By Christa Protano
Spring break is just around the corner and with airfare skyrocketing, it seems like many families are opting for staycations or longer road trips. Personally, my husband and I opted to fly ourselves and the kids to a tropical destination toward the end of spring break since the cost of a peak plane ticket was so high. Which means, my children still have multiple days off school and hours of free time to fill before we leave for vacation.
As parents, we’ve always been conscious of screen time and try to stick to the American Academy of Pediatrics recommendation of up to two hours per day. But let’s be honest, sometimes that’s just not possible. What works for our family is having lots of board games, activity books, and craft kits on hand to offer as entertainment before leaning on the Nintendo Switch or iPad. We started this practice when our kids were toddlers and now that they are a little older, it’s easier to encourage an activity book or —gasp! — outdoor time before they zone out in front of the screens when boredom strikes.
But don’t take our word for it — we’ve compiled a list of parent-approved activities and activity books to stock up on before spring break arrives. All of these options have received positive reviews on Amazon from moms and dads. With any luck, they’ll receive rave reviews from little skeptics, too.
Toddlers will love the colorfully illustrated Super Puffy Stickers! Baby Animals. Little hands can turn the pages to find coloring, mazes, doodles, and search-and-finds, then use their fine-motor skills to decorate the pages with 85 puffy stickers. This title also makes a great candy-less choice for an Easter basket. Says Amazon reviewer Delaney, “Love this sticker book! The activities are simple and so sweet, and the puffy stickers are perfect for my little one.”
LEARN TO DRAW
In keeping with the zoo-ish theme, My First Learn to Draw: Animals makes learning to draw simple and fun with step-by-step instructions, practice areas, and fun backgrounds designed for children ages 5 and up. Plus, the kit includes five adorable pencil toppers.
“My 5 year old who loves art got this as a gift and immediately sat down and worked through 75 percent of this book,” says reviewer Acbrutzman. “The instructions are basic step-by-step drawings where it breaks the animals down to drawable shapes that are easy to follow. Also, the page where the they draw the animal has a scene for the animal already, so I think it makes it more interesting for the kid as opposed to a blank page.”
Older kids who feel comfortable working independently can tackle the Build the Robot kit. This NAPPA-award winning kit includes a 32-page book full of colorful illustrations and intriguing facts about robots, plus 62 slotted model pieces and three wind-up motors to build three different types of moving robots.
Says reviewer Hendonus, “My 6.5 year old son who is into robots and LEGO loved building these! I enjoyed spending time with my kid. He learned STEM skills, followed written and verbal instructions, and he enjoyed every minute of it.”
Robots not their thing? Consider building a unicorn instead.
Spring is the perfect time to spread a little kindness via pretty painted rocks. In the past five years, this practice has become popular for artists of all ages hoping to spread positivity and encourage offline human connections. You can get your family started on their own Kindness Rocks project with Creative Kits: Rock Painting.
Perfect for beginners, this kit includes eight river rocks, ten paints, two paintbrushes, and a 48-page instructional book. Whether it’s a silly monster, a butterfly, or a cool tie-dyed design, Creative Kits: Rock Painting includes easy, step-by-step instructions for painting more than 20 designs. “This is a fabulous kit,” says reviewer Lindasam. “The book explains nicely how to paint the rocks and even gives designs. The rocks and paint were included so we had all we needed to get started.”
PUZZLES, MAZES AND MORE
If the cover suggests that I won’t have to hear, “I’m bored,” it had better work, amiright? The Anti-Boredom Activity Book lived up to the hype one rainy afternoon not too long ago. Both of my children were engaged in color-by-number, connect-the-dots, doodling, and mazes, while I was able to get some work done.
This activity book is also great for travel. “I got both my boys this book for a recent trip on a plane and the title is spot on,” says one Amazon mom. “My kids were entertained and not bored at all! I’ve never seen them sit still and be so into a book. Couldn’t recommend this enough!”
Emojis, peace signs, adorable hybrid animals. Kaleidoscope Neon is the stuff of little girls’ dreams. Add a splash of neon to the mix and your child will be hooked on this coloring kit. Complete with its own set of brightly hued markers, this book features 64 pages of dreamy illustrations just waiting for some technicolor.
Says reviewer Amanda, “I love that the markers are held inside the book to keep it all together while still being easily accessible. My only complaint is that I wish this company made this type of book in more styles.” Luckily, other parents don’t need to look far. Find more Kaleidoscope coloring here.
When all else fails, good old-fashioned reading can fight boredom and take up hours of time. The trick is to find the right book for your early reader. For ages six and up, we recommend Bumble & Snug and the Angry Pirates. Filled with pages of bright and bold illustrations and short captions, these graphic novels feature a couple of Bugbops who have to work together to outsmart the bad guys. With exploding cotton candy factories, a forest of unicorns, dragon caves and sleeping giant mountains, this series will appeal to both boys and girls alike.
“My boys are reluctant to read and this book may have converted them into readers! It’s a graphic novel so it includes really fun art along with the text,” says one Amazon parent. “I heard them laughing out loud reading this book. Can’t wait to get them the next Bumble & Snug book!”
Speaking of the next book … don’t miss Bumble & Snug and the Excited Unicorn, out now.