Creative and fun activity books for kids
November 8, 2012 7:26 PM   Subscribe

What are your favourite books for children with activities that they can do with minimal supervision? So far on the list, I have The Silver Spoon for Children (cooking), the Ed Emberley books (drawing), maybe Wreck This Journal or How to Be an Explorer of the World (random creative activities)?

Some of the kids on my Christmas list are aged 10-13. Given that they all seem to have enormous amounts of 'stuff' and parents who are very busy, I am trying to find books that have activities in them that the kids can more or less do themselves. Happy to purchase some additional items to go with the book if necessary.

Could be craft, writing, games, art, cooking - whatever!!

But it really does need to be something that requires minimal adult set-up and supervision, with adequate instructions.
posted by AnnaRat to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (11 answers total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I am a million years old but I loved this book, Making Things, when I was a kid and I think it's still relevant. A few of the projects in it have things you'd need an adult for, but it's fun to look at the other stuff and a lot of it is standard "Use stuff around the house to make fun things" with an interesting design and a friendly vibe. I like to thumb through the Daring Books for Girls an the Dangerous Book for Boys. I recent;y contributed to The Unbored Guide which is part activity book and part "Hey things you might want to know about the world around you!" [I wrote a page about libraries]. I had a version of this book with outside projects when I was a kid but I can't find the actual book that I had. This book looks similar if you have kids who have an outdoorsy place to mess around in.
posted by jessamyn at 7:37 PM on November 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

We had a copy of The Kids Kitchen Takeover by Sara Bonnet Stein (now out of print).
posted by brujita at 7:55 PM on November 8, 2012

Best answer: We love -- LOVE -- the drawing books of Joy Sikorski:
How to Draw A Radish
How to Draw A Cup of Coffee
How to Draw A Clam
Squeaky Chalk
How to Draw a Sailing Cat (probably too young for your giftees)
How to Draw a Smiling Witch (ditto)

I can't put in to words how ABSURDLY DELIGHTFUL these books are -- there's no going back to Ed Emberley's boxy little renderings after being down the rabbit hole with Ms. Sikorski. The books loosely consist of very simple numbered drawing lessons, but are crammed full of menus for imaginary meals, floor plans for castles, reproductions of fine art, old photos, lists of cool things to do with Scotch tape/white out/rubber bands/etc., board games, and many strange and gently subversive suggestions like "Answer your phone by clucking like a chicken." She instantly and effortlessly reprogams bored people into people who want to interact playfully with their environment. She is like the coolest aunt/cousin/officemate in all of recorded history.

I have never shown these books to a child (or adult, tbh) who did not become immediately obsessed with them. I usually carry one or two with me to occupy restless children. I have had kids come up to me years later and ask, "Do you still have those books?"

posted by apparently at 8:18 PM on November 8, 2012 [2 favorites]

Games Magazine Kids Big Book of Games was one of my favorite things ever at the young end of your age range. Has all manner of crosswords, logic puzzles, picture puzzles, word searches etc.

Extreme Dot to Dot books: I kept a 9 year-old busy with these for ages while babysitting. And okay, I confess, I like them a lot too and I'm 25.
posted by ActionPopulated at 8:34 PM on November 8, 2012

When I was a kid, someone gave my family The Everything Book: A Treasury of Things to Make and Do. My brother and I often did the activities in there unsupervised, and the only materials required tended to be things you could find around the house. It is out of print, but as you can see by the link, inexpensive used copies do exist. It is still a great activity book even though it is nearly 40 years old.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 10:51 PM on November 8, 2012

My daughter and a friend spent their playdate today with one of her Doodle Books. She also likes Play All Day - but her older sitters actually like it more and suggest doing that with her when they're over. For just plain reading with the odd experiment included Grossology is the book most often chosen by kids in that age range in my little library at school, and everyone likes the Ripley's annuals just for lots of little reading spurts, over time.
posted by peagood at 11:36 PM on November 8, 2012

Might be a little dated, but perhaps something by Steven Caney?
posted by anthom at 6:55 AM on November 9, 2012

Drawing On The Right Side Of The Brain workbook - easy to follow instructions for improving hand-eye drawing skills and cheap enough to be a stocking stuffer.
posted by The Whelk at 8:14 AM on November 9, 2012

I remember reading a book that talked about exploring the dirt/grass/bugs in your backyard. The idea was to use sticks and string to mark out a 12-inch square, then get really close and explore all the little things you can find in that square. I don't remember the name of the book, but if you google for 'exploring bugs in your backyard' there are a lot of books to choose from.

I also remember doing a lot of jumprope at that age, and we had a book (or a magazine article?) which had techniques for jumprope from around the world. My sisters and I played triple-jump for years after that. So, books about jumprope rhymes or variations.

And that reminds me of the other thing we did a lot: Cat's Cradle (loop of string on your fingers to manipulate into different shapes). Loved going through those books.

And books about card games.
posted by CathyG at 9:00 AM on November 9, 2012

The Anti-Coloring Books are fantastic for kids this age.
posted by Elsie at 12:16 PM on November 9, 2012

Response by poster: Thank you all! I have added The Unbored Guide and the Daring Book for Girls for the list for this year (and am going to buy Joy Sikorski for myself... and maybe them if they're lucky!). But there are many more birthdays and Christmases to come, plus the toddlers will eventually be ready for this stuff, so I will come back here for more inspiration!
posted by AnnaRat at 2:50 AM on November 13, 2012

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