The Indian in the Cupboard is about a nine-year-old boy named Omri who receives several used items for his birthday. While each gift is interesting, none of them are exciting. Together, an old medicine cupboard from his brother, a key from his mother, and toy Indian from his friend Patrick become the most unexpected gifts. When he places the Indian into the cupboard and locks it with the key, something magical happens, and the little Indian comes to life. Omri must take care of Little Bear and learn about responsibility, courage and friendship. From games to projects, the activities inspired by this book are sure to reinforce its themes.
Wanted: Best Friend
Throughout the book, bonds of friendship are tested and explored. Omri and Patrick's friendship has its ups and downs. Little Bear and Boone look at each other as enemies before becoming friends. Challenge your students to think about what makes someone a good friend? How can anyone know if someone will be a friend when first meeting? Students will explore these topics in this creative activity.
- Wanted Poster Templates (click to print template, see guide for help) or blank paper
- Pencil, crayons, markers
- Old magazines
- Discuss the elements of a Wanted poster:
- Physical description
- Who to contact
- Possible nicknames
- Where the person was last seen
- Instruct each child to create a Wanted poster to find a best friend for one of the characters in the book. Students can choose any of the main characters (who already have friends described) or a secondary character like one of Omri's brothers.
- Kids should think about what qualities their chosen character values in a friend. For example, if Omri is chosen a child could create a poster for Little Bear or Patrick because they are both important friendships to him.
- Information can include the typical elements of a Wanted Poster or additional categories like personality traits, unique abilities, and special talents. Kids can use the book as reference material to explore what their chosen character likes about his friend.
- Once all posters are complete, they can be displayed for the entire group to see. Can the rest of the group guess who is being described on each poster?
Take the activity a step further by asking kids to create a poster for the kind of friend they would like to have. Keep the posters anonymous and have children pair up their poster with another that best meets their friendship criteria.
Build Me a Home
Omri takes one look at Little Bear and assumes he must live in a teepee. He quickly learns the Iroquois live in longhouses. This activity will challenge students to build a home for a character based on first impressions.
- A variety of images depicting people from different cultures from the book such as:
- English boy
- Iroquois Indian
- WWI medic
- Medieval knight
- Reference books depicting the people in the images chosen
- Basic craft supplies like pipe cleaners, pom poms, fabric scraps, craft sticks, and markers
- Hot glue gun
- Paint and brushes
- Each child should be given a picture of a real or fictional character from a different culture. When opting for fictional characters, it could be more helpful to provide book covers and movie posters instead of reference books.
- Direct kids to examine the image and make inferences about where this person might live based on clothing and background. A brief character sketch should be completed to bring focus to the character. Who is this figure? Include basics like name, occupation, and region of the world.
- Once children have a solid idea of who they think their assigned person is, they can create a model home for that person. Kids can use any materials found within the workspace to build a small representation of where their person lives. The model should include some indoor and some outdoor elements to provide a comprehensive explanation.
If supplies or time are limited, this activity can be altered after Step 2. Kids can take their character sketch and draw a picture of the imagined home.
From Old to New
Breathe new life into an old, unwanted toy like Omri did with the plastic Indian. Most kids would be less than thrilled to receive one used gift for a birthday present, but Omri got three and turned them into something no one else could have. A magic cabinet may not be available for this activity, but some imagination can take old toys from unwanted to coveted.
- Variety of old or broken toys like action figures with missing body parts, broken die cast cars, or board games with missing pieces
- Paint and brushes
- Hot glue gun
- White craft glue
- Washi or Duck Tape
- Soap and water
- Craft knife
- Miscellaneous craft supplies such as fabric scraps, glitter, and pipe cleaners
- Give each child one old or broken toy and challenge them to use the materials provided to make the toy desirable to others.
- Kids must re-imagine and remake their toy into something unrecognizable from the original. The goal is to make the toy look like something brand-new and exciting. For example, a broken car should become anything other than a car and board game pieces can be used to create an action figure.
- After the toy has been revived, children should prepare a brief marketing pitch about this new toy and why everyone should want to have it. When Patrick gives Omri the Indian, he makes a brief speech about why the toy is cool even though he is happy to give it away. This should be an inspiration for the pitches made by participants.
- Once the new toy is finished, kids can present it to the group using their marketing pitch.
Where to Find Other Activities
Typical activities related to this story include explorations of Iroquois, English, and Western cultures. Popular crafts include building a teepee, longhouse, cupboard, or western village. A few great websites with activities related to the book include:
- Bright Hub Education: The site offers three activities including writing exercises and a game.
- Education Possible: Four options range from historical recipes to exploring Iroquois culture.
- Adventures in Mommydom: Activities are inspired by actual projects Omri completes in the book such as building housing for Little Bear.
One great way to enhance the desire for reading is with activities to accompany the text. The Indian in the Cupboard activities provided can be both educational and fun. The moral of the story will be reinforced by the additional examination of important story elements through crafts and games.