Monthly Archives: July 2013

16 Engaging Activity Books for Kids to Bring on Vacation

August is right around the corner and many of you will be headed to the beach, the mountains, or some other grand location. Children also enjoy vacations, but not the long waits that often accompany them. Plane flights and car rides are less than engaging for children, and the adults around them suffer their displeasure. Even at the destination, adults often need some downtime, without watching their kids bounce off the wall. Television and iPads help, but for parents wanting to limit screen time, there is another solution – activity books. The best activity books are portable, entertaining and if chosen properly, can be completed without constant adult assistance. I am only including books that are fun, after all kids need a vacation as well, allow for imagination and creativity, and do not require tons of craft supplies.  All of these books have been vetted by my testers (7 and 5) and met with their approval.

Don’t Let the Pigeon Finish This Activity Book! by Mo Willems was given to my children as a joint present at Christmas last year. I gave it to both of them, because I figured parts of it would be too complicated for my then four-year-old son and they could divide it up. Instead, they did every single activity together and I had to hide it during much of the day, so that they wouldn’t complete the book too fast. Every morning during winter break, they woke up screaming “Pigeon time!” and I would hand over the book so they could complete their allotted pages.


Not that the pages stayed in the book – many of the pages tear out and become 1) a bus stop, 2) coin toss games, 3) a picture book, 4) a puppet show, and of course, 5) a bus. The airport, which was colored in by both kids, is featured above. I really can’t recommend this book enough. Be sure to bring along scissors and crayons. Ages 4+

We have owned Scribbles: A Really Giant Drawing and Coloring Book by Taro Gomi for years and my daughter is still not done with it. It is a huge book containing hundreds of pictures for kids to complete. I love how open-ended this book is – there is no one right way to complete any picture – while at the same time, it provides children with a general direction. Here is page that my daughter completed when she was younger:


On the top left, it reads, “This is a tiger.” Another page with the same image says, “This is a leopard,” and another one says, “This is a panther.” It is up to the kids to interpret what to do next. Ages 4+

Little girls love paper dolls, but who really wants a bunch of those floating around a suitcase? Usborne Activities has the solution: Sticker Dolly Dressing Dolls. There are a bunch of these for sale, but for trips I would personally recommend Sticker Dolly Dressing on Vacation. Each book contains a bunch of scenes and the child’s job is to dress the characters. The stories are sometimes a bit vapid, but who cares? It also doesn’t matter if the characters are dressed the way the book says they should be dressed, as long as the kids are occupied and enjoying themselves. Great for plane rides, if your child is not prone to motion sicknesses, and times when everyone needs to relax. Ages 4+

Usborne Activities also offers sticker dressing books for boys. Our favorites are Sticker Dressing Pirates and Sticker Dressing Action Heroes. Here is a scene that my son completed last year when we were at the beach:


Four-year-olds might need a little help with the larger stickers. No extra supplies are needed. Ages 4+

The idea behind these little books is simple. Color, cut out and wear masks. String is provided. These are easy to pack, beautiful and encourage creative play.  We own Superheroes Make-a-Mask and Butterflies Make-a-Mask. I have also brought these out during parties. Apparently even adults like coloring masks! Ages 3+

Younger children love covering a scene with stickers and Melissa & Doug Play House! Reusable Sticker Pad and Melissa & Doug Vehicles Reusable Sticker Pad, let them sticker to their hearts content. Just make sure the stickers stay on the scene and not the hotel walls! Ages 3+

Fashion Design Portfolio includes line drawings of tween girls and stencils to help outfit them. These are a good choice for artistically-inclined girls. Below is a character my daughter designed:


Be sure to bring plenty of sharp colored pencils. Ages 7+

I have no artistic ability, but my kids luckily inherited my husband’s love of drawing. I try to bring at least one drawing book with me while we travel. During our next vacation, I will be bringing Ralph Masiello’s Ocean Drawing Book and Bug Drawing Book. The latter inspired this picture by my daughter:


Bring a sketch pad with you to avoid traveling with crumpled paper. Ages 5+

Math lovers will enjoy dot to dot books. Balloon Books has a very nice series that are good for varying levels. My son is currently working on Dot-to-Dot Count to 20.


The only supply this book requires is a pencil, but crayons are also a plus. Ages 4+

The Book of Cards for Kids is a tiny little book full of instructions for playing cards. It contained many of my childhood favorites, including “War,” “Spit,” and “Blackjack.” I would recommend buying a standard-sized deck, however. The one that comes with the set is strangely large. Ages 6+

Update for 2014:

This year we brought four Star Paws Animal Dress-up sticker books to the beach with us. What could be better than dressing up animals without actually dressing up animals? This series is tons of fun and includes enough extra stickers to dress up pictures of your family pets. Series includes Party Time Sticker Book, Pirates Sticker Book, Princesses Sticker Book, and Super Heroes Sticker Book. Ages 4+.

Update for 2016:

The Superhero Comic Kit

This oversized book is perfect for rainy days at the beach. Since the pages detach (each one is its own mini comic strip), siblings can share the same book.  For tighter luggage situations consider this related title also by Jason Ford:

The Super Book for Super Heroes
Enjoy your vacation! Here are some other reviews of activity books:

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Activity Book Recommendations

Link to a blog post about activity books or add your own suggestions!


16 Engaging Activity Books for Kids to Bring on Vacation

August is right around the corner and many of you will be headed to the beach, the mountains, or some other grand location. Children also enjoy vacations, but not the long waits that often accompany them. Plane flights and car rides are less than engaging for children, and the adults around them suffer their displeasure.

Jul 25, 2013 - - 933
activity books Archives - The Horn Book

Poet Calef Brown, author and illustrator of such books as Flamingos on the Roof and We Go Together (which dropped January 15), transforms his paperback doodle book, Dragon, Robot, Gatorbunny: Pick one. Draw it. Make it funny., into an imaginative and interactive e-book (Chronicle, print book published April 2012; e-book November 2012).

Jul 24, 2013 - - 864
Activity Books : The Childrens Book Review

Today, May 4, is the perfect day for Star Wars fans to celebrate, well, Star Wars. The following three book selections are a great way to honor the Star Wars films and culture.

Jan 09, 2014 by Jason Cleave - - 1204
Richard Scarry's Big Busy Sticker & Activity Book

Richard Scarry (1919-1994) published over 300 books with a total of 300 million copies sold worldwide. His fans are everywhere. Scarry was born in Boston, Massachusetts. He studied at the School of Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, where he remained until being drafted into the army during World War II.

The Everything Kids' Science Experiments Book

Tom Robinson teaches high school science and math and has coauthored an online advance placement physics course. He lives in the Seattle, Washington area.

Jan 09, 2014 by Jason Cleave - - 1106
TIME For Kids: Big Book of Science Experiments: A step-by-step guide

TIME For Kids Big Book of Science Experiments: A step-by-step guide [Editors of Time for Kids Magazine] on FREE shipping on qualifying offers. @font-face { font-family: Cambria ; }p.MsoNormal, li.MsoNormal, div.MsoNormal { margin: 0in 0in 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: Times New Roman ; }div.Section1 { page: Section1; } TIME For Kids' successful Super Science Book just got bigger and better-with the all-new Big Book of Science Experiments .

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It’s Monday: What Are You Reading?


This Monday I am reading two books my daughter asked me to read, because she recently finished them and felt I needed to read them.

The Girl Who Could Fly by Victoria Forester p. 329

The beginning: Piper lives in a boring farm town, with uptight religious parents who shrink from any hint of abnormality. At first she seems like a typical child, until she begins to float off of the changing table! Her parents try to hide Piper away from other people, hoping that she will outgrow this strange behavior. Instead she ends up embracing her ability to fly and adventures ensue.

Why I am reading this book: S. insisted that I read this book because she claims there is a surprising plot twist halfway through the book. I am intrigued. So far, it reminds me of this terrific picture book that I have been meaning to add to my section on princess books:

The other book S. asked me to read is:

The Lightning Thief (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Book 1) by Rick Riordan p. 377

The beginning: Percy Jackson is at a school for half-bloods. No, not biracial kids, like mine, but half gods-half humans of the Greek variety. Percy is twelve-years-old and is in grave danger. But even after fighting a demon math teacher, he doesn’t understand how or why he is different. Only when he meets other half-bloods like himself does he begin to understand where he comes from and his destiny.

Why I am reading this book: I probably should have read this series by now, but my seven-year-old beat me to it. Sadly, she has already told me the entire plot, but that is OK. We already have the rest of the books on hold at the library.

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The ABC of It and Others: Museum Exhibits about Literacy

Yesterday, my daughter and I went to The ABC of It: Why Children’s Books Matter at the New York Public Library. While I wouldn’t recommend the exhibit to parents with very small children, it is a wonderful place for older kids who love to read, and also adults who love children’s literature. Throughout the exhibit, there are many child friendly features such as:

an Alice that grows to nine feet tall,


a scene from Goodnight Moon,


and the original Winnie-the-Pooh dolls that we used to visit in Donnell Library Center.


We were also in Washington, D.C. this summer, and we ran across The Little Golden Books Exhibit at the Museum of American History.


That made me wonder, what other museum exhibits about children’s books are going on around the country? I did some research and compiled a list. Feel free to add any I missed.

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Current Exhibits about Children's Books

Here is a list of some current museum exhibits about children's books. Add more!


Jul 19, 2013 - - 113
The ABC of It: Why Children's Books Matter

The ABC of It is an examination of why children's books are important: what and how they teach children, and what they reveal about the societies that produced them. Through a dynamic array of objects and activities, the exhibition celebrates the extraordinary richness, artistry, and diversity...

Jul 19, 2013 - - 104
Little Golden Books | National Museum of American History
Jul 19, 2013 - - 108
Draw Me a Story: A Century of Children's Book Illustration

A good childrens picture book still has the power to whisk young minds off to another time and placeeven in todays world of computer games and high-definition TV.

Jul 19, 2013 - - 124
Home - The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art

The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art is the first full-scale museum in this country devoted to national and international picture book art.

Jul 19, 2013 - - 113
Gallery to host 'Women, Children and Books' exhibit

Illustrations of fairy tales out of children's books will soon fill Pembroke Pines' Glass Gallery. The fantasy images will be part of "Women, Children and Books," a new exhibit that opens July 17 and runs through Sept. 6, with an opening reception at 7 p.m. Aug. 6.

Jul 19, 2013 - - 115
The Society of Illustrators: The Original Art

The Original Art is an annual exhibit created to showcase illustrations from the year's best children's books published in the U.S. For editors and art directors, it's an inspiration and a treasure trove of talent to draw upon. For art students, it's a marvelous opportunity to examine-up close-the work of the best in the field.

Jul 21, 2013 - - 123
The Children's Book Council

The Society of Illustrators will host an exhibit called "Maurice Sendak: A Celebration of the Artist and His Work." More than two hundred unpublished studies, sketches, and ephemera pieces will be featured. The artwork comes from the collection of Sendak's longtime friend Justin Schiller.

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