The Gift of Nothing: Simple Writing and Drawing Activities

Writing and drawing activities for Patrick McDonell’s delightful book, The Gift of Nothing. Free printables help encourage classroom discussion and conversations about friendship. Invite your students to use their imaginations to think about how they can give nothing and everything.

This activity works well with these resources:

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I LOVE to use books as a springboard for other learning activities. Most young learners relish storytime and enjoy activities that flow from the stories. I have a fabulous picture book to share with you today.   The Gift of Nothing by Patrick McDonell.

The Gift of Nothing: Simple Writing and Drawing Activities

The Gift of Nothing

What do you get from the person who has everything? Mooch, the cat, wants to give his best friend Earl, the dog, a present, but his friend already has everything. What to do? In a flash of inspiration Mooch decides to give his friend the gift of nothing, but where do you get nothing?

  • Can you find it on TV?
  • At the store?
  • Around the kids who are complain they have nothing to do?

By the end of the story Mooch has figured out the answer to his problem and the ending is wonderful. This video will give you a sneak peak at the book

Children love watching Mooch go looking for nothing and often laugh out loud at some of the places he looks. Easy language and simple line drawings make this book a joy to read aloud. The way Mooch solves his problem is a delight and the message about friendship is beautifully conveyed. I’m always thrilled to see how quickly children pick up the message of the book.

Learning activities

Naturally, this book lends itself to conversations about friendship, kindness, caring, and maybe even gift-giving.  Children can be invited to think about what it means to give the gift of nothing and how they might do this for their friends and family.

The Gift of Nothing: Simple Writing and Drawing Activities

Before the story

Gather in a circle and ask

  • When might you give someone a gift?
  • What is the best gift you’ve ever got?

While you are reading the book

As you are reading the book pause to ask the children what they think might happen. For example

  • Invite the children to suggest gift ideas for Earl.
  • Ask them to guess where you might find nothing.
  • Ask if they ever seen a shop that sells nothing?
  • Invite them to say what they think Mooch will put in the box?

After the story

  • What did Mooch give to Earl?
  • Can you think of some things we can do to show care like Mooch?
  • Did Earl like his gift?

Related: For more book activities click here

Free Printables

I have created a simple handout to help your students explore the book a little further. These pages are suitable for those who can write but are also suitable for learners who are still developing their writing skills.

The Gift of Nothing: Simple Writing and Drawing Activities

Tips for using the free pages

Brainstorming is a great collaborative activity. It helps learners focus their attention on a topic, generate a number of different ideas, and encourages them to share their ideas and opinions.

Some children need help to start the process. You can encourage them by asking open-ended questions. This helps nudge the process along. Here are some examples

  • What else could you give?
  • What other things might work?

Younger children might need some extra help. Try asking

  • How could we show love and care to our friends?
  • How could we show love and care to our family?

Children can write the suggestions on their brainstorming sheet. Adapt this activity by encouraging the children to make their suggestions and writing them on a whiteboard for everyone to see.

Drawing page

Read through the instructions and invite children to make their drawings. Refer them to the ideas they generated in their brainstorming. They can choose two to illustrate.

Art Activity (Giving The Gift of Nothing)

Give the children the opportunity to give the gift of nothing for their friend or loved one. There are two options

  1. A gift for a friend
  2. A gift for whomever they choose (Dad, Mom, Grandma, Grandpa, friend).

Children can decorate their hearts with

  • Patterns
  • Small stickers
  • Crayons or markers

They could also

  • Draw a picture of them spending time with the loved one
  • Make the heart a coupon by writing “This heart is good for one ….”
  • Write (in the heart) what they like about their friend/loved one
  • Write (in the heart) what they like doing with their friend/loved one.
The Gift of Nothing: Simple Writing and Drawing Activities

One the heart is decorated have children cut around the dotted rectangle. Fold and place these in an envelope as a Christmas gift. children may also want to decorate the envelopes.

If you have extra time you could also make small gift boxes to hold the hearts.

To get your free printable pages just click on the button below.

Some of the Kindergarten Common Core standards covered with these activities

  • With prompting and support, ask and answer questions about key details in a text.
  • Actively engage in group reading activities with purpose and understanding.
  • Continue a conversation through multiple exchanges.
  • Participate in collaborative conversations with diverse partners about kindergarten topics and texts with peers and adults in small and larger groups.
  • Speak audibly and express thoughts, feelings, and ideas clearly.

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The Gift of Nothing: Simple Writing and Drawing Activities


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