About the Holiday
Whether you’re still looking for a gift to give, looking forward to the upcoming break from school, or wondering how to spend the long winter days with your kids in an exciting new way, the books in today’s lineup will get hearts and imaginations racing and families and friends creating and playing together. You won’t believe what you can make with simple supplies you’ll find in your own home or nearby until you check out the three books below. Working on these projects together with your kids will make lasting memories while setting them free to tinker on their own pays big rewards in self-confidence, pride, and imagination building.
Thank you to Page Street Kids for sharing Cardboard Creations for Kids, The Big Book of Amazing LEGO Creations, and Play & Learn Activities for Babies with me for review consideration. All opinions on the books are my own.
Cardboard Creations for Kids: 50 Fun and Inventive Crafts Using Recycled Materials
By Kathryn Ho
You will never look at a cardboard box the same way again after exploring the pages of Kathryn Ho’s wildly inventive guide to turning boxes, tubes, egg cartons, lids, wooden skewers, and other bits and bobs you have around the house into nearly anything your child can imagine. Like what, you ask? Well, for the homebody, there’s the charming cottage, complete with shingled roof and flowers (or maybe lollipops) in the window boxes. For kids who prefer adventures far from home, the rocket, retro van, or the submarine – with portholes, of course! – will take them as far as their imagination can take them!
Other big-box beauties include an ice-cream cart with a jaunty umbrella, a play oven with knobs that turn, a puppet theater, a castle with a working drawbridge, a tent for camping under the stars (or star ceiling stickers), and a room-dividing screen that’s great for playing and drawing on.
But what if you don’t have a big box? Kathryn Ho has you covered with dozens of ideas that will put a gleam in your child’s eye and have you shaking your head in admiration for her clever crafting. The next chapter is all about creating things that really move, from a train to a school bus to a mini monster truck, complete with a big “personality with headlight eyes and a monster grin.” Other vehicles include a jet plane, a race car to rival any wooden toy, and a sailboat.
Kids who love construction vehicles will really dig the bulldozer with working shovel and the crane that can actually pick up the blocks you’ll make or any small item from home. And if your kids have been asking for a puppy, the adorable hound will steal their heart.
Next Kathryn moves on to creations that can enhance any playtime experience. “Adding just a few simple props to their pretend play can spark so many opportunities for discovery and delight,” she says at the beginning of the fourth chapter, which includes ideas that will delight kids whether they’re playing indoors or out. Got a young builder in the family? Make a tool belt, complete with a screw driver, hammer, wrench, T-square. Fairy or gnome lovers will want to make their wee friends toadstool homes or maybe a triple-decker treehouse. Machine lovers will want to pretend with the laptop, and playing grocery store will be even more fun with the clever cash register. There are plenty of other ideas to spark pretend play here too.
Of course often boxes are best-loved for what’s on the inside, and Kathryn offers up ten amazing designs for games like monster mini golf, tabletop soccer, an intricate labyrinth that make use of a box’s inside space. You can also make your little on their own camera, space helmet, and shadow puppet theater as well as a swing and a cradle for their doll or teddy bear. And did I mention the car wash – with rotating brushes? So clever!
Designs for simple playthings, room decorations, stamps, and even a flower press make up the final chapter of the book and provide ideas for those rainy or snowy afternoons when a quick craft is just the thing to keep kids busy and happy.
Introductory chapters reveal everything you need to know about the different kinds of cardboard and what they’re best used for, the basic tools for creating with cardboard as well as cutting tips and how to prepare the cardboard. Kathryn Ho also discusses where to source boxes and cardboard if you don’t have what you need at home. Kathryn also makes it easy to create many of the designs by including templates for fourteen of the crafts in the back of the book.
Cardboard Creations for Kids is a book I would have LOVED to have when my kids were young. This is a must addition to any home as a go-to resource for school projects, art classes, scout projects, pretend play, party ideas, and so much more. Not only will you want to make all of these creations, they’ll spark your and your child’s imagination and desire to try your hand at designing. The book is also a must-buy for school and public library collections.
Ages 3 – 10
Page Street Kids, 2021 | ISBN 978-1645674627
You can connect with Kathryn Ho on her Instagram, Cardboard Folk.
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The Big Book of Amazing LEGO Creations with Bricks You Already Have
By Sarah Dees
Are your kids LEGO fanatics eager for every new kit that comes out? Do little tiles occupy buckets and boxes and more buckets in your toy boxes and closets? Then this is the book for you! Open the cover and you’ll discover more than seventy-five creatures, vehicles, games, and dioramas perfect for imaginative play all described with illustrated, step-by-step instructions that make it easy for kids to put them together themselves (but adults will find it hard to resist digging into the stash and building some of these too!).
Sarah Dees begins with eight awesome vehicles, including a retro race car, hot rods, a tank and Humvee, an ATV for off roading, and a sports coupe and tiny car for impressing the inhabitants of any LEGO city. Chapter Two will get kids excited about building their own town that’s outfitted with a trampoline park where people can challenge themselves on the climbing wall, play basketball, pit themselves agains arcade games, have a picnic, and. of course, jump on the trampoline.
Playtime may have to wait until after school, and kids will love building the classroom, complete with a blackboard, book shelf, teacher’s desk, student desks, and a class pet. Perhaps your child is more into playing music than playing at the park. If so, they can put together their own “rockin’ garage band to “take the stage at the city park” on Saturday night. A keyboard player, piano player, drummer, and a couple of guitar players will have everyone cheering.
Everyone needs to stay in shape, and they can do that at the gym, using the free weights, bench press, pull-up bars, floor mats, or treadmills. After this full day of activity, kids can go back to their cozy bedroom, where bunkbeds; a desk complete with bookshelves, lamp, and accessories, a toy table, and dresser await.
But what about the forest on the edge of town? That magical place is populated with fairytale characters from their favorite stories. Take a ride on a dragon (after you build it, of course!) to the “Three Little Pigs Bake Shop. Bake shop? You bet! As Sarah reveals, “after the unfortunate incident with the house of bricks and the Big Bad Wolf coming down the chimney, the Three Little Pigs decided to put their brick house up for sale and make a fresh start in a different part of Fairytale Forest.” After buying a “lovely gingerbread house…and watching some inspiring baking shows, they decided to open their very own bake shop!” And this little cottage does look good enough to eat…I mean eat in!
Jack, of Jack and the Beanstalk fame, lives here too in a tidy home with a little garden (where you know what grew!) Jack can climb that stalk all the way to the Castle in the Clouds, where he finds the goose that lays golden eggs. No magical forest is complete without a few Terrible Trolls to outsmart, and kids will have a blast building the ones in this book and making up their own.
And what would any Fairytale Forest be without unicorns, a “scheming and conniving witch” who lives in a treehouse lair, complete with potions and a crackling fire in the fireplace and “might be stealing a baby dragon or helping herself to some of the treats at the Three Little Pigs Bakery.” Kids will love coming up with stories of brave knights rescuing the dragon from its cage, or perhaps the wise “Wizard of Marshy Bog” and his pet raven can cast a spell to vanquish that witch! Instructions for making a griffin and a host of small forest creatures finish up the chapter.
If the world of spies is more your child’s thing, building the TEK Agent Headquarters will be an assignment they can’t refuse. This secret, impenetrable room even has a working “secure sliding door that opens when you turn a knob.” And what does all this security protect? The “TEK Agent Headquarters is the place for agents to invent gadgets, fix equipment and monitor villain activity with powerful cameras and computers” that kids construct from scratch.
Do the agents need to get a bird’s eye view of nefarious activity? The Drone Launch Station is the perfect addition to the agents’ equipment. Once the danger has been discovered, the agents can go to work with all the high-tech gear kids can make – a surveillance trailer, equipped with listening devices, recorders, computers, and more; speedy hover craft; jet packs; and a Hero Bot – to defeat the Villain Bot. Sarah Dees even gives kids ideas for disaster scenes that will spark plenty of storylines.
After all that action, a Vacation by the Sea is in order. Young builders can create a relaxing beach scene, a surf shop at the edge of the shore, where a super-clever idea allows kids to make waves worthy of any pro surfer. But what’s this on the horizon? A pirate ship! And under the sea? A colorful diorama of fish, sea plants, and sea creatures – including a shark, a turtle, a hermit crab, and an adorable otter – any scuba diver would love to explore.
Kids ready to make their own city or town? Sarah finishes up her book with Awesome Mini Builds that will help kids enhance any landscape with vehicles of all types, animals from around the world, candy machines, robots, cameras and lab equipment, tiny houses, and more. Play and Display shows kids how to build a city skyline, working miniature golf fields, a solitaire game, treasure boxes, and even mosaics and self portraits worthy of hanging on the wall.
Sarah Dees, author of four other books in the LEGO project book series, continues to amaze with the diversity of kid-pleasing projects made from those little colorful blocks. The Big Book of Amazing LEGO Creations with Bricks You Already Have is a must for all LEGO lovers and is sure to turn newbies into diehard fans. The book also makes a perfect gift for any occasion and one to definitely add to home, school, and public library bookshelves.
Ages 6 – 12 and up
Page Street Kids, 2021 | ISBN 978-1645673507
To learn more about Sarah Dees and her books, visit her at Frugal Fun for Boys and Girls.
You can find The Big Book of Amazing LEGO Creations with Bricks You Already Have at these booksellers
To support your local independent bookstore, order from
Play & Learn Activities for Babies: 65 Simple Ways to Promote Growth & Development from Birth to Two Years Old
By Hannah Fathi
If you have a baby or young toddler at home or in your family, you know how active they are and that they’re learning all the time. “How can you develop their language and motor skills,, emotional intelligence, creativity and problem-solving abilities and occupy them all day?” Hannah Fathi has the answers to this question with her sixty-five easy-to-make and inexpensive ideas that will delight kids and adults alike.
Hannah begins each of her chapters with a discussion about how the projects will promote development – such as strength, investigation, dexterity and coordination, sensory awareness, visual awareness, and imagination – and how this development is important to the growth of your child long-term. The first chapter, Strengthening and Active Play, presents ideas for making tummy time – “an important time for baby to strengthen their neck, back, and shoulders and prevent flat spots on their head” – engaging with a cardboard stand complete with plastic pockets that can hold bold black-and-white images or photographs to entertain and “encourage them to lift their head and push up on their arms.” You can also help your baby become more aware of their body and movement with the clever Rattle Socks that will make a sound each time baby kicks or moves their feet. This is a toy that can grow with your child as they learn to walk too!
Babies who are able to sit on their own or with support will be mesmerized by the Spider Web Toy Grab that uses a laundry basket, string, and small toys to create a framework that encourages problem-solving skills and investigation while developing small motor skills. Older babies and toddlers will enjoy the hands-on learning of Transforming Disks that teach nature science and the Box Car that promotes imaginative play.
Get your child crawling across the floor in chase of the Vibrant Straw Roller, a clear plastic bottle filled with colorful bits of straws and/or beads. Other creative ideas include a play mat to use with little cars, a magnetic fishing pole and fish, a Pound-a-Ball box that will encourage your child to stand and squat to push balls through the holes in the top, a color-matching game, and a felt board for teaching shapes.
Hands-on investigation takes center stage in the next chapter with a lift-the-flap book of family photographs that promotes important social-emotional learning while teaching kids about their family and encouraging fine-motor skills. A cardboard box ball run will keep babies busy, and the Egg Carton Color Sort activity promotes multiple development skills. You don’t need to buy expensive stacking rings when you follow the directions for making this popular toy with plastic jar lids, and those lids to baby wipe containers can be used to make a Link Drop Box – another creative way to get your child thinking and problem solving. Hannah includes many more ideas for keeping your little one busy all day long.
Developing dexterity and coordination has never been as fun as when you make the easy crafts in the next chapter. Each activity is designed to encourage little ones to grab or pick up small objects; spin a wheel; and pull, push, pinch, or bat at objects depending on their age and abilities.
The projects in the chapter on Sensory Play “primarily focus on hearing, touch and sight to capture your child’s interest and create lasting neural connections.” Taste-Safe Sponge Painting lets babies and toddlers paint and make stamps with more ease than using paint brushes, and the flour-based paint is safe for little tasters. Babies in a crib or enjoying some floor time will enjoy the sights and sounds of cardboard tube shakers and a crinkle square made from felt and parchment paper, and a water mat created from a freezer bag filled with water and colorful buttons is ingenious! Kids will love feeling with their feet on the sensory path that includes everyone’s favorite – bubble wrap! Tin pan drums and Natural Sensory Lids that bring the outdoors inside.
Projects for Visual Exploration will thrill little ones with surprises, opportunities for hands-on play, matching games, mobiles, and even and I-Spy bottle to excite them again and again. As kids become more independent, imaginative play “promotes problem-solving, empathy, curiosity, and creativity…while providing opportunities to develop language and social skills.” Squishy sock bunnies, a cardboard hutch, and clever carrots, a pretend mailbox and letters, finger puppets made from tiny socks, a milk-jug fish, and a parking garage for little cars made from cardboard tubes, along with other fun crafts will get kids making up stories in no time. Even toilet training will be easier – or more fun – with the Baby Doll Bathroom that can help toddlers understand and share the steps to using the potty with a favorite doll.
Rounding out her book, Hannah includes templates for many of the crafts as well as a chart that depicts the type of skill each project provides – a valuable resource as children grow.
Hannah Fathi’s Play & Learn Activities for Babies is a superb collection of ideas that parents, daycare and preschool providers, and other caregivers will find themselves consulting and creating from again and again as their child grows and develops and is a must for home, school, and public library collections. The book also makes a wonderful and thoughtful gift for baby showers or new babies or anyone with a young child.
Ages Baby – 2 years
Page Street Kids, 2022 | ISBN 978-1645673989
You can learn more about Hannah Fathi and her book by visiting her at Baby Play Hacks
You can find Play & Learn Activities for Babies at these booksellers
To support your local independent bookstore, order from
Picture Book Review