have them draw their details with a blank flair pen or Sharpie.
  • Finally, just for fun, I like to burn the edges of the map to make it look authentic.

5. Math Storytelling Day – September 25th

September Picture Books and Activities for Math Storytelling Day

Math Storytelling Day is a little-known holiday in September, but it is actually a fun favorite. To begin the lesson, you can read some math storybooks such as The Greedy Triangle, Spaghetti and Meatballs For All, The Doorbell Rang, and Grandfather Tang’s Story.

Next, it’s the kids’ turn to do some math storytelling. Here are a couple of math storytelling ideas I have incorporated into my classroom’s September activities.

national math storytelling day write a mathematical fairy tale
  • Have your kids write a sequel or adaptation of a story. I like my kids to create fun animals with tangrams and then write a story about them.
  • Students can create math riddles
  • My younger students like to use puppets to tell their math stories.
  • Creating mathematical Fairy Tales. This is a favorite of mine and can be used with any concept you are studying in math. I had my class do this when we were studying money, The image above has an example of one of the money fairy tales a student wrote.

6. Johnny Appleseed Day – September 26th

Johnny Appleseed activities for September Picture Books and Activities

There are so many picture books and September activities to celebrate Johnny Appleseed Day on September 26th! Add some extra fun to this day by having a Parent bring in some apple cider or delicious apple treats.

I love teaching my students some of the myths about Johnny Appleseed that have been created over the years. Grab this Johnny Appleseed Myth Buster freebie in The Teacher’s Toolkit, my FREE Resource Library, to learn what is true about Johnny Appleseed and who John Chapman is!

7. Chewing Gum Day – September 30th

September Picture Books and Activities for National Chewing Gum Day

Americans spend about a half-billion dollars on gum every year. But the invention of bubblegum in 1928 by Walter Diemer, an accountant for Fleer Chewing Gum Company, allowed people to chew and blow bubbles at once! A great book you can share with your students to celebrate National Chewing Gum Day is Pop! The Invention of Bubble Gum. This delightful book tells the story behind this iconic candy we all know today.

That brings us to a debate that has been going on for years… Should kids be allowed to chew gum at school? Chewing gum has been banned from most schools around the world because teachers and administrators believe it’s distracting, and often winds up being stuck under desks or tables, However, studies show that chewing gum is actually beneficial when it comes to relieving stress and improving focus and memory in class.

I like to have students read about both sides of the issue of chewing gum at school and then form their own opinion. You can download this FREE Opinion Writing Activity and other September activities in The Teacher’s Toolkit, my FREE Resource Library.


From pirates and leaves to apples and chewing gum, there are so many September activities to add value to your classroom. It was hard to pick just 7 of my favorite September picture books and activities to use in your classroom. I’ve tried to share activities that cover a variety of subject areas. What are your favorite September picture books and activities?

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I'm Susan!

I’m Susan Morrow and I help overwhelmed teachers create thinking classrooms where students discover the joy in learning and achieving.

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