When cold winter weather traps children inside, activity books provide learning for them and sanity for their parents.
Hervé Tullet’s “Mix It Up!” (Chronicle, ages 3-5) gives preschoolers the power to transform colors by, for example, touching one spot of blue and rubbing it on yellow and to discover they’ve blended to green. They’ll have fun and learn all about color combining.
Several favorite characters lead the way to learning. Lucy Cousins’ “Maisy’s Placemat Doodle Book” (Candlewick, ages 3-6) will head off painful restaurant waits as the preschool set’s favorite mouse directs embellishment of placemat-sized, partially completed pages. One page has large-print directions to “give mugs pretty patterns – polka-dotted, striped, flowery, zigzaggy and curly-wurly.” Another will have your youngster drawing “who is having tea with Maisy.” In all, 52 food-related prompts inspire artistic fun.
Two popular characters lead children in journaling adventures in Annie Barrow’s “Ivy + Bean + Me: A Fill in the Blank Book” (Chronicle, ages 7-9). Assigned with daily writing, the two heroines “decided to make up questions and answer them” because “it’s a lot easier and more interesting, too.” They give some answers to encourage a new journal keeper, then plunge into suggestions for writing about family, friends, home, neighborhood and holidays. Later come intriguing questions about imaginary friends, recounting “the wackiest thing you ever did,” and designing “your dream room.”
For older budding artists, paper engineers David A. Carter and James Diaz offer “You Call That Art?! Learn About Modern Sculpture and Make Your Own” (Abrams, ages 9 and up). Who better to teach the world of three-dimensional art than two talented pop-up book artists? The kit contains more than 100 perforated pieces ready for assembling. These are accompanied by an informative, well-illustrated book that covers history from prehistoric to modern sculpture. It then relates 10 short biographies of “innovative and influential” modern sculptors from Auguste Rodin to Marcel Duchamp. Throughout you will find “Did you know?” facts that educate with tidbits such as “Rodin often left his sculptures unfinished on purpose.” Finally, the kit includes directions for creating six sculptures.
Klutz Press offers learning with two kits. Science-based principles are demonstrated in Pat Murphy’s “Chain Reactions: Design and Build Amazing Moving Machines” (Klutz, ages 8 and up). Take a pile of ordinary Legos, combine them with the 33 crucial “Lego elements” and construct moving machines that see-saw, hammer, swing and ramp together. Link these in chain reactions to create an elaborate method for disposing of a gum wrapper. A multitude of illustration techniques are introduced in The Klutz Editors’ “Draw Star Wars Rebels” (ages 9 and up). Illustration tools, like a pen for bolding and tracing paper, are bound into the book’s spiral, and the learning focuses on creating characters from the animated TV series.