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June 28, 2018

Frankenstein Fun with Indiana Humanities

Monstrous Summer Activities for Your Child to Enjoy

This year at Indiana Humanities we’re recognizing the 200th birthday of Frankenstein by Mary Shelley with a statewide read and celebration of the book. In the book, Victor Frankenstein, a brilliant scientist, pushes the limits of science to create a living being, but then he regrets his actions. The book brings to mind questions like: What’s right and wrong? How do we understand ourselves in relation to the world around us? How far is too far? What responsibility do we have for our actions and the things we create?

Though the classic book is written for an older audience, its themes translate to a wide variety of ages—even young ones—and deal with many questions that we’re still asking today. Here are a few ways you can use Frankenstein to have important conversations with your child, engage with the humanities and have a little fun too!

Read a young reader’s or spinoff version of the book with your child.

There are lots to choose from for various ages:

  • Frankenstein: A BabyLit Anatomy Primer by Jennifer Adams for babies and toddlers
  • Crankenstein by Samantha Berger for ages 3-6
  • If You’re a Monster and You Know It by Rebecca and Ed Emberley for ages 3-6 years
  • Frankie Stein by Lola M. Schaefer for grades 1 through 3
  • Lunch Walks Among Us (Franny K. Stein, Mad Scientist) by Jim Benton for grades 2 through 5
  • Frankenstein Makes a Sandwich by Adam Rex for grades 2 through 5

After you’ve read the book, have a conversation with your child by asking them to identify any monsters in the book. Why is he or she considered a monster? Do those reasons mean he or she should be treated any differently?

Create a creature!

Victor Frankenstein’s creature probably came to life with electric circuitry. Kids can experiment with circuits in a variety of ways:

  • Create circuits with kids using salt dough, LEDs and batteries.
  • Try creating a circuit on paper using copper tape, LEDs and coin batteries. Children can decorate their paper circuits to look like monsters.
  • Using super strong magnets, a battery and a copper wire, children can make a tiny train by attaching the magnet to each side of the battery and coiling the wire into a long tunnel for the “train” to travel through.
Have a monster mash!

Make monster masks with your child using a paper plate, crayons and other materials. Then have them dance with you to “Monster Mash” by Bobby Pickett or sing “If You’re a Monster and You Know It.” Other monster songs include “The Purple People Eater” by Sheb Wooley, “Monster Boogie” by Laurie Berkner Band and “Calling All the Monsters” by China Anne McClain.

Be Dr. Frankenstein and make a scribble bot!

Consider whether, like Victor Frankenstein, the inventor of a creation is responsible for the actions of that creation.

This craft uses a few supplies to make a little robot that draws entirely on its own. The question then asks: Are its scribbles “art”? If so, who is the artist—you or the bot? Is the bot alive, or does it just seem to be? What can you change to make your scribble bot move differently?

Who is the artist—you or the bot?

Things you’ll need:

  • A 6” length cut of a pool noodle
  • 3-4 Thin markers
  • 2 Rubber bands
  • Craft materials for decoration (such as googly eyes, foam stickers, chenille stems and feathers)
  • Battery-operated electric toothbrush
  • Spare AA batteries
  • Safety scissors
  • Tape
  • Paper
  • Trays to hold the paper and contain the bot while it scribbles
  • Activity booklet
  • Sign holder and table sign

How to make it:

  • Build the body.
  • Use rubber bands to attach three or four markers to the pool noodle. These will be your creature’s legs.
  • The drawing tips of the markers should point down and extend past the bottom of the tube.
  • Now make your creature unique. Decorate it and give it special features.

Though it may seem like a book for older children or grownups, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is full of ways to engage younger audiences. Create anything cool? Be sure to share your Franken-fun on social media by tagging @INHumanities and using the hashtag #itsalive! Most of these activities are drawn from the Frankenstein200 kit created by Arizona State University and the National Informal Science Educators Network. The kit is free for download at You can also find more adult-friendly Frankenstein content on our website.

This post was written by Bronwen Carlisle, executive assistant and program associate at Indiana Humanities, which connects people, opens minds and enriches lives by creating and facilitating programs that encourage Hoosiers to think, read and talk. As a convener, leader and partner, Indiana Humanities promotes the public humanities and engages Indiana’s community of minds to create stronger, more vibrant communities. Learn more at

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