On Our Bookshelf: Art & Activity Books for Kids

Its that time of year again, not just for gift giving but for keeping your kids occupied during long holiday breaks! I was thinking about some of the books I love to reference when searching for creative ways to spend time with the kids and thought I would share a few of our faves.

Clockwise from Top Left:

  • The Family Creative Workshop-24 Volume Set, edited by Steven R. Schepp Okay we’re talking 1976 here people so having these books around is both fun for ideas and a good chuckle. You’ve got anything from how to make muck-lucks to dolls, mobiles to perfumes, macrame, quilting, canning, model making, ceramics, furniture refinishing, and that’s just a start! I haven’t actually tackled a project from this series with the kids yet, been too busy being amazed by the astounding array of crafts out there and highlighted in these books. Cigar box collages, Florentine stitch, mineralogy anyone?  A hint, you’ll want to buy these on eBay. There are some suspicious sellers on Amazon who post that you will receive the 24 volume set for a certain price, then send you one single book. So check eBay periodically and you’ll find a set for a reasonable price.
  • 365 Things to Do with Paper and Cardboard (Usborne Activities) I really can’t say enough about Usborne Publishing. It never fails that the children’s books I find most interesting are published by Usborne. 365 Things to Do with Paper and Cardboard has a lot of inspiring ideas. Our Cardboard City was born here. Other ideas includes paper beads and flowers, fantastic collages, silhouettes, and paper dolls. This book is a little more geared toward the older set. My son who is 5 1/2 can finally execute some of the projects in the book on his own, before that everything needed adult supervision.
  • The Best of Making Things: A Hand Book of Creative Discovery Another book originally published in the 70’s, The Best of Making Things is fun to read as well as full of interesting projects. The entire book is hand drawn and written with cartoonish illustrations that will get you motivated. I can’t wait to try the Salt Pendulum, Paper Gliders and Spinners, and Looms. This is another book better suited for older children, 7 and up, but has great inspiration for adult led projects for the younger set.
pictured above: Felt Mobiles from The Family Creative Workshop, Paper Beads from 365 Things to Do With Paper and Cardboard, Pasta Necklaces from The Best of Making Things, Cigar Box Collage from The Family Creative Workshop, Layered Liquids from the Big Book of Science Things to Make  and Do.
  • Science Arts: Discovering Science Through Art Experiences (Bright Ideas for Learning) I used this book a lot last year as Science Mom at my children’s cooperative preschool. The ideas are really well categorized by topic and age and use a lot of household ingredients. Plus the concept of mixing art and science is brilliant! The super popular ice sculpture project we did last year at school comes from this book. Other great projects include color wheels, ideas for magnetic play, crystals, vegetable paints….the list goes on.
  • Big Book of Science Things to Make and Do by Rebecca Gilpin and Leonie Pratt (Usborne Activities) Another book I referenced repeatedly last year for ideas. The photos are colorful and inspiring to kids and the ideas range from DIY toys to experiments. Our Wizard’s Brew and Layered Liquids projects came from this book. Every time I flip through this book with my kids they want to tackle five of the projects; they look that fun!
  • Don’t Move the Muffin Tins: A Hands-Off Guide to Art for the Young Child You’ll probably end up picking this one up used as well since it was originally published in the 70’s (do you see a pattern here with the books that I like?). A family friend gave me this book as a gift; it was written by a teacher at a cooperative preschool about how to spur young children’s interest in art. Instead of crafts, the author suggest many, many ideas for child led art exploration. Basically you put out the materials and stand back. There are wonderful variations on painting ideas, everything from painting with utensils to feet.  I was so impressed with this book I bought copies for a few people at our preschool to get them pumped up about the world of possibilities with children’s art.

That’s a start! I’m a book lover so I have many, many more book recs to share with you along our creative journey.



  1. says

    I love this list! We have all of them except for the first one you mentioned. Making Things is one of my favourites 🙂 We have another book called ‘Make These Toys’ which is similar and Joel Henriques ‘Made to Play’. I quite like the new Tinkerlab book too as it has a lovely mix of activities. For art activities, it’s hard to go past any of the Mary Ann Kohl books – we have several of those. This is one reason my kids love that I teach – I have lots of books for work 😉

    • Ana Dziengel says

      I definitely need to check out Make These Toys 🙂 The Tinkerlab book is amazing and inspiring! Thank you for these great suggestions!

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