In an effort to reduce screentime at home, especially with Thanksgiving and Christmas breaks around the bend, I’ve been stocking up on some arts and crafts-type activity books for kids. Instead of everyone sitting on the couch, looking at their own devices, now we sit around the kitchen table and work on these projects together. And yes, of course, it’s blissfully peaceful and it happens every single night. Heh.
In reality, though, sometimes I just pass an art activity book over to my kid to keep them busy while I’m working on something else. There’s no craft supply shopping or Pinterest-searching required; it’s easy, engaging, and it’s truly been a lot of fun for the whole family.
If you’re looking for some good family time without screens, or just want some craft books that can keep your kids busy on holiday road trips, try these out. They’re our new favorites.
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The new book Art Play by Scottish illustrator Marion Deuchars falls somewhere between a craft book with instructions for simple DIY projects (most can be done with stuff you probably already have at home, like paper and paint), and a guided coloring book. You’ll find a tutorial on sgraffito (I didn’t know what it was either) and instructions for making kirigami paper people (aka, paper dolls) alongside pages where you can use your thumbprint to fill in a page of bugs or complete faces on a page full of origami bunny rabbits. This book is best for 1–2 people to do together, since the pages don’t easily tear out, but has so much interesting info in it that I think it will keep the whole family entertained for a while.
My entire family has found Paint by Sticker: Zoo Animals so addictive that we finished off an entire book in one sitting. When I was a kid I used to save my allowance for paint-by-number kits, and these are the same concept but with stickers. (Less mess, yay!) Each page is perforated, so you can easily tear these out and work on them side-by-side. We can’t decide if we want to move on to their other kids’ edition or their grown-up versions, which feature things like classic paintings and music icons (the Ziggy Stardust page is incredible). But really, who am I kidding? I’ll probably buy them all.
If you’re wanting something a little more free-form than the sticker-by-number concept, you’ll love Sticker Shape Create by Thereza Rowe. On each page, she shows how you can create different pictures — galloping horses, castles, peacocks, flowers — with the stickers included at the back of the book and some colored pencils or crayons. Then it’s up to you to create a scene on the designed background using those stickers. It’s very open-ended in your ability to be creative, but still has that helpful tutorial that gets your creative juices kickstarted.
My 10-year-old is the first to roll his eyes at most art projects, but even he got hooked on the massive dot-to-dots we tried in the new Doctor Who Dot-to-Dot. (No, scratch that…it’s Dot-to-Doc, get it?) That said, if Rose, weeping angels and the Daleks aren’t your thing, you can also try Ultimate Dot-to-Dot, Dot-to-Dot Mindfulness Mandalas, or even Dot-to-Dot Cute Cats. There are a ton of these out there, so you can probably find pretty much anything you want. Many are actually geared toward adults, but even my 6-year-old could hold his own with us on these.
Thanks to the publishers for sending us samples of these books to try. We love them all!