Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Keeping kids busy: favorite activity books this summer (ages 5-8)

Summer is wonderful for its down time, but there are times when I get driven crazy by the whining, "I'm bored, Mom. What should I do???" I love to have several activity books on hand for lazy afternoons, car trips and errands. Here are some of our current favorites for ages 5 - 8 (but I have to admit, our older children have fun with them, too!):
Look-Alikes: Around the World
An Album of Amazing Postcards
by Joan Steiner
NY: Little, Brown & Co., 2007
ages 4 - 8
available at your local library, your favorite bookstore, and of course Amazon
This is an incredible book with photographs to trick your eye. Steiner assembles mini-sets using household objects to create 3D scenes of famous landmarks. So in this cover image, she's used garlic and onions to make the domes, upside down recorders to make the minarets, and brussel sprouts to make the ornamental trees. Kids spend hours trying to spot the everyday objects she's used in these clever scenes. If you have a kid who loves the I Spy series, definitely check out Joan Steiner's books! I'm excited to see Look-Alikes: Seek and Search Puzzles, her newest book.
Junie B.'s These Puzzles Hurt My Brain! Book (A Stepping Stone Book(TM))Junie B.'s These Puzzles Hurt My Brain!
by Barbara Park
NY: Random House, 2011
ages 4 - 8
available at your favorite bookstore and Amazon

The Junie B. series continues to be popular with students at our school, appealing to kindergarteners who beg their parents to read it aloud to them, as well as new readers in 1st and 2nd grade. Above all, they love Junie B.'s sense of humor as she encounters situations kids can relate to. My 1st grader has loved this activity book. It's packed with dot-to-dots, word games, spot-the-difference pictures, Mad-Lib like fill in the blank stories, word searches, and more. And I really mean more! We've gone back to this book again and again, and there are still so many pages she hasn't done. With over 200 puzzles, this is a great book for kids who are just finishing kindergarten, 1st and 2nd grades.
The Usborne Big Book of Things To Spot
by Ruth Brocklehurst and others

illustrated by Teri Gower
OK: EDC Publishers, 2003
ages 3 - 9
available at your local library, favorite local bookstore and Amazon
We have long loved Usborne's series of Things to Spot. Our children loved them in preschool - they would sit and hunt for object after object. And they still love them. The Usborne Big Book of Things To Spot actually combines four books from this series (links to Worldcat.org to find these individual books in local libraries):
Each double-page spread features a scene with bright, cheerful illustrations. Around the edges are small labeled illustrations with a number attached. So for example, "On the farm" you start hunting for 3 puppies, 5 ducks, 9 ducklings, 8 black lambs, and so on. The illustrations are busy but even young children can have success finding the items. The amazing thing is that 3 year olds love this, and so do 9 year olds! They are fun visual puzzle that are both easy and challenging to do.

Do you have any fun activity books that your kids especially like in the summer? Please share!

The review copies came from many sources. Look-Alikes Around the World came from our local library; Random House kindly sent us a review copy of Junie B.'s These Puzzles Hurt My Brain!; and, I purchased The Usborne Big Book of Things to Spot for our vacation!

Review ©2011 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books.


  1. I wrote about some of our favourite activity books here: http://www.wahm-bam.org/2011/07/summer-holiday-life-savers/

    The spotting books are always fun!

  2. Thanks for sharing the link, Zoe! I've shared your link on my Google+ post. I love the way you include pictures in your post!

  3. Great suggestions! I love Look-Alikes. I've always preferred them to I Spy.